“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.
Reggie Solomon is a passionate wine enthusiast who wishes he didn’t have such a regrettably and categorically expensive wine hobby. In his free time, he writes at Wine Casual, where he takes a decidedly casual, yet systematic approach to learning about and reviewing wines.
Reggie holds a Diploma in Wine & Spirits (DipWSET) from the UK-based Wine & Spirits Educational Trust (WSET), which he completed at the International Wine Center in New York City. He is a member of the U.S.-based Society of Wine Educators, holding its Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) qualification.
He serves on the board of directors of the Society of Wine Educators, and on the advisory board of the Wine Media Conference. He is the club sommelier for the Elizabethan Club of Yale University, of which he is a member. Reggie is also a certified sherry wine specialist (CSWS) as certified by the House of Lustau and approved by the Regulatory Council of Jerez-Xeres-Sherry Denomination of Origin.
Reggie holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master of public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. He lives in Norwalk, Conn., and is co-author of the book I Garden: Urban Style. Reggie also likes tomatoes, mosaics, Nutella and primary colors. You can follow him at winecasual.com
How did you come to wine, and to wine writing?
I came to wine as a senior at Yale University when the head of my residential college dormitory organized a semester-long wine-tasting series for graduating seniors. Two nights per week for two hours, the owner of a local wine shop came in with a case of wine and taught me and other eager college seniors about wine. We honed our sensory skill with aroma kits and by identifying like elements in the wines we were tasting. That early investment in my wine education was transformative and long-lasting. I’ve always wondered why the wine industry doesn’t offer complimentary wine classes to college seniors. That small investment would yield manifold returns for the wine industry over a lifetime and elevate consumer spending.
I began writing about wine in 2015 through my blog, WineCasual.com, to reinforce what I was learning in Wine & Spirits Educational Trust (WSET) classes I was taking at the time. It was also around this time that I discovered my wine hive and community through the Wine Blogger’s Conference (now the Wine Media Conference) and became more excited about sharing my wine experiences with others.
What are your primary story interests?
My story interests tend to follow my recent or upcoming travel. All my non-family-related travel is connected to learning about and exploring wine and wine regions around the world. While I’m open to many stories when it comes to wine, I tend to go deep and focus on a handful of regions or grape varieties for weeks and months at a time. My current interests are in wines from the Loire, Beaujolais, Jumilla, Jerez de la Frontera and South Africa. And I adore Cabernet Franc in its many expressions – old world and new world.
What are your primary palate preferences?
My palate preferences change with the weather and the seasons. I definitely tend toward wines that are medium-plus to high in acidity and that are aromatic, refreshing and palate cleansing. I love the rancid, buttery elements in Oloroso sherry, and I adore the yeast-and-brioche elements in blanc de noirs or Meunier-based Champagnes. Cava and crémant are my house sparkling wines — may my retirement 401k see my house sparkler promoted to Champagne. Oh yes, I appreciate reserved, savory, forest floor and black-tea elements in wine, especially as climate change drives grape-ripeness levels to all-time highs. And I welcome grassy Sauvignon Blanc (here’s looking at you, Menetou-Salon).
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I’m not into Apple products — strictly a PC and Android guy here. Also, I don’t particularly care for Cabernet Sauvignon when it’s unblended with other varieties.
What haven’t you done that you’d like to do?
I’d love to take up residence in a wine region in another country for a month to six weeks and be able to explore it in depth (not simply as a 7-day tourist). To me, wine is only one part of the wine-enjoyment equation; food and culture are also important elements. Alsace, Stellenbosch, Mendoza, Jerez de la Frontera, the Loire and the Douro would all rank high on my list.
What’s one thing you’d like your readers to learn from your wine writing?
I want readers to feel invited into the wine experiences I share with them. Because I write for pleasure and not as a job, I really do focus on the experience of things to encourage my readers to move forward, one step at a time, in their wine knowledge and at the pace they feel most comfortable.
Can you describe your approach to wine writing and/or doing wine reviews?
My blog primarily focuses on wine reviews. I use a wine review style inspired in part by the WSET systematic tasting approach. That said, I try not to let the approach get in the way of actually having an opinion about the wines I’m sampling, so readers can tell if I liked a wine or not. I frequently consult my blog search bar myself when I’m shopping for wine to try to remember if I liked a wine or not.
For my travel-related wine content, I tend to approach stories from the perspective of someone who’s visiting a wine region for the first time, trying to get the most value from their very limited vacation time and also trying to relax and further their wine education.
Do you work on an editorial schedule and/or develop story ideas as they come up?
I develop story ideas as they come up or as I’m inspired to do so through my wine-related travel.
How often do you write assigned and paid articles? How often do you blog?
While I haven’t focused on paid articles, I do post a new wine review on my blog at least every other day. I post travel-related wine stories as my travel experiences allow and/or inspire.
Do you post your articles on social media?
I post primarily on Twitter because that’s where the wine community connects most. Instagram is fine for posing bottles, but conversation happens mostly on Twitter. I rarely post on Facebook, since their business model is geared towards paid views rather than organic views and discovery.
What are your recommendations to wineries when interacting with journalists?
I see myself as a pro-consumer with a pen, who wants to share for the benefit of other consumers like me. It’s fine to make a pitch based on a particular theme you may have in mind (e.g., red wines to pair with Halloween), but because I’m wine-first focused, those frames are mostly irrelevant to me.
What advantages are there in working directly with winery publicists?
Life is all about relationships and the wine world is no different. I enjoy when publicists who manage multiple wine accounts and brands invite me to events that showcase their brands — even if I can’t attend. It’s nice to be thought about not only for a particular story but as a long-term student of a brand.
If you take days off, how do you spend them?
Most of my vacation time is spent traveling to international wine regions and enjoying local cuisines. Some people travel to visit historic buildings. I travel with my wine glass and a full restaurant reservation roster. I’ll tour cathedrals when I’m dead (except for you my beloved Sagrada Família, which always delights).
What is your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?
Through a visit to South Africa in 2018, I was introduced to the pleasure that is oaked Chenin Blanc. Who knew Chenin Blanc could be so delicious when slightly oaked? As the largest producer of Chenin Blanc on the planet, it’s hardly surprising South Africa developed this innovation (don’t come at me, Australia). I just wish I could find oaked Chenin Blanc here in the United States. There seems to be little to none.
What’s your cure for a wine hangover?
Three chlorella algae pills and a glass of water before bed. Regret and a baguette work, too.
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 the Columbia Gorge. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.