Alice Feiring is an outspoken author, journalist, and spitfire wine industry participant. Formerly the wine/travel columnist for Time and the Wall Street Journal Magazine, Feiring also writes for prestigious publications of every stripe, from The New York Times, The World of Fine Wine, to Afar. Over the course of her career her contributions to the world of wine journalism have earned her such major industry nods as a James Beard Foundation Award, a Louis Roederer International Wine Writer, Born Digital and Gourmand Book Awards.
In 2008, she wrote the influential book, The Battle for Wine and Love: Or How I Saved the World From Parkerization. Her others include: Naked Wine (2011) For the Love of Wine, my odyssey through the world’s most ancient wine culture (2016). The Dirty Guide to Wine (2017) and Natural Wine for the People (2019). Translations of her books are available in French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Slovakian, Russian and Georgian. In addition, she is the publisher of her critically acclaimed newsletter, The Feiring Line.
When she’s not tasting, traveling, writing books or articles, Feiring lives in New York City, dances the Morris, plays accordion and, when she restrings her bow, the fiddle.
What wine should we be drinking right now?
In the midst of Covid-19, wines are not making me all that happy, but I still persist. It seems as if these are more times for whisky, or mezcal, but I still persist. Here’s what’s tasting good to me. Anything oxidative. That means things that taste like sherry, nutty, a bit sharp, great acid and super salty. It can be an acquired taste but right now you have plenty of time to acquire one. Unfortunately a lot of these, like wines from the Jura (you would be looking for a grape called savignin made under ‘flor’) that are made in the same style are quite pricey. So right now the kind of wine that I find myself reaching for, that gives me some comfort are dry sherries. This means I’m buying fino, manzanilla, palo cortado and ‘enrama”. Look for producers Equipos Navazos, Valdespino, Cota 45, Barbiana, Gonzalez Byaz, El Maestro Sierra, Bodegas Tradición, Gómez Nevado or de la Riva. They work for sipping with any nosh, with soups, salads and almost anything considered difficult to pair with. Most of the best shops are either delivering or doing curbside pickup. Also, investigate your favorite restaurants because all the best ones are selling off their wine lists at terrific prices. I actually have a list of plenty shops and restaurants around the world that can help you out on the free-for-all part of my newsletter, The Feiring Line.
Do you have a regular first reader? If so, who is it and why?
In my fantasy life I am completely self-sufficient and don’t need readers. In my real one, I’m completely dependent on them.
First there’s Liz. No matter what genre, essay, wine book, fiction or memoir, she’s been reading my work for over three decades. A brilliant academic editor, she gives me the literal read.It’s fabulous having a reader whose brain shuts off if a piece doesn’t follow a certain structure or if language is less than specific, her feedback pushes me beyond my comfort zone. I might not always agree but hearing her point of view is essential and she’s rarely wrong.
Then there is my weekly writing group. I’ve been going to this group of Sue Shapiro’sever since 2007. I was in the middle of writing my first narrative non-fiction book, The Battle for Wine and Love. She called me up on a sticky August day and asked, “Do you have any interest in coming tonight?” I grabbed pages, ran over. Twelve years later that weekly pow-wow has become an essential part of my process. Its where I bring unformed ideas and see them take shape or fine tune.While their feedback is invaluable, sometimes the most important exercise is the physical reading my work out loud. For some reason reading into a void in my own living room is never as revealing as when I’m in Sue’s. It’s miraculous, it’s like you can’t hide and often as soon as a sentence is out of my mouth, I will know what falls flat, what works or even where my lede should be.
Tell us about some of the authors who inspire you.
I am constantly rereading authors to remind me how to write when I forget how. Which is constantly. I head to Edith Wharton for her depth of female characters and plotting. Philip Roth for his brilliance; irony, language, humor and tragedy and voice. IB Singer for his character development and plotting. Bukoswki for the brush stroke. Edna O’Brien because she just is a gorgeous writer. As far as younger voices, Ottessa Moshfegh is out in front because she is just as confounding and she is mesmerizing. She sucks me in to reading plotlines that I have no interest in or characters that I don’t care about and convinces me that I do.
Tell us about one of your writing disappointments or failures.
Can we go for frustrating? I’ve been working on a novel for almost ten years. Every time I think I’m giving up, moving on to the next one,the damned thing pulls me back. I just cannot let it go. When it comes down to the reasons why; I believe in the plot and characters and themes. I just have to find a way to write it to my liking and it’s just not there yet. And so, yet again, I pulled it out of my drawer and plunked it onto my desktop. I’m giving it another overhaul. I’m hoping this is the last time.
If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
I would have saved my money for an MFA instead of the M.Ed I did get. I would have told me that it was truly important for the connections as well as the time for self-focus on reading and writing. In addition, I would have kicked my ass into a junior year abroad and would have ordered myself to get fluent in French. The language would have given me access, freedom and confidence.
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