Devin Parr, PR Pro & Wine Journalist

Devin Parr, PR Pro & Wine Journalist

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 who 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.

Devin Parr is a leading personality in the wine industry. She is the founder and managing partner of Devin Parr & Associates, a PR, marketing and content agency in the beverage, travel and tourism space. She holds a Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) diploma as well as a certification in wine expertise from the Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy, and a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from UC San Diego. In 2017, she was named one of Wine Enthusiast‘s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers.

A passionate storyteller, Parr regularly contributes to wine and lifestyle publications, including VinePair, WineCountry.comNapaValley.comSonoma.com and The Gourmet Insider. Her own blog, DevinParr.com, covers the business of wine. She is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Vintner Project, co-founder of online wine community Grapeloop and creator of the platform Tasty Juice, Please, dedicated to the discovery of offbeat wine grapes. When she’s not traveling the world in search of memorable wines, she moonlights as an aspiring ninja, training in Shorin Ryu karate and Kobudo.

Parr is based in Temecula, Calif. with her husband, two sons, and two bossy Shih Tzus. Follow her wine, parenting and martial arts adventures at @thesocalwinegal.

How did you come to wine, winery PR and to wine writing?

About six years into a career in the video game industry, I was living in Los Angeles, exhausted and stressed out, liking my job but not necessarily feeling fulfilled, and in the most ridiculous on-again/off-again relationship ever. I happened to read a book called Heat by Bill Buford, which painted a picture of the most extraordinary culinary life in Italy. Inspired and knowing I would never get out of my relationship if I didn’t not only leave the city but leave the actual continent, I traded my Xbox controller for a set of very sharp knives and moved to Florence, Italy, to attend the Apicius International School of Hospitality. I started in the culinary program, but fell more in love with some of the wine classes I was taking, so transitioned fully over to the wine expertise program.

After nearly two years of eating and drinking my way through Italy, I figured it was time to come back to the States and get a real job. From there, I worked to build a 360-degree career in wine, pursuing all avenues of the industry from sales to wine buying, events and hospitality, ultimately making my way back to media, PR, marketing and wine writing.

What are your primary story interests (both from a client and journalist perspective)?

I will always have a deep interest in how wine intersects with other areas of life — wellness, fashion, beauty, food, entertainment, technology, travel….

We don’t drink wine in a vacuum, so I believe wine writing (and storytelling, even from a client perspective) shouldn’t exist in one either.

How do you balance consulting with wine writing? Is there an inherent conflict of interest?

I actually think my consulting makes me a better writer and vice versa, as my experience in both worlds gives me a more informed perspective. I don’t write about clients unless I disclose the relationship. In today’s world of journalism, freelance writing, consulting and social media influence, the lines are increasingly blurred among these pillars of communication.

Why did you start Grapeloop? What’s the vision and long-term objectives? 

My co-founders, Nelson Gerena and Kiril Kirilov, and I saw that wine professionals were often operating in silos — with great frustration! There really wasn’t a dedicated place for them to connect, network and solve problems related to the beverage industry. With Grapeloop, we wanted to mirror the community aspect that we have created through The Vintner Project with a welcoming, inclusive platform that would let wine professionals communicate with one another and grow their respective businesses in a dedicated space. Since its launch, we have had hundreds of wine professionals join, from writers to producers, PR professionals, sales reps and more. They use it to find sources, contact trade professionals, post job opportunities, press events and media trips and just share news, resources and even personal wins in the beverage industry. The best part is that it’s currently free.

Is it possible to make a living as a wine writer? 

You have probably seen all of the layoffs within the publishing industry among some of the biggest names in media recently. It’s not pretty. So, no. The way things are structured right now, I don’t believe it’s possible to make a decent living solely as a wine writer, unless you are literally grinding it out seven days a week, which some are. It’s just not sustainable.

Many have turned to freelance writing, which often pays pretty poorly, as there are so few in-house gigs these days. Others support their income with PR, marketing and copywriting work, which (many complain) presents a conflict of interest. But what is the alternative? Few can live on a couple hundred bucks max for a several-thousand-word story that takes days if not weeks to research and write. This is a systemic problem within publishing — not a problem with the promise and importance of storytelling, wine or otherwise, though.

What’s the best story you have written?

I think it’s this story about the prison winemaking program on the island of Gorgona, Italy.

If you weren’t writing about wine for a living, what would you be doing?   

If I could figure out a way to make a living just lying on the ground with puppies crawling all over me all day, I would. Otherwise, I think I would have liked to have become a doctor.

Can you describe your approach to wine writing and/or doing wine reviews?

Whenever possible, I like my wine writing to originate from an anecdote or something deeply personal. It helps anchor my storytelling and invites the reader to feel they are a part of the journey. Wine has often been a topic that feels unapproachable to so many who aren’t immersed in the industry, and this has reached a breaking point as we try to figure out ways to engage new and existing audiences and create a more inclusive space for wine lovers. The more we can soften the way we communicate about wine, without necessarily taking away the science, history, geography and magic about it, the better.

