A Wine Media Conference Takes On The Business of Wine

Wine writers of all sorts really ought to focus more on the business of wine, as W. Blake Gray, Felicity Carter, Elin McCoy and Cyril Penn are all about to explain at an upcoming virtual event of significance.

As Alder Yarrow reminds, the Wine Media Conference is nearly upon us. The Wine Media Conference is the new name for the Wine Bloggers Conference, which began its run in 2008, making this years virtual version the 13th deep dive into wine writing and independent wine publishing.

Running Thursday, Friday and Saturday (August 20-22), the Wine Media Conference is bent on providing useful tools to writers who focus on wine and how they can improve their game. This has always been the primary intent of the Conference, even in its formative years when the focus was on the work of the emerging contingent of wine bloggers.

Yet despite all the important information delivered over the years on how writers should work with wineries, how to increase a blogger’s social media profile, how to include videos into wine writing, and sessions on ethics and writing, it has always been dismaying that more emphasis was not placed on showing bloggers and other wine writers why they should write about the business of wine and how to best do it.

So much about the “business of wine” focuses on how consumers access wine products. This fact alone ought to motivate writers to spend more time writing about and investigating the business of wine, rather than the soil composition of certain swaths of the Russian River Valley.

Gray, a veteran writer who has long focused on the business of wine, will, on Thursday, August 20 at 1pm Pacific, be giving those participating in the Wine Media Conference a glimpse into what it takes to be a journalist in the wine writing business. Meanwhile, Carter, McCoy and Penn will focus specifically on the business of wine at a session set for Saturday, August 22 at 9am pacific.

I suspect there are a few reasons why many writers don’t focus on the business of wine. For one, it’s pretty complicated with all its three-tier systems, separate state-by-state legal and regulatory systems for alcohol sales, the complex and regular court cases that change the business landscape of wine, and more.

Moreover, the investigations and articles on the various facets of the business of wine don’t usually attract a particularly large audience. More people are concerned about drinking wine than measuring the business of wine. On this blog, I’ve focused almost exclusively on various elements of the wine business for about 16 years now. My readership consists almost exclusively of members of the wine trade or wine trade adjacent. That’s a pretty small group. And while this blog has attracted the attention of a large part of that group over the years, had I instead chose to write about the correct food pairing for Merlots, the history of Lodi Zinfandel, the best wines to serve with turkey and gravy, the composition of the soils in the hills surrounding the Willamette Valley or the experience of visiting a mountain winery in Napa Valley, I’m sure my audience would be triple to quadruple its current size.

This isn’t a complaint. It’s an explanation of why more good wine writers don’t provide explanations of the business of wine.

Finally, I suspect that many wine writers simply haven’t taken the time to understand how the wine business operates and the rules and laws that govern the industry. And nothing shows through more clearly in an article than the writer’s lack of proficiency on the subject. No one wants to highlight that fact.

All three days of the upcoming Wine Media Virtual Summit are free. Free! If you have an interest in upping your wine business writing game, this is an opportunity. It’s also an opportunity to explore a number of other issues including writers’ social media promotion, the impact of COVID-19 on wineries, the state and experiences of the black wine media, SEO strategies, photography and more.


Posted In: Uncategorized


6 Responses

  1. Andrew Chalk - August 19, 2020

    Please: Most people currently writing about wine are economic illiterates. Expecting them to cover ‘The Business of Wine’ is stupid. It will just produce a profusion of error.

    Look at what they say about tariffs, or the three tier system, for examples (Blake is excluded from these criticisms).

  2. Tom Wark - August 19, 2020


    One need not be an economist to gather an education on how the industry functions. A good review of the tiers, the law and sales data would be an improvement.

  3. Rob McMillan - August 19, 2020

    Agree the business side is far more narrow compared to the consumer side. The compounding issues are, 1) most consumer writers aren’t connected to the business side so opinions at times aren’t researched, 2) writers too often get paid by clicks so in a high percentage of cases, national news writers are looking for controversy, 3) our newspapers and magazines are still struggling to find a revenue model that works, 3) the wine business is HIGHLY complex.

    Most people – myself included decades ago, would think “What so hard about farming?” But when you add in all the risks of consumer products, economics, understanding financials and economics, unnatural power from wholesalers, fragmentation at one end and consolidation at the other, regulatory and constitutional issues with 50 states having their own laws, a luxury good at one and and a commodity at the other, the fact some industry participants are happy with break even just to be in the business, supply and farming issues, change in consumer demand, competition from foreign and domestic products, anti-alcohol lobby, the difficulty in getting real data and information … and the list can go on and on. So when you add all that up, this is an unnusually complex industry unlike any other I know.

    I’m glad we have people who write about the business of wine, but getting fact-based opinions that are well-written and worth reading will always be in short supply.

    So I totally support your view that we need to encourage more business writers and am grateful for what you do in the conference to encourage and recognize that.

  4. Helene - August 19, 2020

    Oh, dear! I am so far behind the plot that I did not realise that Terroirs were no longer relevant, or perhaps never were? Silly me…

    Just today I delivered a sumary of all the items viti/vini people love about their ‘dirt’ and ‘tanks’ with a specific focus on ‘The State of New York’. Without the ‘dirt’, as I prefer as a term, we would NOT have great wine, possibly good wine, but is that really what we love?

    I admit that we (husband, myself, son, daughter-in-law and daughter et al.) do not drink ‘great’ wine everyday. But over the weekend we (4 of us in semi-lockdown) had a bottle of Leoville-Barton 1989 which tasted as if it were 10 years younger (I struggled to get the vintage and MISSED. And almost got the age close, whether that means anything to those of you who play this ridiculous ‘game’ daily?)

    The problem with marketing is that it is just that…business. Maybe that’s fine, but not if the greats of Ridge or Stony Hill or Grange or the best of Classified Growths (or from my standpoint, Jacques Seysses and a myriad of other burgundies or Barolos) are thought of as ‘marketing’, as opposed to ‘perfection in a glass’, demonstrating what the ‘dirt’ (and climate/vintage and winemaker) can achieve.

    Rant over…this time

  5. Gerald D. Boyd - August 20, 2020

    The business of wine is but one aspect of a complex subject; thus I agree that we need knowledgeable people to write about it.

    However, I believe that a wine writer’s main mission is to inform and educate about wine, something I have been doing since the late 1960s, and continue with my blog geraldboydonwine.com.

  6. Tom Wark - August 20, 2020


    You have rarely been incorrect in the many years I’ve known you and you are again correct on this score. Certainly, the job of wine writer is educate and report on wine, particularly to a consumer audience. My only point is that the same writers ought to be familiar with the business of wine in order to report on those aspects, particularly when they primarily impact consumers. Hope all is well….Tom..

Leave a Reply