Shedding some light on your favorite wine writers.
Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave
Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave writes the Wine & Dine column for NYC&G (New York Cottages & Gardens), HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens), and CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) and is the author of the steamy memoir, A Dangerous Liaison (Dutton), about her romance and marriage to a Belgian baron and what goes on behind castle walls.
To research stories for her wine columns, during the past eighteen years Sheri has traveled extensively to the world’s wine regions, including: the Hunter Valley, Margaret River, Yarra Valley and Tasmania in Australia; Marlborough, New Zealand; Mendoza, Argentina; Rio Grande de Sol, Brazil; Cotes du Rhone, Alsace, Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Languedoc-Roussillon in France; La Rioja and Valencia in Spain; Sicily, Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria, and Friuli in Italy; Alentejo and the Douro Valley in Portugal; Burgenland, Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal in Austria; Stellenbosch in South Africa; Peloponnese, Crete, and Santorini in Greece; Croatia; and Long Island, Napa, Sonoma, and the Central Coast in the USA.
1. What was your first job as a writer?
I started my writing career as a travel writer. I covered exotic island destinations—Tahiti, Fiji, The Seychelles, Mauritius, and Borneo. I did articles for Robb Report, Travel & Leisure, Four Seasons Magazine, and Islands.
2. What led you to becoming a wine writer?
In 2002, I was invited to the launch party of a new magazine, Hamptons Cottages & Gardens. I approached the editor and expressed interest in writing for the magazine, suggesting that I take on the role of restaurant critic. The editor replied, “What we really need is a wine columnist. Do you think you could write about wine?” Confidently, I replied that I could, knowing that as I writer, I pretty much can master any subject through research. I did have some background. When I lived in Belgium married to the Belgian baron, I was exposed to fine wines. The first thing I did was sign up for Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Wine School, which gave me a foundation to start learning about the world of wine.
3. What kind of reader do you have in mind when you’re writing?
I write for the luxury publication C&G Media (Cottages & Gardens), which has an upscale demographic. The magazine covers trends in architecture and luxury interior design as well as landscaping and garden design. The readership is people who own homes and are in the process of building, decorating, or redesigning them. Wine goes with their lifestyle.
4. Where is the most magical place your wine writing has brought you?
I went to the Maldives to an undersea restaurant at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. I sipped Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill while watching tiny silvery fish and bluefin jacks swim by the windows. It was the only article I’ve had published in Wine Spectator.
Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave
Author and Wine & Dine Columnist
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5. What was one of your favorite articles to write, and why?
I like traveling to get a story and reporting it. I went to Croatia and attended a rather geeky but fascinating conference on grape genetics. It was a conference on the indigenous grape variety Tribidrag, which we call Zinfandel in CA. The Godfather of Zinfandel, Joel Peterson of Ravenswood, was there along with the world’s grape experts—British legend Jancis Robinson moderated. Mike Grgich of Grgich Hills Estate appeared on a giant screen and he recounted the story of his detecting a similarity between his Napa Zinfandel vines and grapevines he remembered from growing up in Yugoslavia, now Croatia.
6. What is the best advice someone has given you on your writing?
Put yourself in the scene and describe what you feel and see. Make the reader live it with you. This is the age old advice of “Show it, don’t tell it.” Yet it is not easily learned. I often try to start an article with a scene. Here is an example:
Flying in a helicopter over the Sonoma Coast with its jagged hills, pine forests, and wisps of fog crawling like fingers over the land, I marvel that this coastal land is so rugged and wild. Through her microphone, Jen Walsh, winemaker at La Crema, points out patches of vineyards nestled on the high hills as we fly over the Russian River Valley. “There’s our great Kelli Ann vineyard down there,” says Walsh, who makes 19 single vineyard wines for the Jackson Family Wines.
7. What would you be doing if you weren’t writing about wine?
I would be writing about sex like I used to do for Cosmopolitan magazine. I enjoyed writing about sexual topics but unlike wine–which has thousands of fascinating wine properties worldwide—with sex you run out of material because there are only so many seduction techniques and positions you can recommend.
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