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Wine Blogging Comes of Age


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As someone proud to call himself a food and wine blogger in addition to a professional food and wine writer, I find this discussion interesting (though also well-worn--this conversation is only just now making its way to the wine writing world but has been persistent in other arenas of news coverage for years now).

I love the complaints about the "autobiographical" nature of wine blogging. Two of the most popular wine writers in the U.S. are John and Dottie at the Wall Street Journal. They are successful in large part because they talk about themselves and their lives in the column. Sure they also provide real information--so do a lot of wine bloggers.

So why are they accepted--lauded even--while wine bloggers are not? Ignoring the fact that many  bloggers aren't very good writers: After all some bloggers are far better writers than the bulk of "regular contributors" who deaden the mainstream media.

The distinction between professional and nonprofessional is somewhat arbitrary. Do you consider Alder at Vinography.com a professional or a nonprofessional? He doesn't work in the wine industry in a professional sense, but he pulls in some money from ad revenue on his site, just like "professional" publications.

A good idea would be to define blog:

A journal or newsletter that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption.

Blogs usually represent the personality of the author or website.

At least that's one definition.

Forgive me but I do find the grousing among bloggers one often encounters to be amusing.

Much like what one hears when a bunch of amateur musicians gets together and complain about other more "successful" musicians:

"Gee that guitarist (insert any successful player) really sucks--I am so much better! How come he/she is getting paid. Why probably because the public is ignorant and don't appreciate real genius talent like me!"

"How come everyone follows the (ok let's say--The Wine Spectator) and not me or not so and so...."

The answer probably lies in looking at the specifics for each case.

You noted the duo at the Journal.

Their success is due to a nice writing style (entertainment factor) and a level of professional authority -- having established a certain level of credibility with their readers.

Obviously the editors at the Journal had any number of possible talent available--John and Dorothy were already writing for the Journal --so they had an inside track.

That's not to say that any number of others could not do a good job at the Journal--and maybe some are bloggers.

It is that getting an opportunity comes to those who position themselves for that opportunity and then make the most of it--sure some luck and some connections are involved.

I would ask--bluntly--I admit.

Why should one bother reading or viewing anything?

What does a blogger offer in terms of information and/or entertainment. IMOP-most blogs seem to lack one or more:

--gravitas

--writing ability/entertainment factor

--a level of credibility

--interesting well informed opinion

etc

The fact is most people do not need to go beyond one or two resources. There are any number of easily accessible outlets for wine tasting notes and info or general news and opinion etc.

Most well informed and well written.

I hear a lot of grumbling about these outlets --a lot of grumbling that is either ill informed or so non specific as to be nothing more than "grumbling."

(a lot of these outlets also do their own fair share of grumbling about each other).

The vast majority of people who enjoy wine don't actively subscribe to any publication (or web page).

Those who do utilize maybe one or two resources. The Spectator for eg reviews thousands of wines, provides most major news about wine and has several writers who present their informed opinions on the major issues of the day. They also cover areas most of their readers also enjoy--food, travel etc. That's why The Spectator has a relatively large audience.

Simple!

If there were not enough outlets offering news and information and opinion and insight then I'm sure wine blogging and wine bloggers would have larger audiences.

Right now most of the blogging about wine is for and by trade professionals and geeks and connoisseurs who can't get enough about wine. Most of these sites take sides with established opinion --one side or the other, offer tasting notes about wines that are reviewed elsewhere or are obscure and of interest to other geeks.

I would say that some sites/blogs are welcome sources of information about wines and winemaking issues that are not covered by more mainstream outlets--

The fact is, how many bloggers are all that interesting--let alone well informed and entertaining? Yes there are a number of them who with some luck or a little energy and networking could become the next Dorothy and John.

Yes there are some talented and very fine bloggers who will toil in relative obscurity--life isn't always fair.

But it is a competitive world out there and there is simply not enough time or enough people with the time to be reading blogs.

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With specific regard to Florida Jim vs. the bulk of people who post their tasting notes:

(a) To the best of my knowledge Jim is not a blogger. He does post on several forums and that's quite a bit different than blogging.

(b) Anyone who has read Jim's notes knows after a very short while that here is a man who knows wine, knows wine well, enjoys wine thoroughly and has a flair for writing in terms that both describe, entertain and evaluate. In other words, a knowledgeable, intelligent, civil and civilized human being.

© If anyone can honestly say that for the vast majority of people who post notes and comments I'll gladly kiss their backside in Macy's window next Christmas day!

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Forgive me but I do find the grousing among bloggers one often encounters to be amusing.

Much like what one hears when a bunch of amateur musicians gets together and complain about

other more "successful" musicians:

"Gee that guitarist (insert any successful player) really sucks--I am so much better! How come he/she is getting paid. Why probably because the public is ignorant and don't appreciate real genius talent like me!"

"How come everyone follows the (ok let's say--The Wine Spectator) and not me or not so and so...."

I don't believe that bloggers deserve success just by virtue of being bloggers, but nor do I believe that "blogger" should automatically qualify one for scorn and derision. Some bloggers offer solid authority and good writing. Others don't. I don't like every wine magazine I've ever seen, and I don't like every blog I've ever seen.

