Department of Greenwashing: Ceci La Luna lambrusco

ceci_la_lunaAre some in the wine trade exploiting consumers’ willingness for environmentally friendly products when the practices don’t measure up to more than a pile of manure? Consider an example.

In late summer, The Moment blog at wrote a paean to lambrusco, the purple fizzy wine from Emilia-Romagna. The author had high praise for one in particular: “a rustic biodynamic beauty from Cantina Ceci, whose mild, deep fizz buoys its brooding purple embrace.” At least one New York City retailer also calls the $16 wine Biodynamic, a process of grape growing (and, to a lesser extent, winemaking) that goes beyond organic to synchronize some winemaking practices with the lunar cycle. Several other commentators have called it Biodynamic as well.

While the wine may be tasty, according to correspondence with Demeter Italy, the certifying authority in Italy, none of Cantine Ceci’s wine has ever been certified Biodynamic .

In the case of the Ceci lambrusco, it has the packaging of an artisanal product with twine around the neck and closure. Each bottle comes with a small booklet explaining the phases of the moon and how harvesting occurs while the moon is a mere crescent, as happens both when it waxes and wanes. The wine is called “La Luna,” meaning “the moon.” It does not appear on the producer’s web site.

In correspondence about La Luna, the wine’s importer to the US, Rosalie Sendelbach, said that the wine:

use to be Certified biodynamic until 2007, certification is based on testing each year and also costs quite a bit. its is also some what political. They are considered biodynamic and but did not certified this year. Minimum sulfite is used according to each vintage year and natural sulfite present in the wine during fermentation.

Demeter Italy said, in response to an email query, that no wine has been certified from Cantine Ceci. Three emails over a period of weeks to the winemaker Alessandro Ceci seeking comment about grape growing and winemaking practices at the cantine have gone without reply. Nor has the importer replied to a further request for comment about the response from Demeter Italy.

The wines from Cantine Ceci have received praise from Gambero Rosso Italian Wines and the Italian Sommeliers’ Duemila Vini: both list the Ceci estate and its many wines and consider it important, but there is no mention of organic or biodynamic production.

Jamie Wolff, a partner of Chambers Street Wines in Manhattan, a retailer that specializes in organic and natural wines, says “we do find more and more ‘green’ wines that make us raise our eyebrows.” He continued, “it’s important to get to know the people and visit so you get to know their intentions.” Chambers Street sells the “La Luna” lambrusco, which Wolff said was popular. They do not market the wine as Biodynamic.

Tom Maresca, a longtime observer of the Italian wine trade, had this to say when queried about the situation:

Italians by and large love Americans: they think we are warm and friendly. Unfortunately, some also believe that we are absolutely stupid about wine, and those people really think they can sell us anything. So this could well be a reputable company dealing with the American market as it believes it must be dealt with, and consequently seeing no harm in a little imaginative embroidery. Or it could be more consciously larcenous than that. Or, finally, it could be exactly what it says it is. I’m afraid I can’t really tell.

So what is a consumer to do? The shopper in a wine store can’t independently verify the provenance of every bottle she picks up. There needs to be some truth in marketing, but who can verify the claims? Independent agencies who extract fees? Government regulators? Wine shop owners? Critics? Bloggers?

Incidentally, I inquired with another Italian winery recently about their organic program in the vineyards. By return email within an hour, I had–without even asking–a copy of their certificate in my inbox. Three cheers for transparency.

* * * * *

The Ceci “La Luna” label text as per Google translate:
The ancients drew attention to two fundamental concepts: 1) when the moon is rising and is approaching the Earth, causing an effects-building plans on the bodies. 2) when the moon is waning on the contrary leaves the earth, causing an effect on the bodies of emptying. Therefore, anything that has to do to grow (seeding, births, etc. …) should be done at a crescent moon, whereas everything that causes death (cuts, crops, etc …) should be done at the waning moon. Wineries and Wine Company CECI bottles its wines which originate from natural cultures always and only: a CRESCENT MOON! That is why our wine can be delivered only after a month of ordering.

A retailer’s page showing the wine as Biodynamic:

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46 Responses to “Department of Greenwashing: Ceci La Luna lambrusco”

  1. I never knew the Italians thought we were all so warm and friendly! Or that warm and friendly = suckers!

    I guess I’d rather be guileless rather than utterly cynical, if I had to choose an extreme.

