Carl Giavanti, Carl Giavanti Consulting.
“The Roles Turned – Interviews with Interviewers” is a series of questions and answers about the Vinopisers. We hope you will learn more about those you know and many others. The goal of this project is to understand and develop a working relationship with journalists. After all, they are the ones who help us tell our stories, review our wines, and ultimately provide media coverage. You can do this by learning more about their experiences with wine and writing, their personal history and interests, their taste preferences, their writing assignments and their pills. This paper is part of an ongoing series published monthly by the Wine Industry Network.
Elizabeth Schneider is the author of “Wine for Normal People: A Guide for Real People Who Love Wine but Don’t Snowboard That Goes With It (Chronicle 2019),” which has won awards from Oprah Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Post and others. For the past decade, she has hosted the podcast Wine for Normal People, praised by the New York Times, as well as The Business of Drinking and many other podcasts. Elizabeth speaks at events around the world and teaches live online classes to people around the world through her online wine school, now in its sixth year. Elizabeth is known for her refreshing, no-nonsense, simple yet friendly manner that is so rare in the wine world. www.winefornormalpeople.com
How did you come to write about wine and wine?
Just after graduating from Wesleyan University (CT), I moved to Boston and worked for Reebok, then in the high tech sector. I tried to learn more about wine, but the atmosphere in all the stores was so intimidating that I went home feeling uncomfortable after each visit. I decided to up my game and attend tastings, but it didn’t help much because the intimidation factor was high again.
I was living with my sister, a lawyer and a pretty smart lady, and she felt the same desperation about wine, so we decided to take wine classes at the Boston Adult Education Center. The man who taught the class was named John Miller. He worked for a distributor and was very direct and open about wine. He took us on a weekly tour of the wine world, and after I tasted my first Trimbach Riesling, I knew I wanted to do something with wine. Back then, it was much harder to get a foothold, so my plan was to get my MBA, work in marketing at GIC for a few years, and then open my own wine bar or work for a winery somewhere. Things moved a little faster: after I got my MBA at Chapel Hill UNC, I got a job as a brand manager at a very large winery and moved to Northern California.
My four years in the wine industry were a bit of a torment – I often felt like I could market anything instead of what I was passionate about (wine). I left feeling a bit frustrated and discouraged, but shortly thereafter I decided to start my own business, launch a blog, then host educational events for companies, and finally launch what I am best known for, my podcast and book. After learning how to write, teach, and teach wine, I was finally where I knew I needed to be!
What are your main interests?
I cover the entire world of wine and try to educate people about places, grapes and wine. Much of my work focuses on grapes, winemaking, regions or general topics to educate wine lovers. Sometimes I bring guests who can help us showcase the concepts and ideas we have discussed at the show. With the exception of some very iconic brands that have helped shape history, I do not invite large wineries to participate in the podcast. I want to support small wineries that make good wine, but can’t be covered, or can’t be covered properly.
What are your main taste preferences?
I’m from New York and my parents only drank European wine, so that’s my orientation. It’s something that I met for the first time. I like discreet wines that reflect the country. I don’t like big oak or big fruit.
What would surprise people when they find out about you?
I live in Raleigh, North Carolina.
What have you not yet done that you would like to do?
Going to Australia and New Zealand to travel and taste wine! Such a long trip, but I think I can learn a lot!
What do you want your wine articles to convey to your readers?
You have to learn to drink a lot of good wine and trust yourself fairly blindly, not the critic, the sommelier or the wine shop clerk. We are so sure of the food we prefer that we should also be sure of what we like in wine. It is too easy to get carried away by what others say when it comes to wine. People need to know that there is a lot of BS out there and how to stop it.
Can you describe how you go about writing about wine and/or writing wine reviews?
I think the key is to find new angles in the stories or topics and then offer 100% honesty. In the wine world, there is no room for ulterior motives for normal people. I only write what I believe in, I only give opinions if they really matter to me, and I try to research it as thoroughly as if it were an academic paper so I can back up what I say with facts and figures. I am happy to correct if there are factual errors, but I try to make everything I say as factual as possible.
Do you work according to an editorial plan and/or develop story ideas as they arise?
Every 6 months, I plan a podcast program with topics. But they change all the time! I only write blogs when they are available.
Do you consider yourself an influencer? What do you think is the difference between a writer and an influencer today?
