“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. This project aims to understand and develop working relationships with journalists. After all, they are the ones who 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.
Five years ago, Wine Industry Advisor debuted Turning the Tables, a monthly series of interviews that shined a spotlight on the journalists and storytellers within the wine world. Developed and spearheaded by industry publicist Carl Giavanti, TtT has become a readers’ favorite, introducing the people behind the headlines. For this anniversary installment, WIA is turning the tables on Giavanti himself.
Carl Giavanti is in his 14th vintage of working with West Coast wineries as a public/media relations consultant. His background includes technology sales, digital marketing, project management, and public relations for more than 25 years. Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, and the Columbia Gorge. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com)
How did you come to wine, and to the PR field?
In 2008, I was transitioning out of a sales career in technology and computer services, when a (now former) Napa-based wine writer was visiting Willamette Valley and asked me to join on a drive-with tour. It was quite eye-opening, regarding how unsophisticated wine marketing was in those days — and how far behind the wineries were. I thought I could make an impact.
Why did you start this column? How did you get the idea?
I needed answers and background on writers — their story interests, palate preferences, media outlets and the like. Interviewing them opened the door to getting their backstories. I got the idea because it was the only way I could think of to professionally flatter, get their attention and offer something in advance of “The Ask.”
What have you learned from the 5 years of doing these interviews?
Every writer has a niche, passion and a raison d’etre. Some have made it already and some think they will. Many fail, while the legacy writers protect their positions. Serious writers want to survive and thrive if they can determine how to make a living in their craft. Wine writing is a tough business that’s being undervalued every day.
What is one thing you’d like your readers to learn from your Turning the Tables series?
That writers are people, too, not just bylines and gatekeepers for wine and travel publications. They have aspirations, passions and interesting personal backgrounds, are generally charming and clever, and most all are worth getting to know.
Is it possible to make a living as a wine writer today? What’s your take on the primary challenges and hurdles writers face?
This is a great question and, frankly, I don’t believe so. The realities facing writers also present challenges for the publicists that call on them. To address this question, I point you to a recent article I wrote “Let’s (Not) Pay Wine Writers What They Are Worth.”
What’s happened to some of the writers you’ve interviewed, how have their careers changed or developed?
There have been many success stories and, sadly, a few deaths. I have found some established writers to be a bit jaded and even entitled, so not easy to work with, but somehow still interested and willing to be interviewed. My strategy with “early stage” writers has been to place a bet on their success, based on their energy, passion and the quality of their writing. Some bets paid off, long term, with several writers (I’ll call out here) who have been able to elevate their careers by parlaying good writing into longer term positions: Michael Alberty, Wine Enthusiast; Brianne Cohen Decanter; Reggie Solomon, Wine Enthusiast; Debra Parker-Wong, future MW; Michelle Williams, Forbes; Eric Degerman Great Northwest Wine magazine; and Clive Pursehouse, Decanter U.S.A.
I love this testimonial from wine and travel journalist Marcy Gordon, whom I interviewed in (year?): “I wanted to let you know that I recently started working on a (lucrative) writing gig for the launch of a new wine-adjacent product, and it’s all because of my wine writer interview, Turning the Tables feature. The director of marketing read the interview and then immediately contacted me because she felt I would be perfect for the assignment. She liked my approach to writing about wine in an engaging, informative way using pop cultural references or other fun aspects to engage the reader! Crazy, right?? The interviews help get people noticed and lead to real work in the industry and beyond. It was just so out of the blue.”
If you weren’t promoting wine, wineries and winemakers or a living, what would you do?
I would be selling or promoting something or someone. It has been my great honor and distinct pleasure to have consulted with more than 30 wineries on DTC marketing and represented more than 20 wineries as a winery publicist over my 15-year career.
What’s next for you, this column and future projects?