    On another note – is anyone actually arguing that there is actually a difference between pretend BioD and fake BioD. I mean, isn’t that redundant? :-p

  2. We’ve run into confusion about organic status regarding the Coppola wines. As best I can determine, the Niebaum-Coppola Estate vineyard is certified organic; but the rest of the wines produced under the Coppola name (many with the basic “California” appellation) are not. I vaguely recall once seeing a Diamond-series wine labeled “organic,” but my memory may be faulty. Anybody know for sure?

  3. Calling Dr. Parzen. Would Dr. Parzen please report to Dr. Vino’s emergency room?

  4. The Italian’s belief that Americans are suckers must explain why there are so many over priced Italian wines.

  5. On the one hand, the whole biodynamic craze is nonsense – manure in a cow’s horn, dedicated to getting the rubes to pay more money for the wine. On the other hand, some wines labeled as biodynamic are no doubt delicious, reflecting a lot of good husbandry. But remember that it’s the care and husbandry, along with luck, that make for great wine, not all the biodynamic horse-hocky.

    I’d rather spend my time and money learning from dedicated winemakers and dealers than in chasing the biodynamic fad. Just like I avoid buying fancy watches whose selling point is that they are heavy and don’t keep very good time.

  6. Wine Mule:

    The regular Coppola diamond/rosso/bianco wines are made under the Sustainable Winegrowing Program:

    It’s not quite organic, but it’s in that direction. I met some winemakers in Sonoma whose standards exceeded those required for Organic certification, but either they hadn’t applied yet or were pending approval. Ridge is one that’s moving to full certification.

  7. The case seems quite transparent, for does the packaging bear the mentions “Demeter certified” or “wine made out of Biodynamic grapes”? Thus the only question left is why should one deduce from a “booklet explaining the phases of the moon” that the product has anything to do with Biodynamics? But also since when can Biodynamics get defined by “winemaking practices with the lunar cycle,” even when no confusion has been made between these different rhythms as it is unfortunately the case in this label text.
    So yes, definitely “three cheers for transparency” for all the certified organic and biodynamic products!

  8. While many great Bio-D wines are not certified and other really bad ones are. Much like organic cert it is expensive and occasionally political however this looks like a case that may lend itself less to misunderstanding and more to fraud. It is really too bad. The Bio D movement has enough PR issues as it is and now fraud is just the icing on the cake. If you really care about the wines you are buying get to know the producer, importer and worry less about label statements. Or even better find a good wine shop you trust that will help do some of the leg work for you.

  9. Thanks, Benito!

  10. “Many great Bio-D wines are not certified and other really bad ones are”: the Demeter certification certifies a farming practice based on the use of the biodynamic preparations. It never included the tasting of wines!

  11. Brigitte. That is my point. being certified is not a representation of quality. However many in the wine industry use certification as a marketing tool to say that they in some way improved the product. Just because you are certified does not mean you have a better product it just means that you proved to someone you are following the rules or guidelines they set out as appropriate. Many followers of Bio D are not certified and yet go well beyond the requirements of Demeter while some certified producers follow the letter of the law to receive certification while never actually embracing the concept.

  12. @Phil O

    How does one completely embrace the concept? Wash your underwear in dynamized water?

    BioD, Fake BioD, whatever. It’s like arguing about which of the 4 humors is responsible for a cold 😛

  13. Josh, fully embracing the concept is to farm by the core principals of Biodynamic’s. To not fully embrace Biodynamic’s is to only farm in the manner that meets the minimum requirements of Demeter certification.

    If your a skeptic so be it, I have no problem with that. I have a problem with people who claim to run operations organically or Biodynamic but only for the purpose of a logo to put on your product.

  14. Phil, the certification guarantees the transparency and control of practice to the consumer. And in their vast majority, the certified vineyards “go well beyond the requirements of Demeter.” As for using the certification as a marketing tool, and/or “actually embracing the concept,” what you raise here is the question of individual free-will which has nothing to do with the certification in itself.

  15. “Biodynamic,” like “authentic” and “original” is a neutral term. None of these words is a guarantee of quality.

