The Wine Blogging Community Is A Joke (But It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way)

Vinted on August 5, 2014 binned in best of, commentary

During the recent Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara, I performed one of the more self-serving actions of my entire life (and that’s saying something, right there). During Corbett Barr’s keynote speech, I clapped deliberately and loudly when Barr told the conference-goers that the wine blogging community needs to do more to work together and foster community. A few seconds of my obnoxious clapping got (more or less) the entire room applauding Barr’s astute comment.

I label that as self-serving because Barr and I spent over an hour on the phone together prior to WBC14, discussing the current state of wine blogging, during which I pressed hard on the fact that too many wine bloggers view themselves as someone apart from the wine blogging community, and, like their wine print brethren, are too competitive and catty and need to share more in rising-tide-lifts-all-boats fashion.

I fear that, based on the blogging about WBC14 that has transpired since that speech, that much of Barr’s wisdom fell on some deaf ears. While we’ve seen a handful of well-reasoned WBC14 criticism and balanced debate about topics such as the conference’s Wine Writers Workshop session, we’ve seen a bit more carping about the conference not meeting expectations, and/or the speakers being too old, too white, too print, too out of touch, too whatever.

WTF?!?? Are you people out of your minds?!???

Folks, if you’re blogging about wine and want to wine blogging to be taken more seriously, then let me tell you something about the state of your writing, and your approach to the wine blogging community: It’s a joke

Before you get to flaming me for that statement, remember this: I’ve almost certainly been a part of the wine blogging community longer than you have, and I almost certainly love it at least as much as you do.

Which is why I feel I have an experienced viewpoint when I ask: do you know why Wine Spectator laughs at our collective wine blogging asses? Because we are a joke of a community online, particularly when compared to our beer and spirits counterparts.

We online wine peeps need a f*cking intervention.

Let me dismiss some myths for us all; actually, let’s use some modern American icons to do it for us:

“You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake” – Tyler Durden

Some of the wine bloggers reading this will feel that they are superior writers when compared to the lot of citizen wine bloggers making their way in the Global Interwebs, and some of them would be correct. But here’s a message to those folks who view themselves as somehow a part removed from the wine blogging community:


I don’t care how good you are, or influential you are, or how many wine reviews you have published, or if your sh*t indeed smell like 1958 Mosel Riesling, the fact remains the individual website traffic numbers for your wine blog on its own are laughable compared against sites like Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast; they probably don’t even register as a discernible daily delta for those sites. It’s like missing a couple of ants from an entire colony.

Acting like you are bigger than the wine blogging community in total (which is a formidable force in terms of any measure you want to use – influence, website traffic, etc.) serves only to make you look like a douchebag. Get with the program – we’re all in this together, or we’re not even in it at all.


“You don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone!” – Herb Brooks

So, you’re upset that three middle-aged white guys who are successful print wine writers told you that you’re wine writing isn’t perfect? Sorry, folks, guess what: YOUR WRITING ISN’T PERFECT. It’s not even close to perfect. If Hemingway threw away rough drafts in disgust, then guess what? Nobody’s writing is perfect.

I wasn’t even at the WBC14 session in which Jim Conaway, Mike Dunne, and Steve Heimoff critiqued the wine writings of several conference attendees, and I can still tell you that discounting all of their feedback has got to be wrong.

The entire purpose of such a workshop is to show you what isn’t so great about your writing; otherwise, that talent will stagnate like a pool of fourteen-year-old White Zinfandel. I cannot think of one example – not one – in the history of anything worthwhile in which ignoring improvement needs led to someone becoming kick-ass at what they were doing. Hell, even winning a freakin’ video game involves identifying and overcoming blind spots and weakness; you think the craft of writing about a topic as interesting and tricky as wine is going to be easier than finishing Call Of Duty?!??

C’mon, we’re better than that, folks.

As wine bloggers, we ought to be temporarily kissing the asses of Jim Conaway, Mike Dunne, and Steve Heimoff for sharing their experiences in the first place, and taking the time to kick our collective asses in that writing workshop, because I can tell you from firsthand experience that the print wine writing world is not a nurturing, take-the-promising-fledglings-under-our-wings-and-help-them-to-soar environment; it’s more of a get-the-f*ck-out-of-my-nest-you-damn-kids! environment. So to have three successful print wine writers share their insights is kind of a minor miracle, and while we might have to mine their comments for the real nuggets, there will for sure be nuggets worth finding (assuming we’re open to improvement).

I am NOT saying that you have to agree with every bit of feedback that those guys had; but I AM saying that you’d do well to listen to it, fairly contemplate it, and then decide for yourself which parts are relevant to you before dismissing them.

As for the WBC picking the “wrong” panelists for that feedback session: that’s not a correct assessment of the situation, either. WBC did pick the right panelists. Fact: the wine print world is dominated by middle-aged white guys, so we should kind of expect some of the successful ones to be… middle-aged white guys! Surprise! Not!

Now, some of us (maybe many of us, including me, who is fast becoming a middle-aged white guy) will have trouble relating to those print guys; that’s just natural. And, I’d argue, it’s reflective of the situation plaguing wine media right now, which is a lag in the reflection of the true cultural diversity of the wine drinking public. You know who’s job it is to change that situation?

Ours. Yours.

How? By banding together and helping one another to improve, innovate, and succeed. If we do that, we’ll see more of our own become successful, we’ll see further change in the wine media spheres, and it’ll be their turns at the podium.

Put another way: Over the last few years, we wine bloggers have absolutely turned the wine media world onto its ear. Together, we are gaining power and influence every day, provided that we remain a united front.

How about showing the wine world that we know how to use that power for good?






  • The Drunken Cyclist

    As one of those who has written about the Wine Writers Panel and Workshop (I attended both), there is no doubt that I am one of those that you are taking to task. I realize that and not only do I accept it, I welcome it. I agree with (just about) everything you say. My only real “beef” with the panel was that they did not seem to take into consideration their audience and/or the changing nature of wine writing. You mentioned Corbett Barr’s talk—I thought it was abundantly clear that he spent a lot of time researching, contemplating, and talking to wine bloggers before he made (adapted) his speech to his audience. Not everything hit exactly (at least for me) but by far most of it did.

    I tried to point out in my piece that I was very grateful fro meet those on the panel and I was very thankful for their attendance at WBC and for their comments. I did take away several “nuggets” (as you called them), but is it not OK to want more?

    • 1WineDude

      Jeff, I actually didn’t have any specific post in mind when I wrote this. I was just getting tired of the theme being played out so often. We need to move on, and it’s fine to want more, but now I think it’s time to give constructive feedback to the wbc directly, etc.

  • andrew

    I wasn't there so cant comment on wbc but isn't this community not a community thing as old as blogging itself? Its all very well saying bloggers need to work as a community but What I've never heard is HOW!

    • 1WineDude

      Andrew – when’s the last time you supported another wine blogger? Not saying you don’t, but if you retweeted or reblogged something great that they did, that’d put you in the minority of wine bloggers currently, I suspect.

      • @MattMcGinnis

        Beyond retweeting, reblogging and putting other sites on a blog role, what are some tangible ways to form and sustain a community that will help wine bloggers to be more successful? Those seem like fairly straight forward and easy things to do, but not very substantive for community building. Is there an opportunity to do off-shoots of WBC to create more frequent (less expensive) gatherings of bloggers?

        • 1WineDude

          Matt – yes, I think there are such opportunities. I don’t have all of those answers, but I suspect the answer cannot be all of us splintering off alone and thinking we’re superior to the community; that’d be our death knell.

        • vtwinemedia

          I've often thought that smaller self-directed gatherings could have a lot more positive impact within the community than the WBC does. With all due respect, and with the knowledge that blogger input is requested, the conf is organized by a tour company, and makes the venue easy for producer groups to market through…that fundamentally changes the kind of community building that happens there as opposed to more organic methods.

          • 1WineDude

            Todd, that's true, but so is the flip side that sponsorship opens up opportunities and keeps conference costs very low.

            • vtwinemedia

              No doubt, but that's also part of the point…could more frequent, smaller, manageable, regionally distributed events scale the positive in a way that augments in multiples, the centralized annual congregation? I think so, but we blogging community members can't expect the current organizers to do that for us. We need an easy to replicate, self-organizing, grass roots model, modern symposium if you will ( they drank lots of wine at those gigs ), where localized groups can interact on topics or products with other groups globally…think group #winechat crossed with Snooth virtual tastings on steroids meets Eric Asimov's wine school blended with five star ( or A+ through F- ) peer reviewed, reviews…and there was that Punchdown show that was pretty cool for a while, too ;)

      • rickbakas

        I would ask you the same question, Joe. How often do you support other bloggers?

        • 1WineDude

          Rick – as often as my sparse time allows, which is far less often than Id like!

          • rickbakas

            In the context of the article, you are one of the few people who can lead by example. From the looks of it, you support fellow bloggers about .01% of the time which falls under 'walk the walk'. The world of wine blogging looks to you as an example of many good practices to follow—show them how.

            • 1WineDude

              Rick – The point is that we can ALL do more (that naturally does not exclude myself). Some of the first content I did for my gig? Highlighting some of the best independent wine blogs. That's exposing people to a potentially totally different audience. There's one example, but Answers isn't exactly gonna let me write about wine blogs every month, bro. How many WBCs have I spoken at for free… something like all but two of them? Here's another example of someone leading: Alder has re-blogged me a few times over the years on Vinography; that guy is like me, insanely busy running his own thing, has the option of talking about any wine topic he wants on the site, but every so often takes a topic first written on a blog and runs with it. Not to sound glob, but I comment where I can, share where I can, link where it makes sense. It might not meet your standards in terms of volume, but I have exactly *zero* concern that I'm not walking the talk here.

    • Tom Wark


      A few years ago it was bloggers that raised and helped put into place the wine bloggers conference for wine bloggers. Bloggers created the wine blog awards for wine bloggers, bloggers (me included) regularly profiled other and new wine bloggers on the their own blogs. Forums and Facebook groups were created by wine bloggers for wine bloggers. And yes, there were blog rolls. And of course, some bloggers have suggested other bloggers to editors looking for new writers or writers fro specific projects. Other times bloggers working at wineries or other wine-related businesses have organized tastings for other bloggers.

  • Michael Brill

    A great post. If the primary goal of wine reviews is to influence the purchases of readers (which I believe is the case; others will disagree), then bloggers/semi-pros have an opportunity to become a major force… but without coordination, the vast majority are likely to stay in rounding errorville. Maybe a couple emerge to become singular voices with large audiences… but maybe that train has left.

    The biggest problem I see is scale, consistency and accessibility of review content. Right now it is a no-contest both from the professional critic side and from the consumer side with CellarTracker. You're stuck in the middle. Collectively, you've got the skillz, much of the access and the motivation… but to become a meaningful force in wine requires someone to step and lead. Who's going to do that?

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Michael. Maybe we have the opposite problem, with too many chiefs, so to speak? I suppose that’s part and parcel of blogging, herding cats…

      • Michael Brill

        In my unromantic view of wine writing, to play with long form content you have to first provide a scalable source of wine quality (i.e., a score) info. Until there's a meaningful aggregation of scores from wine bloggers, then relevance is always going to be marginal. I am *not* saying that a score is the end-all, but it's the price of admission. It seems to me that what is going to happen is that power is going shift from critics to the world of knowledgeable consumers and pass by the fiefdoms of wine bloggerdom.

        From an outsider's perspective, I don't feel like it's a problem of too many chiefs; it's the lack of any chief. Leadership is needed and it's there to be taken.

        • 1WineDude

          Interesting take, Michael. Not saying you're wrong, but I hope you are, regarding the scores.

          • Michael Brill

            Should Yelp remove scores? Why is this so different?

