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 Network.
Katie has been chasing wine, food and travel stories for over 16 years. From the vineyards of New Zealand to the press houses of Champagne, she’s met a world of fascinating people who have stories to share. You can find her work in global and national outlets including USA Today, Forbes, Decanter, and Departures. She is the proud recipient of the MAGS Association Magnolia Award for excellence in writing and editing and currently holds a Wine and Spirits Education Trust Intermediate Certificate. Visit her website at www.katiekellybell.com or read her Forbes column for more info, and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
How did you come to wine, and to wine writing?
I was introduced to a local editor for a wine magazine in Atlanta and he kindly gave me a shot at it—after I harassed him mercilessly. That was back when we used the phone and left people messages. He finally answered my call and the rest is history. I just wanted to write about wine.
What are your primary story interests?
People. I fancy myself a storyteller above all else (I am full-blooded Irish and we do like our stories). People who make wine, people who drink it, collect it, sell it—they are what’s most interesting to me.
Is it possible to make a living as a wine writer today? If so, how have you succeeded? If not, why not? What are the primary challenges and hurdles you face?
No, I really don’t think you can make a living writing about wine; it’s too niche and competitive. You need to be able to write on a range of topics.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I won the ALTA Atlanta City Championships in doubles tennis and I was a middle-school teacher for almost a decade; I loved that job.
What haven’t you done, that you’d like to do?
Visit ancient wine regions—Israel, Georgia, Turkey.
If you weren’t writing about wine for a living, what would you be doing?
Teaching kids or working for an airline—I love everything about flying.
Can you describe your approach to wine writing and/or doing wine reviews?
I try to find the human interest in every story because that’s what readers respond to most.
Do you work on an editorial schedule and/or develop story ideas as they come up?
Stories always bubble up—I try to plan–you really have to plan, but every single time an intriguing lead comes along and I have to chase it down and write it. Now I just plan for the unexpected.
What are your recommendations to wineries when interacting with journalists?
It can be frustrating to have people send wine and follow-up immediately to see if I have tasted it. I try to let wines rest for at least two weeks and then taste, but I am one person and I can only taste so many wines in one day; it’s a high-class problem to have to be sure, but I am trying. There are just some wines that take me weeks to get to.
What advantages are there in working directly with winery publicists?
They have images and they respond immediately—always good things for a journalist.
If you take days off, how do you spend them?
Outside—playing tennis, walking the dog, hiking
What is your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?
Tasting with Aubert de Villaine at Domaine de la Romanee Conti.
Do you have a favorite wine and food pairing? Favorite recipe/pairing?
Champagne and french fries.
Read more stories in the series “Turning the Tables – Interviewing the Interviewers.”