Q&A: Cathrine Todd

OWP chats with Dame Wine blogger

Cathrine Todd ##Photo provided

Cathrine Todd is a WSET Diploma graduate, freelance wine writer, Forbes contributor and the wine columnist for La VOCE di New York. Todd was shortlisted for the Roederer 2015 “Emerging Wine Writer of the Year,” and her blog, Dame Wine, was a Wine Blog Awards’ finalist for the 2015 “Best New Wine Blog,” finalist for 2016 “Best Writing on a Wine Blog” and finalist for 2016 “Best Overall Wine Blog,” not to mention shortlisted for Born Digital Wine Awards “Best Editorial/Opinion Wine Writing” in 2017. Todd received a fellowship to attend the 2017 Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood, Napa Valley. Dame Wine was also listed in the “Top 20 Blogs in USA to Follow” in 2018 by USA Wine Ratings. Before moving into full-time freelancing, she spent many years selling various wines from around the world in the Manhattan market.

How did you first become interested in wine?

CT: In 1993, when I was 18 years old, I came to New York City and subsequently met a bunch of artists in the East Village, many of whom were Europeans who had also just moved there. They were the first to introduce me to wine, and we would pool our money, which we all had very little of, and buy a bottle once a week. But it was not only drinking the wine itself which was part of the magic of making me get obsessed with it, it was the stories of the people, the cultures, the communities, the histories and the combination of the romance balanced by the science of it. I am a nerd, and I love to learn about all different aspects of life, from the technical to the human condition of a personal story, and wine gives you opportunities to delve into various subjects all the time. At first, it was just a serious hobby and then slowly, through time, I professionally started to get into it — taking classes, working for distributors and retailers and, finally, writing about it.

What’s the most challenging part of wine writing?

CT: Writers work long hours, as you have to balance a lot of different types of jobs to make a living, and the writing itself — research, thinking of a compelling story, as well as self-editing, which is more common nowadays, takes a significant amount of time; it is common to work seven day weeks and endless days. But despite all that, for me, the hardest part is coming back from a press trip or seminar, or one on one interview and having a dozen stories flood my head about that subject, knowing that I may only get a chance to write a couple or even just one of those stories because as a professional you are under the gun to move on to the next story/assignment. And so, I always have this feeling that I could have done more justice to the subject. I think most writers, by their nature, are inspired to tell many stories and you are forced to pick one, maybe two or three, if you are lucky, and then you have to live with these other stories never being told. Actually, when I see another great writer tell a story that I didn’t have a chance to tell, it always warms my heart as it is heartbreaking to know that something important to the human spirit is not being shared. 

What region are you most excited about right now?

CT: In this moment, I am very excited about the country of Uruguay showing the world that they have greatly improved their quality, especially with their Tannat wines. I can’t help but love an underdog. Over a decade ago, Uruguay was written off as a joke in the wine world, but they are coming out with wonderful wines, and they are so grateful for the recognition. It just shows that you shouldn’t count any country or region out, and I admire their tenacity. Also, same-sex marriage and marijuana are both legal there, and women are encouraged to take a strong role in their society and so, surprisingly, it is a very liberal place.

What is your impression of Oregon wine?

CT: My first impression of Oregon was the idea that they had impressively mastered the Pinot Noir grape, which is one of the toughest to master, I think. But then, through time, I started to learn that Oregon was making other varieties as well, such as Pinot Gris, Rhône varieties in Southern Oregon and now Chardonnay is becoming a star... Willamette Valley within itself has a wide range of diversity when it comes to Pinot Noir — various micro-climates, different types of soil and varying winemaking philosophies. It is a state that is capable of a multitude of high-quality wines that span a wide spectrum of styles.

If you had a chance to own a winery, where would it be? What wines would you make?

CT: This is a difficult question to answer as I have fallen in love with so many different regions around the world and it is like picking your favorite child. But the first wine that blew me away was a Grand Cru red Burgundy. Again, Pinot Noir is a difficult grape and some of the worst wines I have had were made with Pinot Noir, as well as some of the best. It is a grape that in one moment can break your heart and then, next, take you to the moon. Since my favorite Pinot Noir wines balance savory notes with fruit flavors, I would have to narrow my target to either Willamette Valley in Oregon or Burgundy in France. One of my favorite things about wine is the sense of community and I’m afraid that I would be seen as an outsider in Burgundy, but I know people from all over the world who have moved to Oregon and they say the community welcomes you with open arms. So it may seem silly to say this in an Oregon publication but I think Willamette Valley is the most realistic place where I could feel part of the community, be fulfilled by taking on the challenge of Pinot Noir (and yes, I am a glutton for punishment) and be surrounded by stunning natural beauty as well!


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