            • 1WineDude

              Michael – Do I really need to get into my take on the score debate again? I don't like numbers being used in situations where the numbers are inherently not fungible.

              • Michael Brill

                Sorry, haven't read your score diatribe… point me to a link and you can avoid repeating yourself. I'm really anxious to know what possible objection there could be to an easy-to-understand indicator of quality given the obvious (to me at least) benefits.

                Again, without scores across a broad product base, I can't see bloggers as an influential force outside of the little world that talks to itself.

              • 1WineDude

                Michael – Try… (from 2008) or  I don't hate scores, I just don't see them as the future of wine criticism (I could be wrong, but I'll be trying to make my own reality nonetheless :).

              • Michael Brill

                I'm not sure how to reconcile this with the fact you score each wine you taste. Whether it's a letter system, 5 stars, 20 points, 100 points… it doesn't really matter. It's a score. Just to push the issue a bit more (and apologies for being a pain), I'd say that you are among the biggest proponents of scores – more so than traditional wine critics because at least traditional critics back up their score with modestly useful sensory descriptions. You choose to write funny, but very low value, description text and thus the sustained value from your work is a score.

                The result is that you publish a price and score right next to each other along with a link to buy the wine if that QPR appeals to the reader. Frankly, I can't think of any wine site that is more dependent on a score than yours.

                If you making your own reality where scores aren't the future of wine criticism then obviously you shouldn't be scoring wines, right?

                I hammer this home not to be a dick, but because I feel so strongly that shared publishing of wine scores (and reviews) is a minimum requirement for wine bloggers to get out of first gear.

              • 1WineDude

                Michael, my features don’t use the grades at all anymore. The reviews that appear on Twitter/fb and get summarized here on Mondays do use them (they didn’t always), and that was be because of 1wd reader feedback. I don’t equate the grades with a specific number, if you do then that’s your hangup, not mine :-) As for my work there providing no value, that’s your opinion and you’re welcome not to read them; I know that lots of folks enjoy them (because they tell me) so I keep doing them, and I know that they’re not very quotable so wineries and PR folks don’t like them (and I don’t care enough about that to stop).

  • Steve Heimoff

    I thank Joe Roberts for speaking the truth, in a way I couldn't have.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Steve. Knowing you personally, I hope you’ll continue to provide an example of embracing the wine blogging community. Thanks again for what you’ve done so far!

  • vtwinemedia

    I hear you and at the same time have to balance these very real points against the accusations from the other end claiming that wine bloggers are not relevant because they only talk to one another. I personally would like to see more consciously collaborative efforts, because where print media by their very nature are authoritative information silos, the online community is not limited by that structure. I recently heard an interview with Clive Thompson, author of where he posits that our current ability to congregate and build communities around common interests and pursuits, creates intelligent networks and essentially makes all of us smarter than we would be otherwise.
    We can learn more and have more impact in creating the kind of wine culture that WE want, rather than that which is sold to us…if we effectively communicate with one another and with our own communities.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks for that link, Todd. That viewpoint pretty much sums up what I’ve been encouraging for a long time. And we have done that, don’t get me wrong, I’m just concerned that we could lose that ground if we’re not careful.

      • vtwinemedia

        You are right…without some discipline, the forces of entropy and attention whoring could easily offset some of the better efforts out there. I'm looking forward to attending WBC15 in the Finger Lakes next year, and am hoping to pow-wow with some folks about precisely this issue.
        What is your take? Are the most recent incarnations of the WBC helping, or making the problem worse?

        • 1WineDude

          Looking forward to seeing you there, Todd. I've got to think that by bringing wine bloggers together, wbc is ultimately going to do far more good than harm.

  • Mary Cressler

    Joe, I love your energy… and your f-bombs!

    First off, I do agree that many responses to the panel and workshop have gotten a bit out of control. I’ve stopped reading most of them as a result. This is coming from someone who wrote one of those posts (I’ll get back to that in a minute).

    To me it’s a reflection of your bigger point that wine bloggers “are too competitive and catty and need to share more in rising-tide-lifts-all-boats fashion.”

    I see too few examples lately of wine bloggers working and collaborating together and more examples of this catty criticism of each other. I absolutely agree with much of what Corbett Barr said in his keynote speech. I thought it was spot on. And as cheesy as it may have sounded, his Mastermind 101 idea is a brilliant. Most of us bloggers work alone, with no editors or even a team, and useful criticism and regular challenges could help, a) people taking each other more seriously, b) collaboration, and c) helping people improve their friggin’ game!

    To your other point.

    “As for the WBC picking the ‘wrong’ panelists for that feedback session: that’s not a correct assessment of the situation, either.”
    That’s where I disagree.

    I never said they picked the “wrong” panelists. In fact I said I wish the only change were that there was *more* panelists (in addition to the three who were there) giving a wider representation of perspectives. You even agreed with that, at least I think you did, in your comments to my post:
    “I agree that the wbc generally seems to miss opportunities to diversify on the panels … those other perspectives are needed and would differ from mine in ways I probably cannot predict, and that can make for enlightening discussions, etc.”

    In my response to the panelists I felt similar to Jeff in that I simply feel that they missed an opportunity to speak to a very specific audience. I used to teach public speaking to college students and the #1 rule I would remind students of before preparing for any presentation was, “tailor your message to your specific audience.” I feel much of the criticism that has flooded in since WBC (at least my own) was a result of this. It’s unfortunate that it has become so out of hand and I feel terrible for the writers who got caught up in the middle of the storm. Again, it goes full circle to your original point.

    • 1WineDude

      Mary, thanks. I did agree with you, but yours was a much more measured critique than several that I’ve read, as you mentioned at the start of your comment. We should have more and diverse panels, etc. But I’ve been seeing the same responses you have, which are starting to make me cringe. Bloggers get upset when primarily print writers draw a quality line in the sand dividing us and them, yet we feel someone justified in doing the same, which isn’t fair.

  • Robert Larsen

    Way to stir it up, bro. Have you ever been to the Digital Wine Communications Conference, I hear it's quite good and encourages what you preach here.

    • 1WineDude

      Robert, :-) no, but hoping to get there at some point (that’s a $ issue)…

  • Jim Caudill

    Larsen, still trying to find a way to convince his boss that he should be sent to Switzerland to check in on the state of wine blogging in Montreux….how's that workin' so far?

    • Robert Larsen

      Quite good, actually, Jim. Kinda like that trip you took to Aussieland. It all has value, don't you agree?

      • Jim Caudill

        Absolutely, but I'd schedule it to be during the Montreux Jazz Festival and get Joe to bring his ax….

    • 1WineDude

      Jim, the case would be stronger if he also invited me… Or not ;-)

  • Jamie Goode

    Good sentiment. I agree – we should be more supportive and community like. The rising tide works. Insecurity etc sucks.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Jamie. I agree that insecurity is probably driving some of that behavior, though I try to refrain from making too many psychological assessments :-)

  • DrinkWhatYouLike

    Excellent! Well said, Joe. Appreciate your passion for this topic (and in a tone only you could deliver).

    Agree that 'banding together and helping one another to improve, innovate, and succeed' is the key. A couple of us have organized a small mastermind-type of group of four to review/critique our writing for collective improvement. A small step perhaps, but a 'collective' step.

    Regarding the panels/panelists that are the subject of so much discussion, a couple attendees have noted that the panelists 'missed an opportunity (to connect, deliver different/better information, etc.)' during the two sessions. I can't help but wonder — did the panelists (those accomplished online/print writers that happened to be middle-aged white dudes) miss an opportunity, or, did we bloggers miss the opportunity?

    Cheers bro!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Frank. I think it's both groups missing the opportunity, to some extent. I'm not here to be a defender/apologist for wbc, but I keep going to them because I love the community and think the conferences are valuable, and knowing how difficult they are too pull off.

  • passionatefoodie

    You make plenty of interesting & valid points in your post. Last week, I saw Adam Japko give a talk on Social Media at Design Camp in Vegas. A wine blogger giving a talk to a group of interior design people. He made a fascinating point about Tribes vs Weak Ties (which I wrote about yesterday on my blog), and I think it is direct applicability to the issues you raise. Many wine bloggers are secure within their own small tribes, yet such tribes can be too homogeneous, incestuous and stifle innovation. That is why there is so little growth with many blogs. They keep doing the same old things. Instead, they need to exploit their "weak ties," which have been shown to promote greater innovation & creativity. They need more contact with their acquaintances who have different interests, but who can share such matters. That is certainly a very brief explanation of the point, but one which people should explore further. For example, rather than just consult other wine bloggers, talk to some food bloggers for advice and suggestions. As someone who writes about wine & food, I can say I have learned things from food bloggers I haven't learned from other wine bloggers, and vice versa.

    • 1WineDude

      Great points, thanks, Richard.

    • Mary Cressler

      I totally agree Richard. I am a part of several collaborative food blogger groups that to a ton to help, support, and promote each other. Something I haven't seen much of on the wine side of things. We have a lot to learn from successful food bloggers and the supportive communities they've created.

  • Marcy Gordon

    The reason many reacted negatively to the writer panel and workshop was not because we were disinterested in the panels collective experience, it was because they were unable to covey that life long experience and connect to their audience in a meaningful way.

    Supposedly, but I can not verify it, and it could just be a rumor, but the word on the back channel is some bloggers have been asked to write posts to defend some aspects of WBC14 that were criticized by a "few loud voices" particularly the writer panel and workshop.

    And supposedly, this is because Steve Heimoff wrote an angry letter to Allan of Zephyr. Although this could be untrue as well.

    I appreciate your points, about the workshop, but they would be stronger if you were actually in attendance at the workshop and could speak from a position of experience and authority.

    Until every single blogger in attendance posts their “three suggested entries” –how can one determine the minoirty or majority opinion about the conference? You can’t.

    Bloggers are vocal because most want to see the WBC thrive and evolve, not fester into oblivion. And some have written very good and measured posts giving advice and suggestions about how to keep WBC relevant as it continues to attract both new and seasoned bloggers. See Fred Swan as an example. I offer advice and outline a solution in one of my posts too.

    I get your message of Kumbya here, but constructive criticism has it's place too. And is necessary to move the conversation forward.

    • 1WineDude

      Marcy, I agree with you about the constructive criticism (of course). It's not those in railing against here, but the collective view that generally wine bloggers are harping negatively about wbc and the sessions, etc. Being on the volunteer wbc improvement board, I can tell you that is definitely happening, and I can also tell you that no one agreed in that channel to write anything in defense of wbc (personally, I'd have disclosed that if it had been the case). Regarding a letter from Steve, you'd have to ask Steve about that one (I can't say I'd blame him, given some – but not all! -of the commentary out there).

  • larainbow

    Several points well made here.

    I think as well as needing a LOT more support of each other (through sharing/RTing/engaging in conversation etc as you rightly say) we also need to start writing more engaging content.

    I get really bored of blogs that just reel out 'I went to this tasting and this is what was good' and 'I tried this wine and these are the tasting notes' posts. Personally, I don't care about the blogger's opinion so much, I care more about finding out new and exciting ways to enjoy wine in various contexts. I'm hoping this sort of content will become more frequent the more we let go of wine snobbery.

    Great post!
    (By the way, my drinks blog is at :) )

    • 1WineDude

      vinspireuk, thanks. The great thing about blogging is that theoretically you can find someone out there doing it the way you want to read it.

  • PaulG

    Thoughtful, emotional post Joe! I wasn't at the conference and am indeed an aging, print-era white guy… but one who has embraced and largely successfully adapted to the evolving demands and opportunities of the digital media-verse. My two cents? First, it's up to the audience of bloggers to MAKE the connection to the panelists, not vice-versa. Second, there is no way in the daily blitzkrieg of bloggers and other wine communicators that any impact can be generated (with rare, rare exceptions) by an unaffiliated individual. Who has time to digest even a fraction of this material? I scan the headlines from a variety of email newsletters to see what might be of value on any given day. Even someone as talented as your own self does not draw my eyeballs very often. Fact of life – I have work to do. So you are totally right when you suggest that building a community is essential. That is exactly why CellarTracker is successful. Maybe BloggerTracker is what is required?