But I don't discount an information source just because it's a blog. (I should note here that my own blog exists solely as a way for me to practice writing; the fact that lots of people like to read it is a constant surprise to me. As Carolyn says, I much prefer getting paid for my writing, but I can write about lots of small topics I'll never get paid for, so I might as well use them as writing exercises.)

As for internal grousing and the laments of the poor, ignored blogger...such are the complaints of artists everywhere throughout time. Bloggers merely perpretrate the tradition.

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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1.

. . . in which literally thousands of people ... have been convinced that even more hundreds of thousands will be interested to read what they have to say.  Something like saying that everyone should write his/her autobiography.  Autobiographies should be written only by people whose lives have had interest and who know how to write.  Same with blogs and perhaps there are better outlets than blogs for intelligent writing?
What is this old-fashioned stuff. Writing's merit to be judged by the reader? Reactionary! I could point to scholarly publications today that basically no one reads, just writes for. Professional meetings that boast of the number not of attendees but of speakers, which sometimes actually is greater. Get with the times! :-)

2.

... Mr. Rogov ...makes an excellent point about signal-noise ratios / ... I exhorted them all not to start blogging, for the exact signal-noise problems mentioned above.
"Signal to noise" rings a bell because it has been an issue ever since public online fora became possible. 15 years ago a tirade addressed "noise enhancement." (You may enjoy the fact that the fora at issue were technical, addressing, literally, signals and noise.) The tirade consisted of three postings: the First went into technical details; Second and Third commented more on the "Noise enhancement" effect of online fora (basically, the higher a person's standards about contributions, the less readily they post). The phenomenon is most visible in unmoderated media including newsgroups, sometimes collectively called "Usenet;" personal Web sites; and blogs. Edited by MaxH (log)
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Forgive me but I do find the grousing among bloggers one often encounters to be amusing.

Much like what one hears when a bunch of amateur musicians gets together and complain about

other more "successful" musicians:

"Gee that guitarist (insert any successful player) really sucks--I am so much better! How come he/she is getting paid. Why probably because the public is ignorant and don't appreciate real genius talent like me!"

"How come everyone follows the (ok let's say--The Wine Spectator) and not me or not so and so...."

I don't believe that bloggers deserve success just by virtue of being bloggers, but nor do I believe that "blogger" should automatically qualify one for scorn and derision. Some bloggers offer solid authority and good writing. Others don't. I don't like every wine magazine I've ever seen, and I don't like every blog I've ever seen.

But I don't discount an information source just because it's a blog. (I should note here that my own blog exists solely as a way for me to practice writing; the fact that lots of people like to read it is a constant surprise to me. As Carolyn says, I much prefer getting paid for my writing, but I can write about lots of small topics I'll never get paid for, so I might as well use them as writing exercises.)

As for internal grousing and the laments of the poor, ignored blogger...such are the complaints of artists everywhere throughout time. Bloggers merely perpretrate the tradition.

I really don't think there is a debate here.

The internet provides anyone with a computer (or access to one) an opportunity to reach others.

We need to make some distinctions here.

Blogs are written by people of widely varying degrees of reputation and public recognition.

From unknown to known in industry circles to more widely known.

Most of the best blogs IMOP are those that reflect the thoughts and opinions of industry insiders.

Most of these blogs will be viewed/read by a very few people in the business or passionate about wine. They will always have limited appeal.

Then there are blogs by well known critics and writers. many of these are extensions of already active web sites. Often these offer an opportunity for a critic to expound on some issue or another or to perhaps add another dimension to his or her domain. that is to say a wine critic adding a journal of his or her dining adventures for example.

There are blogs that have a PR element to them--for eg blogs by wine makers, winery reps or retail people.

Finally there are blogs by what I call (and not derogatorily) wannabees.

These are people who either just like expressing themselves in public or have ambitions to be well known (respected) critics and writers.

This second group is at best a very mixed bag. A lot of these folks post tasting notes and/or talk about their daily lives.

Sorry but most of these people are just not that interesting to anyone outside their circle of friends and acquaintances. Some are fine writers some are quite knowledgeable. few possess the combination of talents and knowledge to have much broader appeal.

The fact is, the world is full of critics and tasting notes and opinions. There is room for only so many in even the most rabid wine lovers lives.

That's all I am saying.

everyone has opinions. Few have the background and knowledge to add gravitas to these opinions and few of these opinions are very original--most are recycled thinking.

as for tasting notes--my gosh--are there already enough notes out there?!

I am also seeing a lot of sloppy notes--wine tasting and evaluation is a discipline that requires more than just a set of taste buds and a passion for wine.

My only pet peeve here is that it seems the entire wine industry is rife with self importance and petty griping and sniping.

The vast majority of people who buy and drink wine just don't care. They want a nice red or white that will complement their dinner. If they see a wine that sounds good in their local paper's wine column they may look for it at the corner wine shop.

Maybe they read McInerny in HG or John and Dorothy in WSJ as they peruse the pages of these publications (I doubt many buy these for the wine writing alone).

They may be open to learning a little bit about a wine type or a varietal or region or a nice story behind a wine's provenance.

So blog away!

Just be realistic about the market and respectful of those who have "made a name" for themselves. I am all for free expression. Just don't expect a free dride!

Cheers!

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I'm confused. I have never encountered 'griping and sniping' among the blogging community or directed at each other. Perhaps its the quality of the blogs I read, but it only takes a few seconds to scan a blog and determine if it's something to add to your bookmarks. Can you give an example?

