Anthony dias Blue Goes on the Attack Against Wine Bloggers

Vinted on July 16, 2009 binned in commentary, wine blogging

Here we go again.

I don’t know why wine writing icons feel compelled lately to disparage wine bloggers as a whole, but it seems that the venerable Anthony dias Blue is joining Robert Parker in painting all wine bloggers with an overly broad and negative brush. As in the case of Parker’s blogger diatribe, by casting aspersions on wine bloggers with such a broad brush, Blue undermines his own (otherwise very compelling) argument and credibility.

Blue’s attack comes in the July 2009 issue of Tasting Panel in a piece titled “…And Who Regulates the Bloggers?” Blue starts by coming to defense of Robert Parker with respect to the recent brouhaha that Tyler’s article drummed up on his Dr. Vino wine blog. You might recall that Tyler uncovered what appeared to be very inconsistent behavior by some of Parker’s staff, behavior that didn’t seem to line up at all with Parker’s published code of ethics. This event generated quite a bit of discussion on the Internet, and even prompted Janis Robinson to (finally) detail her own ethics code with regards to samples and reviews.

Strangely, he cites “barbarian bloggers” instead of simply referencing Tyler’s Dr. Vino blog. I don’t recall anyone but Tyler breaking the Parker story, so I’m confused as to why Blue would use a broad and disparaging term to describe bloggers a group.

Things get much worse…

Blue makes a very valid point about the real influence of paid trips or free samples on the outcome of wine reviews:
“The implication of some of these militant bloggers is that any contact between producer and critic is a sign of corruption. Should wine critics be required to spend $100,000 a year to buy wines for review just to avoid even the appearance of taint?”

On this point, I’m in total agreement with Blue. Let’s not forget that I myself was the target of a similar witch hunt last year. In my view, this is a non-issue; you’d be hard-pressed to find a topic on which so much has been written lately with so little benefit to the wine consumer.

But “militant blogger”? Uh-ohhh…

What comes next is Blue going off the deep end and pissing all over his credibility.

“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.”

Let’s see… “barbarian,” “militant,” “who are these bloggers, anyway,” “gadflies,” “resentment and sense of personal failure,” and “vicious.”

Who’s carping and bitter?

Blue’s reputation in the world of wine is secure – he’s got nothing to gain with this attack. And yet, he made it anyway. Which is sad, because Blue’s diatribe is the equivalent of me saying that all wine magazine staff are incompetent boobs who take queues and bribes from wine producers and distributors in order to manipulate the market to favor whoever brings their employers the most advertising dollars. In other words, it’s patently wrong in the majority of cases and insulting in the extreme to the > 99% of that group to whom it doesn’t apply.

Dear Mr. Blue – What you, and recently Robert Parker, are failing to realize is that there ultimately isn’t an “us” or “them” in the situation between traditional printed wine media and wine bloggers.  Just do what most wineries, PR firms, distributors, and other wine industry pros are already doing – accept us and get on with things.  If the goal is to marginalize wine bloggers by attacking us en masse at every opportunity, the strategy is failing miserably.

Here’s a thought: if you’re wondering whether or not wine bloggers are trying to improve the world of wine for its consumers, come over to the American Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma next week and find out for yourself.

I’ll be waiting to share a glass with you after I accept your apology.  We can even talk about our day jobs.

I happen to think mine is very cool, by the way.

Not that you asked.

Cheers!

(images: amctv.com)

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    Comments

  • Strappo


    This is quite a condemnation of wine bloggers. As someone who was not in the biz when I began blogging, the bit about "dreary day jobs" does seem an apt zinger at many wine amateurs who wanna be a contenduh. That very drive to do something in the world of wine, fed and reinforced by blogging and interaction with other bloggers, not to mention producers, etc., spurred me on to write often and with a sometimes too little informed passion. I speak of and for myself, but I don't think I'm all that different from many other wine bloggers.

    Tyler Colman's full-time job is blogging, so to speak. It's the source of his "Q factor" and means to the end of publishing, educational and consulting gigs. All of which spurs him on to creating news-worthy items, such as they are, in order to elevate his brand awareness. If you recognize his crusade for what it was, it can seem quite annoying to a guy like Dias Blue, who might implicitly view himself under attack, or potentially so.

