“Turning the Tables – Interviewing the Interviewers” is a Q&A series profiling Wine Writers. We hope you’ll discover more about the wine writers you know, and learn about many others. The objective of this project is to understand and develop working relationships with journalists. After all, they are the ones that help tell our stories, review our wines, and potentially provide media coverage. You can learn their wine and writing backgrounds, story and personal interests, palate preferences, writing challenges, and pet peeves. This is part of an ongoing series that will be featured monthly by Wine Industry Advisor.
Alongside her husband, Chris Wallace, Allison Wallace is the co-founder/co-author of AdVINEtures wine blog. She is also vice president, of communications & CSR for the Flight Centre travel group (www.flightcentre.ca), a regular travel contributor for CTV in Vancouver, and a published author and photographer. Both have attained WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Level 2 certificates, along with Canadian Wine Scholar designations (CWS) and Wines of BC Ambassador certification.
How did you come to wine, and to wine writing?
My background is in communications/public relations, so writing has always played an important part in what I do. But writing corporate communications and press releases can often lack a certain level of creativity. When we initially thought about launching a wine blog, it was born from our friends constantly asking about our travels and recommendations, specifically for wine regions.
We made a conscious decision when we started to commit to one article per week, get some professional wine courses under our belt and do it as professionally as possible. It’s turned into a true passion project that’s become a far greater creative outlet than I ever expected. I am still captivated by the stories we hear when meeting winemakers and traveling to various regions around the world.
What are your primary story interests?
Chris and I are most interested in the people behind the wine, but we also love to “geek out” on the science side or techniques when it comes to what happens in the vineyard or in the winery. We want to go beyond what you can read on the winery website and dig deeper into the inspiration or passion behind the wine. We try to never have a preconceived notion of what the story will be. We’re still amazed that, after close to eight years of wine writing, we continue to find something unique in every interview.
What are your primary palate preferences?
My palate has definitely evolved over the years as have my preferences. When I was first introduced to wine, I preferred the more fruit-forward, new world wines — Napa Cabs, Aussie Shiraz and the like. I also didn’t venture too much from what I knew I liked. I still love new world wines, but I find I now lean a little more toward old world wines for the brighter acidity and more earth-driven flavors. The spectrum of wines is really something to embrace and, like so many things, it depends on my mood, whether food is involved, the people we’re sharing the wine with, etc.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
Probably that I’m a grandmother of three. Technically, they’re my step-grandkids, but it’s entirely possible for me to be a grandma in my early 50s — and I couldn’t love it more.
What haven’t you done that you’d like to do?
I would love to work a harvest. I have no doubt it would be incredibly hard work, but I think it would provide an experience and perspective that would not only make me a better wine writer but also leave me with a greater appreciation for the wine in my glass.
What’s the best story you have written?
My favorite story from our blog is actually one that Chris wrote about iconic Australian winemaker Dave Powell (https://advinetures.ca/blog/powell-son-complicated/ ). He is, without question, the most memorable interview we’ve ever done in terms of his personality, his story, the quality of his wines and the time he spent with us. We actually had a distributor reach out to us after she found the article online and told us profusely how much she appreciated us seeing beyond [Powell’s] brash exterior and really capturing who he was.
Can you describe your approach to wine writing?
My approach is pretty simple. First, as mentioned above, I always approach an interview with an open mind and try not to have a preconceived idea about a winemaker ahead of time regardless of what I may have heard or read about them. It’s important to research the basics about the winery so that you’re not wasting too much precious time on information available on the website, but for me the interview is all about digging deeper beyond the marketing materials.
Second, listen…really listen. We do our interviews informally for a reason. When a winemaker is comfortable and we can let the conversation happen naturally, it’s amazing what story treasures will appear. There have been countless times where, well into the conversation, I can already see the article taking shape on its own.
What are you working on now?
We’ve been on a lot of AdVINEtures recently — now that we can! We also have a couple of broadcast opportunities, so spending time on the video footage is becoming more and more important with our storytelling.
Do you work on an editorial schedule and/or develop story ideas as they come up?
An editorial calendar is absolutely key. As a communications professional, it’s so important for staying on track, planning ahead, generating ideas and meeting content commitments. Because traveling to various regions is such a big part of what we do, I’d be lost without an editorial calendar.
What are your recommendations to wineries when interacting with journalists?
We largely interview small production, artisan wineries. We have a great track record of reaching the right person, but there have been a few instances where the contact information isn’t clear (i.e. a general info@winery email) and/or no one actually checks the email address on a regular basis, so we’ll get a response weeks after we return home saying “Yes, we’d love to meet you.”
What advantages are there in working directly with winery publicists?
Good publicists “get it.” They have a relationship with their clients, understand what their clients do well and make the connection with writers a relatively seamless one. Because there’s an established trust there, it makes the winemaker/winery more open to being interviewed and to providing real insights.
Which wine personalities would you most like to meet and taste with (living or dead)?
We’ve been extraordinarily blessed to have met, and tasted with, some incredible personalities to-date. Sadly, a few of them passed away recently, including Jim Clendenen, Phillipe Cambie and Alejandro Fernandez. I would have loved to have met Barb-Nicole Clicquot and André Tchelistcheff, and I think top of my list now would be Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy and Jancis Robinson.
If you take days off, how do you spend them?
We pretty much spend all of our holidays on AdVINEtures. Other than that, I’m very active and love getting outdoors, so living in beautiful British Columbia feeds my appetite for hiking, biking and kayaking.
What is your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?
Chris and I fell in love over the 1982 Chateau Haut Brion and were lucky enough to have it on more than one occasion, so that will always have a special place in my heart. The most memorable wine experience was in northern Spain, where the winery was so small the tasting room was up the road on a hill, sitting on a stone slab overlooking the town of Navarides and a foreground of gnarly old vines. It was so beautiful and remote it felt illusory.
Do you have a favorite wine and food pairing?
There’s nothing more pleasurable than a great wine and food pairing. There are the obvious pairings like steak and Cabernet Sauvignon, lamb and Shiraz, or mussels and Chardonnay…but without fail, Champagne with salty plain potato chips never disappoints.
CARL GIAVANTI is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s celebrating his 14th year of winery consulting. Carl has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25 years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, and Columbia Gorge. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.