I am not influential, but I am influential. I do not take money to promote or support brands or organizations in exchange for loot or wine. I take money for conferences, education and advertising. I rarely attend wine tastings, and only if I know the brand and just want to expand my knowledge to better talk about their products. I don’t get paid to play with myself, and I think that’s part of what “influence” is these days.
But I can make things happen for brands and regions, and I’m known for giving shows, and that’s why I talk about things I sell, which is good because that means people trust me. That’s why I don’t pay for it – I may be too poor financially to do that, but I feel like I’m sacrificing the trust that I’ve gained with my listeners and readers.
What are your recommendations for wineries in their relationships with journalists?
Don’t think about contacting a journalist without delving into their work. Know their style, read more than their last 2 articles. Don’t send general sites: for me they go straight to the trash. Remember that even if someone is on your list or you think they can help you, not everyone should be hired. For example, I make it very clear in everything I do that I don’t support big wineries (I host an event every two years called Underground Wine Events to promote small wineries, and I have a reader list on my website of all the wineries that produce wine in bulk), and yet I get offers from big wineries. This is what makes me so frustrated. Do your homework.
What are the benefits of working directly with wine advertisers?
The access to information and the ease of booking interviews are the reasons why I love working with them, although I don’t do it often because I only work directly with small wineries.
If you take a weekend, how do you spend it?
I work 6 days a week (I have an online wine school called “Wine for Normal People” and I teach almost every Saturday night)! But when I have free time, I spend it with my wonderful husband and my two young daughters, who are energetic and very funny. We love exploring Raleigh and hiking and kayaking in the beautiful state of North Carolina. Whenever we had the chance, we would go to Charlottesville to taste wine in one of the most promising wine regions in the United States!
What is your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?
I’ve had a few, but I have to say one of the best came after our first underground wine event in Washington. It was a sold-out event, with such a large audience and incredible enthusiasm for small producers. After the event, fifteen small California wine producers, my partner Laura Perret Fontana and I walked out onto the balcony of the George Washington University building, with a panoramic view of the Washington Monument, the nation’s capital and the surrounding neighborhoods. The sun was low, it was a lovely start to November, and we sat back and enjoyed a job well done. Everyone tasted each other’s wines. The beauty of the day, the relief of success and the camaraderie of all who gathered was a powerful and wonderful moment. I have tasted other wonderful wines in wonderful places, but I loved the feeling of joy, humor and connection. That was the wine!
Do you have a favorite pairing of food and wine? Favorite recipe/match?
I’m going to take a more unusual route and give something white with dinner! The Pinot Gris d’Alsace with onions, the goat cheese is excellent, the Sancerre and Chevre are perfect, and the halibut with herb butter and white Châteauneuf du Pape is divine!
Why did you decide to write a book?
After spending a lot of time on wine and learning about wine, I felt like there were no resources for people who wanted to learn about wine in simple English. Through the podcast and my very close relationship with my audience, I gained a very good understanding of the difficulties of wine lovers. I wanted to use this to help people.
Most wine guides out there and still are are written for enthusiasts. They are good for this audience (and for me, as I learn, frankly), but I still think of the NORMAL wine lover – the person who loves or even appreciates wine, but has other activities and things going on in his or her life. They have neither the time nor the inclination to study carefully and try to decipher a huge book with lots of information for professionals that will not help them learn a few tricks to make a better wine. It took 5 years of research and writing to finish Wine for Normal People, but I am very proud of it. It is written in a way that cuts short the “BS” when it comes to wine – it uses analogies that people can understand and explains things in terms that are easy to understand, but without twisting them. I was so clear about my target audience that I didn’t send it to many wine publications for review, but mostly to lifestyle magazines, and it was very well received. The book is currently being used as a textbook for some universities with guest programs, and I am invited to give lectures for these people. The world of wine writing is not just an industry, and I don’t write for that industry, although it works for them too.
How long have you had the podcast?
January marks the 10th anniversary of the show “Wine for Normal People.” We have over 350 episodes and the series has reached millions of people around the world.
Read more articles from Turning the Tables – Interviews with Interviewers.
Karl Javanti, Karl Javanti Consulting
CARL GIAVANTI is a wine publicist with experience in DTC marketing. He is pursuing a 10-year consulting degree in the wine industry. Carl has been working in the field of marketing and public relations for over 25 years. He first worked in technology, digital marketing and project management, and is now a media relations consultant in the wine industry. Clients are or have been in the Napa Valley, Willamette Valley and Columbia Gorge. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media).