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Summer meeting, Wine Enthusiast, Day 2


I believe many of my readers are wine bloggers, who write for themselves, alone, sans editors or art directors or other members of a staff. Which is all well and good. But tonight, after a long day of meetings (actually a very long day) followed by a long night of eating a fabulous dinner at a great restaurant, with–naturally–plenty of great wine, I want to offer a few words on the pleasures and advantages of writing about wine in a team setting, namely, at Wine Enthusiast.

To plan out 14 issues for 2013 is a terrifically hard feat. So many things have to be taken into account, too many to mention here, except to say that there’s never enough room in the magazine for even a fraction of what deserves to be covered. Which means that a sort of triage system has to be worked out. What’s absolutely vital for readers to know next year? We can’t predict the future, of course, but a great advantage of having seasoned editors at their posts (which the magazine does) means that each of us is in a better position to suss out what will be vital in, say, June, 2013, than perhaps someone who hasn’t labored in the vineyards of a wine region like Tuscany or Port or Australia or Chile or California for a long time, and thus hasn’t earned (yet) the broad view that long work earns. That’s not a diss toward younger writers. But it is to say that planning out the “book,” or editorial calendar for the period from January 2013 through December 2013 takes some doing.

It’s such a demanding process that it not only took a good part of today, but will occupy us tomorrow, and even then, an editorial calendar is never really complete. I have articles set to appear later this Fall of 2012 that weren’t even a gleam in my eye last summer. Things happen that are important, couldn’t be foreseen, but must be covered…now. That means previously scheduled articles have to get bumped. That’s just the way it is.

If we didn’t have a team that liked and got along with each other, this could lead to difficulties. Someone gains an article; someone loses one. We all want to get published as much as possible; that’s the ego of the writer, who pours her blood and sweat onto the page with the ultimate hope that readers–unseen and unknown, out there is the world somewhere–will like what is written. To lose an article hurts. But we’ve all been through it, and our senior editors in New York do their utmost to even everything out. In the end, knowing that fairness reigns in your workplace is a great thing, indeed.

But of course the camaradie wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include serious eating and imbibing, and at Wine Enthusiast, it does. Often, and together, with combined restaurant bills I wouldn’t want to pay. But that’s part of keeping a team united and letting them known they’re valued. For the record, I didn’t keep track of all the wines we had tonight. Each was selected by our Tasting Director, Lauren Buzzeo, and was among the best of our regions from all over the world. We’re lucky to be in that position. Afterward, we discussed and argued about and agreed about and disagreed about the wines, and while people’s positions generally are predictable–the Europhiles in our crowd tend to find Cali wines too sweet, fruity and simple, while I tend to find the European wines austere and acidic–it’s far from always; and it gratifies me when a great European taster like Roger Voss loves a California Cabernet, like Ovid 2008, as much as I did.

I think I write better for being part of a team, having to defend my theses among very smart people. The best wine writing, I firmly believe, must be edited. Blogging by yourself can be fun, can make for a good read, can be instructive and entertaining–but the guidance of impartial others, who want only to make your writing better than you can do it on your own, is imperative.


  1. Cody Rasmussen says:

    Steve, I’d love to have you dedicate a whole blog post to the differences in taste among your fellow editors. It sounds as though a 93 point California cabernet for you might score no more than 89 points with Roger Voss? I find that very honest and interesting.

  2. Steve,

    To what extent,if any, do you take into account what your several magazine competitors and wine journalists have been writing about?

    As a retired entrepreneur, I was always examining what my competitors were doing, and accordingly adjusting, if needed, my future business plan. What say you?

  3. Tom B, I’m going to blog about this tomorrow. Thanks!

  4. Steve,

    Would also be curious to hear how the editorial team takes into account the thought, ideas and trends coming out of the blogosphere.

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