Someone once said that wine bloggers are like little puppies. They jump up and down seeking attention, love and approval. I’d also add that they are sometimes cute, other times maddeningly unpredictable. One second they’re intelligent; critiquing the state of a wine vintage, say, in Mendoza or Bordeaux. But turn away for a second, and they’re likely to be pissing on your carpet. I’m not sure who coined the puppy dog analogy, but it’s a good one.
The annual Wine Blog Awards are now open for voting, with winners to be announced at the annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference next month in Walla Walla (I’m not making this up). So, do you have a favorite puppy?
The wine blogosphere is an interesting place. Wine is a tough subject to write about, especially day-in, day-out. And I’m not referring to the short tasting note — “floral nose, slightly oaky, long finish.” There’s a fine line between a random adjective generator and useful notes, especially those I read on blogs. I know this, because I too am guilty of spinning the wheel of herbaceousness with mixed results; too cloying my good fellow.
Want to know a not-so-great secret?
Wine is farming. Plain and simple. Grapes are crushed (or stomped for show). The juice sits in a barrel and ferments.
Then, long-story short, it’s bottled and shipped. The process of planting vines, grooming and maintaining them is no doubt part art, part science (and a lot of hard work). But it’s most definitely quite mundane, at least to the casual observer. Great writers, however, are able to romanticize this world, milking it for every little thigh-tingling moment. Ahhh, this is wine; one could imagine a wine writer sitting among the vines, tasting Pinots with a small plate of cheese, swiping an iPad to ponder lovely photos of… stemware.
Blogging and Oenophiles: Can you hear me now?
There is no shortage of opinion when it comes to wine. Too sweet! Too much oak! Where’s the tannins?! A screw top, what! Blogs are the ultimate megaphone for the social media crazed world of expression. Why bother telling your cousin-in-law about that tainted ’92, when you can tell the world? Well, almost. While blogs and wine are an ideal match, finding a sizable audience is a different matter. Gadgets, politics, and food easily beat the pants off the topic of wine when it comes to traffic. I’m not sure why that is, and suspect given the rise of wine in North America over the past decade or so, that trend will change. Maybe, though, people prefer drinking wine then reading about it?
Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator have been around forever, and there hasn’t been any innovation or disruption in the print world of wine, so would this stale tradition of same-old follow us to the new world of the social?
So far, no.
Turns out, while people may occasionally enjoy reading about wine, they’re very passionate about discussing it, debating it, sharing it. Again, the timing could not be better. The rise of social media has awoken a new class of wine critic, and enthusiast; the Tweeters, Facebookers, TasteLivers. And, yes, Bloggers.
I’m not influential, but you love me right?
Wine bloggers are next generation Rodney Dangerfields. No one, not even Gary Vaynerchuk, can move wine prices, volume and brand like the establishment: Robert Parker and Wine Spectator (notably James Laube). Steve Heimoff (hands down my favorite daily wine blogger) has influence too—witness the packed Cardinale tasting recently up at Toast of the Town in San Francisco, due to his 100-point score.
Queue Harvey Fierstein: “Tradition!”
Not matter how hard you cling to those CSW, WST, EESWE specialist, worldly-Master-CEWE certifications, the love (and respect) is hard to get.
The great thing about Blogs is that we get to hear so many fresh voices, many that would have otherwise died on the vine (ha). For some reason, though, there’s a constant need for care and feeding. Why won’t they respect us, they ask? But I say, why care so much about that. In time, it will happen. It already is. If Google and iPhone apps are the new weapons of mass information, then, by all accounts, blogs and new media are making massive inroads.
Lack of original reporting
One of my biggest criticisms of wine blogs is lack of original reporting. It’s far easier to sit at a laptop (among the vineyards of course) and hammer away a blog post, based on someone else’s content (for example, a piece by Eric Asimov in the New York Times). There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it can make for interesting reading. Understanding other perspectives and opinions is important. However, to really advance wine writing and commentary, this next generation will need to roll up their sleeves. Smell the dirt!