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Paul. Great point and I agree, I'm raising a kid, hustling for my freelance business, etc, with scant time to read many blogs on any topic!

    • Marcy Gordon

      "First, it's up to the audience of bloggers to MAKE the connection to the panelists, not vice-versa."


      This is contrary to the methods and advice from top presenters and media professionals in all fields.

      It is not the job of the audience to make the connection. It is up to the presenter to connect with the audience first. After that the audience may follow suit, or not.

      I'd love to know how you manifest leaving it up to the audience to connect with you in your own presentations and speaking engagements. Or maybe you just blog, and in that case it is solely up to the reader to suss out your meaning.

      • PaulG

        This is not your standard presentation to your standard audience. Let's not be disingenuous. These are would-be professionals at a seminar to learn how to be better writers. Do you ever attend seminars in your profession? I do, all the time. And I make it my personal responsibility to find the value. I have to believe that Steve and the other presenters were not there to waste everyone's time. So all the whining about they didn't connect sounds like people who didn't make the effort, and just wanted to be pandered to.

        • 1WineDude

          You're probably both right, to some extent. I mean, when someone is teaching at university level, as a similar example, assuming that they don't totally suck, then some students will make the extra effort and get As and others will skate by on Cs. The difference is usually (but not always!) due to what those students attempt to get out of the lectures.

        • marcygordon

          Your comments would have more weight if you were actually at the conference sessions in question and able to speak from experience. Try being informed instead of just opinionated.

          • marcygordon

            Above comment directed to Paul G

    • winewonkette

      It's up to an audience to connect with the presenters? That has GOT to be the most naive, or over-the-top ego blinded comment I have ever heard — I'm sure stand-up comedians everywhere are wishing that were true, because then they could just blame the audience when they flopped…. It's nice that you, personally, try to find value in a presentation — but it is NEVER the job of the consumer to connect with the service provider. And it's never the job of the audience to stroke the egos of the presenters — no matter WHO they are.

      • 1WineDude

        Amy, I always saw it as a two way street, with the majority of the responsibility falling on the presenter.

  • mjgraves

    I have blogged these past 8 years, but I am not a wine blogger. I did not attend WBC, although I might plan to attend a future event. I follow some wine blogs. I was mostly appalled to hear the criticism levelled by some at the choice of keynote speakers. The speakers were people that I admire. People who had by way of their writing earned my respect. If I were to start a wine blog, they were people who, along with yourself, I might wish to emulate.

    There are so many wine blogs that I simply don't follow, largely because they don't show any potential to teach me about wine. That's a sad state of affairs. I lament the loss of this past year. There was a wine blogger who was on a path that I could appreciate!

    • 1WineDude

      MJ – I hate to see wine blogs get abandoned. Part of the territory (this stuff is a lot of work!).

  • Wine Life Radio

    Sitting at Starbucks reading and reading/ we cannot wait to comment on this !!!!! Keith and Kimberly @

    • 1WineDude

      wineliferadio – Looking forward to it!

  • Charlie Olken

    I have so far tried to stay out of this silly debate other than my one comment that diversitiy is a good thing and, IN ADDITION TO older white guys with experience, knowledge and wisdom, it is important to hear from folks with different perspectives as well.

    My one add to the discussion here is that Heimoff and Dunne are also bloggers–as am I. Being a print guy, being white and older does not disqualify them or me or Paul Gregutt as important voices. It is that latter point that bugs me the most when criticism rolls in. Mary understands, but so many in the blogosphere do not.

    Your point, and you need to keep repeating it, is that there is knowledge everywhere, and it is better off being shared. I therefore challenge you, my adopted internet son, to create the a collective community to which dues are paid and an editor (you or Work or Cressler or all of you) identify topics worthy of sharing and commission those topics for publication in the Vino Internecine Blogger Environment (VIBE) and thus to start the ball rolling on discussion of value to the Community.

    • 1WineDude

      Papa Olken (and Todd) – But why is a multi-collaborator website the answer? It's just one of many possibilities. The smaller, private forums proposed by Barr during his keynote is another option that could meet similar ends (on improving writing, etc.). I guess I just don't see the need to lose independence, or ask people to contribute to other non-money-making endeavors beyond the blogs that they have with which they can barely keep up within their busy lives at it is. Not that these are poor ideas, they're not (see Palate Press, for example; they make some money!). But I see no need to curate or gatekeep content, I see needs to collaborate in promotion and other areas, and to extend to the “weak connections” that Richard mentioned in his comment.

      • Charlie Olken

        Joe–If you do not like that idea, which by the way is meant to be an activist idea and can take many forms, go out an invent one of your own. Without someone taking the lead, this is all just pissing in the wind.

        Go ahead. Offer ten ideas, offer a thousand, but for goodness sake, look for one that actually does something and does it in a way that draws the blogosphere in for its own good. That good can be changes to the WBC or replacing it altogether, establishment of some kind of wine bloggers organization and active forum so you can all talk to each other in some organized way.

        This discussion is a good first step, but like everything else, it will dry up and be forgotten unless someone or someones take positive action.

  • Bill Smart

    Hey Joe – I wasn't at the conference either and have not attended since Walla Walla in 2010. What strikes me (and maybe I'm wrong here) is that the WBC has lost its focus. Seems like folks just go to whoop it up and party with their wine friends – which is great but doesn't seem to do anything to further the cause of the wine blogging community. Seems like the organizers should maybe think outside the box – what about having a panel of consumers there to discuss how and why they buy wine? Or a panel of somms disussing how they choose wines and develop wine programs? Why spend time discussing how to be a better writer or how to monetize your blog? If you can't write or figure out how to make money then maybe you shouldn't blog. It seems to me that we all spend a lot of time talking AT each other and not spending time talking TO each other and trying to figure out how to move the needle forward in a postive direction.

    • 1WineDude

      Bill – and then when we do, we get flamed for talking too each other too much! :) To your point, we've been discussing on the wbc improvement board the fact that there seems to be three distinct camps that bloggers fall into (newer, more experienced, and industry) and that those need to be addressed more directly in the tracks of content in the future perhaps.

  • @jamesonfink


    When I spoke with Corbett I, too, beat the drum for collaboration. Put me in the "rising tide lifts all boats" camp. I've given quotes, recommendations, done interviews, guest posts, and more with both wine and food bloggers. Fellow wine bloggers have been guests on my podcast as well.

    How about 25-50 of us give up our individual blogs and band together to form a single site?


    • 1WineDude

      Jameson – I'm not sure that's the answer, or that there even is one answer. Actually, I am hoping that the collaborative spirit is more than that type of thing. I mean, look at the series you do highlighting bloggers, that's a great example of cross-exposure that doesn't require the painful ordeal of cat-herding.

    • awanderingwino

      Interesting concept Jamesonfink. I've thought of a similar concept as well. If there were enough involvement, there could be an endless amount of content poured out daily.

  • Beau

    I like the "rising tide and its effect on shipping" mentality, but how does that actually work? Joe, when was the last time you retweeted someone's blog who isn't Heimoff, the Hosemaster, or one of your other buddies? When was the last time you went out and wrote a piece on some exciting new blog you found, urging your readers to visit and comment on that persons content? If we're all in this together, then shouldn't the people who've been blogging longer than the rest of us be leading the charge?

    I get that you're trying to make a living being a professional writer/blogger and as such, have to do things that generate income, but isn't just a bit hypocritical of you to write a huge blog post excoriating critics of something they paid for, when you yourself could be one of the leading voices in getting us all around that happy campfire?

    Don't get me wrong, again, I like the idea of bloggers collaborating, working together, and helping each other out. This is especially the case when it comes to both quality of writing and wine evaluation. Most bloggers could use help with the two most important parts of wine blogging. In that, it appears that the WBC did well this year with the panel you were on. I didn't attend, of course, but am planning to attend WBC15 and am already excited about the potential topics and meeting more bloggers.

    • 1WineDude

      Beau – I've given wine blogs/posts/etc. that I've liked nods on all of my highest profile gigs that would let me do it (not just here,, some print stuff, etc.). So I don't at all feel hypocritical, or at all feel the need to defend the stance. If my record on community doesn't speak for itself at this point, then some comment from me isn't going to change perceptions of it.

      • alisonmarriott

        I'd been blogging less than a year and had only met Joe once when he RT'ed one of my blog posts. I know he's been incredibly supportive to a lot of others that are new to the game as well. Thx.

        • 1WineDude

          Thanks, Alison. Hope all is well!

  • Alan Goldfarb

    We love wine bloggers and want to love more; but caveat emptor (this is addressed to flacks and winery folk): They're all not created equal, as we well know. I saw one so-called writer shopping online while the three tired white men told the room of their vast experience. Another young woman said when I asked her what she thought of Heimoff/Dunne/Conaway, responded, "I think it's time to move on." Move on? From what to what? To keep writing frivolously, without original thought so that you're (not all, of course) able to collect and hoard the considerable/valuable perks that comes from hospitable wineries without you barely able to write a studied word about their wine? The exercise and goal of all this ranting is hopefully to separate the bloat from the fat; to gain respect, integrity, and gravitas for the entirety of the wine blogosphere. That way, we all win.

    • 1WineDude

      Alan – Amen.

  • Charlie Olken

    By the way, The Connoisseurs' Wine Blog ( publishes a weekly "bravo" to a blog whose writing is of particular interest, thought-provoking, etc.

    Our most recent edition of what we internally call "Best Blog of the Week" appeared today.

    Sorry if this appears to be a shameless plug, but I don't know another way to let you all know that it is (a) being done today by an older, white, print guy and (b) more of you ought to do it. It is not hard.

    • 1WineDude

      Charlie – not a shameless plug at all. Glad to see it.

  • Tom

    Joe, I agree that the flaming comments on that one particular workshop were unnecessary. And of course, none of the panelists gets paid and it is extremely generous of each and every one of them to volunteer his time to help other bloggers. As it is for you to serve on the volunteer WBC improvement committee. But I have to say that WBC does almost nothing to foster the kind of community you're talking about. There are several things that could be done to help:

    1) When bloggers register for the conference there could be a series of questions to better categorize the blogs and allow attendees to find others with similar interests and blogs. Since at least 50% of the conference's value is networking, why not make it easier? I'm an importer and online retailer who also writes about wine and food pairing. Maybe there's no one else exactly like me (so my mother says, anyway…) but I would have loved to read blogs from retailers and importers coming to the conference before I got there and had a chance to meet with some of them without reading through 350 blogs.

    2) I'd love to see five to 10 additional blogging awards restricted to the attendees and those not nominated for the big-boy awards. How about asking each registrant to name two of his or her own blog posts that are representative or just plain better than the others he or she wrote in the past year, then asking for about 20 – 30 volunteers to go through them, taking 10 blogs each? Award categories could include best humor, best scientific/technical writing, and the like. Each of the volunteers picks his favorite post for each of these categories and the blogger awards judges pick the winners. (I'd be happy to volunteer for this.)

    3) I realize that you can't mandate that anyone complete a survey. But how about asking registrants to list their three dream conference sessions as a requirement for registration? There would probably be a lot of agreement and it could form the basis of some sessions.

    4) Or approach it from the other direction and ask registrants if they were going to be presenters, what the subject would be. There may be a lot of untapped expertise out there that could make for great sessions.

