Last week, I had the pleasure of having my name added to the impressive guest list of those who’ve been interviewed by Lynn Krielow Chamberlain on her iWineRadio podcast. The short (for my run-on mouth, anyway), and relatively safe for work (by my standards, which admittedly are rather loose) interview is embedded/linked below for your listening pleasure.
I’ve not much more to say about it, apart from the fact that the interview mostly covers my entrance into the wine world, about which I am almost always brutally honest. I always find it odd that people want to interview me, since I am a family man who has a relatively boring life most of the time, punctuated by band gigs and trips all over the world tasting wine. There seems to be a preoccupation in interviews on the fact that I bootstrapped my way into the wine biz by starting a website, rather than having been anointed by a traditional print masthead or some other gatekeeping body, which I suppose is interesting (but only just) in an of itself.
This is almost invariably followed by a question about how/why I feel in love with wine, to which I invariably want to answer: “what kind of moron wouldn’t fall in love with this stuff?!??”
For a moment, let’s remove the beguiling aspects of wine from the equation, and put aside its intriguing complexity; its coalescence of art, craft, and multiple sciences and related pursuits (such as chemistry, history, and geography); its ability to connect us to a moment in time, and almost magically transport us to us to a particular place on the earth. Forget all of that for just a minute or two.
What’s left? A hedonistic, pleasurable beverage that lubricates life, begs to be shared, draws us together, enhances moments, gets us buzzed an occasionally gets us laid. Where I come from, those last few points alone are worth the price of admission when it comes to wine; the other stuff is just a bonus!
And so that’s those are the reasons I got into wine; there was nothing noble about it. The consumer advocacy type of stuff, and the desire to try to change the wine media world for the better, and to offer interesting alternatives to sharing and telling stories about wine… all of that stuff could be argued as being a little bit noble, but that all came much later. I’m still the guy who wanted something to taste great, to be shared, to maybe get me lucky, to make me and others feel good about life by drinking it. And here’s hoping I’m always at least a little bit that guy, because I’d hate to get so wrapped up in the intellectual side of wine that I forget to have good time with it, which is, after all, the purpose for which it was designed!
Picture this: It’s a gorgeous and sunny day in South Africa, and I’ve just finished giving the keynote address at the 2013 Nederburg Wine Auction. I’m drinking Cape bubbly and grazing for food, and mingling with interesting people from all over the Southern Hemisphere. Of course, I’m exchanging business cards with all of these folks – winemakers, media, buyers. Then the inevitable question comes (after the equally inevitable oohing and ahhing over my way-cool tiny moo.com business cards, I mean):
Them: “So… what do you do? In ‘real life,’ I mean? ”
One of the criticisms most often levied against wine blogs is that they don’t “move the needle” in terms of wine sales.
Let’s forget for a moment that where I come from, coverage that costs me next to nothing for a product that results in even a handful of additional sales (and additional exposure) – that I otherwise would never have seen – counts for something.
The crux of this criticism is that coverage of wines on the virtual pages of wine blogs does not result in materially meaningful and/or measurable differences in the purchase volumes of those wines. Presumably, this is in comparison to similar mentions in print media (however, it’s worth noting that I’ve yet to see any hard evidence in the form of real data to support print media coverage having a sales bump effect, but I have anecdotal evidence from some California winemakers showing that it does not, as well as some from small producers indicating that some wine blog mentions have in fact increased DTC sales… which I can relay to you privately some day if we ever meet and you buy me a beer…).
The counter argument is usually a combination of two things: 1) that it’s extremely difficult to measure the impact of any media coverage on wine sales, regardless of the type of media, and 2) it’s the aggregate of blog and social media mentions (outside of concentrated special events, promotions, and the like) that amount to an increase in mindshare and small, one-consumer-at-a-time sales that otherwise wouldn’t otherwise have happened. In other words, wine blogging and social media mentions result in a stream of sales that are aggregated from tiny, rivulet-like trickles in combination, and so wouldn’t generally amount to a perceivable spike but do, in combination, make a difference. [ For an example of these arguments, see the mini-debate generated on this topic generated in the comments section of one of my recent posts here ].
I can now supply some data in support of that counter argument, by way of one example: namely, 1WineDude.com.
While I will not supply exact numbers (only because don’t have permission from all of the parties involved to do so), I can give you approximations that I think lend some credence and strength to the counter argument, though I strongly suspect it will be ignored by the wine cognoscenti, who have in my experience demonstrated a severe allergic reaction (sulfites got nothin’ on this!) to facts, data, and evidence if those things do not already support their own already-entrenched beliefs…
I’m not sure how else to take the comments from SF Chron managing editor Audrey Cooper, in her response to the NY Times breaking the news late last year on the SF Chron’s planned Wine/Food section shakeup:
“We are undergoing a newspaperwide section-by-section review with the idea that we need to reimagine sections to more intuitive cultural topics that are more aligned with how Northern Californians think and live.”
My translation: we’re not going to spend the money and effort to set regional dining and wine trends anymore, because it’s not working out; we’re going to react to the trends already being set by others, instead.
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