Wine and Writing for Immortality

Despite not exactly falling into the most popular, vastly read forms of what is still called journalism, wine writing appears to be the sector in which the most navel-gazing occurs. I can think of no other segment of precis, essay, review, comment and general non-fiction writing where so much energy and thought and opinion is spent on bemoaning and preaching its current state than within the modest confines of those wording on fermented grape-juice.

This year, so far, has seen an especially inspired array of writers asking questions and deliberating on the subject – not of wine, which is on what they write, but on the general state of the wine writing diaspora. There are opinions and concerns on practicalities: the decline in wine coverage in traditional media; the rise of so-called ‘influencers’ who apparently down-grade the hallowed subject of wine by resorting to videos and abruptly captioned images, emojis and dancing optional; the lack of paid-gigs for those wishing to share their insights with the world; the murky border between editorial writing and paid-for, advertorial stuff.

The very appearance of all these concerns finding their way into cyberspace underscores the stifling confinement with which many wine writers approach their world. For who is really going to be interested in the travails of wine-writing except for a very, very limited and closed community. And is this not what lies at the heart of what is perceived as a concern among those aggrieved at the current state of wine writing: the fact that too much of the insular reflection takes place in the hallowed confines of an assumed audience, instead of a real one.

Briefly put, if there is so much to enthuse upon, to say and to share about wine, why waste ink writing about, well, wine writing? But we can’t help ourselves – present company included, as this modest missive shows…

Wine is not an easy thing to write about. In my previous life as a journalist reviewing film, contemporary music and drama, it was all so easy. You had actors to discuss, plot-lines to analyse and infectious rhythms to spur one on to giving wordy opinions. Give me a blank sheet to discuss a film like Anatomy of a Fall or Ralph Fiennes’s acting in Hamlet, and I have more hooks with which to fill that space than you’ll find on an illegal Chinese long-liner.

Wine is different, and it is hard. It sits there in a glass. You smell and sip. There is some back-story on the place where the grapes are grown and the techniques employed in its making, and that is that. Over to you. Not only tricky to write, but even trickier to capture the imagination of the reader. Especially a reader who does not know the difference between a Claret and a Bordeaux or a Champagne and a Mimosa.

And the question that is hardly asked by the writer is, why should they know?

Of course, it depends what the writer wants. An esteemed critic with a fervent following of wine-buffs can stay cool and keep critiquing and writing informed stylish editorial to an informed appreciative audience. Be his or her pursuit that of hobby, revenue or pure satisfaction in stringing wine-words together, this state is a good one to be in for writer and audience alike.

But for those writers dissatisfied with the environment in which they have to pursue their craft, the challenge is greater than being excellent in the way they do so. For not only do they have to satisfy an established community, but they have to create a new one.

I would see this as an exciting challenge for a number of reasons.

Firstly, wine writers have an opportunity to buck a trend, namely that of decreased audience – the primary reason for all this questioning the state and future of wine writing. What finer reward can there for a writer be than to in a decade’s time lay claim to having been at the forefront of the revival in wine communication, seeing wine as a now ubiquitous life-style and cultural item loved and enjoyed by many as a result of your active role in the media?

Secondly, this whole scenario can spur writers on to look and think outside the box, mustering their creative energies to use their knowledge and experience in a different way. Change of voice and tone to adapt to the current environment, find aspects about their subject which previously would not have inspired any writing about it.

And then finally, and probably the reason for the current quandary, the irreversible digital world. Never before has humankind turned to so many different forms of media for information and opinion as is the case today. And at no time have wine communicators had such a diversity of vehicles to disperse their voices into the world.

It is perhaps time to think not like a wine writer or conventional wine lover in the inner-circles of vinous appreciation, but like a winemaker. One who has discovered a new patch of virginal bare soil. And with conviction in its undiscovered terroir, you plant vines in uncharted territory with belief and a sense of discovery heading you to a new path on the world you yourself have created.

The wines, however they may be, will capture the imagination and draw new followers and, perhaps, give you a place in immortality.

Which like the creators of wine, writers strive towards.

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2 thoughts on “Wine and Writing for Immortality

  1. In a sense, you have been brave touching on this issue.

    I have for the last couple of years, read more of your articles than any others – be it as it may.

    I feel that you have often transgressed the murky border between editorial writing and paid-for, advertorial stuff.

    I do enjoy your attempts to be at the forefront of the revival in wine communication. Your good writing, both in terms of content and use of language, greatly contribute to this.

    However, I feel that it is not good enough to only concentrate on the life-style and cultural aspects of wine.

    I would like to see more critical discussion on wines and their quality, as all wines, indeed not even most, are surely not superb.

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