The Wine Blogger Dilemma

If you’ve casually frequented this nascent blog, you may have already read my manifesto, and you undoubtedly know that when it comes to wine, I write with emotion, and piss and vinegar, but above all, honesty and integrity are my only journalistic luminaries. Outside of writing my own blog, I take a good amount of time checking in on what other wine bloggers are up to. The few wine blogs I enjoy are usually the more personal ones, the ones that are more based on candor, journalism, and/or a select focus. These are the blogs that inspire true wine writing zeal in me. I get more of my wine information from these blogs than I do any print magazine.  Then there are blogs that I don’t quite understand. blah wine blogging, who’s only real purpose is to offer up a sordid version of Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate, while at the same time constantly getting in pointless jabs at those mags, and endlessly(and unsuccessfully) trying to smite them. Although they do so almost unconscious to the fact that they are completely imitating them. You get samples, you review them. You score them. Yeah, I’ve seen this before. Other than receiving copious amounts of gratuitous wine, and reviewing them in your oh-so original Parkeresque manner, what is your actual purpose? What is the void you believe that you’re filling? This piece has not been penned to arouse angst. I just really want answers, because from my vantage point, aside from serving as an outlet for your musings about wine, what qualifies you? Now, to those wine bloggers who are transparent about their writing, and honestly say, that “hey, I don’t know shit about wine, but I wanna learn, so read my blog, and let’s share this ride together” I respect the shit out of you. You are for real. And to those bloggers who are bona fide wine educators and experts, or who have spent decades studying the subject of wine, especially in regards to one specific field of interest, your expertise, and willingness to share such knowledge is greatly appreciated.

I taste maybe 100-150 wines a month some months much more. Mathematically speaking, I think 3 are good and maybe 2 are really good, and maybe 1 will be great. Those are not good numbers, and anyone who tells you that wine quality is really high nowadays might actually be high themselves, because  it’s not. The consistency of wine homogeneity is high. Not quality. However if you read a lot of the blogs out there, one begins to wonder, “where are all of the bad reviews?” I see some of the shit these bloggers get sent, and most of it wouldn’t be fit for a doorstop in my house, and yet I see them, not only take the high road and avoid negative statements, but basically recommend said wine. Most of these types of bloggers defend themselves by saying that “just because it isn’t my style doesn’t mean I should blast it…uh, what? It shouldn’t? What do I need you for then? Pretty much what you are saying is that “even shit wine will be good to someone, so who am I to discourage a neophyte wine drinker?” Just because the samples you’re receiving are not to your liking, doesn’t mean you should try to sell people on them just to maintain the flow of free wine. Put the bullshit on blast. You’ve got to be honest with your readers.

You cannot prattle on about you disdain for high alcohol, fruit forward, oak monsters, and then recommend to your readers a 15.8% ABV Australian Shiraz, stating “it is well made, if you like big and bold, go out and buy it, even though I wouldn’t”. Your readers want to know your palate. Originality is your best weapon. You’re unique, and so is your palate. If you can define and explain your palate to your reader, then they know what to expect when you recommend something.  You will gain their trust. If they do not agree with you, they can move on to the next blogger with a palate more similar to their own, but you just cannot cater to everyone and still be genuine. It is impossible. If you’re going to go around promoting yourself as a wine guru(and that is exactly what you’re proclaiming whether you like it or not, the second you start reviewing and recommending wine), then you better be ready and able to educate people on what you believe a wine should be, you better be prepared to tell people what they like is actually a manipulation of grape juice, and a laboratory experiment above all else. I take pride in the fact that when I think a wine is fucking good, I say it, and I mean it. This doesn’t happen very often. Some people don’t enjoy such vitriolic style of writing , but you can count on the fact that when I do not like something you’ll be the first to know, because I will be screaming it from a fucking rooftop.