Also, I disagree that blogs are read by only a few people. Like this board (hope I'm not outing anyone but me, here!) the forums and blogs have heaviest traffic during weekdays and office hours. Unlike a print publication, which one can not usually read at one's desk, the best blogs offer short entries which can be quickly scanned or read, and blogs and forums can be visited while one is multi-tasking in the office--on hold, or listening to a long, boring phone conversation, or just in need of a 5 minute mental break.

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Mary Baker

Solid Communications

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I'm confused.  I have never encountered 'griping and sniping' among the blogging community or directed at each other.  Perhaps its the quality of the blogs I read, but it only takes a few seconds to scan a blog and determine if it's something to add to your bookmarks.  Can you give an example?

Also, I disagree that blogs are read by only a few people.  Like this board (hope I'm not outing anyone but me, here!) the forums and blogs have heaviest traffic during weekdays and office hours.  Unlike a print publication, which one can not usually read at one's desk, the best blogs offer short entries which can be quickly scanned or read, and blogs and forums can be visited while one is multi-tasking in the office--on hold, or listening to a long, boring phone conversation, or just in need of a 5 minute mental break.

As for the sniping--well you must have been missing the many petty feuds ongoing!

(I noticed a shot or two taken at the venerable Mr Shanken's effort right here).

As Daniel noted--most blogs are read by relatively minute numbers of people. That's not to say there are not a lot of total people who read blogs just that there are few readers of any given blog. (again compared to major well known websites and other publications --like the WS for eg.)

I agree that wine blogs are probably read more by people in the industry (while on line) than by the general public.

As more and more people access the internet then these people become possible blog readers.

The press has been (newspapers) have been losing readership as more people are on line--hence USA Today and others flocking to the web.

As for me--I subscribe to a dozen or so publications and visit a site or two regularly. I just don';t have the time to regularly visit blogs. I have not found many I would allocate time for.

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There's some ambiguity also about just what's a "blog." As usual in such situations, many people are certain of a meaning, their certainties just disagree. I'm no expert but five or six years ago I was seeing it used narrowly as "web log," like a diary. More recently, to mean personal Web site with heavy templating (i.e., easy to set it up). Yet commercial, not just personal, Web sites now have "blogs."

Further to Daniel Rogov, you may have seen the broader remarks by wordsmiths over the years on the subject of excess expression. Here are a few small excerpts (not from online) and I recommend reading their authors. (Also probably not online.)

--------

"Titles, once [a] book actually gets published -- that most of them do not is one of the few consolations of contemporary life -- are another handy warning sign. How You Can Guarantee Success, by Jim Bakker (I'm not making this up), is a case in point. -- Paul Fussell, BAD (Summit Books, 1991)

Q: “Ms. O’Connor, do you think the universities are stifling young writers?”

A [Flannery O’Connor]: “Yes, but they’re not stifling enough of them ...”

"We can pay farmers not to grow crops, but we cannot pay artists to stop making art. Yet something must be done." -- Jacques Barzun, The Culture We Deserve (Wesleyan University Press, 1989, ISBN 0819562378)

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People blog because they can and because they feel that they have something to say. Simple. If they are talking shit, misinformed or are simply bad writers then they will eventually find themselves with no readers. Simple. You don't like what they have to say, then don't read it. What is the problem here?

I agree that many blogs aren't worth the time that is required to type in the URL. But there do exist quite a few great blogs who attempt to challenge, to discuss and to inform. One simply has to spend some time going through the comments section of Vinography, Zinquisition, Fermentations, Craig's site or Basic Juice and one will find that a community is developing which is uniting winemakers, retailers, sommeliers, critics and anyone interested in wine (hell, even Rogov is invited!!). And like the better blogs, this community is growing. Why? Because it is a discussion and is open to all, not simply a privelage for those who have the good fortune to have access to a media outlet. Times have thankfully changed and as a result we are beginning to see the democratization of wine criticism, and important discussions relevant to the wine industry that are not being dealt with in the more mainstream media.

Geeky perhaps, but for those interested in that type of thing (like myself), it is a valuable tool and one which has helped shape the way I look at wine.

But most importantly via these discussions and the researched efforts of the better bloggers, important contributions are being made to the mass of archived information available to all. This again is a good thing.

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hell, even Rogov is invited!!

Times have thankfully changed and as a result we are beginning to see the democratization of wine criticism, and important discussions relevant to the wine industry that are not being dealt with in the more mainstream media.

But most importantly via these discussions and the researched efforts of the better bloggers, important contributions are being made to the mass of archived information available to all. This again is a good thing.

Caveman, Hi...

Four points from your post above...

First.. I do thank you for the invitation. Part of the problem of course is that of physical time. With so many bloggers out there keeping up even with those that are well worth the reading would take far more hours than most people have in a day. That's why I think we're going to see a levelling-off of bloggers and a shift more to forums and other feedback mechanisms. I cannot help but think that more and more people are going to be selecting one, two or at most three forums in which they choose to participate and both have their say and get/share feedback.

Second... I'm not so certain that what is involved here is the "democratization" of wine criticism as an increasing level of anarchy. Granted, at times anarchy can be the mother and father of revolution, but let's keep in mind that most revolutions wind up with heads (quite literally) cut off.

