Welcome to my latest installment of Wine Writer Confidential, where I spill, thrill and chill you with all the news unfit to print about my world of wine writing.
It’s no secret that a virus laid me low last week, rendering me useless, and unable to taste. However, the down time allowed me to ponder a few things…
On Wine, Words, Burgundy, and Battling Shyness in an Extroverted Industry
Recently, a wine blogger whom I respect sent me this:
“…I just finished an ARC of Cork Dork and the writer is talking about Burgundy and there is a line in there are a few sentences that made me think of you.
“I’ve never watched someone open what was supposed to be an outstanding bottle of Burgundy without a look of mild terror on her face. The wines oxidize, they get reductive, they are fickle in mediocre vintages, and they go through awkward phases in their youth. The people who adore these wines tend to have a masochistic streak, and when you meet a Burgundy fanatic, it’s hard not to puzzle over what trauma – were they hugged enough as kids? – might have compelled them to attempt to master this region.”
Not to say this is you, but it made me think of you, a Burgundy expert…”
Was this a backhanded compliment? An underhanded backstab? A bit of both? I replied ‘guilty’ to the charge of Burgundy fanatic, ‘definitely’ to lack of hugs as a child, but balked at ‘mild terror’ when opening a bottle of the noble juice.
Which got me thinking about my life as a wine writer with a particular passion for Burgundy. It’s no accident that I fell down the rabbit hole of Burgundy. It appeals to those of us reserved in nature. Burgundy requires determination, diligence, and discretion, not only as a vigneron, but as a disciple of the region.
Also no accident that writing chose me as a profession. Suffice it to say that reading “Alice in Wonderland” at age seven opened my eyes to the wonder and power of words. By age eight writing had chosen me, though it took a lifetime of maze-milling before leaping full-time into freelance word-smithing.
But wine writing? For a shy person, wine writing presents an unholy challenge, because the wine industry as a rule attracts extroverts – people who thrive on the company of others. For introverts, incessant socializing exhausts, rather than excites. A fact I tried to ignore at first, with disastrous results.
As a neophyte wine writer, I forced my self to work in a series of tasting rooms – family, corporate, niche, boutique – to learn the nuances of the industry, as well as the artistry of winemaking. But these experiences took their toll, both on me and others. Reserved people as a lot do not understand the social dynamics necessary to lubricate a tasting room; most miss important social cues that others take for granted. The same frustrations held true during my initial wine maker interviews.
Sadly, while the social torture continued, morale did not improve – until a wise mentor told me to ‘flip the script,’ positing that the story problem offered a different narrative. He was right.
I write about what Joseph Campbell coined the ‘Hero’s Journey,’ sharing wine makers’ leaps of faith, overcoming obstacles, and a final battle – usually in a cave – followed by a victorious return with the boon, or treasure – in this case wine, the redThread™ that binds us all.
As an introvert in an extrovert’s industry, I identify with these people I write about, because I’ve followed their same journey. I understand the courage needed to follow one’s passion, to overcome obstacles, to do battle in order to create something out of nothing, something that hopefully inspires others.
I’ve also learned that the social liability of shyness – right up there along other no-no’s like bad breath and acne – actually proves an asset as a writer. Talking less means listening more. Seeing more. Feeling more. Sussing out the subtext while others talk all over the obvious.
Do I ever wish someone could wave a magic wand and make me an extrovert? Sometimes. But introversion helped me find my voice. Brought me to Burgundy. Led me to wine makers with stories worth telling. And taught me to stop trying to be something I’m not. In this time of renewal, may you embrace whatever you are. Cheers.
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