Meet Gary, founder of popular wine blog, The Wine Ninjas

Magazine journalist and Brighton resident Gary Rose gets paid for writing about TV and films, but it’s wine, food and travel that get him excited these days. After completing a diploma in wine during the summer of 2016, he decided to make efficient use of his commute to London by setting up a wine blog called The Wine Ninjas. He also writes about music for Brighton Source.

What do you do and how do you describe your job?

I’m a chief sub-editor and TV reviewer on Radio Times magazine, so I travel to west London four days a week. I’ve been working there ages, but over the past couple of years I’ve managed to stick my fingers in a few different pies, becoming involved in travel writing, restaurant reviewing and now wine blogging. I also do a bit of unpaid freelancing for Brighton Source and In August I did a WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) diploma in wines and spirits, and then decided to set up my own blog. You’ve always got a good excuse to buy wine if you’re going to write about it.

I study Japanese martial arts (currently working on my black belt in ninjutsu) so I called it The Wine Ninjas (the singular noun wasn’t available but it is just me, haha). I’m not a food or wine expert, I’m just a guy with a little certificate saying I passed an intermediate-level exam (oh and a WSET lapel pin, weirdly. You also get sent one of those when you pass). But each time I write something about wine I learn something new, and I’m hoping that’s what people will get from reading it. I like to imagine readers joining me on my odyssey.

Gary Rose from The Wine Ninjas blog

What is the best thing about your job?

At Radio Times I do spend a lot of time chained to a desk, but so far this year I’ve been on press trips to Los Angeles, Mexico, Paris, India and Scotland. Press trips are amazing because you get invited behind the scenes, into kitchens; into people’s homes. I’ve made tortellini in Italy, helped a villager pick spices from his garden in India and drunk Romanian wine at midnight in a Transylvanian castle. People are always happy to talk to you if you say you’re writing a magazine feature. I never forget how lucky I am to be doing these trips though, and treat every one like it’s my last.

Gary Rose from The Wine Ninjas blog image

Also, I love the creative process; that moment when you hit a flow state and the ideas start arriving out of nowhere. When you’ve just written something you think is good, you feel kind of invincible. Of course, the next day there’s usually a self-doubt hangover, but that passes in time. Doing The Wine Ninjas has given me a chance to express myself without having to tow the line. I can say what I like and make fun of myself without having to conform to someone else’s house style. It helps that I already make a living from writing, so I’ve got that safety net. For now, anyway…

What is the most important tool of your trade?

It’s not a tool in the tangible sense, but training is vital, whether it’s a course, on the job or through digesting other people’s work and analysing their technique. Linguistic flair is a good start, but it’s surprising how much a few wee tricks can elevate your work above the pack. In any field, you need to hop on the coat tails of more experienced people. Doing a wine course, for example, helped me to realise how little I knew about wine. I learned so much in a short period of time, and actually I’ve learned even more afterwards.

Inquisitiveness, sociability, a distinctive voice and a sense of visual aesthetics also help if you want to be a blogger.

And don’t have bad grammar! Oh, and contacts — it’s always useful to befriend fellow writers and PR people.

What is your favourite drink?

I guess the obvious answer is, erm… wine. Is that too broad? I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite wine, that changes all the time, but after my course I started working my way around France, so to speak. I’d mostly drunk Italian before then. I love a refreshing Muscadet sur lie or a smoky Pouilly-Fumé. More recently I’ve been exploring New World alternatives and the comparison is really interesting. I’ve also acquired a taste for Riesling, which I had a problem with for a while. In the colder months I enjoy a bold Côtes du Rhône, a Scotch, or a gin martini — something with a kick in the gut followed by a Ready Brek glow.  

How did you get your job?

It was a weird route, I guess. I was bumming around, doing tedious office junior jobs after leaving uni. Then I went to art college to do a course in magazine layout and design. This gave me a foundation in desktop publishing, and led to a job proofreading on a magazine. From there I moved on to sub-editing at the BBC for Radio Times. Over the years I’ve had a few promotions and gradually moved over to do more writing and reviewing. But things changed when I got chatting to our travel editor at some leaving drinks (I didn’t even know we had a travel editor at the time). She offered me a press trip to Italy and that was the start of my travel-, food- and drink-writing “career”.  

Gary Rose from The Wine Ninjas blog drinking

Who has been your biggest influence?

In terms of food and wine, maybe Keith Floyd? I remember watching him on BBC2 as a kid and being sucked in by his enthusiasm. He always seemed very authentic; never trying to please people or suck up to anyone. Of course, he always had a glass of red on the go and I often think of him when I take a “little slurp” in the kitchen. Literary style-wise… personally I like a lot of writers from the 1940s and 50s such as Truman Capote and John Fanté — such simple, elegant, passionate use of language.

And if you’re looking to get into travel journalism, I’d recommend reading the Lonely Planet Guide to Travel Writing — it tells you exactly what editors look for in a submission.

Why Brighton?

Anyone who lives in Brighton or Hove has their own perfect answer to this. I think it’s the best city in the country. People are always telling me how lucky I am to live here, but it’s not really about luck, is it — I just decided to move here. Ten years later, it’s still the best move I ever made. I love the friendliness, the creativity, the (mostly) tolerant attitudes; the fact that you can walk everywhere, the record shops and flea markets, the Victorian and Georgian architecture… and the sea. At the heart of it all is the North Laine. If that ever loses its independence, we’re sunk.    

Gary will be helping out at the fantastic Seven Cellars in Seven Dials over the Christmas period – pop in and say hi!