I’ll continue to profile the wine media while there is still interest from your readers. There is no end to new and exciting writers coming into the field, and using their writing skills to promote other projects and platforms where they can monetize. I will be launching a new winegrower interview website site and series. More on that soon! It will be complementary to this column but very unique in format and audience. I will also be doing some wine and travel writing for other platforms as well as continuing to write for my business website. The beautiful thing about wine is that it’s an endless source of inspiration with a seemingly bottomless well of discovery.
What are your recommendations to journalists when interacting with wineries?
Be patient and allow ample time frames. Most wineries worth reporting on in the United States are small grower-producers that don’t fully understand marketing, deadlines and prompt responses. Nor do they have a grasp on their brand and messaging, not to mention the importance of media relations. Encourage them to be media ready, to provide everything essential in one place on their websites — I certainly do — to limit back-and-forth communications and facilitate what you need, when you need it.
What are your frustrations and recommendations to journalists when interacting with publicists?
All of the above, although with publicists you should be working with media-ready wineries. My pet peeve is lack of communication and follow-up after the fact. Give publicists updates. We understand that deadlines and timeframes change. We are all working with editors and publishers, after all. Be real, even if it’s not what we want to hear. We’re all equally busy. I always prefer a quick “no,” rather than extended “maybes.”
Be realistic about what you can accomplish and don’t make promises for coverage that you can’t keep (and, in many cases, haven’t pitched yet). I know it’s super cliché, but “help us help you.” We’re partners, right? Here’s a humorous memo to the wine media which you may enjoy https://carlgiavanticonsulting.com/we-still-love-the-wine-media/
What’s it like working with wine and travel media (writers, journalists, authors)?
I’ve experienced a range of personalities and responses, from jaded to appreciative. Most get few personal inquiries about themselves — except for those in legacy assignments — and they may be working in relative obscurity. I hope the Turning the Tables interviews shed light on their efforts and contributions to promoting wine and the people behind it.
Why have members of the wine media community been so willing to participate in these interviews?
Everyone is brand building all the time in our industry, promoting and growing, and it’s not easy. At any given time, a writer has a vision for an upcoming project — perhaps authoring a book, launching a new website, or seeking attention to their writing to help them pitch and land assignments. As a publicist, I operate on the principle of reciprocity. I think they call it the “Equity Theory” in business school. If I do something nice for you, you may (eventually) do something nice for me. I learned that interacting this way with journalists “before the ask” is very much appreciated. Follow them, read their work, share it and ask good questions. It’s not so difficult, really, and plays to our better human natures. It is time-consuming, however…
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I was a semi-professional — albeit amateur — accordion player throughout grade and high school. I won awards in solo and duet accordion concerts throughout the state of Connecticut where I grew up (New Haven). I abruptly discontinued my studies when I learned that football, dating and accordion playing weren’t mutually cool, and shifted my interests to sports and rock ‘n’ roll music.
What haven’t you done that you’d like to do?
I’ve always admired Europeans, many of whom are multilingual. I’m semi-fluent in Spanish, having lived in Colombia, South America during my Peace Corps years, and I continue those studies while working on Italian and French language fluency. My English is still improving.
If you take days off, how do you spend them?
Cooking, eating and traveling with my wife, Kate, and friends.
What’s your cure for a wine hangover?
I rarely get them anymore, but I should! This is a “Turning the Tables” interview question. You can read over 60 responses here and get their professional tips.
What’s your favorite wine region in the world?
I need to say Willamette Valley since I live and work here. The region is firing on all cylinders, which is amazing given its relative size. Three other regions that I have reported on for Winetraveler.com are Walla Walla (“KinectAir Private Flights to Wine Country Give Winetravelers a Lift”), Sancerre in The Loire (“Best Wineries in Sancerre, Wine Tours & Tastings 2024”), and the New Zealand (“South Island New Zealand: Itinerary for Wine Travelers”).
Do you have a favorite wine and food pairing?
I’m still learning, but using wine in cooking seems to best emphasize pairings.
Interview by Alexandra Russell Alexandra Russell is Managing Editor at Wine Industry Advisor. She can be reached at