I’ve written about a dozen articles on rosé wine. For years it was one of the most dependable signs of spring. Forget robins or daffodils: when I found myself sitting down to write yet another story about pink wine, I knew summer was just around the corner.
And if I had to do it one more time, I’d fucking lose it.
When you’re trying to make a go of it as a wine writer, you usually start with a lot of the 101-style intro pieces. Those are really useful for young wine writers to put together, as they get you to do some research, cement your own knowledge of the subject and then share that knowledge with your reader in a clear, concise, interesting way (hopefully). They are also useful for young wine enthusiasts to read, because they learn a nice tidbit of wine knowledge in a quick, digestible package.
Back when I started writing my first wine column for SEE in 2008, I eagerly put up one of those types of stories a week – and my word count was pretty healthy at first, around 700 or 800 words. (Ah, the last glory days of alt-weekly publishing.) Because it was the start of my writing career, I found endless new topics to write about.
So I wrote a wine column every week for two years – just over 100 columns total. I burned through quite a lot of topics in that time, but I still had lots of ground to cover as my own knowledge continued to grow. Then I started writing a column for Vue, though it was shorter (usually about 500 words) and every second week instead of weekly; later it became every third week. (Ah, the slow death of alt-weekly publishing.) My rough estimation is that I wrote another 100 or so columns for Vue, as well as good chunk of additional wine stories for special features, advertising products, my personal blog and a couple other publications. Oh yeah, and my book.
Not all of those 200+ columns followed a 101-style approach – I like to think they matured a bit, as I grew in both writing skill and wine knowledge. But every year, without fail, somehow I managed to find myself writing a story about rosé wine in the spring. It was an easy default topic to write about. I tried to find new ways to present it, new angles to cover. I also really like rosé wine, so I had a longer attention span for it than other topics. But after a half dozen of those, the love affair was over. I felt I had said all I could about the topic.
And yet. There I was, every spring, writing another one or two.
Fellow writers will know what I’m talking about – not just wine writers, either. There’s a big demand for intro-style, bite-sized nuggets of information on all manner of topics, for all sorts of websites and publications. There are quite a few writers out there who probably make a decent living (or at least good spending money) writing and rewriting the same sorts of stories. For wine writers, it’s rosé wine in the spring, Thanksgiving pairings in the fall, port and Champagne during the holidays, BBQ wines in the summer.
Holy shit, do I ever not want to write any of those types of stories again. I won’t do it even if you pay me. (OK, that’s a lie – if you pay me enough I’ll do it, but it better be enough to buy me a really nice bottle of wine.)
There’s a deeper issue at stake here – the seemingly endless demand for bite-sized chunks of information on whatever subject is at hand. Much less value is placed on writing that delves deeper, as it then becomes too esoteric for the average person – after all, it’s all about hitting the highest number of clicks as possible. Those types of stories also cost more, because they have to be written by someone who knows what they are talking about. Online businesses can’t just pay some random person to slap something together in a few minutes and then draw viewers in with clickbait-y headlines.
But as an ever-growing number of people deepen their knowledge on countless subjects, isn’t it time to start putting forth deeper pieces of writing on a more regular basis – universal appeal be damned? Personally, I also have no problem reading something that’s way above my head on a subject I’m not too familiar with. It challenges you to learn something new, if you’re at all interested in the subject. And if you’re not, oh well – at least you’ll have broadened your mind a little bit.
As publication after publication falls or slashes itself to ribbons – mainstream and niche papers and publications alike – there’s an increased demand for new content that goes beyond the generic 101 stuff you see everywhere online, which has been written and re-written to death. The problem is the same one that’s been endlessly plaguing journalism and print media of all stripes – who’s going to pay for it? I’d love to delve into the nitty gritty of wine culture on a regular basis, but so far I’ve only been able to do this here, on my own blog. It’s fun in my spare time, but I just don’t give it the priority as my paying gigs. (Yeah, I know – I should really start up something, shouldn’t I? Easier said than done, though.)
I still enjoy a solid, well-written 101 read, make no mistake. And I would never begrudge anyone who’s getting started on a writing career, or a new hobby, through stories like that. As I said, they are a wonderful way to kick off a lifelong career/passion. I’d just like to see more examples that go a little bit further, that take the time to explore something below surface level.
So to anyone who’s out there writing or reading an article about rosé wine right now: power to you. I happily pass the torch.