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Commentary | 1 Wine Dude - Page 56

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Don’t Feed the Trolls: How NOT to Respond to Public Criticism

Vinted on August 23, 2008 binned in commentary

By now, many of you will already have heard about the controversy surrounding Wine Spectator’s restaurant awards that unfolded into the mainstream media this week.

This topic is getting about as visible a media treatment as the wine world ever gets, so I won’t rehash the complete story here. To get us all up to speed and on the same page, the sequence of events goes something like this (in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, “Let me explain. No – is not time; lemme sum up!”):

Regardless of which side of this issue you stand, if you’re like me you’re probably scratching your head as to why WS chose an on-line forum post as the, well, forum to use for publishing their defense of the Restaurant Awards process. Especially considering that this event is all over the news right now.

The problem with this approach is that the WS forum is full of “trolls,” and has become a hotbed of negativity.

I can vouch for this personally…


In my attempts to open a discource with the editors of WS (to better understand why their initial response did not include any details regarding if/how the Awards process would be examined to ensure it maintains credibility), I had to go to the WS forums. After all, that’s where the WS editors posted their response in the first place.

I (and other wine bloggers) have been greeted there with a negativity unbecoming of a long-running institution such as WS. While the editors, for the most part, have been civil in their responses, some of the forum members have been downright nasty. I’ve had to endure blogging being dismissed as “lazy journalism,” and having my SWE and CSW credentials called fakes. Little (if any) moderation seems to be taking place in the forum at the moment, and new forum members are told to “STFU” and “go away.” Even senior WS editor James Suckling seemed to get into negative mode when addressing particularly vehement criticism on the forum.

Of course, not all of the forum members are acting in a negative way, but enough are being malicious to prevent an appropriate discourse with the WS editors. When I asked the forum members why new posters were greeted with that level of negativity, I was told it’s the equivalent of “initiation.”

Hazing is more like it.

Here’s my simple plea to the editors of WS:

If you’re going to allow your on-line forums to be the equivalent of a shark tank, then please put your response to Goldstein’s criticism into the hands of a PR director, where it belongs. Otherwise, those of us looking for constructive, open discourse on the topic of WS’ restaurant awards have nowhere to turn.

As long as your on-line forum remains the primary vehicle for your response to the Goldstein event, you will be promoting the impression that you are not taking the matter seriously.

It’s not events like this that make or break your credibility; it’s your response to events like this that make it or break it.

Cheers!

(image: salagir.com)

Wine Mags that are Worth Reading

Vinted on August 20, 2008 binned in commentary, learning wine

Asking me what wine mags to read is sort of like asking me what television shows are worth watching. I access them so infrequently, that I’m in danger of being totally irrelevant in my commentary.

But what the hell, it’s never stopped me before!

I also get bored easily, so committing to reading an entire magazine or watching an entire TV show in one sitting doesn’t always appeal to me (though longer formats, like books and movies, are no problem; oh, the irony…). Plus, I can’t stand obnoxious advertisements, and I swear I can actually feel my brain cells dying just watching a few seconds of most TV commercials.

And if there are brain cells that need a-killin’, I prefer to do that via the consumption of tasty vino!

Anyway, here are two of my quick picks in the Wine Mag. department…:


Best Traditional Mag: Wine & Spirits Magazine
Is it snooty? Sure, it’s snooty – but it’s well-written, award-winning snooty. Despite it’s title being a bit of a misnomer (Spirits are often relegated to just one page), it’s a useful mag. in that it offers good, terse commentary on the wines that it reviews.

The often highlight good wine dining picks as well, along with features on up & coming wine directors / sommeliers – which can be handy when you’re traveling and looking for some excellent wine-related eats.

Most importantly, they also devotes special focus to value picks, which is the category where the vast majority of wine lovers are looking for help and recommendations.

Most Promising Up-&-Comer: Mutineer Magazine
Is it smarmy? Sure, it’s smarmy, in the same way that MAXIM is a bit too pleased with itself – a style appreciated most by 20-somethings who don’t know any better, but also appealing to 30-somethings who do know better, but don’t care anyway and can therefore appreciate the small touches of irony sprinkled throughout the articles.

I asked Alan Kropf, Mutineer’s Editor, about their mission: “I started the Mutineer to try and create a way for unexperienced drinkers to experience the world of fine beverage. A lot of people get frustrated with wine being so stuffy, so we saw an opportunity for a magazine like Mutineer Magazine to come about.

Lots of wine bloggers will find solidarity in that, since it’s the reason many of us decided to start blogging in the first place.

And I can seriously dig that.

Cheers!


Are Wine Bloggers Insecure? (Hint: Not Quite…)

Vinted on August 14, 2008 binned in commentary, wine blogging

Are wine bloggers insecure?

Wait a second… why are you asking? You trying to say I’m not any good?? Who the hell do you think you are, anyway, buck-o!!?!??

Ahem.

Sorry about that. Seems that some topics can touch a bit of a nerve when it comes to blogging – especially wine blogging.

You see, the upside of wine blogging is the total freedom from the aspects that can sometimes hamper more traditional wine media (deadlines, 100 pt rating system, advertising conflicts of interest, editing…).

The downside of wine blogging is the total freedom from the aspects that can sometimes help more traditional wine media (editing, enforcement of quality writing standards, bona-fide wine tasting credentials…).

If you look at some of the topics that wine bloggers have been discussing lately, quite a few of them are in the area of establishing credibility, codes of conduct, and highlighting quality. Here are some examples, and these are just a sprinkling of topics that I found from one source alone!:
A call for wine blogging standards; effect of wine blogs in the real world; questions about the quality, impartiality, and professionalism of bloggers; how to recognize the best in wine blog writing.

