Perhaps the simplest thing is for me to tell you how I became a wine writer. In Hungary, it’s a non-existent occupation. You can’t study to be wine writer. I don’t know whether elsewhere there are schools which specifically train this kind of professionals. WSET is also present in Budapest; I also wore out its benches, but the basic courses (levels 1, 2 and 3) rather just give you a framework for the knowledge you gain. If you are lucky, they give you a foundation in tasting technique too, support that you then leave behind years later, some people later, some earlier. However, until then it is crucial for proper evaluation. Well, how did I then become a wine writer?
I started to get interested in wine at university. In contrast to any kind of accepted viewpoint, it was neither rosé that held my attention, nor full-bodied red wines. I definitely fell in love with dry szamorodni. (Whatever is that? Take a look at our infographic and then you’ll know.) I’m not saying that this was a prerequisite, but it helped a lot at the beginning that I was especially fond of sipping the kind of wine in the kitchen of my rented flat that really required serious vocabulary to describe. I’ve also loved reading since I was a child, almost everything, but mainly fiction. Not trash, but real literature. What does that mean? Let’s look at a few names, without meaning to be exhaustive: Rushdie, Marquez, Solzhenitsyn, Saramago, Grass, Thomas Mann, Márai, Borges, Ivo Andric, Filip Florian, Dragomán, Jergovic. You’ll notice I haven’t included Tiffany novels or The Sun’s front page stories. Why is this important? That’s really simple. If you don’t read, you simply don’t know how to write. You can of course write a wine description, that’s easy to learn, you need some skill with association, but if you have the necessary vocabulary and do enough tasting, then it’ll work out. However, you won’t have the connective tissue without reading. The invisible substance that gives writers their backbone, which is why you should also read things other than those you write about.
So, I loved wine and reading, but was jobless in Budapest. (That’s actually not true, I was a sales person in a hiking shop specialising in boots.) On the other hand, I was a regular reader of any wine magazine I could get my hands on and so I noticed a job advert in one of them. They were looking for trainees. I applied immediately.
So, you think that was it? That was the end? A happy ending? Actually, it wasn’t. I didn’t even receive an answer to my letter. However, I got something else instead. Anger (at first), will power (just as well too) and perseverance. Well, you need this. Well, because within a month I was working for its rival magazine, as a journalist.
Of course, the hard part came after this, even more reading, lots of travel and study, even more tasting. It has continued ever since and I don’t believe it will ever come to an end. Although, it’s also true that without my first job (and here’s its name: BORIGO magazine), I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It was a great team (and still is) and I still enjoy writing for them in Hungarian. However, it’s time to spread my wings and share my thoughts with a larger corner of the world.
So, what does it take to become a wine writer? Loads of perseverance, patience and thirst for knowledge. Drive, fire and will. Luck, and plenty of it. A good team and colleagues you can learn from. A strong compulsion to read and an even stronger compulsion to write. Finally, a system in your head in which you can store all your experiences, all the flavours and aromas, the places and people, and the winemakers and sommeliers. I know it doesn’t sound easy, but believe me, it’s not so complicated either. If you’ve been hesitating till now, just stop it and get stuck in!