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Is wine writing boring?
A few days ago a meme popped up on Twitter to wide acclaim. Headed ‘The state of wine coverage - hot or not?’ it gave some tongue-in-cheek examples of articles wine writers might submit or be asked to write. “Is this the great sherry revival? Five great wines for barbecues because the editor insisted. A barely tampered press release about a newly invented grape variety day. 5000 words on minerality. Canned wine ‘not shit'’”
Twitter piled in, as it does. "You forgot the 'everything is getting a little bit better' article. Often indistinguishable from advertorials.” “Branded wines can't be good' and 'here are 5 branded wines which are actually ok’. "New Zealand is more than sauvignon."
I had a good laugh too but the underlying idea that the sort of things that readers might want to know about are just rather banal. showing a lack of imagination in the publication which prints it and the journalist who writes it, made me feel a bit uneasy.
And it hit home particularly in a week when the Labour party was mauled at the polls for failing to understand their voters. ‘Do you not KNOW that there’s only 40p of wine in that £5 bottle you buy’ we write. Well, probably yes but that’s irrelevant if that’s all you can afford. ‘Do you not REALISE just how sweet prosecco is.”Mmmm" our reader might counter "but it’s rather nice.” If prosecco were a biscuit no-one would bat an eyelid.
The truth is that with national newspapers at least there more than one audience, broadly divided into those who are passionately keen about wine and others for whom it’s just a drink. There are readers who don’t want to pay over £7 a bottle (ideally less) and those who are happy to pay £15 or more. Should we only write for the latter? I’d be out of a job if I did.
Maybe newspaper editors who typically don’t have a massive interest in and knowledge of wine are more in touch than we are when they ask us to write articles on rosé and barbecue wine. We may roll our eyes at the idea that there’s a ‘great sherry revival’ (it's been mooted for the last 20 years) but if they’ve just visited their local tapas bar and been amazed by the selection on offer chances are our readers might not have realised what's out there either.
People who mock often have an agenda - maybe a niche magazine which if it is to survive needs to focus on those who really want to dig deep - and will have the space to pursue it. “Attempts at beginner science education on YouTube quickly die, while extremely geeky info that's delivered well gets huge audiences" commented publisher Felicity Carter. "People who aren't interested don't go looking, people who are want expert content."
To which I’d say some do, some don’t and the latter group is a good deal smaller than the former. Most just want to be informed (whatever form that takes - recommendations or insights) and, ideally, entertained.
To purse the political analogy you could argue a wine writer is like an MP: there, whatever their personal preferences in wine (and those can be freely expressed) to service their readers just as an MP represents their constituents. Or that’s how I see it anyway.
How about you? What do you want from a wine column?
Image by Dean Drobot at shutterstock.com
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