Kickstarter Project - Wine Book Written by Winemakers

I’ve just launched a new project at kickstarter to fund winemakers who want to write a book about their region.  Do you all know what kickstarter is?

Here’s how they describe themselves:

Kickstarter is the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world. Every month, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields.

It’s a fundraising platform that helps you hold a pledge drive for worthy projects in all sorts of fields.  They have whimsical pipedreams like the guy who made a flying delorean hovercraft and very savvy manufacturing presales like the dudes who raised a million bucks for a watchband designed to hold an ipod nano.   They also do lots of book deals.  And if I don’t hit my goal of $5000 (which is admittedly pretty high) then no money changes hands.  Your pledged donations only go through if the pledge drive is successful, so there’s a crowd buying element to the site.

Anyway, I want to publish a book about several small wine regions.  The book would be written by winemakers.  Who better to talk about their regions with the passion and romance that they deserve?  Each section of the full length book will follow the model of my booklet on the Wines of Carcassonne.

If you can donate, great. But just telling other people about my project is already a big help.  The more people tweet, facebook, blog, etc (even old-fashioned talking about it over dinner) the better the chances are that this project will get funded.  (Plus I think kickstarter brings attention to projects that are already “going viral”).  So please take the time to at least write a tweet. It’s just 140 characters. Include @kickstarter and the url of my project: in any tweets.  And just big it up!!

While writing my book, I had to make a lot of decisions about self-publishing, format, layout, sales channels, imprints, and a lot of stuff that never really occured to me until I was up to my neck in publishing information.  I found one article from Jancis Robinson’s site particularly useful.  It was written by Monty Waldin, who you might know from Channel 4’s Chateau Monty or his extensive reference work for biodynamic wines.

monty waldin a corking wine adventure book coverThe article describes Monty’s journey through self-publishing (subscribers only) and it really helped inform my decision-making process.  My book is different in many ways but I faced a lot of the same decisions.  Anyway, for other winemakers who are considering writing a book, check out that article.  And also How to publish your own wine book (free for all).

Then I saw that Monty commented about my book.  He said some nice things about me and the book, and I’m flattered that he’s flattered.  But all that fluffy stuff aside, he said some really cool things about wine books being self-published.  Gives you a sort of global perspective of how things are changing.   He recalls the period where wineries would commission wine writers to devote a book to their Domaine.  Off the top of his head, he mentions Chateau Yquem, Chateau Margaux, and Daumas Gassac (Languedoc in the house).

These differ from my book since they are full length and each one is really centered around a single estate.  But back in the day, you would have been crazy to spend the hefty chunk of cash to promote your region generically.   Like buying a thousand billboards and having them just say “Drink wine.”  without any mention of your own estate.

But today  the costs are different.  The metrics have changed.  I can put out a shorter book and make it about the whole appellation and it’s not exorbitantly expensive.

Monty’s comments appeared in the subscribers section, but I imagine nobody minds if I relay his comments here for you to read.

Flattered Ryan O’Connell found my article on e-publishing useful but even more pleased to see a wine-grower like Ryan putting e-pen to paper.

Professional wine writing is in flux at the moment, seen as an extravagance by most newspapers and book publishers.

Since Jancis published my article a well known female wine writer has been in contact to say is doing what Stephen Skelton MW and myself have done, which is to ditch slow- and low paying publishers for fairly risk-free print-on-demand self-publishing using lulu dot com (Stephen’s books are on Viticulture and UK Vineyards, mine on biodynamics). Said wine writer also appears to relish the greater freedom she will have editorially over what is published by going it alone.

In the old days some of the wealthier wine producers commissioned wine writers to write books about them. Off the top of my head such books already exist in English on Chateau Yquem (Olney), Mas de Daumus Gassac (Mackenzie) and Chateau Margaux (Faith) – but all three tomes could perhaps do with a revision having been published in the 1980s (or earlier) and to be published on paper an in e-form.

What Ryan has done is an example of how technology is allowing smaller, lesser known producers to do what only the big boys and girls could do until recently.

“lavishly illustrated”
“takes advantage of the medium”
“an enterprising first stab at self-publishing”
–Jancis Robinson, Vintner turns e-author 21 Dec 2010

What a trip.  Seven years ago, I was reading the Oxford Companion to Wine and daydreaming about being a winemaker.  And today, the editor of that book and one of the world’s foremost wine writers is bigging up my writing on my little old wine region!

