Magnus Reuterdahl is a leading wine blogger and writer in Sweden. Amanda Barnes interviews him to find out more about how he transitioned from being a real-life Indiana Jones to a bonafide #winelover
How did you first discover a passion for wine?
My interest in wine started in the 90s but it was in the early 2000s it really took off with the rise of wine blogging. I started my first wine blog in 2006 and have had a few since then. Around that time, I also found an international network through the European wine bloggers’ conference. I would say that all those creative people I met in real life and online, and all the opportunities that this created, really got me hooked on the juice and started my career in wine.
As well as being a prominent wine blogger and writer in Sweden, you are also an archaeologist. What does a day in the life of Magnus Reuterdahl look like? And have you found any interesting ways to combine archaeology and wine?
As an archaeologist, I nowadays work with administration, supervision, decision-making and city planning issues. I have left my Indiana Jones days behind me and let others do the archaeological excavations. This also gives me more time to indulge in wine and good food.
Archaeology is about understanding a culture based on its remains. It’s a bit like building a puzzle where most of the pieces are missing and we try to fill in the voids as best we can. Wine and food are two puzzle pieces, they do not give a complete picture of a region or country but they are a few puzzle pieces to begin to understand them. Wine also has a long history going back to the Neolithic and there are a lot of interesting finds all around Europe, the Middle East and in Asia. With this I’ve been able to twine my two interests together in articles and tastings.
One country that I’ve written about and travelled to several times, where the archaeology of wine has been able to play a big part, is Georgia. Other articles have had themes on how the knowledge of wine and wine culture has spread and changed over the ages. Today we do grow vines and make wines in Sweden, in Canada and Japan – it’s far away from the first Neolithic amphora wine. I’ve also done some tastings on these themes, both for wine audiences and archaeologists. Often it can be difficult for wine writers or journalist to understand archaeological data and archaeologists quite often don’t have knowledge about wine and wine production so it’s a good arena to spread and discuss knowledge and hypnosis.
Do you have any favourite wine regions to visit or write about?
There are many places and they change from time to time. There are a few I return to over and over again though, such as Portugal, Sicily and Piemonte. These are regions I’ve gone more into depth with and visited several times, which really makes you want to go back, to learn more to see how stories have continued or changed. I also really like to travel to the countries of the Balkans and, of course, Georgia. Here it’s perhaps more about history and change, to see the emergence of a new wine industry in old places, and see it waking up, being revitalized and sometimes born again.
You are very active on social media and were one of the founders of the #winelover network. How have you seen the role of social media in wine communication change over the last few years and what medium or approach do you think is most important for wine communicators today? How has your relationship with social media changed over the last few years?
#winelover is one of those things that was and is a child of social media. When we started the community there was a need of platforms to share information, to be able to ask questions, to find others with similar interests etc. I think that is true still today. Good social media is all about communication between people and not just another tool for ad-like one-way communication.
When we started #winelover social media was more or less about blogs, Twitter and Facebook, but today there so many more platforms. I think the key issues for success are still the same though. You need to build and know your audience, you need to be personal and you have to have credibility.
A big difference today is that traditional media has recognized the social media scene and many use it very well, back then it was an open field. The same goes with a lot of wine producers ad retailers.
Today there is a little less “wild wild west” and anarchy in the on-line wine scene and there is a risk that we once again go towards too much conformity when it comes to articles and stories. For me we need diversity and social media are good tools to bring more voices into the conversation, that is something that I like.
Sweden is one of the few countries in the west that hasn’t moved to a complete lockdown with bars and restaurants remaining open if they wish. How do you see the attitude of Swedes at the moment with regards to going out to bars and restaurants, and socialising? Has it changed much over the past two months? And what are the challenges that the wine industry in Sweden faces coming out of this pandemic crisis?
For sure, Covid-19 has changed us and the way we live our lives. In Sweden, we have been able to go out and restaurants have been able to keep open, though not without restrictions. Most have done a great job keeping to those restrictions if we have chosen the right or wrong way is difficult to say… if there even is such a way!
What I can see is that restaurants that over time have built strong bonds with its guests seem to have survived, at least so far. Many have been creative with offers of home delivery or pick up food etc. They have made sure to create distance between the tables, using gloves during service, making sure to keep distances, no serving in the bar but only at the tables etc. With that said it is a really hard time for most restaurants and bars.
Looking at the wine and drinks sector the Monopoly is open. Sales there are up somewhat, then again sales in restaurants and bars are down, a lot. At present, the Monopoly does not hold press tastings as they usually do so it is more difficult also for writers to cover the wine scene. Many importers are working on different or new ways to get the writers to write about their wines. A couple of examples are on-line tastings or tastings with very few people so you can keep distance, and possibilities to interview producers through Skype or Zoom etc.
I am sad to say that I think many restaurants will go under due to Covid-19, the same goes for importers and producers. What makes it extra difficult in Sweden is the Monopoly, as they are the only outlet for alcohol, except restaurants and bars. Restaurants can only sell alcohol to the costumers they serve, not with take away or to bring home. This takes away a big chunk of the revenues for them. Add to this that many small producers and importers have a business model that is more or less based on restaurant sales. It is likely that this will lead to a reduction in the availability of the number of wines we’ve been used to, especially those from smaller or odd producers, at least for a while.
And finally, what will be the first thing you do when the world opens up again post-lockdown?
I miss travel, a lot. It is what gives life and blood to the stories I write. Visits are also a way to meet colleagues and other professionals, to exchange ideas and to see coming trends. For me, Portugal is probably first on my list, as soon as it is safe to travel again, both for the wines and my friends living there.