The good news for wine lovers is that there’s a ton of wine-related content on the ‘global interwebs,’ much of it available for free (because content is a commodity now, people). The bad news is, not all of that content is reading that would appeal to a wider audience (wider than the friends and family of many of those writing the content, that is) – that’s not at all meant as a dig at the vast majority of wine blogs that act as personal journals chronicling passionate consumers’ journeys into the amazing world of wine; it’s just the truth in terms of how much of that content is presented and targeted (trust me, not too many people would want to read my personal journals… but the point is that a small group of people close to me might).
The better news is that, for those looking for the most surfable waves among the vast oceans of on-line wine content, the judges for the 2010 Born Digital Wine Awards have done a great job of vetting some superb individual pieces of that content for you. You can thank them later (I recommend flowers, because those people get a ton of wine already).
The Born Digital Awards program is brainchild of Gabriella and Ryan Opaz along with Robert McIntosh, who together have started building up an impressive set of wine-related media ventures in Europe. The idea was to build on the success of the Wine Blog Awards in highlighting outstanding wine-related websites, but with a Pulitzer-style twist: focusing on individual pieces of content (video and writing), and awarding actual cash to the winners. I don’t know anything about the judging process itself beyond what’s already been published at borndigitalwineawards.com, but I do know that the list of judges contains some pretty amazing wine writing talent.
The finalists in each of the award categories were published last week, and the winners will be announced on May 18th at 5:30 PM ET, streamed live from the London International Wine Fair. I’m humbled to be among the short-listed finalists (go ahead… make the height jokes… you jerks…), but that’s not why I’m talking about the awards here. I’m talking about the awards because I wanted to post the entire list of links to the short-listed finalists below (after the jump) – there’s just some great f*cking content in the list, and if you’re into wine it’s a treasure-trove of cool-ass shiz to read.
WARNING: You may get tired of seeing Blake Gray’s and Alder Yarrow’s names in the list, as they’re each finalists for something like 900 of the categories (ok… two…). In all seriousness, those guys are friends of mine (as are several of the other finalists, actually) and I’m happy to see their stellar writing included in the list (and even happier to be included in any list with those guys).
Now get reading (and watching)… and enjoy!…
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Quick quiz for you: How many times can you listen to a winery’s PR guy mention Robert Parker scores before you want to shove wine barrel bungs into your ears to drown out all sound?
For me, the answer is “somewhere around 25 times,” which is about the amount I endured in the impressive underground barrel storage area of Errazuriz during my recent visit to Chile. I certainly don’t blame their PR for dousing me with the Robert Parker score hose during my visit – Errazuriz are clearly (and justifiably) proud of the accolades that their wines have received; they’ve been at the production of high-end, “icon” wines longer than just about anybody else in Chile, after all. But… what I had a difficult time with was the relentlessness with which that stream of scores was trained at my poor, unsuspecting ears.
God knows I don’t hate Parker, and I don’t hate wine scores (I find them very limiting, and rife for misuse, but don’t hate them). While I find Parker’s palate prefers wines that, to me, come off a bit on the brutish side (and quite a few of Errazuriz’s releases fall into that category), I’m sure plenty of people who like the higher-scoring Parker selections likely find my highly-rated selections on the tepid, shy side.
All further proof that you owe it to yourself to learn your own taste preferences before following the advice of critics too closely, I suppose.
Anyway… back to the cellar of PR pain…
I actually tried to derail said PR person by mentioning (when we were discussing Bordeaux wine prices versus those of Chile’s finest reds) that I’d interviewed Parker fairly recently. I figured what the hell, maybe telling him I’d had contact with Parker would at least change the context of the current discussion about Parker. Nope – that tactic had about the same effect as trying to stop a charging elephant with a grade-school-classroom-grade spitball. So I turned it into a learning opportunity, and the lesson was this:
Reciting a litany of wine scores isn’t really marketing!
It wasn’t helping the oppressive vibe any that day that the icon winery at Errazuriz is impressively imposing in its starkness, or that the barrel rooms have brick and calcareous rock that measures up to two and a half inches thick in some places – while good for withstanding Chile’s earthquakes, the whole thing came off as being a bit too overwhelming, and it all felt just a tad old school.
Quite a marked contrast to the experience I had just a few hours earlier when visiting Errazuriz’s western vineyard location, the gorgeous Chilhue Manzanar (“seagull’s place” in Mapudungun, the language of the region’s indigenous Mapuche people) 120 km northwest of Santiago, and mere 12 km from the Pacific ocean…
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In this episode, I drink expensive bubbly, muse on the Royal Wedding, wax pseudo-philosophic about the Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year Awards, and pose the questions: What does “long-term appeal” mean to YOU when it comes to wine writing? And do you think it even matters? Shout it out in the comments! Enjoy!
Mentioned in this episode: