What is New with Key Wine Writers and Publications


Every wine brand wants a cover story in Wine Enthusiast, to receive 95 point scores and to be well respected in the wine trade community. This type of recognition is the ultimate dream for any brand. At the Unified Wine Symposium breakout session on“Whatis New with Key Wine Writers and Publications”, we hoped to glean some insight on how to make that dream a reality. The panelists were Virginie Boone, Wine Enthusiast, Karen MacNeil, Karen MacNeil & Companyand Kelli White, Guild Somm. Each has decades of experience working and writing for the wine industry. The following are highlights from the session:

On Pitching

  • Know your brand, Know your writer
    • Put the effort and work into understanding your brand before reaching out to the media. What is your messaging you are trying to get across?
    • Look for the right personality to tell your story. Virginie Boone doesn’t do yoga, so don’t pitch her on it.
  • Be more creative
    • How can you look at the story in a different way? Consider what the end consumer wants to read and work backward from there. What resonates with the writer?
  • Let your personality show
    • Give them something to remember. Funny stories and winemaker quirks are the things that help you stand out. Do not be afraid of your uniqueness, embrace it.
  • Don’t use empty marketing terms
    • Broad descriptors don’t help you tell the story they just fill up the page. Writers need defined terms to help them understand the character of your wine and what sets it apart. The emptiness of terms like Burgundian Pinot Noir, for example, drive writers mad. Think more about the language you are using and what you are trying to convey to the audience.
  • Efficiency
    • Keep the pitches condensed and easy to read – use bullet points. Include all the necessary information that can be helpful to the writer, especially SRPs. Eliminate the need for back and forth emails. 
  • Email but don’t attach
    • Paper often gets lost in shipping, unpacking, and tasting. Email the necessary information and the pitch. Keep the relevant information in the body of the text, not in a separate attachment that needs to be downloaded or viewed elsewhere. 

On Following Up

  • Don’t ask if the wine has been reviewed.
  • Don’t ask for the tasting notes.
  • Don’t ask if they liked it.
  • If they tasted it, and if they liked, you would know.

On Scores, Tasting Notes & Brand Appearance

  • Ratings still resonate with consumers. They use them on everything from restaurants to AirBnB reservations, but scores only give the consumer a quick indication of the wine. They do not inform their education of the wine and they do not help consumers understand what it is they enjoy about the wine. 
  • The words we use are more important for building consumer awareness and loyalty. We need to challenge ourselves as an industry to create more interesting and approachable tasting notes. 
  • Attractive packaging does make a difference! As does attractive marketing collateral and high-quality imagery.

Wine Industry Events

The panelists agreed that wine industry tastings are helpful to an extent. Virginie Boone attends to connect with people and learn what new things are going on. Karen MacNeil enjoys attending events where she has the chance to tastes things outside of her normal scope, ie Bordeaux or Australia. For Kelli White, the events are the first step in research that can lead to something else. 

Other Notes

  • Don’t be afraid to build long-term relationships with writers. Over time you can become a resource for a variety or an appellation to the writer. The best results come from long-term thinking.
From left to right: Julie Lumgair, Virginie Boone, Karen MacNeil, Kelli White

From left to right: Julie Lumgair, Virginie Boone, Karen MacNeil, Kelli White

PR Tips, Winegregory james