Tips of the Trade: Wine journalism

Press Gazette asked leading wine journalists what it takes to get ahead in their profession and what their advice would be to those aspiring to break into the field.

Chris Losh, editor, Wine Magazine

There are two key things: one, that you can taste, and two, that you can deliver incisive, well-written copy to deadline.

Advice: It’s the same as being any other journalist – you’ve got to be able to write well, structure an article well and once you’ve found an angle, pursue it. There are courses you can take to develop your taste. Most people will be able to learn how to do it so they are good enough to write for most magazines, especially trade ones.

Giles MacDonogh, freelance, Decanter

Ideally, a wine journalist should be like any other: should be able to spot a good story and write it well. Tasting ability helps, but is not essential. Advice: you need to know how to heap praise on wholly boring, industrially made supermarket wines, which are now the only ones easily available in the UK. And make friends with buyers and assistant buyers at supermarkets. That way, at least the journalist will never lack wine to cook with.

Richard Woodard, Editor, Wine and Spirits International

Firstly, objectivity. It seems obvious, but it’s really important. It’s important to have a strong sense of what’s going on in the industry. But, for me, a breadth of knowledge is also important. There’s more to it than just knowing who’s selling what wine.

Advice: Annoy the hell out of people like me. That’s what you’ve got to do – keep on pestering people until they give you a chance. Try your hardest to get your foot in the door, even if it means doing unpaid work experience. It can be a bit of a closed, cliquey market. But it’s important to distance yourself from this when you do get in.

Antony Le Ray-Cook, Editor, www.winedine.co.uk

A good wine journalist needs experience in several sides of the business. This might include working in a wine shop, a stage at a vineyard, a higher certificate from WSTE, working as a wine buyer, travelling through wine county. Most important is to have tasted a range of wines, from the best Bordeaux to the cheapest plonk. Today there are few wine writers who have any idea what Chateau Latour tastes like – or any other top Bordeaux.

Advice: Don’t write about wine unless you have other financial support. Only about 10 wine writers in the UK make a living by writing solely about wine.

Jim Gabler, broadcast wine journalist, will appear on the BBC programme in March about the world’s most expensive bottle of wine

An ability to write, total commitment, a passion for wine, and honesty in every opinion. This means the journalist can never be in the financial or emotional pocket of any wine person, institution or organisation. Advice: Simply to love wine and everything about it.

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