    I realize that all of this requires planning and effort. As a veteran attendee and sometime organizer of professional technical conferences, I know how much work it is to put on a conference for 400 or so people. I felt that the content improved substantially between WBC11 and WBC12, and of course familiarity makes it more enjoyable. But everyone could feel more bought-in from the beginning, even the first-timers. And it would definitely make for more community to start.

    • Tom

      Sorry, I didn't mean to write a tome there…

    • 1WineDude

      Tom, I can certainly pass all of this onto them. The awards are a separate entity, and need an overhaul.

      • Tom

        I have been suggesting the first one to Zephyr after every WBC I've attended.

  • Ron Washam, HMW

    I must be insane to comment on this post, as reviled a wine blogger as the HoseMaster is, but, well, I am a bit nuts, to be certain.

    Everyone who blogs, and that's most of the common taters here, knows it's a solitary sport. We blog at home, at all hours, in our underwear, drunk, or avoiding our real life. The "rising tide lifting all boats" is a specious analogy in this case, my friend. Novelists plugging other novelists does not make for better literature, or greater influence. It's just so many empty, ultimately ignored, blurbs on book jackets. (By the way, Beau, I can't remember Joe tweeting about any of my posts, but no matter.)

    It has always seemed to me, and I've been at this a long time, too, that wine bloggers want a great deal of respect and influence while offering virtually nothing for it. Only a handful can write, only a few have any genuine wine knowledge, too many simply regurgitate the marketing materials they're fed by wineries, few question anything about the business, and the business actively encourages the work of wine bloggers who toe the line, who only say nice things, who lather on empty praise but do so eloquently. Put all of them on a blog together and you still have a pile of compost. Co-operation won't hurt, but it won't increase influence, just make for a bigger pile.

    Is it, in fact, important that wine blogging have influence in the wine business? It will, or it won't, but not because it decides to, or decides not to. Our audience is basically ourselves, which makes it impossible to generate much influence. Who reads wine blogs who isn't a wine blogger, or part of a winery? To gain influence, one has to reach outside the wine blogging world–into food blogs, or Mommy blogs, or anywhere outside this incestuous little group. Wine Blogger Conferences are vanity shows, ego-stroking is what gets bloggers to attend, I doubt that will change. It seems they don't go there to improve, but to be told how great they already are. And when they're criticized, oh, the indignity!

    But it's great that you got all this off your chest, Joe, and articulately. I'd post a link on my blog, but no one reads it. It is interesting, though, that the top wine bloggers, like you, rose to the top with simple tenacity, a unique Voice, and passion for wine. You have some influence, judging from how many panels and competitions and junkets I see you on. How would you have had the time to help raise the tide of wine blogging? For better or for worse, wine blogging isn't a team sport. Talent always, eventually, rises to the top. But by hard work, perseverance and luck, not because you play well with others. To my mind, much of your thinking here is mushy.

    • 1WineDude

      Ron, thanks for the kind words. I’m not equating talent with influence or collaboration. What I’m saying is 1) that wine bloggers need to up their writing game and not feel victimized when good writers tell them that they need to improve (your points underscore this, I think), and 2) no one wine blogging is bigger than the community of wine bloggers as a whole, and that their influence is actually bolstered by the volume of the community whether or not they acknowledge that fact (sounds like we disagree on that one).

      • Ron Washam, HMW

        Well, it seems you and Tom disagree about the writing skills of most wine bloggers.

        Your first point is something I've been writing about for many years. Wine typing is NOT wine writing. And professional opinions of writing skills are important and useful to anyone who actually wants to write well, but only if they are merciless and to the point. I learned more about writing from my toughest professors, not my admirers.

        I do disagree with your second point, Joe, though I do agree with the first part of it. There is no Robert Parker of wine bloggers, on that we agree. But my point is that the only reason a blogger's influence is bolstered by a larger community is because that community is the only one reading. Wine blogs are read by wine bloggers, if they are read at all. So, yes, if there are more bloggers, one has a wider reach and more influence.

        • 1WineDude

          Ron, I’ve no issue with wine bloggers talking amongst themselves, since the majority of them are almost certainly passionate wine consumers. That’s good for the wine biz overall.

        • Tom Wark

          I have to ask, Ron: What are the requirements for it to "wine writing"? Does it have to be Gerald Asher? George Saintsbury? Paul Lukacs? Ron Washam? At what point does something qualify as wine writing, setting aside audience size?

          Finally, I think your view that only wine bloggers read wine blogs might be influenced by the audience for your blog.

          • Ron Washam, HMW

            See Doug Wilder's comment below.

            I do have requirements for writing. You don't, apparently. Begin with grammar. Move to the ability to write a sentence. That's not writing. Those are the tools you use to write, along with punctuation and spelling and syntax. Many do not even have those tools to use, so, no, they can't write, in my view.

            And then we get to original thought, interesting use of language, the ability to hold a reader's interest, engage their curiosity… Those are not particularly high standards, Tom, but simple guidelines to what makes someone a "writer," and not a typer. Are those requirements good enough for you?

            No one has any damned idea who is reading a blog. Not you, and not me. And most of these wonderful and overlooked wine writers you tout don't even get a thousand hits a month. Who's reading them? You get a lot more, Tom, and you deserve it. But your audience is as much from the trade as mine. Is that what influences your opinions? I thought not.

            • Bob Henry

              This seems as good a place as any to once again cite this "opinion" piece on blogging.

              [CAPITALIZATION within articles used for emphasis. — Bob]

              Excerpt from the Los Angeles Times “Op-Ed” Section
              (February 10, 2012, Page A19):

              “Syntax? Logic? Why?”


              By Michael Kinsley
              (former “Op-Ed” page editor of the Los Angeles Times)

              It’s been going on now for too long, right before our eyes. . . .

              . . . [Felix Salmon, the famous financial blogger for Reuters] blog item this week about the quality of writing on the Internet. . . . his basic point is that ON THE WEB, SHEER QUANTITY TRUMPS QUALITY. . . .

              . . . all aspects of good writing — ACCURACY, logic, spelling, graceful turns of phrase, wisdom and insight, puns (only good ones), punctuation, proper grammar and syntax (and what is the difference between those two again) — are all overrated.

              . . . Now one of our nation’s leading bloggers has confessed what we all suspected: that bad writing is inherent to the online world. . . .

              • 1WineDude

                Bob, bad writing is inherent in the world, period.

    • Tom Wark

      "t has always seemed to me, and I've been at this a long time, too, that wine bloggers want a great deal of respect and influence while offering virtually nothing for it."

      Whether wine bloggers are respected or not, that does not change how wrong you are with the above statement. Wine bloggers have and do offer a great deal. The fact that they are not read by thousands upon thousands can't change that fact. Many of them write very well. Many of then go out of their way to question the conventions of the industry. Many of them have significant wine knowledge. This is a fact. And if you like, I'm sure we can begin a list here of those that have and continue to possess all these qualities.

      "Wine Blogger Conferences are vanity shows, ego-stroking is what gets bloggers to attend"

      This too is very far from the truth. The Wine Bloggers Conference is, simply, an annual opportunity for those who write about wine on a blog to get together, learn more than they already know by encountering a specific region's wines, learn from each other, learn from panelists and, yes, be courted by marketers who clearly see an opportunity to get to know people they think they ought to get to know.

      • Ron Washam, HMW

        Your first point only supports mine. Yes, there is some talent in the wine blog world, though you and I always disagree about how much. But you're a marketing guy, and I'm a satirist, so we both exaggerate, but for different purposes. The few with talent do have respect, and do have much to offer. But lumping them in with all the talentless wine typers does them a disservice. Of the several thousand wine blogs (who knows how many there are–no one, really), what percentage would you say offer what you describe? Ten percent? Twenty? Whatever you say, I'd say it's double the reality. Nevertheless, it's not more than twenty percent, which would mean several hundred. Wanna list those? I'll take my eighty percent right and live with it. I'll lump my 80%, though it's more like 95%, together and generalize. You can claim the exceptions that prove my rule.

        The WBC is a for-profit carnival put on for folks who claim to write a wine blog. Yes, they get to go to an interesting wine region, where they are treated, for a few days, like wine writers who actually matter, and I'm certain they learn something. But judging from the subsequent disgruntled posts, and from the chatter, it's more about hanging out with friends and drinking, about reinforcing their own little blogging cliques. I'm not saying that isn't appealing. I'm saying it's a Wine Shriner's Convention.

        To be fair, though I don't know why, I've never been to a WBC. So I'd believe you over me every time. But I'll stand by my words, Tom. In the very long time you've been blogging, and Joe, and, a few years later, me, this sort of discussion has NEVER changed, never moved forward, never born any fruit. That's because the Internet doesn't foster cooperation. Not for wine, not for anything else, unless it's some sort of catastrophe. What the Internet provides is a place to pretend you're someone you're not–whether on a wine blog as an expert, or on a dating site as a catch. It's a huge place, where it's not easier to be heard, it's only easier to speak.

        I hope the next WBC sells out. And I hope the panels are fantastic. Though I doubt you'll get those three old white guys, the ones with talent and knowledge, to recommend it. But, never fear, the same old gang will show up again. And carry on.

    • @WineWonkette

      Ron, while I agree most of the WBC 'suggested' and other WBC-related posts are read only by other bloggers (because no one outside the daisy chain gives a rat's ass) we have honest to goodness actual consumers that read wine blogs. We know this when merchants and wine bars tell us they come in with requests for wines (that we've mentioned) that aren't normally distributed in our little metropolis of 6 million.

  • Marcy Gordon

    The fact that this is a post about the lack of community is ironic given the collective energy seems to be hovering here today—

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t read any wine blogs on a regular basis. The only reason I visit a blog is if I happen to catch a link on twitter. If the link is of interest I will click and read it. If I like what I read I re-tweet it.

    In terms of the future community at WBC, I predict what happened in the travel writer/blogger space will happen in the wine writer/blogger space as well. The more experienced Bloggers/Writers will split off and create their own events using their considerable contacts and reputations.

    I’ve seen this with regard to travel conferences. The TBEX conference in particular causes such derision, that if you follow the tweets from a conference you’d think people were at two different events. The comments and criticism that come out of the travel conference space echo those about WBC.

    When you have a steady influx of new people and a contingent of seasoned attendees, the conference is at cross–purpose to serve both groups. But I think the experience is richer to have both groups together.

    My First WBC, in 2009, was a great, and I learned a lot. I even wrote about a session that seemed beyond my grasp at the time. But I also turned to more experienced bloggers and got great advice from them.

    Santa Barbara marked the 7th WBC. I have attended five. From my perspective, WBC has reached a tipping point in which the critical voices are louder because their expectations have grown accordingly. Over the years I’ve found less relevance in the “ballroom content”, but the excursions are usually of high value. Do I except the WBC to change to meet my needs? No, of course not. But I would be remiss not to offer my ideas for improving it as it heads toward the ten-year mark and continues to evolve.

    WBC is a great value and I still believe it is the best way to gather wine bloggers and writers that wish to meet new people and experience the wine of a specific region. I hope it continues to serve this purpose.

    • 1WineDude

      Marcy, yeah, that irony wasn’t lost on me :-) Maybe I was wrong to take us all to task, actually!

  • SVBonWine

    As I tell my son, "Life is a team sport." Blogging in the wine business is perhaps a blood sport? I say collaboration is a far superior option to killing.