  16. While “Biodynamic” defines a precise protocol of farming practice, I am not aware that “authentic and original” do… Hence the certification for the former, not the latter.

  17. There can be a lot of confusion about the environmental practices and various claims being made out there. The Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certification program requires growers adhere to strict standards of environmental and social responsibility – AND – they are independently audited and verified.

    There are currently about 50,000 cases of wines that have undergone chain of custody audits to confirm that 85% of the fruit comes from SIP Certified Vineyards – Baileyana-Tangent, Pomar Junction, Halter Ranch, D’Anbino Cellars, Robert Hall Winery. There are great certified wines out there, and the 2008 certified reds will be out soon.

    Check out for info, or visit for the technical info with all of the nitty gritty details if you’re interested.

    Great wines. Healthy vineyards.

  18. Our research has shown that many consumers are in fact aware of, and concerned about, “greenwashing” although they may not identify it as such. Some form of reliable and consistent third party certification is what they want. The Oregon Certified Sustainable organization was launched recently for exactly this reason.

  19. Tyler, you nailed it in your last word – transparency. I would add to that another – simplicity. A digital copy of a certification by an independent group is simple and transparent, and readily available.

    As a lifelong marketer, I’ve seen us kill the goose often with our enthusiasm for leveraging our products to every new consumer interest, no matter how frail the connection to reality. Thank you for calling out this specific winery and importer so publicly. Hopefully it will encourage others to be extra careful, and more transparent.

  20. Considering that biodynamic is no more than astrology masquerading as “truth” and “goodness” and organic is a belief system with no real basis in fact in terms of helping human health or the environment I can’t get all that exercised about people fudging the facts on these bogus world views. In this area I’m afraid that P.T. Barnum is correct.

  21. “Biodynamics is no more than astrology masquerading as truth and goodness”: after the meaning given to the word “masquerade” by Mozart, Nietzsche or Semper, how can one still ignore astronomy and the second of the three Greek Ideals, “beauty”?

  22. Thank you Brigitte for supplying a voice of reason.
    While I understand the need for certification to a certain extent, that does not mean that all wine producers that farm organically or biodynamically have to be certified to be believed.
    Do you ask for the winery’s receipts from their barrel purchases if they say the wine was made with new, top grade French oak?
    As someone who sells these wines, I simply differentiate between practicing organic/biodynamic and certified organic/biodynamic.
    Certainly a winery should not claim to be certified if they are not, but they can say they practice biodynamic/organic farming principles.
    Wineries choose not to get certified for a host of reasons. This can be a simple aversion to bureaucracy and paperwork or it can go deeper. I represent one winery that used to be certified biodynamic and chose not to continue the certification because he did not agree with some of the practices, including using copper sulphate for mildew.He is taking what he believes is the best of the biodynamic practices and applying it to his specific farming beliefs and terroir.
    Cheers, Amy Atwood

  23. Hush Amy, or it will be said that biodynamists can now hear voices!
    This question of certification could be discussed at length: I can imagine a consumer more embittered by the revelation of the use of glyphosate in the vineyards than the absence of “new, top grade French oak” in the cellar; and copper sulphate has never been a requirement for certification! But at some point what I find really interesting here lies in the possibility offered to everyone for entering into the realm and concerns of “the other.” To such an extent that a producer may start wondering what the certification of his vineyards gives back to Biodynamics… Would you call this some sort of Thanksgiving spirit? 🙂

  24. I know the wine well and have been to the winery. They practice biodynamic farming. Not everyone understands what this means but anyone wanting to visit them can see they producer their wines with a great passion and meticulous care. The wine is magnificant and one of the best Lambrusco’s to be produced. What is all this hype about fraud. Their label tells you exactly how they produce it if you can understand Italian.

  25. Briggite Haselberger, BOTTLING a wine or PICKING grapes at ‘Cresent Moon’ doesn’t turn wine nor grapes into an organic or even a ‘biodynamic’ product.

    Bottling wine with “great passion” and/or care – doesn’t really do it either. — Unfortunately. (Would be really nice, though. Has anyone ever tried ‘hugging/kissing’ grapes? Maybe that will do the trick. 🙂 )

    Metodo Ceci. Metodo Natura.
    Here’s a quote/description/definition from the importer’s website: “The ancient tradition and belief was that the grapes picked during the crescent moon had a strenghthening effect on the planet and the body and remains the traditional time to harvest.”