Fortunately, over the past twelve months in particular, there has been a rise in original reporting; we’re starting to see stories emerge from blogs that are original, credible and thought-provoking. Need I mention H.R. 5034 and its hell-bent, ferocious pit-bull (grumpier puppy, see) leader in Tom Wark? Most of it, I admit, bores me to no end. But I know this: Tom’s got our backs. I also know what his blog, Fermentation, stands for. In a crowded space, that’s a good thing. And, I’m guessing he’s one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet about this subject.
… and, don’t forget the story-telling
Recall the last great wine piece you experienced? It’s probably not a tasting note (as helpful as it might be). It’s also probably not a survey, a wine book review, or, even a video of someone like Loni going crape crazy at Stryker on WineTube TV (to my dismay). And it’s most definitely not a rambling blog post like this one about wine blogs and awards and trends.
I’m guessing it was a story.
It could be intellectually compelling (smoke taint), adventurous (forget Middle Earth, we’re going to Mendocino!) or sexually stimulating even (?). The promise of wine is that it unlocks our imagination. It helps us experience new things, usually with family and friends. It’s a special experience. That’s why I contend the greatest wine writers and bloggers that emerge will be able to tell good stories. Place and time. Transform your reader, and you’ll earn their minds, and hearts.
But, please enough with the love-ins
Why does everything have to be great? It doesn’t. And if it is, then my BS-attentae go up real fast. That’s because the web is transparent. And not everything is gangbusters, LOL, peace-out, goodness. This is not 1967 (as much as Maple Leafs fans wish it was). Put down the paraphernalia and get down with some critical thinking. Hey, I’m not against the brotherhood; Bloggers unite! But enough already with the back-slapping and high-fives. If I want to hold hands, sing Ring around the Rosy, then I’ll go back to kindergarten.
If Wine Blogs want respect, then they’ll need to be critical, and at least every once-in-a-blue-moon, tell it like it is. Respectfully. Amen.
The 2010 Wine Blog Awards
All of this to say, the 2010 Wine Blog Awards are here. If you’ve been out of the loop for a while (you do use an RSS reader right?) then these awards are a perfect way to catch up. I thought I knew just about every wine blog on the planet. Of course, that would be impossible. And gazing across the finalists listed below, I was able to discover several new ones.
I really enjoy reading these blogs. Not every day, but at least a few times a week. The common thread amongst all of these folks is passion. They love what they do, they love wine, and they love sharing their experiences. No doubt, we’ll be hearing from these puppies for some time to come.
2010 Wine Blog Award Nominees
Visit the Wine Blog Awards to cast your vote.
Best Wine Blog Graphics, Photography, & Presentation
Good Grape (goodgrape.com)
Swirl Smell Slurp (www.swirllsmellslurp.com)
Best Industry/Business Wine Blog
Good Grape (goodgrape.com)
My Daily Wine (www.mydailywine.com)
NY Cork Report (www.lenndevours.com)
Think Wine Marketing (thinkwinemarketing.wordpress.com)
Wine Biz Radio (winebizradio.com)
Best Wine Reviews on a Wine Blog
Bigger Than Your Head (biggerthanyourhead.net)
Good Wine Under $20 (goodwineunder20.blogspot.com)
Jason’s Wine Blog (jasonswineblog.com)
Best Winery Blog
4488: A Ridge Blog (blog.ridgewine.com)
Been Doon So Long (beendoonsolong.com)
Tablas Creek (tablascreek.typepad.com)
Twisted Oak (www.elbloggotorcido.com)
Best New Wine Blog
A Long Pour (alongpour.com)
Drink Nectar (drinknectar.com)
Swirl, Smell, Slurp (swirlsmellslurp.com)
Notes From the Cellar (notesfromthecellar.com)
One Brilliant Bottle (onebrilliantbottle.wordpress.com)
Best Overall Wine Blog
1 Wine Dude (www.1winedude.com)
Dr. Vino (www.drvino.com)
New York Cork Report (www.lenndevours.com)
Palate Press (palatepress.com)
The Cellarist (www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/wine/index)