You’ve heard of a “gaggle of geese,” a “pod of whales,” a “murder of crows?” So, what do you call a group of self-proclaimed wine critics? Bloggers, what else?
Who are these people? Anthony Dias Blue, senior wine and spirits editor of The Tasting Panel Magazine, asked the same question in his July 2009 editorial, “… And Who Regulates the Bloggers?”
“And who are these bloggers anyway, and, more important, what is their motivation? It would be comforting to find that they are altruistic wine lovers who see their purpose as bringing insight and valuable information to like-minded consumers. But the image that presents itself is of bitter, carping gadflies who, as they stare into their computer screens and contemplate their dreary day jobs, let their resentment and sense of personal failure take shape as vicious attacks on the established critical media.”
Who are these bitter, carping gadflies? They are your relatives, neighbors and co-workers. Wine bloggers are attorneys, professors, schoolteachers, journalists, psychologists, marketing directors, hiking tour guides, sommeliers and winemakers. Their motivation is simple — they are lovers of the grape and want to share their experience with wine lovers and bloggers around the world.
I have been wine blogging since 2005, and it has been a very rewarding experience. When I first started I felt alone. It was up to me to reach out to these wine lovers, and I was paid back tenfold when they reached back. As bloggers we have collaborated on writing projects, virtual wine tastings and face-to-face gatherings and conferences.
We also have been dissected under a microscope by traditional media, and unfortunately, some of the media have felt threatened and lashed out. The more flexible of those journalists took the attitude of “If we can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” while others want to join the phenomenon without looking like “one of ‘em” (wine blogger).
Blue asks a question that all serious wine bloggers have asked themselves. Who indeed regulates the bloggers? Well, who regulates sports journalism? Who regulates investigative, gonzo, celebrity and ambush journalism? Who regulates any assemblage of mutual interests? The assembly regulates, of course. But ultimately it will be the wine lovers who will regulate what they choose to read.
We have seen wine bloggers come and go. It’s not to say there aren’t any bad wine blogs and “posers” out there — there are. But, like wine, what makes a wine blog “bad” is purely subjective. A wine blog that is not often updated, has no or little original content withers on its own. “The Posers” who join anything they deem trendy and cool soon get bored and jump onto the next trendiest ship. As long as wine bloggers consistently share their wine passion and put enthusiasm into their writing, they will maintain, if not grow, their readership and will gain the respect of their peers and perhaps even traditional wine journalism.
It’s been exciting to be a part of this new form of wine media and to watch it grow. A few years ago, two other wine bloggers from Washington state, Margot Sinclair Savell, of Write for Wine and Thad Westhusing, who writes Beyond the Bottle, and I contacted the Washington Wine Commission about the power of the wine blog. Unlike a biodynamically grown grape, our message was not in harmony with the lunar and planetary cycles, as our enthusiasm was met with automated “On Vacation” e-mails.
In 2008, the North American Wine Blogging Conference was formed. The Napa and Sonoma wine industries embraced the concept, and the 2008 and 2009 North American Wine Bloggers Conferences were held in Santa Rosa, Calif.
As it turns out, someone at the Washington State Wine Commission was paying attention. The third annual 2010 North American Wine Blogging Conference will be hosted in Washington state, June 25-27.
In fact, Walla Walla will find out first hand who these bloggers are. The Washington Wine Commission, our Walla Walla Wine Alliance and Chateau Ste Michelle are the premier sponsors for this third annual three-day event in Walla Walla.
My hope is that Blue will attend the conference to join 250 wine bloggers, as they will share their altruistic, wine-loving insight and valuable information. He will find it comforting. Perhaps I will send him an invitation.