This all ties into my feeling on points. Why do wine bloggers feel the need to award points to wines like the “Big Brother” mags do?  I could elaborate on my feelings about the subject, however, that is an article for another day. I’ll leave my statement in brevity at this; go drink some fucking wine. Drink some things that are outside your proverbial “comfort zone” of wines. The more you taste and challenge your palate, the more self-sufficient of a taster you will be. Listen aspiring wine writers, wine is too multi-faceted to be reduced down to a number, but if you must continue your ambivalence haine-amour relationship with the wine rags, be my guest. To the few enlightened souls who see wine as a personal communion more meaningful than any number, I invite you to join us at http://scorevolt.com/

The time has arrived for some new blood, for a revolution in wine journalism. Continuing the status quo is fucking chicken shit, and you know it. Put your true feeling down on paper, give me some passion, give me some anger, give me some acrimonious speech, but also, give me some insight. Show me a region or variety I might not know about, or that you may have a special attachment to. Tell me about the producers, but do your homework. Be absolutely positive that you aren’t misinforming, or misleading your readers. Write us an article on native yeast, or cold soaking, or heavy-ass deep punted bottles, or even fucking corks. We don’t care so long as the fire is present. So long as your writing bleeds with integrity and morality, because that is what’s paramount. Tell the people what is wrong with the industry or a particular producer, or whatever it is that is abets and provokes you to borderline irrationality. Your readers want to hear it, because they can get kiss ass wine writing anywhere, right?

P.S. I really piggybacked this incredibly thought-provoking piece from a writer I hold in very high regard: The Passionate Foodie  This article really got me thinking about how important and impacting a wine writers’ suggestions can be. Please read his blog.


40 responses to “The Wine Blogger Dilemma

  • suckandspit

    Wait, bloggers get free samples of wine? What’s next? Trips to Spain? And they score wines? Wine, scores, free, the? I think for the select few that actually blog or keep a journal as I do, we do it for ourselves. If people follow my wine journal then great. If they don’t I’m not butt hurt. If they see my rantings on suckandspit and it somehow makes then think for a split second then great but again if not…I’m not doing it for them. Just another way for me not to strangle people in the wine industry. BTW…2008 Marc Roy Marsannay is AMAZING and I got the last 5 bottles in WA state. OK down to 2 since I gave one as a present and sold 2 this last weekend.

    santo

    • Le Prince des Ténèbres

      Santo, I see your point of view. Your blog is more of a chronicle of what you’re probably tasting at the shop and your observations of what you’re tasting. this articles was in no way written with you in mind, it was born out of my weariness of bloggers who are puppets to wine P.R. companies, and tools to the certain members of the wine industry. Honesty in journalism is what I expect from anyone who wants to be considered part of this wine media machine. Sadly there are some who are taking this responsibility lightly. They have allowed outer influences to affect how and what they write about. Without integrity in life, regardless of how small the subject, a man has very little.

      • suckandspit

        I was not worried at all! Between the wine shop blog, my personal tasting notes blog and my ranting about how the industry need a HUGE bowl of colon-blow, it getting hard to keep up with reading and tasting notes in general. I did post on SH blog about Ca wines and have yet to hear back, then I noticed that my question to him was no longer there. Funny how he can dish it out yet can’t seem to take it. The revolution has started on points but now its time to take the PR bloggers. I’m in!

        Santo

  • Txiki Boateng

    I felt the fire in your words. I agree that there are few wines that really not your socks off. Even if there were, it’s always best to move on to the next thing rather than linger on a select few. Just drink wine and you like it or not. Points blow. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it J miller and crew.

  • suckandspit

    Sign it Txiki!!!!! You’ll fell better about yourself.

    s

  • Tom Wark

    I’m struck by your desire for a “revolution” in the wine media world: “The time has arrived for some new blood, for a revolution in wine journalism. Continuing the status quo is fucking chicken shit, and you know it”

    And I’m struck by your open contempt for what seems to be a number of wine bloggers. But, it’s one thing to proclaim many of them to be shills for the industry. That’s easy to do. What’s more difficult and what really demands integrity is to actually provide examples of those wine bloggers that are shills and what demonstrates their act of shilling.

    I await the integrity.

    • Tom Wark

      My raison d’être is at the top of my blog masthead, where it has sat for seven years.

