What inspires you to read about wine? Do you love the history, the detailed stories about wine makers and wineries? Or do you simply want a laundry list of wine reviews? And if you write about wine, what type of articles do you pen? Stories or mere tasting notes?
In the latest issue of Decanter (May 2010), there is an editorial which touches on these questions. In "Fleshing the Press" by Sarah Kemp, the publishing director for Decanter, Sarah states: "With limited space (and a limited editorial brief) given to wine writers, the inevitable has happened--columns have become glorified shopping lists with tasting notes. And tasting notes are probably the reason most people don't engage with wine. Intimidated by talk of blackberries and blueberries, hints of this and that, they conclude that wine knowledge is beyond them." (p.6)
This is an intriguing insight, and accurate to some degree, especially in local newspapers. You are far more likely to find tasting notes and recommendations rather than stories about specific wines, wineries and wine makers. There are blogs as well that are primarily tasting notes, just lists of wines that are and are not recommended. Sure, there is a place for tasting notes, but they have their disadvantages as well. I would agree too that such tasting notes can turn off some consumers, who already feel intimidated by wine.
What most compels consumers? Sarah states they get engaged when they "... read the stories behind it, succumbing to its emotional pull and aspirational effect rather than the taste. What inspires wine lovers is not just the taste but the story, the people, the place and the anecdotes." (p.6) I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, and have said as much on my blog before. I believe such matters are much more memorable than tasting notes. They are the matters people will repeat to others, tales they will tell at dinner parties or when they hang with friends.
At a party, are you likely to tell a friend about the blackberry, leather and violet taste of some wine you recently tasted? Or are you more likely to tell that friend about an interesting wine maker who names his wines after constellations and reads medieval wine-making books? I bet that your friend would most likely appreciate the later, and they might then relate it to others.
I know I have much more fun writing about the stories behind wine, rather than creating a tasting note. And my readers seem to react more positively to the fascinating stories. I too find it more interesting to read other's stories about wines rather than their mere tasting notes. What about you?
"What we need is not a campaign for wine columns but a campaign for great wine writing--in whatever medium today's consumer wants." (p.6)
That would include newspapers, magazines, books and even blogs.