Third...I would much appreciate your thoughts and even perhaps a partial list of issues relevant to the wine industry that are not being dealt with in more mainstream media.

Fourth .. You refer to a "mass of archived information available to all" and refer to this as "a good thing". Perhaps my own concern, relating again to the concept of anarchy is that there is such a huge mass accumulating that there will soon be no way to sift through it to find what is important and/or valid.

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at least with pros there are some safeguards - editors and publishers being among them and even more important - feedback from readers.

Editors and publishers are embracing blogs, as are readers. Julie Powell, Karyn Bosnak, Dana Vachon, Jessica Cutler . . . all these bloggers have entered into lucrative book deals with traditional publishers. Look at the newspapers: bloggers are constantly being written about, and in many cases are driving news and opinion. The major print publications are adopting blogs as a tool for increasing readership. And of course feedback from readers is the lifeblood of the blog. The train has left the station. Blogs have not only demonstrated their viability, but have also changed the face of traditional media. And despite complaints about there being too many blogs to keep track of, which echo every complaint about "information overload" stretching back now for decades, the fears are never realized.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thanks for the kind words Craig.

M. Rogov,

I agree that there are too many blogs to keep track of them all. I have a dozen or so that I read regularily and a bunch of others that I visit on occasion. If I have a complaint about a number of blogs is that they tend to sacrifice quality for quantity, posting every day as opposed to 2 or 3 times a week with well thought out, well-researched articles. This is the essential difference between the blog and the forum. Forums are good for banter, quick exchanges of opinion (as we are doing here). Blogs on the other hand allow for more depth. I think both are worthy.

Anarchy will take root and prosper in fertile ground. In North America, WS and Parker have too much influence and I believe that this influence is having a negative effect on the wine industry as a whole. Part of my motivation for blogging was to talk about wines, wine styles and other issues that were either not getting a fair shake or simply being treated in a fashion that I disagreed with.

Here are a couple of posts and interseting exchanges that I hope demonstrate the value of the blogs and how they tackle both interesting and important issues

http://www.vinography.com/archives/000917.html

http://thecaveman.blogspot.com/2006/02/bio...be-not-for.html

http://zinquisition.blogspot.com/2006/04/m...nd-reality.html

In terms of information, I would agree that there is the danger that there might be eventually too much, but I am of the mind that too much is better than not enough.

Cheers,

Bill

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. . .The train has left the station. Blogs have not only demonstrated their viability . . .

Yes, blogs are the wave of the future.

When they arrived onto the Internet several years ago, HTTP sites like this one were the wave of the future.

20 years ago, Internet newsgroups (genesis of fora like this one) were the wave of the future.

30 years ago, ad-hoc dial-up "bulletin board systems" on local timeshared computers were the wave of the future.

(I wonder what will be the wave of the future in the future.)

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There's some ambiguity also about just what's a "blog."  As usual in such situations, many people are certain of a meaning, their certainties just disagree.  I'm no expert but five or six years ago I was seeing it used narrowly as "web log," like a diary.  More recently, to mean personal Web site with heavy templating (i.e., easy to set it up).  Yet commercial, not just personal, Web sites now have "blogs."

Further to Daniel Rogov, you may have seen the broader remarks by wordsmiths over the years on the subject of excess expression.  Here are a few small excerpts (not from online) and I recommend reading their authors.  (Also probably not online.)

--------

"Titles, once [a] book actually gets published -- that most of them do not is one of the few consolations of contemporary life -- are another handy warning sign.  How You Can Guarantee Success, by Jim Bakker (I'm not making this up), is a case in point.    -- Paul Fussell, BAD (Summit Books, 1991)

Q:  “Ms. O’Connor, do you think the universities are stifling young writers?”

A    [Flannery O’Connor]:  “Yes, but they’re not stifling enough of them ...”

"We can pay farmers not to grow crops, but we cannot pay artists to stop making art.  Yet something must be done."  -- Jacques Barzun, The Culture We Deserve  (Wesleyan University Press, 1989,  ISBN 0819562378)

I love the quote--thanks!

This is why I posted a definition--the term "blog" is now becoming confused and confusing.

The problem with a lot of these on line "diaries" is there is no "weeding out" process.

I do believe this is a good thing but it does lead to a massive amount of writing that is at worst gobbledygook and at best mundane and of little value.

Much like looking at peoples photos of their vacations or those insufferable Christmas cards loaded with a recounting of the family's year in retrospect.--lest you are a friend or family there is little or nothing of interest.

Lest those vacation photos were taken by Ansel Adams or that Christmas card was sent by Tennessee Williams!

That is why 99.999% of the blogs --wine or otherwise are crap.

This still leaves a not inconsiderable number of blogs that are interesting--many written by industry insiders who do have interesting things to say and a precious few by citizens who do have some ability to turn a phrase.

So while I am suppportive of the medium I am also being realistic.

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Well, we now have nearly two pages of commentary on how annoying and disorganized blogging is, and how it is of limited use.

However, I would like to point out that waiterrant was recently mentioned in the Wall Street Journal and the resulting traffic--100,000 hits in a few hours--shut down the server. Granted, the writing is excellent and the topic has widespread appeal, but this is just one example of a blog that started as a diary and has become a phenonemon.

