Alder Yarrow: Winner, Best Tourism Content With A Focus On Wine
An interview by Richard Siddle
American wine writer, Alder Yarrow, picked up two awards at the 2015 Born Digital Wine Awards. He came top in the Best Tourism writing category for an article about Austria, which he proclaimed to be “the wine lover’s dream destination” and was also a runner up in the Investigative/Journalism Wine Story category for his analysis of whether we need to worry about arsenic levels in wine.
Here Alder, who runs his own blog, Vinography, shares his views with Richard Siddle, chairman of the Born Digital Wine Awards judging panel, on wine writing, who he likes to read and offers his advice on producing award winning copy.
Why did you enter the Born Digital Wine Awards?
“As someone who basically sits around writing content for free on the internet there aren’t many avenues to have my work formally recognised. Mentions in the press, links, retweets, and comments from readers are all fine and dandy, but sometimes it’s nice to get some formal recognition as well.”
Why did you choose to enter the pieces you did in to the awards?
“I write a lot of content and had many articles that might have met the criteria for various categories. I just looked through my work over the last year and chose the pieces that I thought were the strongest.
“Some of my strongest entries I had to rule out because they were longer than the (what I think is silly and arbitrary) maximum length of 1,500 words. I’m mystified by this limit and would highly recommend removing that length limit in the future.
“One of the benefits of the digital world is that it makes longer, more in-depth writing possible in ways that print never could. By having a word limit (that rather suspiciously matches a traditional print magazine feature or in-depth news article length) you’re missing out on some potentially fantastic content. End of soapbox.”
How did your winning entry come about and what was the inspiration for writing it?
“I was on my second trip to Austria and found myself marvelling at what a fantastic playground it was for people who love wine. The piece was basically just an outpouring of love for Austria. It’s one of my favourite wine destinations.”
What is your background in wine and how did you start writing?
“I started my blog in 2004 as a self-taught, passionate wine consumer and that’s what I still am. Other than having taken an occasional creative writing class in college, and needing to write a lot for my day job, I’m self taught in that arena, too.”
How would you describe your approach to writing about wine? What makes you stand out?
“My approach to wine writing is essentially to write what I would want to read. I don’t necessarily have a specific angle, other than really appreciating the stories of the people and places behind wine, which are what I believe make wine meaningful and memorable.”
How do you see the standard of wine writing in general?
“Wine writing has never been stronger in the United States, or around the world. We’re in an age where there are many more voices and points of view accessible to the wine lover than ever before.”
What other wine writers do you admire and read their work?
“I read a lot of wine writing from both mainstream journalists and bloggers, but among my favourite writers are Mike Steinberger and Jay McInerney (neither of whom are writing much these days). I also read Eric Asimov, Hugh Johnson, Kermit Lynch, Terry Theise, Matt Kramer, Jamie Goode, Elin McCoy, Francis Percival, Andrew Jefford, David White, Elaine Brown — jeez this list is getting long.
“I of course also immensely enjoy the work of my sometimes boss, Jancis Robinson MW.”
What other writing do you enjoy outside of wine and publications /websites that you read outside of wine?
“I read for pleasure, and when I do it’s a combination of a lot of science fiction and fantasy, contemporary literature (e.g Booker prize winners, etc), and non-fiction books about evolutionary psychology, business, and design.”
What advice would you give to someone about writing about wine?
- Find the story.
- Know what you’re talking about.
- Read everything you can get your hands on.
Oh…and how are you going to spend your BDWA prize?
“I have no idea. The idea of getting paid for stuff that I do on Vinography is somewhat mind-boggling. I think the most logical thing to do would be to spend the money on wine, I guess.”