Wanda Mann is the embodiment of all things wine should be: fun, happy, engaging, laid back, conversational and loved by my Mom. I have to laugh as I say that last one, but it’s a fun little story.
As you might expect, my Mom was a huge fan of the Road to Wine Expert Summit. Having not heard of Wanda prior to her interview, she said that Wanda was someone she wanted to have a glass with because she her personality and enthusiasm was so infectious.
As a result, I’ve played telephone between them both, and it sounds like they will be getting together soon in New York, Chicago or Spain. I’m jealous.
So hopefully, Wanda can become your friend too. Wanda, I apologize if I inundate your social calendar.
Listen to Wanda Mann’s Interview
Update on Wanda Mann
Q: How have you been? Tell me everything!
A: Since the last time we spoke, I have been to Italy a few times, and I have been to Spain. I’m heading back to Italy in October. Italy tends to be, for whatever reason, the country that travel to for wine, which I am not complaining about!
I was just joking with my friend that my apartment is a depository for wine bottles, wine books, and suitcases. Because that is really what my interests are.
Q: Have you been to any new places in Italy that blown you away?
A: On my most recent trip, I was just in Friuli on the north east, near the border of Slovenia. 3 or 4 years ago, I only spent half a day there. So, it was nice to have 4 or 5 days to really explore the region.
There are so many nice white wines coming out of Italy.
Outside of Italy, I went to San Sebastian for the first time in Spain which is such a great food city.
It’s definitely one of my top 3 places I would live in Spain.
Q: What are your other two?
A: I am very nostalgic for Barcelona, because I lived there for a year when I was 16.
The city has changed a lot. It’s becoming too popular and they are struggling. There are certain things about the city that make it more challenging, but I still love it: a great walking city, the architecture, the food. It’s a very special place.
They are struggling how to manage the onslaught of people, all the tourists and these go-carts that are allowed on the city streets. It’s a little too much.
I think it’s similar to some of the issues we are having in New York with affordable housing because of AirBnb taking rentals out of the housing market. I totally relate to what they are going through, but I still think that Barcelona is one of the most amazing cities in the world.
Q: Okay, great. What’s the third?
A: The third would be this tiny little region, not far from Barcelona, a little more north on the foot of the Pyrenees called Somontano, which I have been to 3 times in the past 3 years.
It’s kind of an outlier for me, because I usually like to be by water.
Unlike other parts of Spain that are associated with one grape, they grow everything in Somontano, and they grow it really well.
You can Gewurztraminer, Merlot and Chardonnay in additional to really great Garnacha.
It has a really nice slow pace and good food, which is important. I feel like I’ve said that 10 times already! It’s a nice food and wine culture with really passionate winemakers that have been doing it for generations and generations.
They have a strong alliance with France. When Phylloxera was spreading, French families crossed the Pyrenees, came to Somontano and started planting Merlot in the 1800s. Even though it’s considered an international grape, it’s really part of their story.
It’s just a really special place. The opposite of my life in New York. Maybe that is why I like it so much.
Q: What wines are you saving for a particular occasion?
A: One was given to me really recently, it’s a bottle of Tattinger 2013 that was given to me last week as a birthday gift. I’m saving that to drink with my boyfriend.
I mentioned the winemaker earlier, and it’s from my favorite winemaker in Spain, José Ferrer. He produces a smaller line of wines called Blecua. They are very boutique and just arrived in the US maybe about a year ago.
I have a bottle of the ’09 vintage.
Part of me is afraid to open it because I love his wine so much, but I am going to open it at some point this year.
When I look at the bottle, I remember visiting the winery and the cellar. José is so passionate. He loves barrels more than anybody I know. He makes it exciting.
Q: Is there any advice you would give yourself two years ago?
A: That’s a tough one, because part of me can’t believe that two years have gone by.
I still love it and the excitement is still there more than ever.
For me the challenge is that making your passion a viable business isn’t always the easiest thing. If I were talking to someone considering doing this, I would say it’s a bad idea to sit down to create a business plan and come up with some strategies for making money.
You can write the best wine blog in the world, but your landlord doesn’t really care about that. I used to bribe my Super with bottles of wine.
Other than that…don’t do it for the money.
Whether you invest millions into buying a vineyard or being a wine writer, everyone does it for the love and the passion. I would say balance that with some practical plan for generating a living.
Also, you don’t have to say yes to everything. On our side of the business, there are so many opportunities offered to us. At the beginning, you are saying yes because you want exposure. You want to be out there. You want to meet people.
At some point when you define your brand, you need to be true to that. It’s okay to say no. You don’t have to go to every press trip, every tasting.
Define what your lane is and stick with that.
Instead of being limiting, I have found it has actually helped me gain more credibility because people have an expectation of what I will and what I won’t write about. It actually makes it easier for people to approach me and saves all of us time. It gives you a more authoritative voice and focus.
About Wanda Mann
As founder and editor-in-chief of the popular wine lifestyle website The Black Dress Traveler, native New Yorker Wanda Mann will happily travel the world for wine. Since its founding in 2008, The Black Dress Traveler has developed a loyal following across the United States, and beyond, that savor Wanda’s wine reviews, interviews with prominent winemakers, and wine tourism tips.
Content from The Black Dress Traveler is syndicated on the influential culinary website The Daily Meal. Wanda earned the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) credential from the Society of Wine Educators and has traveled to numerous wine regions‚ including Italy, Spain, and Argentina. In 2017, Wanda served as a judge at the Napoli Wine Challenge at the Vitigno Italia wine festival in Naples and was inducted as a Cavaliere into the il Sovrano e Nobilissimo Ordine dell’Amarone e del Recioto. In 2013 Wanda was invited to be a Brand Ambassador for the prestigious Michelin Guides.