    • 1WineDude

      SVB, sometimes I feel as though it's Thunderdome…

  • doug wilder

    As one of the judges for WBC14, I read through well over 100 entries to narrow down the Best Blog Category. It was a challenge to come up with the requisite 5(+1). I only felt strongly about my top choice and I placed the others just on how well they harnessed images, links and use of italics. Some of what were presented as blogs were essentially advertorials and the presence of clutter in the way of banners and ads was distracting to the eye. I know that several people who blog also write freelance for other publications and that is fabulous. What makes these people successful at it? The ones I am thinking of have not worked in the wine industry but they are bright, astute accomplished professionals who have created a niche for themselves. They ask the right questions and focus on meaningful topics and yes, some appear to have a support network that point them to stories. The ones that come to mind usually present content in clean, clutter-free sites. I think if you asked every blogger if they wanted to increase their influence, very few would say 'No'. Once that is established. asking them how they plan to go about increasing influence, some will say 'Going to conferences.' I remember Gary V. addressed that group during his keynote at WBC08 when he stated "90% of you should just go home now". Doing anything well takes practice and repitition and the group of "older white print guys" do represent a tremendous amount of wisdom and experience. If the impression they left came across as harsh and unfeeling to some, I say tough. They have been in rooms with their editors, fighting for their creative capital and realizing that their work, no the readership of their work supports the livelihood of other people, and they know about deadlines. Their critiques may be the gentlest treatment you get in the world of publishing. Thank them.

    • 1WineDude

      Doug, assuming you meant the wine blog awards and not the conference?

  • doug wilder

    Yes, it was the Awards that I judged, Joe. The bulk of my comments were related to what I observe in the wine blogosphere as someone who used a blog to leverage what I do now.

    Charlie Olken's remark to recognize work by others on his blog is a positive step and a sign of a good leader. I personally learned a lot from Charlie over the years. I imagine what he does is not in the vein of a blogger interviewing another blogger with the extent of comments devoted to them telling the other how awesome the experience was. I don't collaborate with other writers, however, I publish a resource list in every issue of my other independent wine review publications (including CGCW), and a handful of bloggers that I follow. It helps people to make an informed choice about who they read.

  • Alan Goldfarb

    Please see my piece on this subject in The Grapevine Magazine:


  • andyperdue

    There may well be an opportunity for wine bloggers to work together to gain influence and revenue. In some sense, Palate Press and Grape Collective already are working to this end (with slightly differing models).

    Wine is a pretty big niche. A similar-sized niche – photography – already is achieving success in the form of dPS (Digital Photography School), a site with a massive audience and even bigger revenues.

    Creating a site that highlights some of the best wine writing from, say, the top 50 or 100 writers would easily rise above many other wine-related sites. Updating it three to five times per day would be a must, and figuring out whose content appears and how it would be edited and presented is the only major obstacle. It also solves a problem, though, by giving marginal writers a reason to improve.

    In addition to original content, it also could be a clearinghouse for curated links to great content from digital-first wine writing.

    How long would someone be willing to write for such an entity for free until it begins to produce revenue? Most wine bloggers already are doing this for nothing, but setting aside the ego boost of having the content appear on their own site might be the biggest challenge of all.

    This is not difficult. I'm in.

    • 1WineDude

      Andy – good points, but the key question there would be how that site would get traction/audience. I see that as a bigger challenge than the editing. Note that Grape Collective is already trying to do this, though I've no idea if it's successful or not.

      • andyperdue

        Joe, I have some ideas on how it could quickly become successful. If you're game, let's talk offline.

  • Thomas Pellechia

    Whew! Spent a good part of the time reading this when i should have been drinking some wine.

    Anyone who claims to be a writer but complains about hard criticism must know little about what it takes to sustain being a writer. I have been edited by people over the years who make some of the whining bloggers by a gun.

    Having said that, it isn't what I wanted to say.

    What I want to say is I don't understand the purpose behind blogging (or writing) about wine as a collaborative community thing. By its nature, writing is a solitary activity. Has anyone ever seen what a committee or a gaggle of writers produces? It is not pretty.

    Now, if this collaborative community thing is about patting one another's blogging back, that's nice, but what's the purpose? Which consumer should take which collaborations seriously when seeking a bottle of wine for that beef with lime juice?

    I simply do not understand what this post is all about, Joe.

    As for other thoughts: I agree almost completely with Ron. Maybe there's something wrong with me?

    For the record: I'm an old print white guy who started a blog a long time ago (even Wark called me opinionated and thoughtful). I stopped blogging after two or three years, which was when I realized what a time suck it was, how little it produced in reward, and how poor I am at collaborative community work..

    • 1WineDude

      Thomas, the point is not that blogs should be collaborative efforts, but that the community of wine loggers ought to be more supportive of the work that the members do, and channel some creative energies into possible ways to support / encourage / work together. The comments have taken the discussion in *many* other directions (fine by me) but at its heart this is a tough-love wake-up call style tirade on my part for a more nurturing environment. But then, the print world is hardly nurturing, so maybe I am expecting too much of the wine blog / online world to offer something different?

      • Thomas Pellechia

        Supportive of other people's work! Isn't that the job of conferences?

        Unless it's a writer's group, the idea of "community" is anathema to a writer. Writers think alone, work alone, and excel (or fall) alone. In my view, it should be that way. The only people who should support writers professionally are editors–and we know how few of those make their appearance on blogs.

        In addition, since most seem to think that wine writing is confined to wine reviewing, I am trying to understand how one reviewer would or even should support another's review? As a consumer, I certainly would find that collaborative enough not to trust wine reviews. But then, as Ron pointed out, and as I discovered when I maintained a blog, consumers who read wine blogs are as scarce as September snow in Savannah.

        • 1WineDude

          Thomas, the act and craft of writing are largely solitary, as you pointed out. But the act of reading and sharing that content is collaborative.

  • Thomas Pellechia

    Oh, I have lived and worked in the Finger Lakes region wine industry for 30 years, but I am betting I don't get invited to the 2015 conference, which will take place 35 minutes from my home–and that either proves how out of touch somebody must be or how non-collaborative I probably am viewed by others.

    • 1WineDude

      Thomas, well, you don't need an invite to attend (but if you don't attend, we need to get together anyway!)…

      • Thomas Pellechia

        I meant attend as a speaker or panel member, to represent the old white guy group on the East Coast–and maybe speak to the hidden desire of bloggers to write books; I'll have two new ones out by then.

        Since I am no longer blogging, I can't imagine what I would do at the conference as a blogger.

        But yes, we should meet in person. Only then will you know how much of a pussy cat I really am ;) We'll find a way, I'm sure.

        • 1WineDude

          Thomas – :) looking forward to it. And I will certainly drop your name as a potential speaker or panelist to the organizers.

  • The Wandering Gourmand

    Your post is spot on. As I look for ways to refocus my blog, I did considered writing more about wine. But I saw an arrogant community that looks down on someone not sophisticated enough to have their knowledge. They mock someone for drinking a mainstream wine instead of trying to help and educate. Perhaps that's because they don't want the help and education themselves?

    Just today I read a post mocking the most popular wines talked about on Twitter. Really? Mocking what the marketplace is saying. Gary V would tell us to listen. Imagine what a smart wine blogger could do by joining into those conversations? Imagine the site traffic? Hmm… maybe I found my niche…

    • 1WineDude

      Thanes, Gourmand. There was really a post mocking the most talked about wines? If so, that seems terribly misguided to me.

  • John Cesano

    Joe, good post, but the comment string is where the fun happens.

    Me: "Hi, my name is John and I am a wine blogger. "
    Others: "Hi John."
    Me: "It has been two days since my last blog."
    Others: Applause and "Easy Does It… One Day at a Time… Let Go, Let God… Keep Coming Back"

    I didn't attend WBC because it conflicted with a major work event, but I would love to have had the opportunity to have Jim Conaway, Mike Dunne, and Steve Heimoff critique my work.

    I have benefited from the criticism of others, and do not have such a puffed up ego that I think that my writing is perfect. Looking back at my past pieces, sometimes I wince or cringe.

    Pouring for Ron Washam a couple of years ago, i remember the look of disappointment that came over his face when I described a wine as authentic. All wines are authentic, of course, and I have not used the word in describing wine since then. Last week, reading a post by Jo Diaz, I learned to stop referring to grape types as varietals, but instead to use the noun variety. Old dog, new tricks; I can and do learn.

    I also don't think my writing matters all that much. If I told my readers to buy one single specific wine, I do not delude myself that sales would skyrocket or that a perceptible sales bump would occur. That said, when I describe an upcoming chef's wine dinner at a local restaurant in my hometown newspaper wine column, folks do buy tickets. I guess my readers trust the fat guy about food.

    For good or ill, print writers will become fewer and fewer in the future as newspapers and magazines go the way of telegraphs and home phones, and people universally receive their news and entertainment in electronic media formats. Like today, the best writers will differentiate themselves by the quality of their writing; embrace quality writing, as a reader or writer.



    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, John. I still use “authentic” sometimes (drat!)…

  • Rowland

    Thanks for making this a public and talked about issue. Collaboration makes a community, period. OK, some controversy helps keep it interesting too… but when many of the community members pretend the rest don't exist, you don't get any synergy, and synergy means growth. When the whole pie gets bigger, so does your slice – your piece of the daily consumption. Good stuff, glad to see it out in the open.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Rowland.

  • Carlos Janeiro

    Hi Joe,
    First of all let me thank you for the great article. In few words you tell everything. That something I feel to here. Instead of united bloggers are playing to divide, to be the best and think they are "a unique snowflake". Wine Bloging is loosing so much due to this wanna be wine bloging stars that we face a freeze. Almost like writing for yourself or even not publishing anything but writing the same but on private. "(…) banding together and helping one another to improve, innovate, and succeed.(…) that is the main key.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Carlos.

  • winewonkette

    I appreciate your enthusiasm to play peacemaker and sing Kumbaya. I agree that "community" and helping your peers is a noble undertaking. However, at least in the last 7 years, there have been 2 communities operating within the WBC. One smaller community identifies with and supports established writers, one would assume in order to be accepted by and welcomed into that community for imagined riches and glory. The other community is pro blogger and comes to the defense of bloggers disdained and belittled openly by "the pros." Sure a rising tide lifts all boats, but it seems to lift those tiny little speed boats of the few a lot faster than it does those big passenger ships of the many.

    What I find truly comical, and downright ironic, in this entire "controversy," is that bloggers are encouraged to "have thick skins" and welcome criticism of their writing by the sage established professionals. But criticism of the presentation skills of these professionals by the consumers/audience is strictly off limits, because we don't want to hurt their feelings. And therein lies the problem — respect is not a one-way entitlement just because someone got there first.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Amy. I'm not sure the situation is that simple. I think the pros are mostly comfortable with their presentation skills being criticized (obviously, I can't speak for them directly); what they are taking umbrage with (justifiably, probably), from what I can tell, is the criticism of the content of their feedback. I.e., the what vs. the how.

  • Bob Henry

    I was mentored by the OLDEST of the white guy print media wine writers around:

    Robert Lawrence Balzer of the Los Angeles Times.


    In his time, he knew everybody and everybody wanted to know him.

    His time: before there was Wine Spectator, Before there was Wine Advocate. Before there was Wine Enthusiast.

    His Sunday wine column in the Los Angeles Times was the most powerful voice on wine in the United States. His street corner soapbox could be accessed by more than 2 million paid subscribers. (Only The Wall Street Journal — today, decades later — can match those numbers.)

    We students of his twice yearly wine appreciation course remain forever grateful for his selfless tutelage.

    Occidental (Western) culture prizes the exuberance of youth over wisdom that comes with age.

    Oriental culture prizes the sagacity of its elders.

    In Japan, they have what are known as "Living National Treasures."


    Transcendent talents who are repositories of knowledge and skills and wisdom.

    We would do well to pay greater homage to the "wise elders" of our society.

    And in the world of American wine writers, those folks are old, white, and come from the print media world.

    • Bob Henry

      Oops! Make that:

      "We students of his twice yearly wine appreciation course remain forever grateful for his selfless TUTORING."

    • 1WineDude

      Bob, agreed, but bear in mind that your mentoring was probably an exception. The sommelier world mentors much better than the wine writing world, for example.

      • Bob Henry

        A far number of those mentoring relationships are due to study groups formed to pass the Master Sommelier exam.