One of my blogs, the little-known Women Wine Critics Board (which include's Daniel Rogov's well-written and deliciously controversial piece on Wine and Pregnancy, as well as a piece on grappa) was written about in Slate Magazine. I also received a phone call from Fox News in New York, which I forwarded to Michele Ostrove, who was also a featured writer on this blog, and 10 days ago I was interviewed by Business Week. This is a very small blog with infrequent entries (because my guest writers are not keeping up with their deadlines, grrr) but it is attracting mainstream attention.

I guess you can view the phenomenon as a glass half-empty or half-full. I have several blogs bookmarked or subscribed to because I feel they are influential or interesting. The only one I check every day is Fermentation, but I do buzz through the rest every Wednesday morning over coffee. The blogs are absolutely the best way to spot new trends, get new ideas for marketing, and keep up with all the legal shipping fiascos. At Appellation America, Tom Wark, a Napa PR guru and author of Fermentation, is considered an influential and popular writer and is invited to sit on the confirmation panels of the Discovery tastings.

These are very specific examples, and I hope everyone will visit a specific wine blog and review it. If it is an example of disorganized chaos and bad writing, feel free to say so. If it is good or excellent, but you wouldn't feel drawn to visit it again, please tell us why. I am hoping that this thread will become a running 'review' of wine blogs, of which there are many, and a good source for readers who want referrals to the best of wine blogging.

_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

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The problem with a lot of these on line "diaries" is there is no "weeding out" process.

There is a weeding out process, just as there is for any kind of website. That's why we know about some blogs and not about others.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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One wonders if this whole debate happened when desktop publishing allowed anyone to push out newsletters from their home computer. Anyone remember? (I wasn't paying attention to food at the time)

Small, unprofessional authors allowed to push out text without the blessing of the mainstream press? What will it mean? They don't have anything to say. Etc. It's not hard to imagine an earlier form of this debate, epees and all (though then it would've been held on BBS's).

Most of those newsletters died out or had limited distribution, but Simple Cooking, The Art of Eating, and The Wine Advocate came out of those "nonprofessional" depths. I look at blogs the same way (except that they solve the distribution problem while simultaneously limiting the aesthetic experience). Some will become influential forces, most won't. At any rate, I don't think you can condemn them all in a blanket statement, because maybe you're overlooking the next AoE.

It's important to note that many bloggers don't care about becoming an influential force. There's a great quip I saw recently--in the future everyone will be famous for 15 people. Most bloggers write for a small group and don't go out of their way to attract readers, despite JohnL's theoretically vast database of interblog sniping and griping.

At any rate, it must mean something that wine blogging is finally getting the "journalism vs. blogging" debate that is so tired in other genres.

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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Thanks for the kind words Craig.

M. Rogov,

I agree that there are too many blogs to keep track of them all. I have a dozen or so that I read regularily and a bunch of others that I visit on occasion. If I have a complaint about a number of blogs is that they tend to sacrifice quality for quantity, posting every day as opposed to 2 or 3 times a week with well thought out, well-researched articles. This is the essential difference between the blog and the forum. Forums are good for banter, quick exchanges of opinion (as we are doing here). Blogs on the other hand allow for more depth. I think both are worthy.

Anarchy will take root and prosper in fertile ground. In North America, WS and Parker have too much influence and I believe that this influence is having a negative effect on the wine industry as a whole. Part of my motivation for blogging was to talk about wines, wine styles and other issues that were either not getting a fair shake or simply being treated in a fashion that I disagreed with.

Here are a couple of posts and interseting exchanges that I hope demonstrate the value of the blogs and how they tackle both interesting and important issues

http://www.vinography.com/archives/000917.html

http://thecaveman.blogspot.com/2006/02/bio...be-not-for.html

http://zinquisition.blogspot.com/2006/04/m...nd-reality.html

In terms of information, I would agree that there is the danger that there might be eventually too much, but I am of the mind that too much is better than not enough.

Cheers,

Bill

I think we are getting somewhere here.

First a blog is defined as a web log or diary.

I believe one problem is that many are deviating from this and are offering up what are essentially web pages with all sorts of verbiage--rants, diatribes, musings, ramblings, reader comments, commentary, Q and A etc etc etc.

Second--let me start with the mandatory first amendment disclaimer--I do believe that one has the "right" to say anything on the web on one's own web page.

Third--

You use the term anarchy.

I would ask why you feel we need "anarchy" and how this could possibly be a good thing?

You cite Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator--ok these are two relatively popular "main stream" establishments. I am curious why you leave out any of the hundreds of other established folks.

Tanzer, Jancis Robinson, Quarterly Wine Review, Burghound, Wine Enthusiast, Kolm, Hugh Johnson, Andrea Immer, the many wine columns--the NY Times, GQ, Food and Wine, Gourmet, Lettie Teague, WSJ, Jay McInerny in HG and on and on and.........

So why are Parker and WS are singled out as motivating reasons for bloggers to exists?

also--you cite their "influence"--I would point out that the total subscription list for Parker and the circ of the Wine Spectator even combined (and I am sure there is a lot of overlap here) would merely scratch the surface.

I believe you greatly overinflate their influence.

Anyway--just who are these people influencing? and how are they influencing them?

Why do we (or anyone) need bloggers to supply an-- "antidote?"

