Sunday Spotlight

Shedding some light on your favorite wine writers.

Bryce Wiatrak

Bryce Wiatrak is a professional wine journalist based in San Francisco. He presently works as a staff writer at GuildSomm, the leading wine education non-profit and trade publication. In 2015, Bryce was awarded the second inaugural Young Wine Writer Fellowship by Antonio Galloni’s Vinous, where he later served as a junior editor. Bryce’s work has also been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine & Spirits, among many other publications. Bryce earned his Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Yale University, as well as a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

1. What was your first job as a writer?

My first job as a writer also happened to be my first job as a wine writer. I first entered the wine industry on a serendipitous whim the summer before my senior year of college. My plans had fallen through, but I found an internship posted on our college job board for a wine publication called Bottlenotes, which is sadly no longer around. I had just turned 21 and knew nothing of wine at the time—beyond that I enjoyed it—but somehow was offered the position. I moved out to California for the summer and fell quickly in love with the topic of wine.

2. What led you to becoming a wine writer?

It really was complete good fortune that I fell into a career of wine writing. While that first internship was certainly unexpected, I continued to pursue wine journalism due to the positive experiences I had that first summer. My very first editor was Wine Bible author Karen MacNeil—who is the greatest mentor anyone in wine could ask for. What really drew me to a long-term career in wine is that it is a true Renaissance person’s field. Biology, geology, chemistry, philosophy, religion, art, history, politics, economics—wine exists at their confluence. It’s a very narrow lens through which you can study the whole world.

3. What kind of reader do you have in mind when you’re writing?

This completely depends on the outlet for which I am writing. For the last several years, I’ve been a Staff Writer for and publish primarily on GuildSomm, a wine education non-profit and trade publication. Our readers enjoy getting geeky, which provides me the luxury of going into incredible depth without the confines of a word count. The readers for the San Francisco Chronicle or Vinous also tend to be quite educated, though it’s essential to remember that they’re mostly consumers, rather than the trade. At my first job, Bottlenotes, I wrote a lot more 101 content. It’s a trickier task than one might imagine to boil down a complex topic to its key points, and it’s a privilege to help people start out on their wine journeys.

Read Bryce’s article here:

 

4. Where is the most magical place your wine writing has brought you?

I’ve been fortunate to travel to places I never dreamed of going for work—everywhere from New Zealand to Hungary to Uruguay. It’s hard to pick a single destination—and I’ll never tire of Tuscany or Burgundy—but the most transformative trip I’ve been on was to Israel, Lebanon, and Cyprus. In the last half century, each of these countries experienced intense political unrest—often on opposing sides—that threatened their wine industries. I visited all three in July 2019, and it was fascinating to observe the duality of their ancient wine traditions with a much more recent push toward modernization. I always enjoy seeing a region in transition, and though each country’s wine culture has a unique approach to the 21st century, their narratives share much overlap.

Bryce Wiatrak

Wine Journalist, GuildSomm

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5. What was one of your favorite articles to write, and why?

One article I’m particularly proud of was on the revival of indigenous grapes. The article was rather large in scope, and in it I was able to document the history of varietal diversity; the science of grape identification; a tour of more than a dozen countries and their movements toward commercializing their autochthonous cultivars; and an investigation into how these varieties are diversifying the New World. It’s a long read, but I learned so much in writing it.

6. What is the best advice someone has given you on your writing?

While I’ve had many exceptional editors and professors over the years, I’ll never forget what one of my high school English teachers told me. She said always to consider “so-whatness” in your writing. It’s very easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of any given topic, but I find that to be particularly true with wine—vintage conditions, soil types, regulations. Although it’s important for a wine writer to have a solid foundation in the theory of wine, I also think it’s essential to remember why does wine matter to you. Everyone will have a different response, but keeping that question in mind will lead to more fulfilling work and better stories.

7. What would you be doing if you weren’t writing about wine?

I actually trained as a professional opera singer! My first years in the wine industry ran parallel to my graduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Opera remains very dear to my heart and an essential part of my life. Few things give me as much joy as the feeling of singing Mozart.

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