If you speak English and love Italian wines, you probably know Tom Hyland. With 20+ years of wine industry experience, he’s one of the most prolific writers covering Italian wines today.
Hyland is the author of two books on Italian wines and countless articles for publications such as Forbes, Decanter, Sommelier Journal, Quarterly Review of Wines and Wine-Searcher.com. He’s also an educator leading virtual and in-person seminars and classes around the world, from his home base in Chicago.
Like many wine industry professionals, Hyland experienced the rush of change in 2020, ticking up his virtual classes for members of the trade.(Full disclosure, Hyland is my colleague at Forbes, also a part of the digital Food & Drink department.)
This year also brought a prestigious award that illustrates yet another layer of Hyland’s rich portfolio: Errazuriz Wine Photographer of the Year in the “Places” category. His entry, ‘A Langhe Winter’ earned him first place. Also recognized in second and third place, respectively, are U.K.-based photographer Jon Wyand, with ‘Late Afternoon in March, Vallée des Vaux Côte Chalonnaise’ and US photographer LM Archer’s ‘Patrimoine’.
Hyland says he had entered the contest before, but this was the first time he appeared on the short list. He knew that ‘A Langhe Winter’ had something special when nature did her part: “If I’d left a day earlier, no snow,” recalls Hyland.
The day before he took the photo, he wrapped up the trip with dinner in Alba and a final overnight at a local agriturismo. When he woke early the next day to leave for the airport, he found the countryside covered in a blanket of snow. “I’ve taken that picture a lot, in different seasons, but I’d never noticed the blue house before,” says Hyland. “The turquoise building stands out.”
He describes himself as a “photographer in the vineyards” who started out with a film camera two decades ago. When that camera gave out on a trip to Italy, he moved to digital. He says that he originally captured landscapes “to remind [himself] what the vineyards look like” while visiting regions in Italy, Chile, France and elsewhere.
While his intentions originated to support his coverage of vineyard settings and people for his journalism, photography began to complement his approach. He jokes that his friend, Chicago fashion photographer Stan Malinowski, once told him: “You’re a better photographer than a writer,” which gave him a “boost.”
Despite the beauty of the vineyard (and his recognition as a “places” photographer), Hyland admits that portraits are his favorite, especially “taking pictures of winemakers in their element.” He says the trick to meaningful portraits is helping the subject relax with a joke, or a few kind words. “There’s so much emotion in portraits,” says Hyland.