      Ive commented on the most outlandish, yet most unsupported statements in your post. I have only one piece of advice for you as a new writer: If you are going to make accusations as serious as lack of integrity and unethical shilling, have the good sense and courage to back them up, or don’t make them

      • Le Prince des Ténèbres

        Let’s make this the end all of our little pissing match, you have been trying to bait me all day. What ever your agenda is, I don’t care. You stated earlier “I’m not saying you don’t have a point about bloggers’ lack of integrity” That sounds like agreement to me….I have the courage and good sense to subtly suggest that wine bloggers remember their ethics. Personal attacks are not warranted, but a gut check sometimes is.

  • baltazar

    Mr Wark – don’t lump these teenagers in with any renaissance in california wines. and don’t use this “noise” as club against natural wines. this blog is puerile and a pointless temper tantrum. making wine that tastes like it came from somewhere is an idea.

  • Tom Wark

    Baltazar,

    The folks behind this blog seem to have an intriguing point, even if it is somewhat muddled and anonymous. I’m only encouraging them to make honest work of their apparent convictions.

    • Le Prince des Ténèbres

      I believe my older articles are very explicit examples of my convictions. I do not apologize for my palate, or my anger for the current situation of the wine industry. I cannot say that everyone will agree with the message, but at the very least I can hope that it will encourage people to think more about what they drink, and why they drink it. As far as wine bloggers are concerned, they can do whatever the fuck they want. If they want to peddle wine for the PR machines, in order to receive free trips, and free wine, I couldn’t care less, Tom. Because their lack of integrity is completely transparent, no matter how hard they try to cover it up.The wine bloggers writing from their hearts and from the inspiration their passion enlivens in them, these are the ones I have the utmost respect for. In regards to my anonymity, in order for me to remain gainfully employed in this industry, I prefer a nom de guerre for the obvious reasons.

      • Tom Wark

        I’m not saying you don’t have a point about bloggers’ lack of integrity. I’m saying you ought to point out specific examples if you think it exists. I’m not saying that bloggers don’t “peddle wine for the PR machines”. I’m saying, if it is happening, please point it out. It shouldn’t be hard if it’s “transparent”.

        As for writing anonymously, many bloggers who work in the business, me included, have been writing under their names for many years. Including myself. And I’m still gainfully employed.

      • Le Prince des Ténèbres

        You yourself have admitted that this blogger problem exists. No ones likes being baited into being at the center of a shit storm, it’s a lose-lose, the only winners are the spectating voyeurs, so let’s just leave it at this; you and I both know that this bullshit is going on. All I was calling for in the article is for wine bloggers to be more honest with their reviews, and to dig deeper with their material if they truly wish to be accepted as journalists, and not just run-of-the-mill bloggers. I enjoy my autonomy and the clean conscience my stance on samples and reviewing wine has given me. When I put a wine on a pedestal I do so receiving nothing in return aside from the experience, and when I blast the shit out of a wine, I can do so without worrying about reproach or putting into peril the flow of free wine.

      • Tom Wark

        Actually, I’ve not said there is a problem either with blogger transparency or with blogger’s integrity. I’ve only suggested that you have a point to make.

        However, simply stating that many bloggers lack integrity or shill for big PR Machines without any examples whatsoever, without naming names, without giving details of your accusations suggests you don’t know what you are talking about or are talking out your ass or lack any substantive examples to back up your claims or are simply typing with no real purpose in mind other than to heighten your own reputation.

        If you are going to make accusations, I’d suggest you offer real examples of the sins you are claiming to have knowledge of.

        Which bloggers need to be more honest with their reviews? Which bloggers need to dig deeper with their material? Which bloggers do not possess a clean conscious with regard to their samples and reviews? Which bloggers have put a wine on a pedestal only in return for something?

      • Le Prince des Ténèbres

        I believe the point was made in the piece. As I said in the article “This piece has not been penned to arouse angst.” How can I inspire someone by personally blasting their integrity in a public forum? Subtlety at times is best. Those who read it may question themselves and their morals, and others may decide to continue the charade.