This accepting that the hundreds of other voices in the wine world (I cited a handful above) are present in all sorts of media from TV and radio to newspapers, newsletters, web sites, books, periodicals, journals, diaries,--all writing about wine!

I believe Mr Rogov asked--what issues are uncovered by these outlets?

Let's look at one of the sites you cite--"Zinfidel"

There's a link (thank you) to a page wherein the Zinfidel explores: "Minerality: Mythos and real;ity."

I challenge anyone to navigate the gibberish that follows!

Even if one could--the conclusion reached is so inane as to leave one breathless with astonishment.

I am sure the Zinfidel is a nice guy and he or she may even be reasonably about wine but really!

So-even if one accepts the thinking about minerality and the conclusion--I would still ask: is there anything here that is new--that is not covered with more accuracy and clearer writing in say thousand other places? (say the Oxford Encyclopedia for eg).

So why do we need the "Zinfidel?" why would one be the better for having spent even a few p[resious minutes perusing the Zinfidel's musings?

As I noted earlier in this thread-there are some good blogs out there. Most IMOP are written by industry insiders-people whose opinions carry some weight. Some are not very good writers some are quite engaging. I would note a good example is Joe Dressner's web musings.

There are also some good sites that offer links to other sites and information on the web--performing a clearing house of information and thought.

The vast majority of sites are just plain awful!

Loaded with confusing prose, muddled thinking, and just plain rubbish.

They are akin to family vacation photos accompanied by rambling narrative--only a friend or family member would care. They are loaded with opinions offered up by people who are not even minimally educated in the topics about which they ruminate--no--pontificate.

I am also fearful of the overall level of discourse that these blogs encourage. The lack of any rigorous thinking. I offer this response from a reader to the Zinfidel's tome on minerality in wine:

"....I have little doubt that most of what I say below will prove incorrect at least for the reason stated. but hey, that is part of the fun in armchair speculation. all I need is a computer, a web browser and an internet connection to put my two cents in."

The Horror!!!!

By the way--I am rescinding my disclaimer about protecting one's first amendment rights--it may be time for a repeal!!!!

:wacko:

Edited by JohnL (log)
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One wonders if this whole debate happened when desktop publishing allowed anyone to push out newsletters from their home computer. Anyone remember? (I wasn't paying attention to food at the time)

Small, unprofessional authors allowed to push out text without the blessing of the mainstream press? What will it mean? They don't have anything to say. Etc. It's not hard to imagine an earlier form of this debate, epees and all (though then it would've been held on BBS's).

Most of those newsletters died out or had limited distribution, but Simple Cooking, The Art of Eating, and The Wine Advocate came out of those "nonprofessional" depths. I look at blogs the same way (except that they solve the distribution problem while simultaneously limiting the aesthetic experience). Some will become influential forces, most won't. At any rate, I don't think you can condemn them all in a blanket statement, because maybe you're overlooking the next AoE.

It's important to note that many bloggers don't care about becoming an influential force. There's a great quip I saw recently--in the future everyone will be famous for 15 people. Most bloggers write for a small group and don't go out of their way to attract readers, despite JohnL's theoretically vast database of interblog sniping and griping.

At any rate, it must mean something that wine blogging is finally getting the "journalism vs. blogging" debate that is so tired in other genres.

The cream will usually rise to the top!

Desktop published works you site became "popular" because the writers executed them and then sent out direct mail with samples--one then paid money to receive them. If no one (or too few people) subscribed their publication would have ceased.

With the internet--there is no "winnowing" process. Anyone can write anything for their entire lifespan even it no one else ever reads them. It is as if suddenly everyone who writes a diary had their efforts available in a library--thousands--millions of diaries.

It is as if you are on a train and everyone is yammering into a cell phone talking to family,neighbors and friends-- making plans or even withoput cell phones--just talking about things that are on their minds into the air!

It is like a discotheque or a club--everone likes to complain about the doorman and the velvet rope--how the process is facist and un democratic--only the beautiful people are let in--how snobbish!

Soon as the club agrees and removes their door policy and anyone can get in--these complainers suddenly lose their desire to enter.

I know--I don't have to listen.

What I am saying is--few people are interesting or entertaining --let's be honest!

Those that are and have any motivation will have some success--they are willing to take a risk to express themselves--with these blogs there is no risk. Most are everyday people just talking into space!

As for my comments aboput grousing and sniping--many of these folks use pseudonyms like "Zinfidel" and talk about anarchy--they are angry--they complain about the establishment. this is not bad--Robert Parker was angry and complained--there's some irony here--however, he put his mouth where his money was--he succeeded for many reasons. Let all the bloggers charge money (some do) for their ramblings--let's see how many survive!

I think that the net should be free but I also put a premium on anyone who takes a risk anyone who puts their talent out there in an arena where there is some winnowing out process where the strong--talented survive!

it is the difference between having to listen to Uncle Fred (everyone in the family thinks he's so funny) and a professional comedian.

Fred may be funnier than many pros but I respect the pros more.

Edited by JohnL (log)
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The problem with a lot of these on line "diaries" is there is no "weeding out" process.

There is a weeding out process, just as there is for any kind of website. That's why we know about some blogs and not about others.

Yes there is-- in the strict sense.