    It's ironic that in my new company blog, muddybootsblog,com, I am reminded daily by my partners to put a lid on my feisty opinions. It's ironic because in my now-twilighting mondosapore.com I was pretty intemperate myself. Loved to stir things up. Loved to create a stir.

    Now I don't care too much about all that anyway. Got other things to do. Got a new life in the wine world. No longer stare at screen contemplating my dreary job. Mission accomplished.

    I've put my money where my mouth is. All of it. No more time for self-indulgent fanzine-type bullshit.

    Somewhere along the line wine blogging gets old. You have to move on. Dias Blue and so on will be there long after you do.

    • 1WineDude


      Always great hearing from you, man!

      I understand what you're saying here, but I'd certainly disagree that "Somewhere along the line wine blogging gets old." I love wine. I love writing about it. I don't see that changing in the future. What I do see is the need to change things up on ocassion, keep things fresh (hence the 1WD TV episodes), but I don't see it getting old so long as my blog is not just a string of wine reviews (ie., the same thing over and over), which isn't bad but just isn't for me.

  • Strappo


    Maybe it's not gotten old for you — yet. But a great many people I've talked to in the past year and who have been blogging for a few years are voicing their apathy and especially their annoyance with the old scene. "I don't read wine blogs any more" is a common refrain. That's not true, strictly speaking, but they / we seem to be reading many fewer than in the past.

    • 1WineDude


      I suppose I just don't understand why blogging is different than another job, hobby, or writing for TWA, or whatever. Some will tire of it and move on to other things. Others will stay and maybe contribute to an evolution of wine blogging into its next phase, whatever that may be. It's only natural that many, many wine blogs would follow the same pattern as blogging in any sphere – which is to say they don't stick with it and give it up eventually. I don't see that as an issue with wine blogging itself.

  • Chris


    There was a similar back and forth between traditional media and bloggers in the sports world last year when a prominent sports media, Buzz Bissinger, essentially embarrassed himself and those he was speaking for when he lost his temper confronting a prominent blogger on a bob costas' 'lets sit down and talk about sports issue' show, whatever it's called.

    anydamnway, it struck me as interesting that the Anthony dias Blue and the sports talking head Buzz Bissinger have the *exact same argument*.

    They are asking "Who Are You?" and they are assuming you are the stereotypical internet user caricature – eating doritos in your mothers basement or what have you.

    So, one blog i read daily decided to answer Buzz's "who are you" question, and did so in a fantastic way. That post is here:
    http://www.everydayshouldbesaturday.com/2008/04/3

    • 1WineDude


      Great point – by that reasoning (that you need to be "somebody" vs. you need to be able to deliver the goods), you'd miss a TON of great writing…

  • chris gillis


    nice writeup – he's just an another old timer that is trying to keep justifying his professional life of periodicals, television and radio & bookstores when he knows that business model is going down the toilet…its pretty pathetic to watch these washed up business people scramble for the crumbs of "the good ole days".

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Chris. I guess I don't see it quite the same way. I'm sure there's some truth to not wanting bloggers "peeing on your territory" so-to-speak, but the guy's got little to fear from the blogging crowd, I think.

  • Evan Dawson


    First of all, you've got him nailed on his absurd over-generalizations, dude. Very nicely said. Now let me diverge just a bit…

    Most wine blogs suck. There it is. They don't provide insight or coverage of a specific niche, region, or component. They offer the most banal reviews, mostly positive, from someone I know nothing about who gets free samples every other day. They come off like wine groupies who love their free samples.

    Now, notice I said most. I don't think that's an over-generalization, because there are so, so many wine blogs now. And yet there are gems, like yours. And thank goodness. Because the valuable blogs far outweigh the bilge from the others. In fact, as you've said before, the valuable wine blogs are changing the shape of wine writing for the better. They're not replacing mainstream writing, but they're providing more specialized content and expanding wine's reach. Traditional media has been forced to adjust, and some aren't happy about it.

    dias Blue seems to dismiss it all with, "GET OFF MY LAWN, YOU PAJAMA WEARING LOSERS!" He'll regret what he wrote.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks for that, man! The majority of blogs in any field probably aren't very good. But I suppose that a similar criticism could be leveled against printed / paid writers as well.