      • Tom Wark

        Well, here’s the thing. You make some pretty nasty accusations about folks who do the same thing as you do: write about your impressions of wine. You accuse wine bloggers of being unethical, being bought and paid for, possessing no integrity.

        Yet, you can point to not a single example of the things you are accusing others of doing. Nor can you or do you explain the process by which this bloggers you accuse sell their integrity.

        It’s a nasty bit of business you have engaged in and demonstrates a significant lack of courage on your part. This post was far from subtle. Rather, an over the top spewing of baseless accusations.

      • Le Prince des Ténèbres

        For whatever reason you have obsessively dissected a small part of the entire article. Most of the article is begging for bloggers to engage in more profound issues than just reviewing wines. I ask bloggers to provide a mission statement as to what their blog and palate is all about. Why you’re so stuck on me naming names makes me wonder if you’re only trying to manipulate me into starting a melee for your own enjoyment….since you’re so obsessed with the article, answer the question I posed to all bloggers in the first paragraph. The one that is the true message of the entire piece. What is the void that you believe that your blog fills?

  • Le Prince des Ténèbres

    Baltazar, A “teenager” I am not. I suggest you actually read the rest of my blog before making assumptions about it. making wine that tastes like it came from somewhere is an “idea” I completely support, which you would know if you had taken more than 2 minutes to read some of the other articles in my blog.

  • baltazar

    i have your read blog. it’s vulgar and stupid. what is unfortunate is that you appear to have good taste in wine. but i think that you are ultimately insincere. opportunistic. you’ll attach yourself to another “trend” by and by. it’s a carpetbagger thing

  • Le Prince des Ténèbres

    So facile to insult from afar, isn’t it? Opportunistic is an interesting outlook considering I make 0$ blogging, and receive no free wine, or free trips. As far as the next trend, you’re right Baltazar. I will next move on to insulting poor Whiskey distillers, then bad Tequila producers, and when I’v really hit rock bottom, I’ll attack Patxarán makers who are denying their terroir….the hilarity in all of this mindless banter via a blog comment section, is that you and I would probably hit it off, and become fast friends over a glass of Madeira.

  • baltazar

    insults and anonymous ones from afar are the heart of soul of your blog. what i am suggesting to you is that civil persuasion would be more effective. drop the puerile pop culture references, the pointless vulgarity and the overall crudeness and you might get something done. Alice Feiring is brave enough to take on an industry that needs challenging and she does it with grace. she might be all of five feet tall but she signs her own name to her work. she doesn’t need that unbearably pretentious pseudonym does she, prince?

    • Le Prince des Ténèbres

      You’re enjoying yourself, aren’t you Baltazar? However insulting me from afar makes you no better than I. I for one do not take pot-shots at the people who take the time to comment on my blog because I appreciate the fact that you’ve taken time to voice your views, however inflammatory they may be. If you want my name, I will tell you, but what will it change? You will then have a only a name to direct all of your unwarranted hate at instead of a pseudonym. If vulgarity and pop culture references help to attract “teenagers” to become more engaged in wine, and arouse their interest in real wine, then so be it. I can take the insults of one if it inspires someone else.

    • suckandspit

      Like Evil, I tend to write more vulgar language in order to get my point across and to show the younger crowd that wine should be less pretentious and more fun. Why use fancy words when one can just say “This wine taste like shit!”?

  • Beau (@UCBeau)

    Interesting rant (if I may call it as such), though I also think Tom Wark makes a good point about naming names. Integrity goes a long way in the blogging/journalism world and if you name names and cite evidence, yours is perceived to be higher. Since you rail against bloggers who don’t have integrity, your actions in this case would speak louder than the word “fuck” said repeatedly..

