By Carl Giavanti, Carl Giavanti Consulting
“Turning the Tables – Interviewing the Interviewers” is a Q&A series profiling Wine Writers. We hope you’ll discover more about the wine writers you know, and learn about many others. The objective of this project is to understand and develop working relationships with journalists. They are after all, those that help tell our stories, review our wines and potentially provide media coverage. You can do this by learning their wine and writing backgrounds, story and personal interests, palate preferences, writing challenges and pet peeves. This is part of an ongoing series that will be featured monthly by Wine Industry Advisor.
MERIDITH MAY is the owner of two national U.S. wine and spirits trade publications: The SOMM Journal and THE TASTING PANEL Magazine. She is responsible for the publications’ branding and content. She has successfully increased each national magazine’s readership to reach over 65,000 bi-monthly for SOMM Journal and over 70,000 hospitality industry professionals 8 times a year for The Tasting Panel.
Meridith’s career in the media spans over 30 years. She began as VP Marketing for Los Angeles-based KIIS FM/KRLA radio in the 1980s working with such notable on-air personalities as Charlie Tuna, The Real Don Steele and Rick Dees.
Segueing into food and wine, she was the restaurant columnist for the Santa Barbara News Press from 1998-2001 and then took the role as Senior Editor at Patterson’s Beverage Journal where she ran the magazine until 2007, when she purchased the name, with partner Anthony Dias Blue, and began The Tasting Panel, which has evolved as the nation’s leading national wine and spirits industry magazine.
You can follow Somm Journal on Facebook and Twitter, and read the digital editions at https://www.sommjournal.com/ and Tasting Panel Magazine on Facebook & Twitter, and online at https://www.tastingpanelmag.com/
What are the challenges of being both publisher and contributor to your publications?
My first job is to promote the publication: through events, ad sales and other opportunities for our marketing partners. That means I have less and less time to write as the mags grow. I have a wonderful resource of fine writers and that helps us get lots of other voices to contribute.
How did you come to wine, and to wine writing?
I began as a restaurant columnist – and the progression was natural. But my real foray into wine writing was when I became Editor of Patterson’s Beverage Journal back in 2000. I got to interview the experts and the best in the industry!
What are your primary story interests?
Education, education, entertainment and…did I mention education? Wine and spirits brands need platforms for the trade – but hopefully the story behind every liquid can be compelling.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I was America’s First Professional Lady Monster Truck Driver back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. That was my weekend gig. During the week I was VP/Marketing for KIIS-FM Los Angeles and then KRLA/KLSX Los Angeles.
What haven’t you done, that you’d like to do?
Spend more time in France and Italy without worrying about business. But I don’t think that will happen.
Can you describe your approach to wine writing and/or doing wine reviews?
Since we write for the professional, we need to position our articles on how they can use this in their careers – whether they be buyers, importers or distributors. So, learning about production and regions is important, but also the business of wine and how-to mentor – how to educate your staff – how to work on that bottom line. For reviews, it’s obviously subjective but I am asked to do this by the wineries to help showcase their labels – I am sent hundreds of wines a month. Not many of them make it into the books.
Do you work on an editorial schedule and/or develop story ideas as they come up?
We plan our layout for editorial about four months out – some features are planned a year ahead (like cover stories). We try to be spontaneous when it comes to the actual messaging, and that’s where deadlines help.
How often do you write versus assign paid articles (not your blog)?
I write 10% and assign 90%
What are your recommendations to wineries when working with journalists?
DON’T TALK ABOUT YOUR SCORES TO JOURNALISTS! That’s a turn off. And talk slowly and don’t name drop – and if you do, please spell names out or explain who you’re talking about. Don’t assume the writer knows all your technical references either.
What advantages are there in working directly with winery publicists?
They know their clients – they can help with direction for the writers – and make life easier for client and journalist.
If you take days off, how do you spend them?
With my dog. And if I am traveling on days off, it’s either scouting out restaurants or, yes, wineries.
What’s your favorite wine region in the world?
South of France
Read more stories in the series “Turning the Tables – Interviewing the Interviewers.”