Eric Guido, Vinous

Eric Guido, Vinous

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.

Eric Guido is an American writer and lecturer who found his way in New York City’s restaurants and upscale private kitchens. His writing and photography skills were first witnessed in the annual catalogs published by Morrell Wine, a major accomplishment within the industry. Today, he continues his work as a wine critic and editor at Vinous Media, covering Italy, Slovenia, Washington state, Oregon and Paso Robles.

How did you come to wine, and wine writing? Was Snooth your first (wine) writing gig?

Snooth was my first paid column, but my love of wine started long before that. In 2005, I worked as a chef while still attending elective classes at my culinary school to round out my education. One of those courses was an introduction to fine wine. Ironically, I almost didn’t attend due to a heavy schedule that day. Luckily, my wife stepped in and reminded me of how I would only be cheating myself.

That class was an eye-opening moment. It was the first time that I was served wine that was properly stored, in the right glass and with some maturity. Not only that, but the data, including terroir and the unique attributes of each variety, thrilled me. The geek in me went crazy for it, and before long, pairing food and wine became one of my passions. The writing came as a way to keep track of my work with recipe testing and tastings that I would organize. That was when Snooth came along. The editor at that time read my work through the message board of a well-known wine publication and reached out to offer me a job.

What are your primary story interests?

For me, it’s an appreciation of everything that goes into the creation of the items that I’m writing about. Whether it’s music, cuisine or wine, I have a need to understand the story behind it, the history and the passion that inspired its maker. This also relates to terroir, the combination of the season, the soils, the farming and, in the case of wine, the winemaking. My primary story interests are in communicating those same details to the reader so that they not only get to enjoy the topic at face value but fully understand how it came to be and why it’s special beyond the bottle and the label.

You’ve been at Vinous for more than 4 years now. How did you get your start?

Moving to Vinous was very organic. I worked at Morrell Wine and Spirits for five years, overseeing their marketing and content creation and as their buyer. This was also the time that the Morrell catalog was in full production. It was more like a coffee table book than a sales catalog. I saw it as a companion to the brand, with all photography and editorial coming directly from me. During that time, I got to know Ian D’Agata and began to take part in his conferences and tastings in Italy. When he decided to retire, he made it clear to me that he saw me as the best person to take on his position. Within days of the correspondence, Vinous was in contact with me.

Is it possible to make a living as a wine writer today? How have you succeeded?

Absolutely. However, it’s a long road. My love of writing started 30 years ago, yet I had to be able to pay the bills. My wife and I started a family 18 years ago, which is a major responsibility. In the end, I have always realized that my love of writing had to be something I did on the side up until the day that it could be my primary focus and source of income. What that meant was working a full-time job (sometimes coupled with a part-time job) while writing freelance columns during my lunch breaks or on my day off. In the end, there was never a time that I stopped producing, whether it was freelance or my own blog. Even at Morrell, my writing was second to a number of other responsibilities. In the end, it took 14 years, but it was worth every minute.

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

I was the lead singer and/or composer in multiple Goth/Industrial bands in the late ’90s. Today, I’m a fitness fanatic and devoted practitioner of the carnivore diet.

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

A long nature excursion, such as hiking the Appalachian trail from start to finish or an extended African safari.

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

That there’s no room for bias and stereotypes in the wine world. That the next great producer can come from the most unlikely of places. That the world’s greatest regions are constantly in flux and may not always be great. That it’s important to share your passion with younger generations because most of us had someone who helped open our eyes with generosity, and if you didn’t, then it’s worth starting that trend going forward.

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

At this point, I’m aged out from being a professional fighter, so likely a health and fitness coach.

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

First, I’m not a believer in tasting blind for writing reviews. It’s important to me that I get the same experience as the consumer reading my reports, which includes the label and the “pop and pour” since that’s how most people approach wine.

With that said, I also like to revisit a wine over the course of a day, or sometimes two, so that I can understand how it evolves for those collectors who are looking to age the bottle over time or give it a long decanting. I always taste by producer, which gives a better insight into their weaknesses and strong points. Years back, I also removed palate-fatiguing items from my life, such as coffee, salad dressings and hot sauce, which made drastic improvements in my tasting game.