  • Lyle Fass


    I say de-friend him on Facebook and make it go viral. it's the usual re-action from the older generation of wine writers. What they get paid for, people do for free, and happily, and in many cases better. They cannot handle it, so they act out. ADB is a dying generation trying to get their last grasp of air.

    • 1WineDude


      I feel sad in a way, because it doesn't have to be that way. Finding a point of mutual respect between blogging and professional wine writing and reviewing has *got* to be possible somehow…

  • RyanReichert


    Oh bother… people need to get over themselves.

    • 1WineDude


      No doubt – is it really that hard to laugh at ourselves? :)

  • Daniel P


    The Dinosaurs are going extinct, but going down with a fight, just not a very good fight. It sure is entertaining, like a scene of a great trainwreck in a bad movie!

    Why bet on the losing team? Ask ADB.

  • Bradley


    The train is coming down the tracks. Instead of lying on the rails and screaming to try and stop it, wouldn't it make more sense to try and get on board? Then you might be able to contribute to the train's schedule and destiny.
    Anybody got anymore metaphors?

  • Tim


    Wow, I can't believe yet another wine professional is going on a "bloggers suck" rant. No, wait… yes I can believe it. But I do agree with your assessment and can't see what good he thinks will come from acting like a dick. Other than he just got wine bloggers to talk about him. Maybe his PR rep told him to generate some link bait.

    • 1WineDude


      I really hope not. I mean, if he'd said that he likes some bloggers and blogs himself, he'd get WAY more link love…

  • Dale Cruse


    To me, dias Blue and Parker both seem to be saying the same thing: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

    Adapt or die, boys.

  • Daniel P


    Bradley

    My metaphor referred to watching a movie featuring a bad trainwreck, and you want to look away but cannot take your eyes off of it.

    "An educated consumer is our best customer"-Syms

    People ought to be educated before they make informed decisions. Bloggers, much like wine critics, are helping educate consumers, in my opinion.

  • vinogirl


    Simple solution…practice your own form of censorship!

  • 1WineDude


    Great comments, everyone – thanks!!!

    I find myself continually more and more surprised that some icons of wine media seem to consider blogging to be somehow not worthy of inclusion simply because the quality level of many blogs is low. We could same the same thing about magazine & newspaper writing, after all.

  • Phil


    Sigh, this whole thing reminds me of a political discussion, complete with the demonization of the other side, the "he started it" accusations, and the complete and utter inability for some on both sides to have a civil discussion with each other.

    In my view you have the following emotions at play: some professional writers are personally insulted by the view of some people that "anyone" can do their job, that their job is going to disappear and that this is a "good" thing because they were/are so bad at it anyway. Some professional and non-professional bloggers are personally insulted by the view of some professional writers that they are "losers who don't produce anything worthwhile" and are a passing fad to be ridiculed. I guess the lesson is that when people feel truly insulted they tend to loose some of their moorings in dealing with each other.

    Meanwhile neither side really understands the other very well and both over-inflate their own importance and underrate the others. IMHO the truth is that we will always have professional writers (people who get paid to write). We will always have a small group of extremely influential writers that everyone in the industry pays attention to. We will also continue to have a vibrant community of non-professionals, some of whom may be one of the big influencers, who will also contribute to the wine writing world. Both "sides" will continue to have positive and negative aspects to their contributions and both sides will continue to snipe at each other with varying degrees of intensity, with major flashes of activity around particularly controversial actions/topics.

  • Dylan


    Nothing like sweeping generalizations to show one's understanding of a given subject.

  • 1WineDude


    I hope that everyone can get along. I fully believe that if those very visible writers / personalities embrace some aspects of blogging, then bloggers will embrace them as leaders.

  • Ken Payton


    Good piece, Joe. See you next week.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Ken – see you in CA.

  • Phil Vogels


    I would hope that everyone can get along without either side having to embrace the other's medium: bloggers shouldn't have to be professional writers to get along with them and professional writers shouldn't have to blog to get along with bloggers. Not to say that it wouldn't be good for some cross-pollination to occur, it might do some professional writers some good to understand how difficult and different it is to maintain a quality blog and it might do some bloggers some good to understand how difficult and different it is to write a complex and complete story on someone else's deadline (and maybe someone else's topic too) with an editor. In an ideal world, everyone wouldn't need to literally walk in the other person's shoes to understand what it is like.

    But I think there's too much at stake for both groups for that to happen (businesses, livelihoods, reputations, passions). I hope I'm wrong, but it's never a good thing when entire professions judge each other based on the actions of individuals and I don't see that changing (or being unique to this debate). It's sad because I think that both sides would really benefit from learning from each other, and I hope those that are open to the "other side" on both sides don't get discouraged and continue to push their colleagues in the right direction. More professional writers (by which I probably should state that I mean someone who gets paid by others to write, obviously there are some bloggers that fall into this category and it isn't intended as a comment on the quality of the writing, some professional writers stink) blogging and more bloggers getting paid to contribute to something other than their own blog. I truly believe what I wrote in my previous comment: I don't think either side understands the other very well–thus you get the ridiculous comments that prompted this post from a professional writer and I believe the ridiculous comments sometimes from bloggers at the dreaded "MSM".

  • 1WineDude


    "MSM"… ha, I love it… makes it sound like some kind of disease, the way that some people say "conservatives!" or "liberals!" :-)

  • lodiwino


    don't hate the playa – hate the game. They just playa hat'n

    • 1WineDude


      I can understand why Blue would have the criticism that he did. I can't understand why he would express it so broadly and negatively, though.

  • ryan


    are we still talking about this…let these nut jobs die off, or learn that a publishing platform does not a evil do'er make!

    • 1WineDude


      You're expressing an opinion that is reaching me in increasing numbers both here and in e-mail: ignore the guys who just don't "get it". And I can understand & appreciate that opinion, because it's seeming to me that getting them to understand how blogging fits into their picture is growing increasingly unlikely…

  • rjh


    funny…i don't feel barbaric…

    • 1winedude5036


      Hmmm… are you sure you don't *look* barbaric, then?

  • Lyle Fass


    It just shows him in a bad light.

    For me it's like people who say "I don't watch TV." I always get in an argument with them and say that is an ignorant to say because it is just a medium. I then follow it with that most of the highest quality writing is on Cable TV these days (Californication, True Blood, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Shield, The Wire, Rescue Me, etc) and they go off on reality shows, etc. It's a losing battle. Yes reality shows mostly stink but movies today are mostly dreck (Twilight, Mall Cop, etc) and the writing is worse than ever and the best writing in the entertainment medium is on Cable TV and networks like AMC, TNT and Bravo (less so). Making rampant generalizations is the easy way out. TV did suck mostly before the Sopranos changed TV forever. Network TV less LOST and maybe a few others still sucks but all TV does not suck and that's why you don't watch it,. You don't watch it because you are intellectually vacant and lazy. Just like Uncle Bob and ADB.

    • 1WineDude


      I have to admit that I don't watch too much TV :).

      But I do hear what you're saying here.

  • John Kelly


    I've read and re-read ADB's "diatribe" a couple of times and come to the conclusion that a) it was not a broad-brush attack on all bloggers and b) that there a lot of wine bloggers that need to grow a thicker skin.

    In his commentary ADB was not indicting "wine bloggers" as a group – he was talking specifically about a few bloggers who have made a crusade – not to say career – of criticizing alleged ethical lapses, inconsistencies and hypocricies of established old-media wine journalists. It's only then that he asks "who are these people."

    I'm not defending ADB or RJP (whose "blobbers" indictment did seem more general) – their attacks lack grace and subtlety. Years ago I learned that in a public hearing when someone stands up and lays into you, let them finish their piece, thank and acknowledge their input for the record, then move on.

    In 20 years or so the next group of up-and-comers will be criticising today's nascent successful writers as relentlessly self-promoting has-been hacks who "just don't get it." You should be so lucky. How will you respond? ;-)

    • 1WineDude


      Take your point, John, though I'd argue that Blue's attack wasn't specific enough, which was part of the issue I took with it.

      And if I'm lucky enough to be around and viable long enough for the next generation to take shots at me, chances are I'll tell them: "whatever you're saying about me – you're right!" :-)

  • Mark's Wine Clubs


    How quickly they forget that not so many years ago these writers were on the outside fringes of the wine industry. It's funny but when Parker et al got started it was crazy for the entrenched in the wine industry to think tasters would ever have any power if they weren't winemakers or from wine families themselves. Sounds like the same argument which is sad considering if Parker were 30 years younger he would have gotten his start through a blog.

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