        Two articles on that subject.

        From the Los Angeles Times “Food” Section
        (December 12, 2007, Page F1ff):

        “Wine Service Grows Up;
        Want in on the food world’s hottest career?
        The master sommelier exam awaits – good luck.”


        By Corie Brown
        Times Staff Writer

        — And —

        From The Wall Street Journal “Off Duty” Section
        (April 25, 2014, Page Unknown):

        “Seattle, Land of the Serious Sommeliers"


        By Lettie Teague
        "On Wine" Column

        • Bob Henry


          "A FAIR number of those mentoring relationships are due to study groups formed to pass the Master Sommelier exam."

          • 1WineDude

            Bob – True, but I am talking about how the older MSs, for example, mentor younger somms who aren't even in the MS program.

        • Bob Henry


          "A FAIR number of those mentoring relationships are due to study groups formed to pass the Master Sommelier exam."

  • Bob Henry



    [CAPITALIZATION within articles used for emphasis. — Bob]

    Excerpt from BusinessWeek “Opinion” Section
    (December 1, 2008, Page 110):
    “10,000 Hours to Greatness”


    Book review by Catherine Arnst

    The Story of Success
    By Malcolm Gladwell
    (Little, Brown; 309 pp.; $27.99)

    . . .

    What does matter, he [Gladwell] says, is the 10,000-HOUR RULE. No one gets to the top unless he or she puts in 10,000 hours of practice in a field . . .

    Excerpt from Fortune Magazine “Leadership” Section
    (November 24, 2008, Page 160ff):
    “Secrets of Their Success”


    Interview by Jennifer Reingold

    . . .

    Fortune: What link does practice have to success?

    Gladwell: The 10,000-HOUR RULE says that if you look at any kind of cognitively complex field, from playing chess to being a neurosurgeon, we see this incredibly consistent pattern that you cannot be good at that unless you practice for 10,000 hours, which is roughly ten years, if you think about four hours a day.

    Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal “Opinion” Section
    (October 29, 2008, Page Unknown):

    “The Hard Work of Getting Ahead”


    Book review by Philip Delves Broughton

    Talent Is Overrated
    By Geoff Colvin
    (Portfolio, 228 pages, $25.95)

    This is one of the grimmer messages of Geoff Colvin’s excellent “Talent Is Overrated.” Mr. Colvin, a writer at Fortune, seeks to explode the notion that the talent contest among human beings ends with their genetic inheritance. Instead, he argues, great performance comes down to one thing more than any other: DELIBERATE PRACTICE. . . . He means a disciplined focus on weakness and a relentless effort to improve. Such practice, when it is done right, is “highly demanding” and “isn’t much fun.” But it is necessary . . .

    . . .

    What is most useful about Mr. Colvin’s book is its candor about the limits of potential. It does not suggest that you can do anything if you try. It says that starting early is a huge advantage in life. Mr. Colvin believes in the 10-YEAR RULE, by which it takes 10 years of hard work to achieve excellence in almost any important field. . . .


    YOU EARN THEM . . .

  • Bob Henry


    Would the young bloviators be considered common tater TOTS?

    ~~ Bob

  • Bob Henry


    From Advertising Age
    (July 16, 2007, Page 1ff):

    "What's Plaguing Viral Marketing;
    Sorry, Malcolm, but the Tipping Point Might Be More Myth Than Math"


    By Matthew Creamer

    From Fast Company
    (February 2008, Page Unknown):

    "Is the Tipping Point Toast?;
    Marketers spend a billion dollars a year targeting influentials.
    Duncan Watts says they’re wasting their money.”


    By Clive Thompson
    Contributing Writer

    From BusinessWeek “Cover Story: The Future of Tech” Section
    (June 1, 2009, Page 032ff):

    “What’s A Friend Worth?
    Companies are scrambling to decode new data
    about our online relationships, hoping for profitable insights”


    [See accompanying exhibit]

    Edited by Stephen Baker

  • Bob Henry

    Joe has good-naturedly "ribbed" me for writing comments that are as long as wine blog entries. This is one of them.

    Let's put this whole discussion into proper perspective, by assessing the comparative size of the wine blogger market.

    PART ONE OF TWO . . .

    Citing The Wall Street Journal "On Wine" columnist Lettie Teagues's March 29, 2013 piece titled "Five Wine Blogs I Really Click With."


    "I spent the better part of last week doing something that relatively few wine drinkers probably do: reading wine blogs. Not just a handful of blogs here and there but hundreds and hundreds of wine blogs from all over the world. I read until I was absolutely blog-bleary; I probably totaled 10,000 page views.

    "I did this partly out of curiosity. I don't read many wine blogs, and I wondered what I might be missing. What was being discussed? What wines, wineries and topics were hot? After all, people in the wine trade have called bloggers a powerful force, capable of challenging — perhaps even eclipsing — traditional media and conventional wine critics. I'm not sure if that's true, but the numbers are certainly impressive.

    "There are about 1,450 wine blogs today, of which about 1,000 are nonprofessional endeavors (the rest are 'industry' blogs), according to Allan Wright of the Zephyr Adventures tour operator, who has organized the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference in North America for the past five years. But most bloggers haven't been doing it very long: 'Only 18% of [wine] bloggers today have been blogging for more than six years,' he said.

    [Bob aside. Click on this link:

    "Most of the bloggers were doing it just for 'personal satisfaction,' Mr. Wright said, since the possibility of making money was quite small. Alder Yarrow, who writes a much-talked-about blog, Vinography, told me that he earns $12,000 to $16,000 from it annually, most of which comes from banner ads. Said Mr. Yarrow, who began his blog in 2004 and has a day job: 'Monetizing a blog is very hard if you don't want to sell products, sell advertising to wineries and therefore look like a shill.'

    "Most bloggers are more like Alice Feiring, a traditional wine journalist [ former Time magazine wine writer, who was potentially read by millions of subscribers] and blogger who has never made 'a cent' from her blog, the Feiring Line, which she started in 2004. (It's one of the few that I read on a regular basis.) But unlike most other bloggers, Ms. Feiring has a newsletter; she has 450 subscribers paying $65 a year for 10 issues. 'The blog was a soapbox; the newsletter is a mini-magazine,' Ms. Feiring explained.

    "A lack of profit potential isn't necessarily the biggest blogger obstacle; time is in even shorter supply. Judging from the number of bloggers who allow weeks, months, even years to go by without posting a thought, it's clearly hard to maintain momentum. Or inspiration. More than one blogger explained his or her absence with a post that began something like: 'I didn't drink anything worth writing about.' "

    PART TWO OF TWO . . .

    Next, let’s assess the composition of the wine blog readership.

  • Bob Henry

    Joe has good-naturedly "ribbed" me for writing comments that are as long as wine blog entries. This is one of them

    PART TWO OF TWO . . .

    Next, let’s assess the composition of the wine blog readership.

    Citing Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine columnist “Monday Manifestos” columnist Charlie Olken's piece dated May 5, 2013 titled "Wine Bloggers Are Talking To Themselves."


    "I am about to commit heresy right here in the CGCW blog. It won’t be the first time, and it probably will not be the last, but it is necessary to set the record straight. I have found out something about wine blogs, and it pains me to admit it.

    "We are talking to ourselves.

    "Now, don’t go and get all huffy, because I don’t mean that no one is reading our wonderful words, our Monday Manifestos, Wednesday Warblings and everything that comes in between, before and after. You, dear readers, are the reason we continue this blog in spite of the fact that it is not what we thought we had bargained for.

    "You see, we thought, in our infinite wisdom, that there was an enormous, like tens and tens of thousands, of hungry wine enthusiasts searching the internet for nuggets of wisdom. And, we therefore presumed that our pearls, our keen insights were going to attract those tens of thousands of unrequited wine word readers. Turns out that it is not so.

    "We get a nice, tidy readership every day, and we sometimes get comments — which we enjoy. But the readership, and especially the commenters, here and on virtually every other wine blog is pretty thin relative to what some folks would have the world believe. And while the several thousand folks who come by once in a while are very much appreciated, the folks who keep the comments section going are few and far between.

    And they are mostly other bloggers and wine industry professionals. A few very active collectors also comment, but not nearly as many as we had thought might. The same situation applies elsewhere as well. Now, we do not mind talking to friends and meeting new friends. And some of the more specific wine technical discussions here have been deep and intense. We did think that we might try to go down that path on a regular basis, but it turns out that the winemakers are pretty busy, and just when you think that some of the more frequent posters are going to jump in and really liven up the party, it turns out that they are too busy making wine or out on the road selling it.

    "And when you get right down to it, it is the same people commenting. The common wisdom is that a blog is a wonderful tool with which to interact with a broad part of the wine community.

    Nope, we are talking to ourselves, and the only reason why that is good is that communication in any form is way better than isolation. For that is what is going on here and on other blogs. There is a community that has formed, and we can talk back and forth for months and years without ever having laid eyes on each other.

    It works. Last week, Steve [Heimoff] and I ventured down to Paso Robles for their Cabernet Sauvignon get together. And there, sitting in the lobby, was another writer who was introduced to me, and we both lit up with big smiles — because we are part of each other’s broad community and have been for some time now but had never met. He is part of the 'ourselves,' and he and lots more like him are the folks to which wine blogs talk."

    SUMMING UP: The minority (< 500) of recognized wine blogs are authored by the wine trade. The majority (> 1,000) of wine blogs are authorized by “nonprofessionals” (i.e., wine enthusiast consumers) – and “published” infrequently. The reading audience of wine blogs is minuscule — often unmeasurable. Consequently, their ability to "sway the market" and “move the needle” on retail wine sales is non-existent.

    Finally, the vast majority of wine blogs are “labors of love,” because they cannot be monetized sufficiently (via advertising support or subscription revenue) to break even – let alone generate a profit.

    • 1WineDude

      Bob, my answer to these lengthy quotes is basically “So?” At the risk of sounding like a broken record (remember those??), and not meant as a criticism of you but as a take-down of this argument generally:

      Bloggers spend money on wine. If the majority of blogs talk to one another about different wines, and to a small group of friends about small groups of wines, influencing their buying decisions, the “needle” on individual wines won’t move as it would of major buyers/importers/distributors read those blogs.

      That fact does not invalidate those eventual purchases, which are real, albeit impossible to measure well at the moment. The fact that they cannot be measured well is not a de facto criticism of blogging, it’s a fault in our current ability to measure what influences purchases.

      If a brand or critic or whoever wants to insist that those purchases then do not “matter,” I know a good number of consumers (at least several thousand) who would tell them to get bent, because the purchases matter to them!

      E.g., word of mouth visits of people who love I’ve cream to the local creamery farm near my house matters to those people and matters to the farm, despite the fact that it’s not Dairy Queen.

      Frankly, I’m getting exacerbated that people cannot seem to follow the above logic, which is quite simple, but wine is a business in which heads seem to be inserted into sandy soils on a regular basis :-)

  • Bob Henry


    I'm going to migrate my "reply" to a "comment" for wider discourse.

    Do these word-of-mouth sales transactions matter? Yes — every sale is valued.

    But they comprise such a small number of wine bottle sales that it is the tail wagging the dog. (And not the "Long Tail," which has been challenged if not discredited by a Harvard Business School professor's research.)

    The war for unit sales and market share is being waged on the sales floor of retail stores and , less so, restaurant dining floors.

    Let me renew an earlier inquiry with you, using your blog platform as a informal market research tool:

    "Show of hands, dear Dude readers: how many of you purchased a bottle of wine within (1) the last week and (2) the last 30 days and (3) the last 60 days based SOLELY on reading a respected blogger's favorable tout?"

    "Did you make your purchase from a retailer or directly from the winery?"

    "Did you purchase (1) one bottle or (2) a case?"