Do you work on an editorial schedule and/or develop story ideas as they come up?

Each year is planned out with my editor, where we discuss what worked the year before, what didn’t, and what exciting things we can introduce going forward. From time to time, an opportunity comes up, such as an exciting vertical, but otherwise, we plan well ahead.

You’re covering multiple regions for Vinous. Tell us about the challenges of the job.

Travel is the obvious answer. Three to four months on the road without my family and dog can be challenging. It’s also difficult due to my level of exercise and diet. Good luck finding a gym or a good steak in the wine country of Italy. I’m sure many people in my position would see the fancy restaurants in wine country to be a huge perk to the job, but for me, they just make it more difficult. The United States is certainly easier from that perspective, but not always.

Do you consider yourself an influencer? 

A wine critic is inherently an influencer. It’s impossible not to be unless you’re failing at your job. Now, if by influencer we’re talking strictly about social media, I don’t see myself that way. My social media is based on my experiences with wines that stand out or don’t fit my typical writing schedule. I don’t think about what goes up on my Instagram or Facebook until moments before I decide to post it. I believe it’s very valuable for anyone who follows me because it gives them an insight into the things that excite me at the moment — unedited.

What are your recommendations to wineries when interacting with journalists?

Transparency above all else. I often think of myself as an investigative reporter more than a wine critic, as often the story is revealed only after sorting through a large amount of marketing and disinformation from spin doctors. I have the most respect for people who are straight with me.

What should a winery expect from you when you visit them?

A typical day includes five winery visits, which gives me about an hour and a half to spend at each location before traveling to the next appointment. Oftentimes, producers try to organize a grand visit with a tour and massive amounts of wine. As much as I appreciate the gesture, it’s important to keep in mind that we all have a job to do. If a winery opens thirty wines but we only have an hour and a half, it creates a mad rush to taste and leaves little time to go over details and ask questions. Also, for me personally, seeing vineyards and understanding the work done there is more important than getting the cellar tour with the romantic lighting. Ultimately, I want to give every winemaker as much of my time and attention as possible without taking that time and attention away from the next appointment. Just ask beforehand about timing and the best format to benefit everyone.

What advantages are there in working directly with winery publicists?

Communication. I understand that winemakers are often very busy with anything from harvest to fermentations that need constant attention. I like to have a direct line of communication with winemakers but also to have that second set of eyes and ears to help when scheduling a 30-visit trip or trying to get that important piece of data for a deadline that’s fast approaching.

What frustrates you most about working on winery stories and/or wine reviews?

That there isn’t more time to spend with each wine and winery. Due to the amount of content that a wine writer produces, everything always feels rushed. My visits are a whirlwind of touring, conversation, tasting and writing. From the moment I start the day, to the moment I close the computer at night. It’s non-stop.

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

Being extremely active. Sitting and writing for long periods are big parts of the job, so time off is spent cycling, hiking, spending time with my family and dog, or working on projects around the house.

What is your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?

There was a time when I would list any number of giant tastings, but last year, I spent a weekend with a friend who was fighting cancer. We shared a 2004 Ornellaia and a 2005 Cos D’Estournel that both left us in awe. That was the last weekend I spent with him before he passed, and easily the most memorable tasting of my life.

How did you get into cooking?

Food was a large part of my upbringing. Our family came together around the table for hours on end, and my grandmother would create elaborate Italian meals to keep us coming back for more. When I was 4 years old, she noticed that I wanted to be in the kitchen with her, so she started giving me little tasks. Before long she would put me in charge of my own preparations and, later, my own menu plans.

Do you have a favorite wine and food pairing? 

Pre-Carnivore: A rich Risotto Bianco topped with shaved asparagus and toasted almond slivers, served with a glass of Riesling Kabinett.

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)

Leave a Reply

Categories
Subscribe to Blog via Email

Discover more from Carl Giavanti Consulting

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading