Writing about the latest wine topic is a sure way to drive blog numbers. Wine seminars, veteran wine writers, and more advise the first step for building an audience is writing about the lastest wine news and trends.

I do that some, but not as often as I know I should.

As a former news guy, I get it. But the wine writing community, through my limited exposure, spends too much time writing for each other and not enough time writing for the consumer. And, some of the current topics aren’t all that interesting to me nor do I believe they’d be interesting to the average wine consumer.

The latest fuss is about a Canadian wine writer who allegedly re-published other writers’ wine reviews and required wineries to subscribe to a pay website for their wines to be reviewed.

I could use the name, everyone else has,
but hey – the writer stiffed me – twice!

If either of those charges are true, and I’m certainly not here to substantiate or deny, it is really bad practices and worthy of some outrage. But I’ve found too many wine writers more than a little self-serving, self important, and plain ol’ spoiled.

The Canadian writer reached out to me about a year ago promoting a new book. Value wine is a frequent topic for the writer so I agreed to a phone interview. The writer has a significant national profile and name recognition so my thinking was it would be good for this blog or my newspaper column. An appointment was made but no phone call came that day. A second appointment was made, and astonishingly, no phone call came. That was my first introduction to the self important wine community too busy to keep their own appointments.

Wine writers are flown around the world at no cost to be wined and dined in a first-class manner. On one European trip last year I witnessed a fellow wine writer – with national profile – be very rude to our hosts, our guide, and the rest of us on the trip.

Going on these free junkets shouldn’t mean writers are hacks or mouth pieces for the marketing agencies that arrange the trips nor the wine regions paying the bill.  I learned a bit about the ethics of such trips from a guy I really respect who also happens to be a lawyer. His advice was to go on the trip, make no promises, and be a good guest.

When approached for a wine press trip, and full disclosure is I traveled to France three times last year on press trips, I promise nothing. But I also note I have four writing outlets and if I go to any wine region I can’t imagine NOT writing about the wine, the region, and the experience.

The ethics of wine writing comes back to the first great piece of management advice I’ve ever received – “just do the right thing.”

The real reward of wine writing!

So yes, the free trips to wine regions isn’t a bad gig. But there are other rewards far less tangible but just as memorable.

Over the weekend I had a utility issue to resolve and went to the office where I could get it fixed. While getting my bill corrected, a young man struck up a conversation about wine not knowing I was a wine writer. When I told him about this blog and my newspaper column, his excitement over a little advice and direction reminded me of the joy of sharing what I do know about wine.

I gave him some recommendations and guidance, a wine business card, and he was one darn happy camper.

Sometimes the little things are just as much a reward as the big things.

Maybe some of those veteran wine writers need to be reminded of that!

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

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