And she knows that I want other winemakers to do the same thing.  I want them to write testimonials for their own regions.  And she sees it as clearly as I do as she wonders “How many more wine producers will be moved to invade the territory that used to be the preserve of professional and many semi-professional wine writers? It could be a perfect activity for the winter months in between those sales trips to Shanghai.”

Of course, Jancis isn’t worried about her job security.  But all the same, I think this is a perfect time to address the notion that I’m encouraging winemakers to take wine writer turf.  I see this more as an opportunity to expand the world of wine writing.

I’m not asking winemakers to steal ground from wine writers.  If we tried to write our own version of the Oxford Companion, we’d do an awful job.  Because we lack objectivity and distance from the subject.  Instead, we have to conquer new lands.  Invent new genres or reinvigorate types of writing that were abandoned in the past century.

So what if, in general, winemakers lack the objectivity to write excellent wine manuals and reference books.  That subjectivity makes us perfect authors for authentic portraits of every wine region on earth.  Every appellation, AVA, DOC, DAC, or plain old neighborhood that makes wine has inspired hundreds of winemakers and farmers.  It’s time for farmers to start giving back and sharing our love of our land with the world.  If you’ve ever been touched by a place, it’s time to write your book.   And we’ll win over new readers who weren’t ready for the reference books and tomes.  We’ll enchant them with medieval castles and gorgeous pictures of limestone on clay.  And the next thing you know, they’ll be drinking wine every day and then they’ll want to read more objective books from the critics and pros.  That’s my dream world anyway. Let’s make it happen!

And yes I appreciate that we don’t all have time.  It’s ridiculous that winemakers have to leave the vineyards they love so much for the Shanghai sales trips Jancis alludes to.  But that is life.  We are expected to wear many hats and perform many jobs.  And I think some of you may be ready to be authors.


book cover of wines of carcassonne

How cool is that?  In October, Evan Schnittman told me about Amazon’s self-publishing platform.  And here I am just a couple months later with a book about the wines of carcassonne.  Amazon is mailing me a proof right now.  In January, I’ll approve the proof and Wines of Carcassonne: The Cabardes AOC will be for sale online.  Awesome.

I want a free copy!

I bet you do.

Enter your email address and click submit to win a digital copy of my book:

Wines of Carcassonne: The Cabardes AOC


When you click submit, the page will refresh and it will look like nothing happened. Check your email to find out if you won.


So why write a book?

The Cabardes is a really cool appellation.

  • It’s right next to Carcassonne
  • It’s tiny
  • It’s dominated by independent producers
  • It has a unique climate
  • It has a unique blend

One starts to wonder how there aren’t already books written about the Cabardes.  Well, those advantages that make the Cabardes good and interesting also make it hard to mass market.

Our small production size means we can’t justify spending a lot of money to promote the appellation.  Even if we did market our appellation very well, we lack the large industrial producers to supply wine after that sort of promotional campaign.    The unique climate and blend that make the wine so interesting also make it sort of bizarre.  People don’t expect these varietals to appear together, especially not in the Languedoc.  Furthermore, people don’t expect these varietals to EVER go together in a French AOC.  In reality, all the things that make the Cabardes radically special make it hard to promote.  It’s complicated.

Well I love complicated.  And what’s more, being a winemaker gives me the perfect perspective to write a book about the appellation.  This isn’t an objective reference book that has to cover all the wines of France or all the wines on earth.  I am only talking about the wines I can see from my hilltop.  So I can take all my time.  I can slow down and give you strange little details that I think are fun even though they aren’t important by most standards.  I can share a little gossip about who has projects on the table, what people did before they got this property, trends in certain estates.  That’s fun stuff right?  I just get to tell you why I’m charmed by this place.

So what next?

I’m going to be devoting a lot of energy to the promotion of this book.  I haven’t even written a post about it until now, but your tweets and facebook updates have helped hundreds of people hear about the book.  In the first 48 hours of the contest, we gave away 50 digital copies in ten different countries.  Thank you for all your support.

And more importantly, the next step for winemakers everywhere is to follow my lead.  Write the book for your appellation or your neighborhood.  If you need any help, email me.  Some of this stuff is pretty technical.  Formatting the novel was actually pretty tough without any good software.  So please please please ask me for help.  I’d love to see more books like this one.  One for every appellation!! 🙂

How to find us

Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387

Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing

North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910

  1. Best by GPS.
    Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
  2. Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
  3. Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
  4. At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
  5. After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.