It is terribly inefficient.--basically it is word of mouth.

Not optimum for the blogger or the public.

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I think we are getting somewhere here.

First a blog is defined as a web log or diary.

I believe one problem is that many are deviating from this and are offering up what are essentially web pages with all sorts of verbiage--rants, diatribes, musings, ramblings, reader comments, commentary, Q and A etc etc etc.

Second--let me start with the mandatory first amendment disclaimer--I do believe that one has the "right" to say anything on the web on one's own web page.

Third--

You use the term anarchy.

I would ask why you feel we need "anarchy" and how this could possibly be a good thing?

You cite Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator--ok these are two relatively popular "main stream" establishments. I am curious why you leave out any of the hundreds of other established folks.

Tanzer, Jancis Robinson, Quarterly Wine Review, Burghound, Wine Enthusiast, Kolm, Hugh Johnson, Andrea Immer, the many wine columns--the NY Times, GQ, Food and Wine, Gourmet, Lettie Teague, WSJ, Jay McInerny in HG and on and on and.........

So why are Parker and WS are singled out as motivating reasons for bloggers to exists?

also--you cite their "influence"--I would point out that the total subscription list for Parker and the circ of the Wine Spectator even combined (and I am sure there is a lot of overlap here) would merely scratch the surface.

I believe you greatly overinflate their influence.

Anyway--just who are these people influencing? and how are they influencing them?

Why do we (or anyone) need bloggers to supply an-- "antidote?"

This accepting that the hundreds of other voices in the wine world (I cited a handful above) are present in all sorts of media from TV and radio to newspapers, newsletters, web sites, books, periodicals, journals, diaries,--all writing about wine!

I believe Mr Rogov asked--what issues are uncovered by these outlets?

Let's look at one of the sites you cite--"Zinfidel"

There's a link (thank you) to a page wherein the Zinfidel explores: "Minerality: Mythos and real;ity."

I challenge anyone to navigate the gibberish that follows!

Even if one could--the conclusion reached is so inane as to leave one breathless with astonishment.

I am sure the Zinfidel is a nice guy and he or she may even be reasonably about wine but really!

So-even if one accepts the thinking about minerality and the conclusion--I would still ask: is there anything here that is new--that is not covered with more accuracy and clearer writing in say thousand other places? (say the Oxford Encyclopedia for eg).

So why do we need the "Zinfidel?" why would one be the better for having spent even a few p[resious minutes perusing the Zinfidel's musings?

As I noted earlier in this thread-there are some good blogs out there. Most IMOP are written by industry insiders-people whose opinions carry some weight. Some are not very good writers some are quite engaging. I would note a good example is Joe Dressner's web musings.

There are also some good sites that offer links to other sites and information on the web--performing a clearing house of information and thought.

The vast majority of sites are just plain awful!

Loaded with confusing prose, muddled thinking, and just plain rubbish.

They are akin to family vacation photos accompanied by rambling narrative--only a friend or family member would care. They are loaded with opinions offered up by people who are not even minimally educated in the topics about which they ruminate--no--pontificate.

I am also fearful of the overall level of discourse that these blogs encourage. The lack of any rigorous thinking. I offer this response from a reader to the Zinfidel's tome on minerality in wine:

John

Wow. Where to start with this one.

We agree that a blog is a weblog and that people should have the right within limits to say what they want to say on their own sites.

Okay, now where we disagree.

What's up with the anger and resentment. Look, some people do not write as well as you do. I am sure that you find much of what is out there in terms of content as superfluous, banal, perhaps boring. It is obviously not for you. That people comment means that the blog is read... people are taking the time to reply. This is called COMMUNICATION. That is a good thing. Your dismissal of everything that does not meet your obviously high standard of content or grammar is unfortunate.

Rogov used the term anarchy. I prefer the word 'democratization.' I cited WS and Parker only as examples. I love Burghound, Jancis..but simply because there are people already writing about wine does not mean that no one else should do it. What is your point here.. when are there too many wine writers in your opinion?

I cited WS and Parker specifically for MY OWN PERSONAL reasons for starting my blog. If you want to get into why I would love to go into greater detail on our own thread. In terms of the influence that a number of these critics have, making wine for points is a reality.. I will send you some links of some interesting articles on the subject if you so desire, and no , I am not a 'Mondo-vino' inspired paranoiac.

I believe Vini at Zinquisition is in fact a winemaker in California. So John, what is minerality in wine? Does it exist, and if so, what makes german Riesling so distinctly different from other Rieslings? Show me one of your 'well written' articles that looks at minerality from this scientific perspective. These people are not writing to win a James Beard award. It is a simple exchange between a scientist and a winemaker. In fact, I don't agree with much that was said in the article, but that does not give me the right to become some pompous first amendment rights revoker.

So where do you read about manipulations and the use of additives in winemaking? What is your source.? Via the blogs, I can show you a couple of great perspectives on the usage of 'mega-purple', written by winemakers, sellers and drinkers. Interesting takes on a relatively important subject (to some), that is again a positive thing even with faulty grammar and sometimes poor sentance structure.

Joe D is a nice guy and a fine dinner companion. What's your point? He is one of the better wine people out there and offers up a very valid, and much needed vision of what wine should be. Considering the question of spoof and fake wine, The wines he represents are very important. Unfortunately, much of the mainstream media does little to support the 'vin nature' movement, or to question how consolidation in the industry is making it tougher for guys like Joe...

