I mentioned in another post that I’d learned about the Wine Century Club by reading The Drunken Cyclist, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs. The idea is that wine lovers, or anyone I suppose, try 100 different grape varietals. In return the drinker gets a certificate. And can use the badge on their blog. And can brag that they’ve tried 100 varietals. My motivation for joining this little club is not purely because I love wine (although I do love wine) but also a professional one. I sort of fell into wine blogging initially and I’ve done a great deal of thinking about credibility in writing. And let’s face it: I’m not really credible when it comes to wine. Here are some things that make for a credible wine blogger:
- Experience in the industry
- Study of oenology
- Raised by sommeliers, restaurateurs**, collectors, et cetera
Here are some things about me:
- No experience in the industry
- No study of oenology
- Raised by a bookkeeper and telephone company worker
That said, I have fallen into the wine world with a grace I’ve never exhibited before and am learning that it’s not always that you write what you know. Sometimes, as in my case, you learn what you write. Today I’d like to write a little about how I, Nancy Koziol – Beer Snob Extraordinaire, became a wine blogger.
When Kris and I first started kicking around the idea of moving back to Vermont, my writing full time, and his going back to the office, it surrounded the idea of me splitting my time between freelancing and working on my novel. I dove into freelancing the way many do – via the horror of the content mill. I discovered, quickly, that I hated this. Partially because writing about how to unclog a drain or braid hair made me want to curl up in the corner and eat my hair. Partially because I got stiffed a few times by clients who would state that I wrote something horrible that was riddled with errors and grammatical mistakes and give me a low rating. Then they don’t have to pay. Luckily I save EVERYTHING and was able to contest these. And luckily the sites made me whole. It was still awful.
After a time on the content mills I set up pages on elance and freelancer. Here was where I started getting decent offers for real writing work. I fell into a great gig via elance that I only recently left***. My first job on freelancer was writing a portion of a wine glossary. The owner/editor of the site took a huge gamble hiring me – I had limited knowledge of wine (I’ve always loved the stuff but had a very basic understanding) and had never written a glossary. He liked what I did and had me write a few more sections and then asked me to research and write. The scope was narrow: mostly wine news. I would prepare articles based on topics he’d suggested or come up with proposals on my own and it has turned into a steady, awesome, gig. I have learned a ton and think I’ve found my freelancing niche. We’ve ventured out from just having me focus on news (although that is my primary foci) and have also done some listicles and travel pieces as well as an in depth article on a wine brand out of Brooklyn.
Despite my knowledge growing by leaps and bounds, I’m still a bit behind others in the field. I have little street cred when it comes to wine. But, I’m fairly intelligent and love to learn. If you know me in the real world, you know that I am full of useless knowledge that makes me a force to be reckoned with at our local brewpub during Monday Night Trivia. I’ve immersed myself in wine.
To be fair, I’ve loved and learned about wine for a far longer time than I’ve been writing about it. From exploring wines in Napa to planning entire vacations around the best wine-focused restaurants and bars, I am around wine quite a bit.
The Wine Century Club only makes sense. It has already exposed me to wines I’d never even heard of and is keeping me from my usual habit of drinking the same wines over and over (what can I say, I believe in monogamy and Sterling was my life partner for years). I’ve attacked the list with a ferocity like I haven’t seen since the last time I was interested in something and I’ve gotten nearly 20% through the varietals already.
While I’m well aware that there’s far more to knowing about wine than drinking 100 varietals let’s face it, we all know I’m the one googling everything about the particular grape the minute I get home with my list of the wines I’ve tried on that trip out. I am sticking to two a visit…. one white and one red with some palate cleansing in between to make sure that I am getting the best taste possible.
Learning about wines has also ignited my thirst to learn more about pairing – it’s amazing how wine can enhance flavor in food and vice versa. One of the most interesting things about learning about pairings is that the traditional white with white meat/fish, red with red meat rule is truly archaic. Also, strangely, I love finding pairings that really don’t work.
If you are considering freelancing at any point – consider emerging yourself in a niche. When I started out I was eager to avoid declaring a niche, instead focusing on the amount of stuff I keep in my head about so many topics. But to truly be attractive to a market you have to have a mast of a trade, not a jack of all trades. And so for now I’ve put travel writing aside (although wine travel is still high on my list of favorite activities and writing topics) and am delving even deeper into viticulture and those 100 varietals. I think I hit my 18th official this weekend although I haven’t updated my list.
What is your dream niche? What do you really KNOW? And what would you love to immerse yourself in? Also, if you’re working on a Wine Century Club, how many grapes have you crossed off the list?
*I think. I hate math.
**Okay, so is this the word I’m looking for? I feel like it should be “restauranteurs… with an n, but my computer is flipping out with an angry red squiggle and suggesting this weird looking, n-less replacement.
***I would recommend YouQueen to any freelancer looking for modestly paying work with amazing people.