Interviews • April 30, 2018

Interview With Karen MacNeil, Author of The Wine Bible and Founder of WineSpeed

Wines From Spain recently spoke with Karen MacNeil, author of the seminal work The Wine Bible, which has sold over 1 million copies. Karen is the first American author to have won nearly every major wine award in the English language. Karen also recently launched the digital newsletter WineSpeed which has had immense interest among wine lovers.

Read our full interview below.

1. How did you get your start in the wine world?

I came from a very poor uneducated family. At 19, I moved to New York City to try to become a writer. I lived in a 5th floor walk-up apartment in Harlem and worked three jobs. At night, I wrote. I collected 324 rejection slips before my first article sold. It was an article on butter, and it was published by the Village Voice. I got paid $35 and I immediately went out to the hip nightclub in New York, sat at the bar and ordered Champagne. I wrote about food and restaurants for 10 years before trying my hand at wine.

2. What are some emerging trends in the industry that you are tracking?

On the one hand, we know that big brands are getting bigger and stronger and often dominate certain aspects of the industry. But that has set the scene for the opposite—small artisanal brands that represent greater authenticity. The wine industry would be lost if all wine were to become a commodity, and so I hope the appreciation and support of small producers continues. Also, I love the fact that consumers are so much more experimental than they’ve ever been. It’s exciting!

3. Can you tell us one “Fascinating Fact” about Spain?

Oh my goodness, Spain is full of Fascinating Facts. One is Sherry, here is a Fascinating Fact that appeared in WineSpeed:

Silent Bulls – Sherry bodegas are filled with large, imposing black barrels that sit like silent bulls in the dim light. A typical bodega might have a hundred thousand such casks (known as botas). The barrels are always painted with a water-based, jet-black matte paint, giving them a powerful, dramatic appearance. And why black? The answers most commonly given in the Sherry region are that: 1) the black paint discourages insects from nibbling on the wood, 2) the black paint keeps the sun from penetrating the wood and spoiling the wine, 3) painting them helps the 100 + year old barrels look tidier, and 4) any leakage could be easily detected because it would appear shiny against the black matte paint.