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For those of you who’ve missed (what will certainly seem like) the last several thousand posts here on 1WineDude.com, I recently spoke at the 2010 Wines of Portugal International Conference as a panelist on the topic of how the Internet and Social Media are impacting the world of wine and how that will impact the Portuguese wine industry.
Among my fellow panelists was the talented Neal Martin, who writes for eRobertParker.com covering Bordeaux. In some ways, Neal proved the counterbalance to the messages being offered by me and the other panelists, in that he has a rather skeptical approach to the power of social media in the wine world. During the course of the panel, Neal raised several points about social media’s place in the context of wine criticism that I and the other panelists did not address directly – not because we’re without opinion on those points, but because we felt they weren’t relevant to the topic of how wine producers (the largest contingent of our panel audience) could leverage the power of social media online to help their business.
In my case, it certainly did NOT mean that I agreed with those points, as will become clear to anyone in the course of reading this article, in which I will address what I took as the primary (or, if not primary, at least relatively important) points raised or hinted at by Neal about social media’s place in wine criticism – and try to refute them.
I should note that I enjoy Neal’s company, respect his work, and marvel at his writing abilities. But I found many of his views on social media so profoundly off-base that I felt they needed comment. It’s not that Neal sees no value in social media, but I got the impression that his view is looking backward, not forward – and thinking ahead is absolutely key in understanding what social media can do for you, and the place that it is very likely to take in the future in terms of wine criticism.
Let’s take a look at the contrarian views that are all too often espoused when applying social media to wine, and go from there. I’ve grouped them below roughly in a group of three, and summarized each as a hypothetical quite or argument. It’s worth noting that I’m not quoting anyone in particular but am paraphrasing and, while it might be tempting to anoint someone like Neal as a sort of dark arts saint of an anti-social-media satanic church, life is rarely that simple and it’s certainly not my intention here.
In this case, Neal’s comments during our panel were simply the catalyst for a sort of… manifesto that took shape in my (twisted) mind. The kind of thing you’re compelled to write because you have to (and because you’re a bit tired of preaching the same gospel over and over, and would like to have a handy place to keep it so you can refer others to it again… and again… and again…). I will warn you, it’s long and probably not appropriately “scannable” for blog reading, but f–k it I’m posting it anyway.
As always, your comments / criticisms / points / love / hate are all welcome!…
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“To learn as we grow old
The secrets of our souls.”
– Question, Moody Blues
My intention today is not shock you into your Monday morning with cheesy Moody Blues lyrics (though I’ll admit to jamming out the bass line to Question dozens of times when I was in high school and songs like Question seemed really, really deep and important), but to call your attention to a blog post today by my friend, Wine Enthusiast editor Steve Heimoff.
The more astute reader will immediately recognize that I refrained from calling Steve a colleague, since in my mind that would actually be insulting him, though now that I think about it maybe I should have done that and then asked him for a small fee to remove the reference… anyway…
In said blog post, Steve talks about a recent Napa tasting in which he tasted some big-ass Cabernet wines and walked away thinking that many were, on the whole, quite balanced despite their, uhm, generous sizes. In reflecting on the tasting, he hits on what I consider the king-among-princess of a wine’s better qualities:
“Among all these impressionistic words… I think the most important is balance. Balance is central to wine’s quality.”
On this point, Steve and I are, using a term of which one of my friends is particularly fond, in “violent agreement.”
For my money, nothing, and I mean nothing, in a wine’s lineup of admirable qualities – including things like place of origin and pedigree – trumps balance…
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Wine writers who work in print are a distrusting bunch.
That’s one of the conclusions that, while not exactly all “sunshine, peace, love & Marsha Brady,” is nonetheless a logical one that could be reached after you peruse the results of Tom Wark’s recent 2010 Wine Writers Survey.
Much has already been written on the subject of Tom’s survey results (my personal fave to date comes to us courtesy of the scathingly witty Tom Johnson), and while I tend to avoid “me too!” subject matter articles, not chiming in on the wine writing survey results (in which I participated as one who was surveyed) while attempting to make a living as a wine writer… well, that just felt odd.
In terms of what the hubbub is all about, the main point of contention is this: the survey results strongly suggest that print wine writers find on-line wine bloggers to be unreliable sources of wine information, and (less strongly) imply that print wine writers feel their livelihoods are threatened by a largely inexperienced cadre of on-line wine “writers.” Tom sums it all up nicely:
“In my view, the single most important point that would lead anybody, and in particular experienced wine writers, to downplay the credibility and trustworthiness of a blogger is the well know fact that there is absolutely no gatekeeper when it comes to who can publish a blog. There is no pre-assessment of the talent and skills of a wine blogger prior to their publishing. There is no editor that evaluates their skills and gives the blogger the job of writing about wine. Bottom line: A fourteen year old girl inhabiting the attic of her mother’s home on the North Dakota border with Canada and suffering from delusions can as easily start writing and publishing a wine blog as the most experienced wine writer living in the heart of Wine Country.”
The trouble for me is that the argument so far seems to be (at least partially) ignoring the very thing that sets on-line wine coverage apart from print…
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