Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Guest post: Deborah M. Gray's How to Import Wine

Before Christmas, guest blogger and wine expert Deborah Gray contributed a wonderful post to A la mode frangourou, on holiday food and wine pairings, which I for one found very useful when deciding on what wines to choose at Christmas and New Year! Today, she writes about the inspiration for her very successful book, How to Import Wine, which has garnered a prestigious award, Gourmand magazine's 'Best Professional US Wine Book 2011.' It's also in contention for several international wine book awards.

My father was the impetus for my wine importing business in the States. He had just started a brand from his vineyard in Cowra, New South Wales and his desire to export prompted me to take on the challenge of importing. My knowledge and experience was precisely zero at that stage and the only advice I was given was “don’t do it.” Undaunted, I plunged blindly in. Since there was also no book on the subject, trial and error and missed opportunities became my modus operandi in the early years. They weren’t much fun at the time, but they provided valuable experiences from which to learn and clear examples in the book of what not to do.

I have been so fortunate to have travelled to many wine regions throughout Australia and New Zealand, met fascinating people, enjoyed incredible meals, and ridden the wave of wine popularity for Oz and NZ wines. I have judged wine competitions, spoken at festivals, served on wine boards and have great memories that will stay with me forever. But sitting in my office in California on the cusp of the recession in 2008, business for high end, boutique Australian wines was hard to come by and became increasingly more so as the year progressed. With that in mind, time on my hands and the germ of an idea, I started researching online, through publishers and in book stores and still found no wine importing books.

I have spent a lifetime dabbling in journals, writing seminar materials, taken a stab at novels and poetry, but had never written a How-to. And yet, the prospect excited me. As I went about my day in my business I made notes every time I thought of another aspect of the industry. From this I devised a Table of Contents as a guide and found it made an easy roadmap for me from subject to subject. People often tell me I must have spent a long time researching for this book, but in reality most of it came from my nearly 20 years experience, with research occasionally necessitated by a desire to be absolutely clear about particular details or to make sure I was up-to-date on resources.

I eschewed the dry, academic style I found in many non-fiction business books and made How to Import Wine – An Insider’s Guide conversational and as easy to understand as I hoped it would be. The writing became an enjoyable exercise, a nostalgic trip down memory lane and a satisfying diversion from the ordeals of a difficult economy.

If necessity is the mother of invention, I am a prime example. The vicissitudes of the economy and a dearth of subject matter became my motivations, but the publishing journey, although frustrating at times, has been one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my life. The journey isn’t yet over and I can’t wait to see where it leads!

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