Wine For Every Day

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John Brecher and Dottie Gaiter say that it was love at first sight their first day on the job. But, they quickly found out that journalism wasn't the only thing they had in common.

"The first wine we ever shared together was Andre' Cold Duck," recalled Brecher.

"It's OK to laugh," said Gaiter. "We all started somewhere. One of the chapters in our book is 'Don't Be Embarrassed About the Blue Nun In Your Past,' because we all started somewhere."

And now look where they are. Three decades later, Brecher and Gaiter write the very popular weekly wine column in the Wall Street Journal called "Tastings." It's about all kinds of wines, and sometimes about other folks who also believe that it should be easy to enjoy wine.

"One reason the column's been so popular is we don't really write a wine column," said Gaiter. "We write a column about life. It's sort of a lifestyle column. We write about love and romance and raising kids."

"I mean, think about it for a second, if you went outside and stopped the very first person and said, 'Tell me about the greatest wine you ever had,' virtually nobody would say, 'Oh yes, it was the 1959 Latour, because it had hints of brambles,'" said Brecher. "No, you know what they'd say? They'd say, 'You know , I was in Greece' well they might say. 'I was in – it was Ripple, because I was in college and I met the woman of my dreams and what we had was Ripple.'"

"The greatest wine experiences people have don't have so much to do with what's in the bottle, but what's happening at the time," explained Gaiter. "That's our philosophy."

A philosophy the couple has espoused not only into their columns, but also in two books they've authored.

"Our autobiography, 'Love By The Glass,' is the story of our lives as told through wine," said Brecher. "To some extent, our new book, 'The Wall Street Journal Guide to Wine,' is a story of wine as told through our lives. Because we fundamentally just don't believe that you can separate the two. Wine and the experience you're having when you cap the wine are inextricably bound."

But their love of life, each other and wine doesn't mean that they aren't serious about their work. Brecher, a former editor, and Gaiter, a former editorial writer and urban affairs columnist, do their homework using a system that they have developed after nearly 30 years of tasting together.

What are the steps to their system?

"Well, we have 'yuk,' good, very good, excellent and then, if it's at the top of the scale, we have excellent with an exclamation point," said Gaiter.

The day CBS News Sunday Morning correspondent Bill Plante joined them, they were tasting and rating American wines made from Syrah — the grape of the moment in the wine world.

Believe it or not, they do this every night for 365 days a year. It's not your average journalist's hard day at the office.

"I guess it is odd," said Gaiter. "But it's an awful lot of fun. We decide what we're gonna taste and we'll go out and we'll go out and buy, if we can, 50, at least 50 bottles of that type. We taste six to eight per night. Taste – not guzzle."

The couple says they may sip but hardly swallow the wines they are tasting.

"We do want to get some sense of kind of the finish and how it goes down and how smooth or not smooth it is and what kind of taste you have afterward," said Brecher. "But when you get six or eight bottles in front of you … it's scary. It's really scary. So we're very, very careful about how much actually goes down the hatch."

"Taste is such a subjective thing," said Gaiter. "Our definition of a good wine is a wine that tastes good to you."

Plante asked the two what they thought of the perception of wine being a pretentious drink.

"Horsefeathers," said Gaiter "If you try it and like it, you might wanna know more about it, but you don't have to have a Ph.D in it, you know. Like you can enjoy a sunset without understanding why the sky does that. Just enjoy it because you like the way it tastes. The people are really uptight about it. That's something we hammer away at because people are intimidated from drinking wine to buying the right glass."

The couple believes American wine is improving and outstanding vineyards are dotting the country.

Just in case you were wondering, every night, after each tasting, they throw out the remaining wine.

"Now before we go to bed tonight, John will walk into the kitchen and he'll pour all these down the drain," said Gaiter. "And I just can't bear to watch it."

But they do keep the labels.

"Its important to do that because when we write the columns and people say, 'You couldn't have had the '87,' and we say, 'Well, here's the label.' We make a copy and send it to them. People are very particular about their information about wine."

For John Brecher and Dottie Gaiter, these labels are a collection rich with memories of their life together. And, they want everyone to enjoy life and love just as they have — by the glassful.

"There's got to be some reason to have wine," said Gaiter. "Don't wait for a birthday or anniversary. It's a natural thing that people should enjoy every day."

For more information on tastings or on Dottie Gaiter and John Brecher, please go to The Wall Street Journal website WSJ.com or you may contact them at wine@wsj.com.
  • Rome Neal

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