After perusing this stuff, I started to wonder why wine bloggers seem so, well, fixated on the topic of credibility. Does the answer to gaining credibility for wine bloggers lie in the quality of our content? Or in gaining real-world wine certifications? In banding together as a community? All of the above?

Or are we running the risk of appearing as if we’re just trying to allay our own fears and insecurities because we’re not part of the world’s “traditional” wine media at the moment – who, let’s face it, give us barely a passing mention and more-or-less treat us as a group of well-meaning but ne’er-do-well wannabes? We’re kind of like the Canada to their USA; the New Zealand to their Australia; the Wales to the their England.

“Ha ha-ha,” they chuckle as they watch us from their desks in their magazine offices, “aren’t those wine bloggers so darn cute…”

Just for fun, I decided to post the question to the Wine Bloggers Group over at the Open Wine Consortium. I was so struck by the quality and openness of the answers, that I wanted to highlight some of the responses from other wine bloggers here at 1WineDude.com. They demonstrate a level of maturity, honesty, and grit that I would argue isn’t highly valued in more traditional wine media. What they don’t demonstrate… is insecurity. Enjoy!…


Mike @ TheNakedVine.net:

“Anyone who starts a blog believes that they have something to say that’s relevant, and that goes for anyone from teenagers pining away while listening to the latest Conor Oberst offering to million-hit-a-day political blogs. All of us want to be part of the larger conversation. One of the traps that many people who blog, including us, fall into is trying to sound too much like the “traditional” wine media. Our biggest problem is finding a consistent audience. And THAT is where the insecurity comes in…the fear that we’re not being heard.”

Bradley Cooper @ Wine & Vince BC:

“Some very popular wine bloggers are, to me, almost unreadable. On the other hand, there was a wine blogger I followed and thought was hugely talented who got bored and abruptly stopped.
There has to be some desire to exhibit your wine-related expressions. These expressions can take many forms but whether we do it with photography, charts, writing or design, it all comes down to sharing ideas in a community that cherishes the form if not the result.”

Carol Bancroft @ Pour More:

“I find it interesting how seriously people take blogs in general (and some wine blogs are no exception). For me, it’s a hobby. And the way I look at it — if someone finds information that I wrote educational or helpful, then that is very cool. But I’m not going to spend all kinds of time worrying about how credible I am or whether I’m meeting someone else’s set of standards. Sometimes a blog is just a blog.”

Nick Gorevic @ WineScholarship.com

“I think anyone who’s reviewing wines should have a statement about how their ratings work and whether or not they receive any compensation from the winery or commission for sales in some way. Something about what qualifies them to taste would be nice, too. Those are two things a lot of people feel Robert Parker would not honestly be able to write down, by the way.”

Michael Wangbickler, DWS @ Caveman Wines:

“The beauty of blogging is that it is NOT like traditional media. That’s the point. Traditional media absolutely has it’s place, but blogs fill a particular need. More and more, readers are turning to blogs because they are seeking the opinion of peers rather than the “establishment.” There is increasing mistrust of traditional media, and bloggers are increasingly becoming the influencers. That’s the whole appeal of social media. It’s generally open-ended but self policed, and not controlled by big corporate entities with political agendas. Bloggers should be proud of their maverick status, not insecure.”

Hip2Wine.com:

“I do not think a wine blog should be evaluated on whether there is an about page that lists certifications etc. A blog is a place that can be free from popular media constraints. Wine writing in general is not overly accessible, which is the biggest reason I started writing about wine, to make a space where that’s not the case. Blogs are a chance to write about wine in new ways.”

Lia Huber @ Swirling Notions:

“You build credibility by doing something well–whether it be blogging about restaurants or food cultures, the balance of a wine or the ambiance of a meal. If you do that, people will want to continue to read your words, and if you don’t, they won’t.”

Dirty South Wine:

“I’m not sure about insecure, but I think a lot of wine blogs are recreating the wheel into the shape of a wheel. When I look at blogs, I don’t want to read just reviews and scores, but I want to read about someone’s experience with the wine. Where were they? What was the setting? Did something funny happen? Was the wine worth the price? If I want only notes and scores, I can just go to cellartracker.com. Though I have some certifications, I keep those off my site. I’m a consumer and don’t want to be confused as an expert (which I’m not). I’d take incredible vs credible any day.”

Cheers!

(images: xinister.com, despair.com)

International Conflict and Wine: Georgia’s Treasures Under Fire

Vinted on August 12, 2008 binned in commentary, wine news


Just to bring a bit of palpable focus to the ongoing conflict in Georgia, I thought I’d highlight a few of the wine-related impacts of the fighting that is making worldwide news headlines:

Georgia’s Caucasus region is widely believed to be the birthplace of wine, based on archeological findings of the oldest known cultivated vines. Georgian wine is still made, and its unique tastes and grape varietals (most notably Saperavi) are highly regarded, with their wines being widely sold in Europe – with the potential to generate increased sales in the international wine market, as well…

The current conflict is taking its toll on Georgia’s wine trade. Russia, probably the largest purchaser of Georgian wine, had already placed a block on sales of Georgian wine. As you can imagine, most business in Georgia has slowed during the conflict, and among those protesting Russia’s actions this week have been importers of Georgian wine.

Here’s hoping that the conflict ends as soon as possible – and that Georgian wine, and the historical wine treasures of Caucasus, escapes relatively unscathed.

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