    (Operators are standing by to take your "calls.")

    If bloggers and blog readers/commenters are (as Charlie suggests) talking mostly to themselves, then a wider audience for our pearls of wisdom never disseminates to the general buying public.

    Wineries can't survive on "rounding error" sales revenue.

    That's the tyranny of The Rule of Small Numbers.

    ~~ Bob

    • 1WineDude

      Bob… I don't know where to start with this one… I love you, bro, but this is all over the place.Okay… here goes:”they comprise such a small number of wine bottle sales that it is the tail wagging the dog. (And not the “Long Tail,” which has been challenged if not discredited by a Harvard Business School professor's research.)”- So they should be ignored? That doesn't make any sense. – Long Tail has NOT been discredited, it's inappropriate use has been discredited. Google built the majority of its business model on Long Tail search; that seems to be working out okay for them the last time I checked.”The war for unit sales and market share is being waged on the sales floor of retail stores and , less so, restaurant dining floors.”- No, the war for unit sales and market share is being waged by large buyers and distributors (and importers). When those people start acting less on print media and more on online media, we will see larger spikes/impacts in sales (but never as large as we would have seen in the past when they effectively only had a handful of print sources to justify their decisions).”Let me renew an earlier inquiry with you, using your blog platform as a informal market research tool”- Which is amazingly statistically inappropriate, even with 10-20K readers, because the sample size isn't large enough and/or is primarily the geekier wine buying set, which will skew the results totally (including issues with fallacy of small numbers, and large derivations inherent in small data sets).”If bloggers and blog readers/commenters are (as Charlie suggests) talking mostly to themselves, then a wider audience for our pearls of wisdom never disseminates to the general buying public.”- Bob, you're making two large errors here: 1) Assuming wine bloggers are separate from consumers, or that they do not purchase wines (patently false); 2) name any **wine-specific** media that disseminates to the non-wine-geek (“general”) public. I'll save you the trouble: THERE ARE NO EXAMPLES. The entire point of blogging on a niche topic is to focus on the niche topic. By definition, it will NOT reach the masses any more than a blog about needlepoint is going to reach/influence me. This assumption is missing the point entirely about blogs. I love Papa Charlie, too, but he's also missing the point. At some point later in the year, I will have a budget wine+cheese pairing article that runs in Parade (not sure the date it will be published). Now, THERE is an example of media that will reach potentially all of the subscribers of Enthusiast, Spectator, and Advocate combined, including on-line and print… and then probably doubled (and that's not hyperbole). The point is that the subscriber base is HUGE because it's a general subject publication. You can't fault Parade for not being specific enough about wine any more than you shouldn't fault a wine blog for appealing only to geeky wine people.

      • Bob Henry


        Addressing your points:

        I am not suggesting "So they should be ignored?" I wrote: "Do these word-of-mouth sales transactions matter? Yes — every sale is valued. "

        But they won't keep your winery in business. (And the "churn rate" of winery mailing lists is very high.)

        See three-part comment on challenges to The Long Tail theory.

        "No, the war for unit sales and market share is being waged by large buyers and distributors (and importers). When those people start acting less on print media and more on online media, we will see larger spikes/impacts in sales . . ."

        As The Journal column states: "Bloglines, the widely used blog-reading tool, lists [circa 2006] 1.2 million blogs; real ones, not computer-generated "spam blogs." The top 10% of feeds grab 88% of all subscriptions. And 35% have no current subscribers at all* — there's clearly no 98 Percent Rule in the blogosphere." The top 10% eliminates almost all of the "citizen journalist bloggers" who attend/aspire to attend blog conferences. No "Dickensian gruel" advertising support by large buyers and distributors and importers for them.

        "Which is amazingly statistically inappropriate, even with 10-20K readers, because the sample size isn't large enough and/or is primarily the geekier wine buying set, which will skew the results totally . . ."

        Agreed — not a scientific sampling. Hence my labeling it "INFORMAL market research."

        ". . . you're making two large errors here: 1) Assuming wine bloggers are separate from consumers . . ."

        I assume that wine bloggers purchase and consume a disproportionately larger number of bottles of wines than do mainstream consumers. They are the "innovators" and the "early adopters" as defined by the "diffusion of innovations" marketing theory. The first "1 percent" within the 12 percent of domestic wine drinkers who buy 88 percent of all wine. They are distinctly different than mainstream consumers.

        ". . . you're making two large errors here: 1) Assuming wine bloggers . . . do not purchase wines . . ."

        As stated above, I assume they do purchase wines.

        ". . . you're making two large errors here: . . . 2) name any **wine-specific** media that disseminates to the non-wine-geek ("general") public. I'll save you the trouble: THERE ARE NO EXAMPLES."

        I would submit that The Wall Street Journal's near-weekly "On Wine" column qualifies as "wine specific media." A publication that boasts over 2 million paid subscribers (all potential readers of the column), and potentially millions more "pass-along" readers who browse but don't subscribe. A platform larger than Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits and Wine Advocate and International Wine Cellar and Decanter magazines combined. A column supported by adjacent advertising — making it a "dual revenue" business model. (The Holy Grail of media content creation and dissemination.)

        As for Parade magazine, quoting from their website ("statistics accurate as of October 2012"):

        Distribution: more than 600 Sunday newspapers
        (Physical Copy) Circulation: 33 million
        Readership: 63 million (53% Female; 47% Male)

        ~~ Bob

  • Bob Henry


    A closing statistic: around 88 percent of all wine sales are attributed to 12 percent of all wine drinkers.

    And those twin percentages haven't budged — pre-2007 Great Recession or post-Great Recession.

    The national distribution wineries understand this. That is why you don't see consumer-directed brand building paid media ads. They don't sway consumers to try a new wine. They don't grow that 12 percent statistic to 13 percent.

    National distribution wineries focus their marketing dollars on trade promotions with retailers: negotiating for end-aisle displays, in-store signage, and short-term mark-down sales in stores.

    They know the decision to select Brand A over Brand B happens "at the 12th hour" in the grocery store aisle.

    Wine blogger touts won't ever affect those numbers.

    And that's the tyranny of The Rule of Large Numbers.

    ~~ Bob

    • 1WineDude

      Bob, see my previous response. By the way, you need to take a look at the definition for Rule of Large Numbers, it doesn't mean what you think it does:

      • Bob Henry

        Point taken.

        I "turned that phrase" in jest, echoing my citing The Rule of Small Numbers.

        Better to have written something along the lines of: "You can't affect the current distribution system when such Large Numbers aligned against you.'

        • 1WineDude

          Bob – ah, okay, understood. Thanks for clarifying.For the Long Tail, the point is that the tail is long enough that it has some impact, and will probably grow to have more. Google has mastered that, of course. I.e., like everything offline, enough of the niches combined can have a big impact.I agree of course that those rivulets of buying alone will NOT keep a wine brand in business, if the brand is of a certain size. There are a few brands that are actually in business because of it (they are very small). The point there is that those rivulets cannot be ignored, because everyone expects them to stick around and potentially grow as larger channels contract (it will take a looooong time before the big ones contract noticeably, of course). cheers!

          • Bob Henry

            California "cult' Cabernet brands like Screaming Eagle and Harlan and Colgin and Scarecrow can survive via mailing lists . . . the way Williams & Selyem in an earlier era did.

            But all are backed by "patient capital." Some even with deep pockets, drawing upon wealth generated from outside the wine industry.

            But let's not forget winery investor Charles Banks's observation.

            “West Coast Wineries Are Up for Sale — Quietly”



            “… While small wineries can succeed by selling most of their inventory direct to consumers and large producers have muscle with wholesalers, those in the middle — annual production of 5,000 to 15,000 cases, for example — can’t get much attention from distributors unless the brand is hot.”


            “… ‘I’ve never seen more wineries for sale in California than there are today,’ [said Charles Banks, who through investment groups such as Terroir Selections purchased Santa Barbara Syrah specialist Qupé in October and Napa veteran Mayacamas Vineyards in April.] … Banks … estimates that between 30 to 50 percent of California wineries are either in financial difficulty or aren’t as profitable as they could be.”


            “Over the last year there have been more than $335 million in sales of vineyards, vineyard estates and plantable land in Napa and Sonoma Counties. This doesn’t even take into account confidential sales or wineries.” .” – David Ashcroft Real Estate

            Link :

            • 1WineDude

              Bob – yeah, I think that is very true for producers in that middle tier, they need buzz (online helps with that, I’d argue, but isn’t a silver bullet).

              • Bob Henry

                The biggest impediment is "shelf placements."

                The consumer learns about a wine:

                (1) from a trusted family member or friend (word of mouth),
                (2) from reading a wine column in a newspaper or magazine,
                (3) from reading a wine / food and wine blog.

                When that sufficiently motivated consumer goes out to buy a bottle, what happens?

                S/he shops at the local grocery store. No placement.

                S/he shops at the local "gourmet" grocery store. No placement.

                S/he shops at the local wine store. No placement.

                "Three strikes and you're out." No consumer will expend any more effort chasing down a unicorn.

                The war is being waged in the wine aisle of grocery stores and on the sales floor of specialty wine stores.

                If your product isn't there — and your brand is not named Screaming Eagle/Harlan/Colgin/Scarecrow tapping into the Long Tail of mailing lists — then you are part of the "middle tier producers" that Charles Banks fears for. The middle tier that is quietly putting itself up for sale because they can't make a go of it.

                Those "never heard of you before" brands will be bought up and retired, and the vineyards consolidated into the holdings of a larger acquiring brand seeking to attain "scale."

              • 1WineDude

                Bob, ah, but who stocks those shelves and makes the decisions on what brands will be put in front of the consumer? Currently, that's the purview of the buyers/distributors/importers/etc.

                Regarding the smaller brands: if they're smart, they will try to circumvent the 3-tiers in any way that they can and go directly to the consumer.

  • Bob Henry


    The debate over the premise of The Long Tail . . .

    ~~ Bob

    Excerpts from The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” Section
    (July 26, 2006, Page B1):

    “It May Be a Long Time Before the Long Tail Is Wagging the Web”

    [Part 1 of 2 Columns]


    By Lee Gomes
    “Portals” Column

    Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson's hot, new best seller, “The Long Tail,” is causing a sensation with its eye-opening claims about the way the Web is rewriting the rules of commerce. But I've looked at some of the same data, and some more of my own, and I don't think things are changing as much as he does.

    . . .

    In the book's main sections, Mr. Anderson writes that as things move online, sales of misses will increase — so much so that they can equal or exceed the sales of hits. The latter is the book's showstopper proposition; it's mentioned twice on the book's jacket.

    I was thus a little surprised when Mr. Anderson told me that he didn't have any examples of this actually occurring. At Netflix and Amazon, two of his biggest case studies, misses won't outsell hits for at least another decade, he said. None of these qualifications are in the book.

    Mr. Anderson told me the lack of an example of misses outselling hits doesn't diminish his basic point, which he said is simply that the role of the tail "is big and getting bigger."

    By Mr. Anderson's calculation, 25% of Amazon's sales are from its tail, as they involve books you can't find at a traditional retailer. But using another analysis of those numbers — an analysis that Mr. Anderson argues isn't meaningful — you can show that 2.7% of Amazon's titles produce a whopping 75% of its revenues. Not quite as impressive.

    Another theme of the book is that "hits are starting to rule less." But when I looked online, I was surprised to see what seemed like the opposite. Ecast says 10% of its songs account for roughly 90% of its streams; monthly data from Rhapsody showed the top 10% songs getting 86% of streams.

    Bloglines, the widely used blog-reading tool, lists 1.2 million blogs; real ones, not computer-generated "spam blogs." The top 10% of feeds grab 88% of all subscriptions. And 35% have no current subscribers at all* — there's clearly no 98 Percent Rule in the blogosphere.

