There was a time, not so long ago, when wine and spirits writing was mostly the province of old, white men who conducted their critical business with score cards and spit buckets. But things have changed over the last decade, and these days you can get your booze news delivered by all manner of pundits—a former tarot card reader who writes about soju and rye with the lyrical rigor of a poet; a onetime Shakespeare professor; a rapper from Detroit. Among the brightest of these diverse voices is Talia Baiocchi, editor-in-chief of the excellent online drinks magazine PUNCH. She's also the author of Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World's Best-Kept Secret, and co-author, with Leslie Pariseau, of the forthcoming Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail (March 2016).
Baiocchi first developed a fascination with wine while working as a restaurant hostess during her time at NYU; after college she spent a few months working harvest and visiting vineyards in Italy. “I was burdened with a last name with many vowels, but I wasn’t connected to my Italian heritage,” she says. “I was interested in earning my name.” Upon returning she worked at a wine shop in New York and wrote a column about restaurant wine for Eater before establishing PUNCH as a hub for brainy booze writing in 2013. Here, Baiocchi talks about la dolce vita, ageism in the wine world and the menace of the “whiskey woman.”
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F&W: You started writing about wine at a time when there wasn’t a lot to compare yourself to outside of august critics like Robert Parker or Eric Asimov. How have you seen drinks writing change over the years?
TB: Wine writing in particular has come a long way in the last decade. Over the years, I think it became clear that in order to engage people about any topic, you have to tell a good story. It took time for people to come along and usurp that old-school Wine Spectator style of criticism that had been institutionalized for so long. Now there are so many new platforms for young writers. There’s a lot of noise out there too, but I think it falls away pretty fast.