Good thing that there are blogs to pick up the slack.

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I think that the net should be free but I also put a premium on anyone who takes a risk anyone who puts their talent out there in an arena where there is some winnowing out process where the strong--talented survive!

I'm not sure your Batttle Writing arena works as well as you think. Getting into that arena--magazines, newspapers, and books, I suppose you'd argue--requires more than writing talent. In fact, it often seems to not require much writing talent at all. Timing, connections, and a unique perspective are all factors. Usually more important than one's ability to turn a phrase.

Blogs offer another ticket into what you view as "legitimate" or "professional" writing. I got my first magazine assignment in part because of a writing sample from my blog (though, in retrospect, I'm not sure how that swayed the editor--I'm a much better writer now than I was then). I know of five or six food bloggers who now have book contracts--publishers drool when they see the built-in platforms of the better-known bloggers--and expect wine bloggers to follow suit soon.

How are these folks not legitimate again?

edited to fix a typo

Edited by derricks (log)

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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As for my comments aboput grousing and sniping--many of these folks use pseudonyms like "Zinfidel" and talk about anarchy--they are angry--they complain about the establishment.

Which is very different than the interblog bitterness you alluded to with your comparison to musicians jealous of another's success. I don't deny that it exists, but I wouldn't call it widespread among food/wine bloggers.

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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Daniel,

1. You say that the established wine press does not like blogging because it takes control from them and transfers it to the consumer. This in turn, you say, eats away at our power and income. Diametrically disagreed and in several ways. The very fact that so many wine blogs have appeared in recent years has actually inspired an increasing number of newspapers and magazines to add wine columns to their regular press and on-line editions, in fact this making for more work and greater income for the pros. Perhaps more important, in recent years those who read wine columns in both magazines and newspapers have increased by nearly 40%.

Outside of the major markets who is making a great living primarily by writing a wine column for a newspaper. Frankly, outside of New York and perhaps San Francisco the number may be zero. Wine column writers from Florida to Washington exist because it is something they love to do and support themselves with "day" jobs. Matt Kramer may show up in the Oregonian, but if he didn't have his Wine Spectator gig this column would not make the mortgage payments. The number of writers in the USA making a great living from wine writing you could probably count with your toes and fingers. The reason all these writers exist on the crumbs tossed to them by newspaper editors is because they are doing something they love to do and have a passion for that goes beyond money. Oddly enough, just like the bloggers.

As to transferring "power to the consumer", any critic who does not believe and/or know that that power has always belonged to the consumer is an abject idiot. Keep in mind that those consumers are both the clients and judges of the critics. They read us, decide whether we're worth reading and then either continue or discontinue reading us. As often I have said, the true "bosses" of any critic are neither his editors nor his publishers but his readers. That does not mean we have to pander to readers. It does mean that we have to be faithful to and respectable of them.

No they don't have to be idiots, they just have to be arrogant. Something that is easily achieved after your ass has been kissed by enough wealthy winery owners. I don't know where you have been, but a high score in The Wine Spectator or The Wine Advocate will turn consumers into obsessed madmen trying to buy a wine they have never tasted. So much for whose the boss. American consumers are well proven followers not leaders when it comes to wine.

As to publications deciding what is to be sold, you may be over-crediting the power of the press. I do not have publication numbers (and any publisher who gives you numbers is telling lies!) but I can assure you that fewer than 1% of wine buyers read Parker, the Wine Spectator, Decanter or even the most major newspapers in the USA.

See above. Also, maybe not many subscribe to these publications, but the marketing people of wineries, importers, distributors, retailers and restaurants sure do and they make sure they buy as much of every top rated wine they can then promote the hell out of it. There are far more copies of shelf-talkers printed of Robert Parkers scores than there are Wine Advocates printed.

As I said earlier, blogs have something remarkably akin to autobiographies. How many people who write autobiographies are going to say "I led a rotten and boring life and was basically a rotten human being?" For that matter, how many winemakers are going to be self-critical enough to write, "this was a truly terrible harvest and we had an abundance of problems at the winery, so you can pretty well believe that our wines are going to be pretty mediocre this year".

Blogs are in a way autobiographical in the sense that they chronicle one persons experience with wine. Sharing that experience is often a drive the writer feels and they do it as much for themselves as their readers. That is one of the great powers of wine blogs as while print wine writers are often into codifying wine with points and a firm ranking of quality, bloggers do a better job of communicating the personal experience of wine, then invite you to participate in that conversation, while print media seems more paternal in its approach to readers.

Again, my objection is not at all to people writing about wine (or food or any other aesthetic endeavor) and presenting their writings in public. My objection is to the abysmal proliferation of not-nearly-knowledgeable enough people who do this on every possible subject.

This professor and student attitude many wine writers present is really ridiculous. The true student of wine recognizes the more they learn about wine, the more they realize they don't know. The attraction of many blogs is that they share the process of discovery with the reader in an honest and almost disarming way. Sure they make mistakes, but that is part of their educational process, which they are sharing with the reader. I believe these bloggers by sharing the joy of their voyage of discovery do more to encourage others to join them than writers whose main ambition is to define exactly which wines are the finest - something that should remain a subjective decision.

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