    Not a word about organic vineyards, organic grapes or biodynamic wines…But wouldn’t that be the first thing a producer/importer would point out on a web site that ‘advertises’ the product?

  26. “… the grapes picked during the crescent moon [have] a strengthening effect on the planet”: is this the new form of reverse osmosis? 🙂

  27. briggite haselberger wrote: “I know the wine well and have been to the winery. They practice biodynamic farming.”

    “Bottles produced: 1,000,000
    Percentage purchased Grapes/Wines : 100%”

  28. Some of the later comments here focus on the issue of biodynamic certification vs. biodynamic process. The problem with this wine is that the importer has stated — on the record, if you look at the e-mail quoted above — that the wine was “certified biodynamic.” I don’t care if you bury a cow’s horn with manure in one corner of the vineyard or not, but if you claim to have certification, you damn well better have it.

    Briggite Haselberger’s comments in particular, but also some other who dismiss biodynamic farming as a whole — miss the point by ignoring the certification issue at the center of the post. I may be a great driver, but if I don’t have a driver’s license, I’m not legally permitted to drive. If this wine really is certified biodynamic, let’s see the papers.

  29. Mr. Ashley, I trust “bury a cow’s horn with manure in one corner of the vineyard” as no more than a shortcut of speech. We know that the next step is to dig out the horn and appropriately use the manure now transformed into some sort of “new humus” (see Claude Bourguignon).

  30. Mark, I agree with you that this topic has been used – unfortunately – by some here of vent their believes and disbelieves regarding organic wine growing.

    You’re right the subject here is about ‘green-washing’, trying to take advantage of eco-wine buyers by linking catchy eco-terms, like “nature, moon cycles, healthy body, planet, etc” to an apparently non-organic lambrusco. (I wonder if those consumer could ask for their money back?)

    It’s also quite funny for someone claiming to have visited this “bio-dynamically managed winery” only to read that this winery apparently buys ALL (100%) of their grapes/wines on the open market; i.e. doesn’t own vineyards. Whose vineyards did she see?

  31. Matt, we certainly all agree that greenwashing with its Sins of No Proof and of Vagueness is absolutely appalling. But why should one try to link it to Biodynamics as it is the case in this post?

  32. You really can’t be serious!

    Because Rudolf Steiner’s work, the inventor of biodynamic farming, includes “moon cycles”:

    “The term biodynamic is taken from the Greek words bios meaning life and dynamis meaning energy. Hence biodynamic farming refers to working with the energies which create and maintain life. In fact, planting during certain days of the moon cycle is important.”

    So what else are you supposed to think about when someone talks about “moon cycles, harvest, nature (natura), engery, strength, planet, body” in connection with a bottle of wine?

    Here are a couple of bloggers who actually made this association. How dare they!!!:

    Farm 225: “Ceci La Luna is…also biodynamic, meaning its grapes are grown in accordance with phases of the moon and traditional farming practices.”

    Wine Lovers Page: “As best I can discern from the Italian-only information on the label and in a little booklet tied around the bottle neck, this is a “biodynamic” wine, made with careful attention to such niceties as the phase of the moon during production and bottling.”

    Cellar Tracker: “This biodynamic wine takes its name from, what else, the moon.”

    Organic Wine Journal: “It may seem a little wacky, with burying the cow horn full of manure in the dirt for a year then spraying your crops with it or harvesting your grapes when the moon is full…Some…favorite Italian producers: Cantine Ceci “La Luna” Lambrusco.”

    Chicago Foodies: “In Chicago we are lucky to have the Lambrusco based wines from Cantina Ceci…you can find…an organic dry Lambrusco called La Luna…I work for the importer…”

  33. Matt, the moon is not Biodynamics’s property! The ancients already used to farm according to its rhythms, and so do still many organic farmers and gardeners today. There is thus no reason to automatically deduce from a booklet and label about the moon that the vineyards are farmed biodynamically for they can be organic as well. Similarly, do you really think that organic farmers would have a problem with “harvest, nature, energy, strength, planet, body”?
    As for Biodynamics, it is not the bloggers who define it but Demeter International. And what Demeter controls and certifies is a farming with the nine biodynamic preparations. Not one with the moon per se.

