“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 do this by learning 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.
Brian Freedman is a wine, spirits, travel and food writer. He’s also a restaurant and beverage consultant, wine and spirits educator, and event host and speaker. He writes the Wines of the Week column at Forbes.com and also covers spirits there, regularly contributes to Food & Wine digital and SevenFifty Daily, has contributed to Travel + Leisure online, Departures online, Whisky Advocate magazine, Wine Enthusiast, The Bourbon Review and others. He also hosted wine and spirit pairing segments on the CNN Airport Network. In 2019, Freedman was awarded a fellowship to attend The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in Napa Valley.
He consults for restaurants on their beverage programs, hosts dozens of virtual and in-person wine and spirits tastings for corporate and private clients each year, and has traveled to more than 50 countries and territories around the world — and extensively throughout the United States — to experience the food, drink and culture for his work. His first book, Crushed: How A Changing Climate Is Altering the Way We Drink, was published in October 2022.
How did you come to wine and wine writing?
I grew up in a house with a father who collected wine and a mother who was (and remains) a great cook. My career is in large part thanks to them, and how they brought up my sister and me. I began tasting with my dad before dinner each night when I was 6 years old, and fell in love with the wine, the stories, the whole thing. It was a fascinating and fun education: He took wine classes, and there was always a stack of Wine Spectator magazines next to his chair in the living room.
I think the combination of tasting with him (we’re talking microliters, or whatever the smallest unit of measure for liquid is — I was six years old, after all!), paging through those magazines, and seeing how the liquid interacted with my mom’s cooking…it all set the stage, unbeknownst to any of us, for what has turned out to be my career.
To this day, I can’t smell garlic and onions simmering in olive oil without thinking of Friday night spaghetti dinners and bottles of Napa Cab: that combo is my madeleine. [Dad’s] now at the phase of his wine-collecting life that he’s opening a lot of the great stuff that he’s collected over the years. As such, dinners at their place tend to be pretty outstanding wine events. Also lunches…and the occasional wine-focused brunch….
What are your primary story interests?
I have generally tended to focus on the liquid itself, vintage trends and travel through the lens of wine. Food-pairing is also a key area of interest. People are often surprised when they find out the vast majority of wine that I consume is at the table, as opposed to on its own.
What else would people be surprised to know about you?
After a long day of tasting wine, a good cold beer is just what you need. Or a cocktail (usually whiskey-based for us). Something, in other words, to reset the palate and prep it for the wine to be enjoyed at dinner.
What haven’t you done that you’d like to do?
Visit Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and taste a two-decade vertical.
What is one thing you’d like your readers to learn from your writing about wine?
That wine is endlessly fascinating. It’s the best lens through which to see the world and not at all pretentious.
What’s your favorite story you have written?
One of my favorites is a piece I wrote for Food & Wine digital several years ago, about making blood sausage with our kids. The fact that it was actually brought to school the next day for lunch still gives my wife and I endless pride! Link: https://www.foodandwine.com/news/kids-good-eaters-sausage
What was your inspiration for Crushed?
Over the years, more and more producers that I spoke with were talking about how climate change was affecting their work. There were countless books for consumers about how climate change is impacting the food system, but nothing really about its impact on wines and spirits. I wanted to change that. The impact of climate change on these liquids we all love so much — on the land and the people that create them — is tremendous. The more that consumers understand that, the better.
Can you describe your approach to wine writing?
I never write about any wine that I haven’t personally tasted, and I taste with an open mind. I don’t care if the wine is $10 or $1,000—it still has to be balanced, accurate and delicious.
What outlets are you writing for now? Any interesting editorial projects coming up in 2023?
Currently, my main outlet is Food & Wine digital. I also contribute to Forbes.com, Whisky Advocate, SevenFifty Daily and more. And my weekly web series, “Day Drinking with Brian,” has been a fun project since the early days of the pandemic lockdowns. Somehow, we’ve done more than 120 episodes! As for 2023, I’m hoping to start working on a new book.
How often do you write assigned and paid articles (not your blog)? How often do you blog?
I write an average of one or two paid stories each week. But then there are weeks when I have five deadlines — for which I’m grateful!
What are your recommendations to wineries when interacting with journalists?
Offer us samples — it’s a key aspect of our work — and never just send tasting notes and ask if we’ll write about it. The importance of getting the liquid in our glass is impossible to overstate.
What advantages are there in working directly with winery publicists?
Publicists are a key aspect of the work of writing about wine. They make sure everything stays on schedule in terms of communication with producers, often facilitate samples and can get things done when there is a deadline rush.
What frustrates you most about working on winery stories and/or wine reviews?
Not to be redundant, but being sent tasting notes and no wine drives me crazy. I find it to be a little bit insulting.
If you take days off, how do you spend them?
Spending time with my wife, kids and dog. Golfing in the warm weather. And I’m a runner. I try to complete a marathon every other year. I also love traveling and reading.
What is your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?
I had the great privilege of spending part of the summer of 2019 in Tuscany with my family, and at a dinner at the 2-star Michelin restaurant Bracali, the intersection of the wine and the food and the service was absolutely brilliant. And my wife and kids were there with me, which made it that much more special.
What’s your cure for a wine hangover?
Champagne and a big, carb-y breakfast (preceded by Advil and Gatorade). And, of course, a good Bloody Mary is always a smart hangover move.
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.