Unwritten rules for wine writers

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Unwritten rules for wine writers

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I was recently at a supermarket press tasting, and one of the buyers – new to the game – commented that he was surprised how well we (the wine journos) all got along. ‘After all, you’re competitors,’ he noted.

I was pleased he made this observation. We do get along. But it hadn’t really occurred to me that we should behave any differently, and I don’t think of my fellow wine writers as competitors. We all (perhaps with one or two exceptions) co-exist really well, and attending tastings feels like mixing with your colleagues at work. As a freelancer, it’s nice to feel that you are part of a bigger community.

How is this cohesion maintained? It’s as if there are some unwritten rules for wine writers that we all strive to abide by, and which keeps the community together. They would be something like this:

  • Be collegiate. Be nice to your fellow wine writers and behave as part of a team. When you go on press trips, join in – have a drink at the bar at the end of the day. Show interest in others. Greet fellow writers with a friendly smile, a kiss, a hug.
  • No prima donnas allowed. I know we are each managing our own media brand, but we need to remember that in the grand scheme of things, none of us matter, so let’s keep our egos in check.
  • Don’t lie. In your self-promotion, don’t exaggerate your readership figures or your webstats, or do silly things like buy twitter followers.
  • As much as it is humanly possible, share in the joy of others’ success. Your turn will come.
  • Don’t be a dick and behave competitively. Show other wine writers respect on social media and don’t be unnecessarily argumentative. Don’t have a thin skin if others rib you.
  • Follow the basic rules of being a nice human: always think the best of others, be kind where you can, and forgive people quickly if they offend or hurt you.
  • Be supportive and welcoming towards newcomers, and younger writers. We don’t want to be a closed club. We want to avoid cliques. We need new, young, talented writers to keep us on our toes!
  • Don’t sell out, and don’t behave parasitically. If you wanted to get rich you should have gone into the financial world. Keep your integrity in the face of £££ or you will be letting us all down. And don’t keep trying to take money from wine producers by various schemes. They have a bad enough time with supermarkets and major retailers coming after them for cash (‘promotional support’). Don’t muddy the water for the rest of us.
8 Comments on Unwritten rules for wine writers
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

8 thoughts on “Unwritten rules for wine writers

  1. i love this article and have shared with many wine writing friends. ‘don’t be a dick,’ are words to live by. Thank you for this.

  2. I think it’s interesting that he called you competitors – surely depends on where you draw the (albeit muddy) lines – you call wine writers a community and as colleagues – I’d go further and call yourselves a Fraternity/Sorority (whatever the gender neutral version of these is) albeit an open and supportive one – but I actually think that you also get on well with and treat almost as collegues many in other aspects of the trade. Sure sometimes you’ll slag a wine I import off – that’s fine – wine is subjective not objective and we can differ – maybe we are actually all part of ‘Team Wine’ The buyer observes you are competitive because he works for a supermarket – and increasingly they are looking to enter every single retail market – and so everyone is a competitor – and they are not all aiming for the same common goal – rather they are essentially aiming to put the others out of business. You’re all aiming to get people to drink better wine, probably for less money….

    There are a few egos in the wine writing world – but not from the people who actually sell stuff – either it’s over zealous editors or their staff, or the odd arrogant people who make silly demands – and yet when they publish make not one jot of difference to the bottom line of the merchant they have chased, harassed and demanded of.

    There are also a few charlatans who write about wine, but actually know little, taste little and who don’t do basic research. One example of a writer writing about a wine they bought on the way home on a Friday night (nothing wrong with that) and quoting that retailer – unfortunately that retailer was £5 a bottle (£22 vs £17) compared to my price – and I was a) not the cheapest and b) was at about market value – telling people to go and spend £5 too much on a bottle of wine because they couldn’t be bothered with wine-searcher is for me unforgivable – a rag writer ought to be telling people to buy the best wines at the best prices – or supporting their local… (this was neither just lazy)

    So there you go – I agree – but want to add – Don’t be lazy to your list….

  3. As a younger writer to the blog world I appreciated this article and so far have had a pleasant experience meeting bloggers from all over the country offering up their advice. It’s been almost 2 years for myself and my blog Vino Travels and I look forward to many more helping educate the world on Italian wines. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. The wine trade and press are a lot smaller in Ireland, understandably as it’s a much smaller country in terms of population. The guidelines above are therefore even more important. This also means that there are fewer press-only events and many which are trade and press together.

    Thankfully this means there is room for wine writers such as myself who aren’t part of the official press corps!

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