  34. one more time, calling Dr. Parzen. Would Dr. Parzen please report to Dr. Vino’s emergency room?

    I think Jeremy talked to the producers and might have more accurate information as to the way in which this wine was made.

  35. May I ask you to read my post again.

    “RUDOLF STEINER’S WORK…includes “moon cycles””

    Where did I refer to anything Demeter?

  36. Matt, we can try something like “Biodynamics means the moon but the moon doesn’t mean Biodynamics” if this helps you understand. But then you’ll have to keep in mind that Biodynamics doesn’t actually mean the moon but the cosmos, i.e., the whole of the planets within the constellations (astronomy). The consequence of it is that paying attention to the only rhythms of the moon is for biodynamic farming as meaningless as would be the use of only one biodynamic preparation. Now, the reason why the argument of this post has been built the way it is, this I don’t know!

  37. I never read such nonsense, and misinformation regarding this issue in all my life. there are at least 10 Organizations that certify for Biological farming. Demeter is one and not the most recognized. Regardless, many people practice these methods without certification. American’s dont seem to care or investigate the truth of things at all and usually believe whatever one might print. Ceci produces many different wines, not just Lambrusco. La Luna is a small production and they are simply one the best producers of Lambrusco- period. Anyone tasting or having been to the farm can see for themselves. All these other false claims is nonsense. Sounds like Dr. Vino has some grudge without any knowledge of the wine at all. Further no one at the winery spoke English, as I have been many times. As with your many other US policies shoving your views down others throats to make a point, seems absurd but the new methodology. The many misinformed remarks is quite hilarious and shows how truly ignorant you are of other cultures.

  38. @ giancarlo

    I agree! Dr. Vino is part and parcel of the right wing cabal responsible for all the ills in this world!

    Down with Dr. Evil…I mean Vino! Viva la greenwash!

  39. Someone sent me this link since I buy loads of the Ceci lambrusco. Matt, FYI, the importer never made any such statements at all, was out of the country and her assistant replied to some email from someone by the name of T. coleman, who I guess is Dr. Vino. She never spoke to “Dr. Vino”, has no idea who he is, or wrote any email. I contacted their office to ask about some of this stuff. I buy and love the wine and just curious. Apparently, the email was printed out of context and without permission, I was told, which she did not write but her assistant did. They never stated Demeter was the certifier and government ICE does this as well, as many other organizations in Italy. they get a lot of emails and spam, I guess. But none this information written is remotely true or accurate at all. You should get your facts straight before making up things and quoting unconfirmed emails without permission. As a writer where are your ethics and standards? in any case, its the best Lambrusco I have ever tasted and I love it. I buy cases of it from a store in the east village. It is fantastic wine. I am allergic to sulfites and sensitive to may wines and love this wine.

  40. @lawrence & @giancarlo

    It helps to read this blog from the top:

    “Three emails over a period of weeks to the winemaker Alessandro Ceci seeking comment about grape growing and winemaking practices at the cantine have gone without reply. Nor has the importer replied to a further request for comment about the response from Demeter Italy.”

  41. Three of the above comments, from Briggite, Giancarlo, and Lawrence, have all come from the same IP address, a Verizon customer in NYC.

    As to to the substance of the comment from “Lawrence,” I will reply later.

    Attached is a screenshot of the three comments from the same IP address.


  42. “Lawrence” brings up some points above that merit a reply from me.

    As to the quality of the wine itself, I quoted Jamie Wolff as saying that the wine was popular among the discerning customers of his store and the Times blog post calling it “a beauty.” I have not tried the wine myself. I also noted that two wine guides list the winery and call it important.

    Turning to what the main topic of the post, I wrote the importer Rosalie Sendelbach on September 2 asking if I could call her to learn more about the Ceci La Luna lambrusco. My name and hyperlinked web address appeared at the bottom of the mail. She replied promptly via email and said she would prefer to respond to my questions via email. She said nothing about being out of town and nothing about being anyone other than Rosalie Sendelbach.

    Among the questions I asked her was whether the wine was Biodynamic, as the Times blog post had called it. I excerpted her response in the original posting on this site where she said it had been certified Biodynamic until 2007.

