Shedding some light on your favorite wine writers.
Richard Carleton Hacker
Richard Carleton Hacker is an international luxury lifestyle writer and photographer specializing in wines, spirits, cigars, restaurants, and related topics. He has authored twelve books in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Russia, and is a long-time Contributing Editor for numerous national lifestyle magazines, including Robb Report (for which he has written since 1995), as well as robbreport.com, Somm Journal, and The Tasting Panel.
He is also a lifetime member of the Scotch whisky industry’s honorary Keeper of the Quaich society (where he is one of less than 300 individuals in the world to hold the coveted title of Master of the Quaich), has been inducted into the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne, is a Cavaleiro in the Confraria do Vinho do Porto, and was knighted in Germany. He has recently authored The Connoisseur’s Guide To Worldwide Spirits (Skyhorse Publishing) and The Ultimate Cigar Book – Fourth Edition (Skyhorse Publishing). He collects 19th-century memorabilia, railroadiana, and vintage ports.
1. What was your first job as a writer?
By that, I assume you mean my first paying job as a writer. It sounds serendipitous, but I’ve always known I would be a writer; I just didn’t know what kind. And so I started writing as soon as I could, well…write.
In high school, I wrote a humor column called The Chopping Block (Hacker…chopping; I thought it was pretty clever). Then, when I was 17, I won the Grand Prize in the Boy’s Life National Writing Contest with a western fiction story called, “The Cowboy and the Steer.” That convinced me that others thought I could write as well.
In college, I wrote westerns and science fiction short stories for what was known as pulp magazines, for five cents a word. Nobody can live on that, so with a college major in marketing and a minor in broadcasting, I got a job as an advertising copywriter and worked my way up into having my own (very small) agency.
At that time I met one of the editors of Playboy Magazine at a cocktail party. Recognizing the editor but not having a clue as to who I was, the waiter handed us each a glass of wine and haughtily said, “This is an excellent Zinfandel from California.”
I took a sip and said, “This is a Cabernet, not a Zinfandel.”
That impressed the Playboy editor and he gave me my first assignment on the spot. So I guess you could say that was my first real seriously paying job as a writer. I wrote for Playboy for many years after that and soon began writing full time, branching out into other magazines, writing on a variety of lifestyle topics, and eventually expanding into books.
2. What led you to becoming a wine writer?
I only write about subjects that interest me and things that I like. And the intricacies of wine not only fascinate me, but I really enjoy drinking it (I have wine every night with dinner) and after all these years, I still am always learning something new about it.
3. What kind of reader do you have in mind when you’re writing?
I try to envision the specific reader of whatever magazine I‘m writing for at the time, whether it’s a Master Sommelier or a wine collector or someone who just likes to drink wine. And then I write for that individual, one–on–one.
4. Where is the most magical place your wine writing has brought you?
Ah, that’s a toughie, because my writings have taken me all over the world, from Alaska to New Zealand and all points in between. But I have to say, as much as I tend to favor New World wines, it has to be France, which could be thought of as the cradle of Old World winemaking for both collectors and consumers.
Richard Carleton Hacker
International Luxury Lifestyle Writer and Photographer
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5. What was one of your favorite articles to write, and why?
I’d have to say it was my piece for Robb Report on the “The 5 Best Vintage Ports of an Extraordinary Harvest,” because I was able to write about the only back-to-back universally declared vintage ports (2016 and 2017) since the two universally declared vintages of 1872 and 1873. Not only that, but I was able to taste the majority of those ports from those two most recent vintages with the port makers themselves, and to discuss the differing harvest conditions that made each vintage so unique. It really was a seminal moment in port-making history.
6. What is the best advice someone has given you on your writing?
Once you’ve finished writing your article, go back over it and cut out all the boring parts.
7. What would you be doing if you weren’t writing about wine?
I’d still be drinking it, but I’d also be writing about whiskies and other spirits, as well as writing about premium cigars, which I do anyway.
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