    See next comment for Part Two of The Journal column . . .

  • Bob Henry

    Part Two of The Journal column . . .

    Excerpts from The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” Section
    (August 2, 2006, Page B1):

    “Many Companies Still Cling to Big Hits To Drive Earnings”

    [Part 2 of 2 Columns]

    Alternate link:

    By Lee Gomes
    “Portals” Column

    As business increasingly shifts to the Web, several important questions get raised about the directions of our economy and our culture. [A:] Are hits still important? [B:] What can companies expect when they move online? [C:] Should they expand their inventories as they do so?

    Judging from data I gathered in the course of writing last week's column about the new book "The Long Tail," the answers seem to be, A) More than ever. B) Maybe less change than they think. C) Only after very careful study.

    The currently popular notion that hits are becoming less important due to the vast reach of cyberspace would strike most Hollywood executives as preposterous.

    [Bob’s aside: Article goes on to cite move box office numbers, music downloads, book publishing numbers, and then this . . .]

    Hits are bigger at Netflix than many outsiders seem to think. The DVD renter routinely says that 70% of its rentals are from its back catalog, which might suggest a mere supporting role for blockbusters.

    But Netflix's defines "back catalog" expansively. A spokesman says it's anything outside of the 50 or so DVDs getting heavy studio promotion at any given time. So even recent megahits like "Spiderman II" are in the back catalog.

    What's more, since Netflix rents 60,000 titles, it follows that those 50 titles — eight-tenths of 1% of inventory — generate 30% of all rentals. Netflix isn't alone in getting a big chunk of business from hits; sales of Apple's iTunes are close to those tracked by Billboard, says an insider.

    A similar concentration is evident even at freewheeling YouTube. An analysis of the 5.1 million videos uploaded to the site as of July 25 shows that the top 10% best-played of them made up 79% of the 7.56 billion total plays, with the top 20% making up 89%.

    See next comment on the premise of The Long Tail as challenged by a Harvard Business School professor . . .

  • Bob Henry

    Excerpts from The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” Section
    (July 2, 2008, Page Unknown):

    “Study Refutes Niché Theory Spawned by Web”


    By Lee Gomes
    “Portals” Column

    . . .

    A book from 2006, "The Long Tail," was one of those that appear periodically and demand that we rethink everything we presume to know about how society works. In this case, the Web and its nearly unlimited choices were said to be remaking the economy and culture. Now, a new Harvard Business Review article pushes back, and says any change occurring may be of an entirely different sort.

    The Long Tail theory, as explained by its creator, Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, holds that society is "increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of 'hits' (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail."

    The reason involves the abundance of easy choice that the Web makes possible.

    . . .

    . . . Anita Elberse, a marketing professor at Harvard's business school . . . takes the same statistically rigorous approach to entertainment and cultural industries that sabermetricians do to baseball.

    Prof. Elberse looked at data for online video rentals and song purchases, and discovered that the patterns by which people shop online are essentially the same as the ones from offline. Not only do hits and blockbusters remain every bit as important online, but the evidence suggests that the Web is actually causing their role to grow, not shrink.

    Mr. Anderson responded on his Long Tail blog,, saying much of the difference between his analysis and hers involved how hits and non-hits, or "head" and "tail" in the book's lingo, are measured. Aside from that, he was generous in praising the article, and said he welcomed the sort of rigorous scrutiny the theory was getting.

    In addition to her data crunching, Prof. Elberse reminded readers of substantial bodies of qualitative social research that suggest "The Long Tail" may have been wrong in its description of what makes consumers tick. The book implies that readers and movie viewers are eager to cast off the shackles imposed by physical inventory so they can frolic among the thousands or millions of titles in the Long Tail.

    But Prof. Elberse describes research showing that even in our cultural consumption we tend to be intensely social folks. We like experiencing the same things that other people are experiencing — and the mere fact that other people are experiencing and liking something makes us like it even more. Far from being cultural rugged individualists, most of us are only too happy to have others suggest to us what we'd like.

    . . .

    Bloggers had a special role in talking up the theory, which is no wonder considering how it held out the promise that even the most obscure among them could win a robust audience. The sad truth is that the blogosphere is as hit-driven as the rest of the world, with a tiny percentage of blogs getting a huge chunk of the traffic, and with many blogs simply going unread.

    The Web is clearly changing cultural consumption patterns, but those changes don't seem to involve the sort of drastic flattening of demand curves predicted by the Long Tail. While whole new cultural categories — YouTube videos, for example — are indeed emerging, they seem to quickly settle into the same winner-take-all dynamic experienced in the pre-Google age. Don't toss out those old paradigms just yet.

    • 1WineDude

      Bob – who is tossing out the old paradigms?

      Not me.

      I don't know how you're interpreting my statements that way but it's effectively putting words into my mouth. Your interpretation is not correct; I just don't understand why the long tail impacts, though small overall, cannot be potentially large for SOME brands and especially for smaller brands (in terms of impacting their bottom line). I also don't understand why anyone would ignore it, since it's likely to grow as information becomes easier and easier and faster and faster to disseminate and locate (if you disagree with that latter trend, there's little I can do to help you :).

      The Long Tail has made it possible for people selling something unique/rare/small production/etc. to find those looking for EXACTLY those same things, for the lowest relative cost in the history of human commerce. It will likely never replace the 80% funding the 20%, etc., but that doesn't mean it cannot be the 80% for some brands.

      And you and I are effectively talking past one another at this point: you're looking at large volume products, I am saying that small volume products can leverage online tools and community to sidestep the large volume ways of working, which don't favor them anyway. So we are in some ways talking about totally different things here.

  • Bob Henry


    Not to get lost in the weeds during this debate: Congrats on the Parade magazine guest column/article.

    ~~ Bob

  • Bob Henry


    Not to get lost in the weeds during this debate: Congrats on the Parade magazine guest column/article.

    ~~ Bob

  • 1WineDude

    Bob – thanks! :)

  • Bob Henry

    Given all of the thrust and parry comments/replies, I have lost track of where your last response is appended.

    So, copying from the notice in my e-mail in-box . . .


    ". . . I just don't understand why the long tail impacts, though small overall, cannot be potentially large for SOME brands and especially for smaller brands (in terms of impacting their bottom line)."


    The Long Tail works for Screaming Eagle and Harlan and Colgin and Scarecrow AFTER they were put on the map by Robert Parker. Prior to his original review, they were just one more overpriced, unknown brand coming out of Napa Valley. Easily dismissed as "arrivistes."

    After Parker's off-the-charts review, the demand for the wines skyrocketed — as did their selling prices in subsequent vintages.

    Today these small production brands (backed by deep pockets and patient capital) can afford the luxury of Direct To Consumer distribution. They are the "Outliers" who can eliminate the middlemen distributors and brokers and retailers, and retain two additional tiers of gross profit margin.


    "I also don't understand why anyone would ignore it, since it's likely to grow as information becomes easier and easier and faster and faster to disseminate and locate (if you disagree with that latter trend, there's little I can do to help you :)."

    "The Long Tail has made it possible for people selling something unique/rare/small production/etc. to find those looking for EXACTLY those same things, for the lowest relative cost in the history of human commerce. It will likely never replace the 80% funding the 20%, etc., but that doesn't mean it cannot be the 80% for some brands."


    The vast majority of wine brands would die on the vine taking the DTC approach. It takes the tail wind of a great review to have collectors clamoring to be added to your winery's mailing list.


    "And you and I are effectively talking past one another at this point: you're looking at large volume products, I am saying that small volume products can leverage online tools and community to sidestep the large volume ways of working, which don't favor them anyway. So we are in some ways talking about totally different things here."


    I anchor my response not on the "Outliers" whose top-of-the-100-point-scale reviews allow them to go DTC.

    Instead, I anchor it based on these sobering statistics, was reported in Wine Spectator:

    “… While small wineries can succeed by selling most of their inventory direct to consumers and large producers have muscle with wholesalers, those in the middle — annual production of 5,000 to 15,000 cases, for example — can’t get much attention from distributors unless the brand is hot.”


    “… ‘I’ve never seen more wineries for sale in California than there are today,’ [said Charles Banks, who through investment groups such as Terroir Selections purchased Santa Barbara Syrah specialist Qupé in October and Napa veteran Mayacamas Vineyards in April.] … Banks … estimates that between 30 to 50 percent of California wineries are either in financial difficulty or aren’t as profitable as they could be.”

    Folks have outgrown their ability to sell their annual production through mailing lists and tasting room sales.

    Folks who need the middlemen in the three-tier distribution system to move their inventory.

    Folks who have "bet the farm" . . . and are now at risk of losing it.

    • 1WineDude

      Bob, so… you’re repeating yourself now, and I am totally lost as to what your salient point is with all of this. What’s the one-sentence summary?

  • Bob Henry

    Two sentence summary:

    The vast majority of wine brands would die on the vine taking the "Long Tail" DTC approach.

    Once a winery has attained a certain "scale" of operation (cited by the Wine Spectator article: > 5,000 cases), it needs the "boots on the ground / knocking on doors" sales force of the middlemen in the three-tier distribution system to move their inventory.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Bob. Generally, I agree with that. My point is that there are many methods for the knocking on doors part, including (but not limited to) online.

  • Blake Gray

    I believe Monty Python has the definitive song about this:

    • 1WineDude

      Blake – Nicely played! Laughing my ass off right now…

    • Bob Henry

      As my high school English teacher liked to quip:

      "Great minds think alike . . .

      . . . and fools seldom differ."

      Funny that Blake should invoke this Monty Python skit, because I was thinking along the same lines: every Long Tail single unit sale is "sacred."

      • 1WineDude

        Bob – indeed :)

  • awanderingwino

    I noticed your comments section seaming a bit bleak and lifeless. As a friend I thought I'd insert a comment. :-)

    I feel like this is something we could drink a case of wine over and discuss at length. This could be like a major city freeway system that all meets in the same location. It could go many directions, and all in ways that still connect.

    Funny, I heard you clap on the far end of the room, when Corbett made his point, but I didn't know it was you. I may have been the second or third to join. I feel like our society as a whole simply wants to be heard, and listening can often very challenging.

    I too spoke with Corbett on the point you referenced. He did his research and learned his audience well before stepping on the stage.

    Personally, I have mixed feelings about the print writers session. I am not trying to play the fence here, but I attempt to have a balanced view. I attempted to view the session through others eyes. My sense was that many in the session were offended by the approach in some comments by one or two of the panelist.

    I believe those comments got emotional juices flowing and fingers typing with strikes on the session.

    There were a lot of nuggets as you mentioned. However, I think those gems weren't visible to many based on previous comments. It's like a parent nagging you, or straight pissing you off, and then offering valuable wisdom. Anything positive or of value said after that is often lost.

    Why? Because listening can be very challenging (especially if emotional juices are flowing).

    Blogging is the wild west of writing, with no sheriff. Many of us are outlaws, while others might be sheep.

    I believe – What unities us, is greater than what divides us.

    I did read a few of the posts on the topic of the writers session. There was one in particular, I felt to be fair, respectful, dignified, and offered constructive criticism. The session was designed to be constructive to the attendees, and I felt the blog post response was also constructive.

    In addition, I attended the session from that included deep data of the niche, within the niche we all live and write. It would seem like us winos are a lost desert tribe, and agree that there should be more unity.

    Maybe it's just the controversy of it all that makes it a more interesting show.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Shawn. Yeah, the comments were looking a bit peaked, weren't they? ;-)  I think you're right, in that much more binds us than separates us all in the wine blog-o-world. And there are some examples of constructive criticism and commentary about the WBC sessions. I don't want to ignore those, my intention is to call BS on the, well, on the BS reactions. Hopefully it helps as a bit of a wake-up call in a way to those who might need it. Cheers!

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