Top 10 Wine Stories Needing to be Written

You would think that with the proliferation of wine blogs, wine publications, daily newspapers wine coverage, publicists working in and around the wine industry and all the magazines that indulge in wine and wine country-related content, that there would not be any more story angles left to explore where wine is concerned.

Not true. Here are some story angles and plots that, if well packaged and well-pitched, I’m betting an editor somewhere would jump at.

The Best Views in Wine Country
And it doesn’t matter which wine country, either. The fact is, part of he allure of Wine Country is the unique set of vistas it provides. Plus, “Top 10” lists are easy story angles. Another plus, its a subjective approach to story telling, making it an easier story to accomplish.

Best Food & Wine Tasting Room Experiences
In Napa and Sonoma, at least, more and more wineries are going beyond crackers at the tasting bar and sitting guests down to do intensive explorations of food and wine pairing. This story is rich in possibilities. It’s about food and wine pairing, travel and the personalities of the chefs creating the pairings.

Politicians and their Wine
Usually this story is told by pointing to “Celebrities and Their Wines”. But that’s old. This time of year, election time, a much more intriguing story would be a chronicle of the politicians that make wines in addition to making laws. Those wine loving lawmakers are out there. Plus, it’s a chance for the writer to explore alcohol control policy from the perspective of the person responsible for making the law as well as producing the substance of the law.

Evolution of a Grape
One of the most fascinating parts of Jancis Robinson’s new book, “Wine Grapes”, is the emphasis she places on how some grapes come into existence via breeding or happenstance. Taking one grape and exploring its creation would appeal to an editor that wanted to provide their audience with the exploration of a seeming mystery, with a story about the romance of wine, and with a science story.

Alternatives to 100
The 100 point rating system gets all the attention. But what are the alternatives to ranking on a 100 point scale and what are the benefits and drawbacks of the alternative rating schemes? I like this story pitch because it provides the writer with the opportunity to explore controversy, it is a focus on “experts”, yet at the same time it is decidedly a consumer-pointed topic.

The Economic Value of 100
Perhaps this question has been explored in economic journals, but I don’t recall it being looked at in the popular media. It relates in a way t0 the story angle above, but has much more of an investigative character to it. What is the value of receiving 100 points for a wine by a critic? Does it provide a foundation for raising prices, and if so, by how much? Does it have an impact on the performance of other wines in a wineries’ line-up? If so, How much? There is math, theory, practical experience and money at the heart of this story. It could be a compelling read.

Dirt Cheap Wine Country
It’s a counter intuitive wine country travel story—and probably difficult to write.  But it could provide a fantastic counterpoint to the luxury-oriented wine stories that proliferate. Is there a way to “DO” wine country dirt cheap? From cheap hotels and cheap food to no-cost tasting room?

The Role of the Cartoon in Making Wine Snobbish
Wine has now and has long had a problem of being associated with snobs and the wealthy. I’m reminded of this every time I see a cartoon that uses wine’s reputation as being the drink of the rich to make whatever point it’s trying to make. Though this article is probably a tad academic in nature, it would be fascinating to read an analysis of how cartoons have reinforced the snob factor in wine.

A History of the Repugnant in Wine
I’ve never hidden the fact that when it comes to wine reviews my favorites are the ones that try to describe truly repugnant wines. They are often hilarious bits of prose. You don’t see the 55 point rating and an accompanying review in wine publications the way you used to. Occasionally, but rarely. However, 20 years ago you did. A story focusing on what these written reviews look like, the writers that wrote them and the impact they have would be fascinating and fun.

Political Wine Power
Occasionally, one sees reference to the politically powerful in the realm of wine when there is a story on some sort of wine related legislation. But I can’t recall an article that simply examined where the political power centers are in the world of wine. Lobbyists? Associations? Individuals? Who wields the most power when it comes to wine and wine policy. This one needs to be written.

Posted In: Wine Media, Wine News


19 Responses

  1. gwendolyn alley - October 30, 2012

    These are stories I’d like to read–and stories I’d like to write! Great ideas, Tom!

  2. Blake Gray - October 30, 2012

    Tom: I love the Role of the Cartoon in Making Wine Snobbish idea.

    I once pitched something like the Politicians and their Wine article. No bites.

    Something you have to keep in mind, in wondering why articles like these aren’t written, is that magazines don’t pay very well these days. I like the wine cartoon article a lot, but I don’t know how I would do the research in less than 50-60 hours, and then the magazine has to worry about rights to reproduce the cartoons, because without them it’s dull. That’s a lot of work for less money than one would want. And you wonder why one-source stories have become the norm.

  3. Nick - October 30, 2012

    That’s a 1000 pound post Tom. Absolutely spot on too, IMO.

  4. Tom Wark - October 30, 2012

    Blake, the wine cartoon thing could be accomplished using the the New Yorker. But the you are correct about getting the rights to the toons. You’d probably want 4 or 5. I wonder how Roll Call would respond to the Politicians and wine pitch?

  5. Tom Wark - October 30, 2012

    Thank you, Nick.

  6. SUAMW - October 30, 2012

    Don’t forget.

    1. Best parts of tasting rooms for discrete farting.
    2. Which tractor tires are most biodynamic.
    3. Best barrel room color schemes.
    4. You say pyrazine, I say alkylated phenol: Why in a species of (what, now, 7 billion individuals) who are something like 99% identical in their genetic make up, no two individuals can make the same observations about the sensory attributes of a wine.
    5. How each of the five smiley faces on the five smiley face scale can be correlated to retail price of said wine.
    6. Which senators who own vineyards also own stock in Monsanto.
    7. Creative. non-wine use of wine puns and double entendres.
    8. Why more writers don’t write 2,000-word treatments of opening a bottle of bubbly culminating in Whitmanian ejaculatory metaphors.
    9. Flor rises to the top. Flor is scum. Best bloggers? Res ipsa loquitur….
    10. Tweens. The oft overlooked but potent potential wine buying demmo.

  7. Tom Wark - October 30, 2012


    I would have included many of things but I think I’ve already written them….except for the farting story. There’s one that needs writing.

    • SUAMW - October 30, 2012

      I hear Ron is working on it. Alder did #4, it turns out. Turns out Sam recycles #8 frequently and SVB is running with my idea in #10

  8. Kathy - October 30, 2012

    Good, Tom. And there are so many more that wine mags/online certainly don’t want. But wine drinkers do. So, will you pitch them for us? I tried one related to Sandy and it got rejected.

  9. gdfo - October 30, 2012

    The only one I would like to see or read about is The Evolution of a Grape.

    Mixing other topics into wine discussion is diluting the the importance of the Wine Discussion itself.

    Good topics with the greater Wine Discussion could include Histories, as in tracing specific grapes and or wines from their origins to the present day.

  10. Dyann Espinosa - October 30, 2012

    Here’s a way to avoid those desperate moments in quiet, high-end tasting rooms when the build-up of gas is about to be unavoidably released…Gas Eaters Anti Flatulence Underwear
    Lots of amusing ideas…but I’m with Blake, even second-sourcing takes too much time for what pubs pay.

  11. Chicago Pinot - October 30, 2012

    Just how “legal” are the guest workers who work harvest night and day every autumn? If we really did install a thousand mile moat with live piranah on the border, to remove our country of the “illegals”, would the wines we love cost us double what they do now?

  12. Tom Wark - October 30, 2012



  13. Denise - October 31, 2012

    It’s funny you write about dirt cheap wine country and the best tasting room experiences. When I lived in Napa, I had started writing a blog (amateur at best) about the best places to go in Napa/Sonoma while living on a budget: the Wine Country experience without breaking the bank – up to and including food suggestions and spa experiences. This all started because several of my friends visiting from the eastern U.S. would want me to make up trips for them while they visited the area. It is possible and thus far, no one’s complained about the suggestions!

  14. Anthony Spinetta - October 31, 2012

    If anybody wants to write “The Role of the Cartoon in Making Wine Snobbish”, New Yorker Magazine published a complete collection of their single panel cartoons just a few years ago. The vast set includes searchable CDROMs, and I’ve already spent lots of time chortling over their comedic pokes at wine.

  15. Greg - October 31, 2012

    Great Topics Tom!

    Many of these would show the value of tasting wines in El Dorado County & the Sierra Foothills in general. I am confident the afficianados will continue to find this out if they write about these 10 topics.


  16. ALEC WHITE - October 31, 2012

    How about the economic impact of having your property elevated in the recent reclassification in St. Emilion? The folks at BK Wine Brief, who operate wine tours to European destinations, recently paid a visit to one of the fortunate owners whose property was elevated and reported “…we had an interesting discussion with one of the chateau owners about the importance of classifications… Looking out over his vineyards in the autumn sunshine the owner said: “one month ago this land was worth one million euro per hectare”. Sounded like quite a lot, but also ominous. Why ”one month ago”? The explanation came rapidly: ”now it is worth four million euros per hectare”.

  17. Katie Hunter - November 1, 2012

    One I’d add is “the rise of wine-based communities and culture in America.” The sheer proliferation of communities focused on wine in the last few years, from national organizations like Bottlenotes to local Meetup groups, has been astounding to observe. The web (and increasingly, mobile technology) has obviously played a big role in their development. I’ve yet to find an article that really captures how prolific and widespread these communities are and the trend they represent- if you know of one, please forward.

  18. Peter Law - November 1, 2012

    Great Article Ideas Tom. Another story I would add would be addressing the counterfeit wine problem. We all know this issue exists for “high-end” wines and that story has been written. What has not been written is what individuals are actually Doing about the problem. I know there are some companies such as that have been addressing aspects of this but I would be intertested to know what the industry is doing as a whole…

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