    As I continually struggle with what to write about on my own blog, I keep going back to the notion that there is a wine blog for everyone. Some blogs are formatted for wine geeks, those people who love seeking out obscure wines and talking about them. Other blogs are geared towards a more general wine fan, someone who wants to read about a wine and be able to find it easily and locally. There are specialized blogs by region, @RichardPF’s is a great example of one that focuses a lot on the Northeast. My point is that some bloggers, regardless of whether they get free wine or not (which seems a big point of your rant) are comfortable writing about more mainstream wines. That is what they’re passionate about. Some revel in finding the unknown, and they love shining a light into the dark, dusty corners of the more obscure regions around the world. Each has its audience..

    To the quality of those wines, sure YOU may think they suck, but 90% of wine drinkers don’t, and are interested in finding out what an authority (as they might feel a wine blogger is) thinks about those $10 domestic-generic reds and whites. The quality level may not be great, but the wines are consistent. That’s something that a small producer faces a tougher time of accomplishing. Therefore, to blast the quality of the wines is perhaps erroneous, instead, lament their lack of originality. Lament the formulaic manipulations straight from U.C. Davis textbooks.

    Anyways that’s all I got..I really enjoy this blog though, it’s turned me onto some new wines and is refreshing for the candor and openness. Fuckin’ A.

  • Jeff

    Good luck with the blog, I think you’re going to need it.

    Tom’s right. You want to take a righteous stance, but you don’t want to name check any violators. It’s mighty curious.

    And, your blog itself is anonymous.

    You know, the reality is it’s hard work to blog, but it’s even harder to be so filled with vitriol. I’ll betcha you don’t make it 6 mos. blogging. A) Because nobody wants to read anonymous venom. B) Your manifesto was tired and old before you wrote it C) Anyone who has to use curse words to make a point can’t make a legitimate point.

    Godspeed to ya.

    • suckandspit

      I thought in some of the above comments from Evil he did not use curse words to prove his point and rather corrected a few people on how to use the words they wrote? If someone needs use a curse word in order to get their point across, they have not lost the bottle, they are the ones willing to tell you how it is. A true wine writer does not need praise, they just want to inform on why our industry is so corrupt and fucked up. There is a change coming and most of us know this. I for one signed the manifesto 15 years ago when I got my Somm Diploma, I was the stand out yet people tend to like they way I write even if it is harsh. A wine writer’s job is to question the wines and their structure, not kiss the winemakers ass.

      Sorry if this is a rant. I tasted through 50 wines today of which 3 were a possibility while the others were just shit! Just once I would like a wine rep to bring in something and say..”just fucking try this shit and tell me what you think!”
      s

    • Le Prince des Ténèbres

      The high and mighty “piety” of your blog is hilarious Jeff. “A finalist in various categories in each of the five years the awards have been running and a three-time winner in the English-language Wine Blog Awards, Good Grape is widely respected and well recognized as a popular, thoughtful, insightful online voice in the wine world.” Wine blog awards are as illustrious as a Kindergarten Happy Gram, except Happy Grams actually require some effort to be put forth by the recipient. I don’t write to impress or entertain people like you, I don’t write for bloggers. I write for real wine people, of which this ilk you are not. Maybe those who have commented negatively have done so because they have a guilty conscience?

  • Jeff

    Like I said, good luck to you and the Guy Fawkes shtick.

  • Renee Dobbs - Magnolia Days

    I started my blog last August (2011) and I do have posts on wine. I never wanted my wine posts to be a bunch of data and blah, blah, blah typical wine review stuff. My goal is to be like your friend of neighbor and just tell you about a wine, a story to go with it, and an honest opinion. I have no fear of saying I do not care for a particular wine. (See my post on Oreana Project Happiness Syrah http://magnoliadays.com/2011/oreana-project-happiness-syrah/ ). I state clearly on my About page I am not a sommelier and I don’t pretend to be one. I just like wine & want to tell people about it. Thank you for this post, it struck home for me. I’m glad there are people looking for wine posts that are different and real.

    • Evil

      As people grow tired of the magazine status quo, wine journalism is finding a new voice. Drinking wine is as rewarding as it is educational, if you want it to be. To those who are constantly seeking new ways to stoke the fire of their wine passion I say Keep fighting the good fight. Thanks for reading.

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