Swirls: Dear Wine Writer (Or How Not to Invite a Journalist to Your Event)

Here is the kind of invitation I loathe. It begins innocuously enough: “It’s going to be 98 degrees in NYC tomorrow! The perfect night to try our new Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc.” It’s even okay in paragraph two: “Please join us in celebrating the release of our two new wines Parlay Rosé of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc at the Art Directors Club in New York City tomorrow Thursday, June 9th at 6:30 pm.”

But then comes the disturbing line: “If you would be interested in posting about Parlay Wine or this event on your site we would be happy to provide you with a complimentary ticket to the event.” I don’t know the folks at Parlay Wine – never heard of them until I received this invitation and read on their Web site that they are based in Brooklyn and put their label on a small line of California wines.

The first thing for them to know is that I don’t “post” about events in isolation. I occasionally write about events in the context of wines that I think are noteworthy. Second, there is no way for me to know if I’d be interested in writing about the company or its wines until I taste them. Third, I never, ever make deals with wine companies or their representatives to write about their wines in exchange for “complimentary” tickets to events or samples or anything else. And fourth, I rarely attend events – dinners, lunches, new-release parties – on behalf of individual wine companies. (Think about it for a minute. What if I don’t like your wines and we’re sitting across from each other at lunch. Kind of awkward, wouldn’t you say?) I do, however, attend events sponsored by wine regions, which typically feature a range of wines from a number of producers.

So, how can you make me interested? If you’re Parlay Wine, for example, first tell me a little bit about your company, including your business model (what’s a Brooklyn company doing selling California wines?). Let me know that you’re holding an event that I might find interesting, showcasing your new releases, and that this would be an opportunity for me to taste them. Above all, avoid the word “if,” as in “if you would be interested in posting ... we would be happy to provide you with a complimentary ticket to the event.” For journalists, it is a dirty word, suggesting that coverage can be bought. Lastly, take a look at my site, and you’ll get a sense of the mix of content I am interested in and the tone I take. In just a few minutes, you’ll realize that a ticket to your event in exchange for a post is not something I would care to be involved in.


  1. This sort of invitation seems to apply especially to bloggers -- apparently some PR folks think it's OK to attach "conditions" to event invitations or offers of wine samples. It's not. Bloggers must -- as you have -- call them out on this and refuse to make advance deals in "exchange" for anything.

  2. Totally agreed: any wine event whose publicist puts "quid pro quo" conditions on complimentary tickets for members of the trade (which includes wine bloggers, by the way) will find their event attended only by bottom-feeding sycophants whose audience (if any) are probably not the sort of wine consumers they are looking for.

    This sort of inauthentic behavior does ultimately weed itself out, but it's always good to call BS on it when you see it.

  3. Thanks for these comments. As I've noted before in this space, some in the industry view bloggers as a "weak link" in the wine media landscape, which is partly why we have seen a proliferation of events, including on-line directed tastings, aimed specifically at bloggers, with winemakers all to happy to tell them what they're tasting and how to think about the wines. Because of my own long history in the news business and many years as a wine columnist for a leading news Web site, I am conditioned to resist this kind of thing. I worry, though, that others may not realize what's at work here and that their objectivity is being unduly influenced by the business.

  4. “If you would be interested in posting about Parlay Wine or this event on your site we would be happy to provide you with a complimentary ticket to the event."... aka.... the review/post must be good if not great. They'd probably be better off just buying advertising. I guess they don't understand true organic word of mouth/PR... kudos for not being bought. :)

    p.s. how do i get notified of follow up comments via email?


  5. Hello Edward,
    This is Parlay Wine - A husband and wife team (2 person operation). Didn't mean to offend with the free ticket. The only reason that we charged a $10 entry for the tickets in the first place was to offset the cost of the band, which we felt was a fun addition to the tasting but something that we could not afford otherwise. In any case the event was a great success and our new vintage was well received.

    I think that folks need to take a deep breath and perhaps relax a little. There are no PR companies here and no one is looking for a "weak link" We make our wine at a custom crush facility in Sonoma where we have family yet we are based in Brooklyn. Hence the Brooklyn to Sonoma. Please let us know if you'd like to taste our wine but no free samples! This year's Rose is $18 and our SB is $24.

    Thanks and enjoy the rest of the weekend!

    Parlay Wine

  6. It's this elitist snobbery that certain segments of the wine community tend towards that takes the fun out of enjoying and talking about wine. It really is such a turnoff. I say kudos to this couple in Brooklyn for bringing a wine to market.

  7. As someone who has worked in various newsrooms for well over a decade I can honestly say I see nothing wrong with this invitation from the people at Parlay. This is simply marketing ‘101’, which is to try and get your product consumed, reviewed, written and talked about. Nowhere is it mentioned that they required ‘positive’ coverage from a writer attending their event. I don’t know Mr. Deitch but I think he got it very wrong on the above post.

  8. I don't get it - you're mad at Parlay for trying to promote their wine? And they didn't do it EXACTLY like you would have preferred? and you "suspect" them of "buying" you with a $10.00 ticket to an event to enjoy the band? You sir, have a case of the "holier than thou's" that I have seen way too often in the business, that kind of attitude is exactly why small wineries can't and don't get the press they deserve.

  9. Thanks to all for responding. I stand by everything I said in my original post. I am not "mad" at Parlay for trying to promote its wines, as "Anonymous" claims. Whether it was Parlay or any other wine operation, the point here is that presentation and form and appearance -- i.e., professionalism -- are important in wine as in other businesses. My suggestion in the last paragraph of my post on how to approach wine writers more effectively reflects years of "best practices" I have seen --and responded to positively -- from the industry.

  10. Hey Vint-ed,
    I think the point that a few of these posts are trying to make is that there is a pretty high level of vitriol in tone and manor if your intention is merely to point out industry best practices. I am not sure how familiar you are with other industries but more people than you would imagine get into blogging in hopes of generating a range of perks. Is this really your best opportunity to make an example of "unprofessionalism"