    On September 3, I wrote Alessandro Ceci with the subject “Media inquiry” to the address and The first is what appears at the contact email in Slow Foods’ Guida al Vino Quotidiano and Luca Maroni’s Annuario dei Migliori Vini Italiani. And someone at the second should speak English and if not, there’s always google translate. I did not hear back. On October 8 I followed up. There was still no reply.

    I then wrote Demeter Italy, the Biodynamic certifying agency in Italy. They replied that no wine from Ceci had been certified.

    I wrote another email with the subject “media inquiry ‘La Luna'” to both the winery email addresses and copied Ms. Sendelbach stating what Demeter Italy had said and asking for comment. None was forthcoming from any of the parties. So I published the posting and said just that.

    If they have something to add at this point, they are welcome to post to the comments.

  43. Sorry for the long post….

    To Giancarlo: What does it matter if CeCi makes one wine or twenty. Does that somehow mitigate or dilute the false statements?

    Second you state visit the farm. From the information above it states they buy 100% of the grapes at least for the Lambrusco bottling so what would it benefit if one visited the farm. Even if they farm Bio on the estate it would not matter as the fruit is not from the estate.

    Finally I do not see how pooling your negative view “American policies” with the statements of Dr. Vino has any benefit in swaying the opinions of his readers. It also funny that you accuse the site of making uninformed statements when you have little of no information regarding the writer and commenter’s as well.

    Lawrence: You do not find it interesting that Dr. Vino could not get in touch with the importer but you as a consumer get right through. I also find it interesting that they would share such information with you in the first place.

    I also do not believe as a there is any journalistic issue with reproducing a response from Demeter. He as a journalist generated the response through his inquiry and it seemed did nothing to hide who he was or why he was inquiring? In what context is a communication between a company and a journalist privileged communication unless an agreement of anonymity or the information stated is communicated “off the record” and such an agreement is reached before the information is communicated?

    Finally to whoever is posting this info. Who not just fess up your mistake and move on. I am sure the wine is very good and will sell just fine without the false BD statements. Admit the error and move on don’t try and attack the person that caught your hand in the cookie jar.

  44. Also sorry for the long post. The 3 names-same ip address thing is pretty hilarious when we are discussing the ethics of truth in winemaking.

    Wow! This is pretty amazing. I wish I had the time to respond to everything here, not that I proclaim to be an expert, but because there are so many interesting points being made. This one is perhaps the best:
    “As with your many other US policies shoving your views down others throats to make a point, seems absurd but the new methodology. The many misinformed remarks is quite hilarious and shows how truly ignorant you are of other cultures.”

    I, as an American who has not weighed in on this subject, yet, really love to be categorized with the other 350 million of us, because as everyone knows, we are all the same. Which is to say I, along with the rest of us, am a shover of policy to make points?, and ignorant of other cultures.

    All that being said, I, as a consumer, don’t like to be lied to. If someone goes to the expense of getting certified then they should charge a little more on that basis. If they don’t go to that expense, then there should be a qualitative difference in the bottle. Having had this wine many times I will say it is good Lambrusco. It is good where there is great. There are others that stand on their quality rather than lie about their ideologies.

    I do often support, or spend a little extra for, those who go the extra mile(km) and base their standards on tradition and love of the land–even if they do produce a slightly inferior product. But dishonesty hurts the industry as a whole and this is an industry that has been plagued by it in recent years. When it becomes difficult to distinguish the artist from the entrepreneur someone has failed. I think the most important point we should all take away from this, is someone got caught–it was a lie. We are all now better informed and we can support the people who deserve it, the true artisans of the craft. If you cannot see the truth when someone hands it to you plain and clear, you don’t deserve to. The label is in Italian which I don’t speak, it shows pictures of cycles of the moon, it says “Metido Natura”, using the language barrier as a form of deception is the same as lying, plain to see.

    Thank you Dr. Vino for exposing the truth.

  45. Oh yeah, and the importer directly lied, that is also important

  46. The wine is produced as stated on their label. Whether or not it is certified seems moot, since many producers of outstanding wines do not . There are many other companies that certify in Italy other than Demeter. I am not sure the point or intention of this blog if you’re not bothering to actually taste the wine (that is the point after all).
    If you did, you’d discover that these are superb wines made with great integrity and skill. Actually tasting it might help to confirm this …


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