How often do you write assigned and paid articles? How often do you blog? 

I write assigned/paid stories a few times a month. I don’t blog nearly as often as I would like. I really just need to woman up and put pen to paper, so to speak.

Why is social media still relevant today? What’s your strategy as a PR pro representing winery brands and also as a wine content creator?

I learned recently that people spend an average of 33 minutes per day on Instagram, 56 minutes on TikTok and 49 minutes on YouTube. While we could all stand to reevaluate our relationship with technology, the role social media plays is undeniable. My social media accounts are entirely me, meaning I put all aspects of my life out there, not just my experiences in wine.

If I post about a wine or wine region, it’s because I personally found something interesting or compelling. I have done some sponsored content, but my social media is mostly tied to me as a “brand” rather than any one client or region. Again, it goes back to hopefully being influential versus an influencer. I hope my followers are interested in me as a person, including the things I post that don’t pertain to wine, but also find my wine recommendations or communications worth tuning into as well.

Do you consider yourself an influencer? What’s the difference today between a writer and an influencer? Where is content creation going in the future?

I don’t consider myself an “influencer” in the way we define influencers today. However, I do consider myself influential in wine. I don’t know that it’s an either/or question when it comes to writers or influencers. There are plenty of prominent journalists out there with really high follower counts: are they influencers? I’m not sure they would consider themselves as such. Maybe they would. There are also plenty of wine influencers who write from time to time, but I’m not sure they would consider themselves wine journalists.

As the ways in which we consume content continue to shift and evolve, so will the role of social media and how we define influencers. Again, the lines are blurring, not becoming more defined.

Why did you launch The Vintner Project?

My co-founders Nelson and Kiril launched The Vintner Project in 2018 in an effort to harness the power of community through a media platform that reflects the diverse voices from around the world in wine. I joined in 2022 as co-founder and editor-in-chief. Today, we focus on providing a space for all regions and winemakers to share their unique stories and foster connections across the wine community. We also pride ourselves on creating an avenue for emerging voices and talent in wine writing to build their careers and uncover hidden gem stories.

What are your recommendations to wineries when interacting with journalists?

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of building a genuine, mutually beneficial relationship. Understand what the writer has covered in the past. Tailor a pitch to them as an individual writer. Get to know them. We live in a world where customization and personalization are the expectation, not the exception. This applies to business communications as well.

What advantages are there in working directly with winery publicists?

Streamlined communications.

What frustrates you most about working on winery stories, as a PR professional and writer?

When I can’t find bottle shots or links to products I am trying to feature. I also don’t love when winery representatives communicate in overly sales-y message points that are clearly marketing driven. It’s so much nicer to get a fresh, human perspective when writing a story.

Which wine reviewers/critics would you most like to meet and taste with (living or dead)?

I would kill to share a bottle of wine with Jancis Robinson and her husband Nick Lander.

If you take days off, how do you spend them? 

I love to cook, hang out with friends and family, practice karate and get in a good workout, read and aggressively snuggle my dogs. I’m also a sucker for a good spa experience.

What is your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?

Like most wine professionals, I’ve had the privilege of tasting extraordinary wines from all over the world. I find the best experiences I’ve had are simple ones — a carafe of house Vermentino with a plate of seafood at a small Italian trattoria and that sip of wine my husband snuck into the hospital for me after my first child was born, for example. I don’t remember the wine, but I remember the moment like it was yesterday. A bottle of anything shared among great friends I haven’t seen in ages. The first crisp glass of white wine brought to me by my son when he was finally old enough to be trusted to carry such a precious item.

What’s your cure for a wine hangover? 

I used to have a NSFW hangover cure that I won’t share here (although I’m sure some from my college days would probably remember). Time is really the only real cure for overindulgence. I do find forcing myself to work out and then having a beer or another glass of something is helpful, but I’m not sure a medical professional would recommend this.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world? 

This is a near impossible question to answer, but Italy is where I fell in love with the study of wine, so she will always have my heart.

Do you have a favorite wine and food pairing?

Not really. In my day-to-day, I don’t tend to focus so heavily on the perfect pairing. Instead, I just make sure that I’m eating and drinking what I like. I do love to eat and drink regionally, though. A hearty bolognese with a rustic Sangiovese? Yes please.

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

I took up martial arts at the tender age of 40 and I now have my black belt in karate. I am also not ticklish and don’t respond to mosquito bites — my husband thinks these two qualities make me a witch.

What haven’t you done that you’d like to do?

I would like to publish a book before my time on this earth is up.

What is one thing you’d like your readers to learn from your writing about wine?

That wine, above all else, is a product of pleasure. It brings people together, fosters community, inspires laughter and communication, and can make the heart soar. The technical stuff should always take a back seat to those things.

Carl Giavanti is a winery publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s celebrating his 15th 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 the Columbia Gorge. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media)

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