How to become a wine writer

Martin Field 2008-07-25T06:31:49+00:000000004931200807 Wine

by Martin Field

‘How did you become a wine writer?’ It’s perhaps the most frequent question I’ve had from wine drinkers over the years. What they really mean is ‘How could I go about becoming a wine writer?’

In other words, they too would like a job they assume involves nothing more than the consumption of an endless round of free lunches and gratis wine samples.

My life is nothing like that, I tell them. (I can lie like a politician when necessary.)

The process
My ticket on the gravy train was easy enough to obtain. The process really was as simple as follows and the dialogue is as accurate as memory will allow.

I phoned a Melbourne newspaper and asked for the editor – I didn’t even know his name. When he answered, I said, ‘You have a good restaurant reviewer, what you need is an entertaining wine columnist to complement his restaurant reviews.’

‘I suppose that’d be you,’ he replied.

‘Yup,’ I said, with due modesty.

‘Send us some wine columns you’ve written and we’ll think about it.’

‘Haven’t written one yet.’

‘Write something and we’ll see.’

‘Err, haven’t got a typewriter at the moment.’ (This was a long time ago remember.)

A long-suffering sigh on the other end of the line. ‘Send something in longhand then.’

I did. A week later my first wine column appeared. The week after that the first unsolicited wine samples arrived. The following week the first invitations to lunch and dinner for wine launches started to arrive.

The rest, as they say, is rosé-coloured history.

Wine writer types and attributes
There are typically two kinds of wine writers. Journalists sent out on wine stories who are so taken with the business that they never return to straight journalism. The other type is the wine lover who wants to write. I’m probably in the latter group.

It should be added that to be a good wine writer some of the following attributes are handy, though not totally necessary. Some writers get by with just one or two of them. In no particular order.

An independent income – wine writing is a lot of fun but there’s not much money in it. A robust liver – wine writing is a health hazard. A personal trainer. Writing ability. A good nose and palate. An extensive library of wine books. Training – introductory wine courses are good. A bullsheet or wine snob detector. The ability to assess objectively wine styles that you don’t personally enjoy. A sense of humour. A superficial knowledge of winemaking techniques. A lot of front.

Alternatives to try
If you can’t get a gig as a wine writer, I can recommend restaurant, movie and music reviewing – they are all equally rewarding.

: Wine

“How to become a wine writer”

  1. Sarah Newton :

    You sure do need an independent income and a lot of front! Agree 100%

  2. hamishwm :

    Sounds like a good intro to wine writing. Ultimately you will be judged on the quality of your writing and your output. Jancis Robinson seems to be by far the best current wine journalist for the quality of her writing and her honest style. Not too much hyperbole and more English understatement.
    Unfortunately there are still quite a few ‘journalists’ or ‘consultants’ who turn up at wine tastings (usually just before lunch!), and then proceed to throw their limited knowledge around. They annoy the wine trade immensely, but to defend them, everyone should have an opinion and the chance to taste good wines…even if sometimes I get annoyed when I am pouring wine to a half drunk jerk who will never remember the wine let alone write about it.