Or is that Whom Do You Love?
I usually get flamed for writing about writing about wine, so I’m donning the asbestos undies for this one. Bring on the heat, baby! ‘Cause I’ve got (yet another) bone to pick with the world of wine writing (this includes wine blogging, and hence includes 1WineDude). Mainly, the rub is this:
Why is it that so many wine writers seem to be writing for each other, and not for wine consumers?
It’s no secret that wine consumers themselves are getting into the wine writing space, evidenced by the explosion of wine blogs over the last two years. In many ways, 1WineDude is itself a product of that movement to involve consumers more directly in wine appreciation and critique. When it comes to wine, I’m not a professional per se, but I’m a bit like what we in the IT department call a “super-user” – I’m one of those people that other users come to when they need to know more, but don’t have access to the inside scoop. Yes, I consult, but I don’t make or sell wine – so I view myself primarily as a consumer of wine who somehow forced himself through a crack in the door to take an inside look at how the industry works.
I love the fact that wine consumers are blogging (even if they’re not as “serious” as I am about the writing aspect) and are causing the industry to rethink its product and how it engages those consuming it. That’s good for everyone (except possibly Wine Spectator), and in that way “wine writers” (if that term is extended to include people writing about wine, not just those who make their living at it) are indeed writing for one another – in a very good way with increasingly positive results.
Take someone like The Wine Whore, whose blog unabashedly exists solely on the premise that it will feature a wine review in exchange for receiving a sample (no guarantee it will be positive, thankfully). A lot of people (especially wine writers) will probably hate that idea.
I love that idea.
I love the fact that it’s ballsy and turns the question of wine writing “ethics” on it’s ear. Am I saying that just about anything is “okay” so long the author is upfront and transparent about the premise? When it comes to blogging, yes, I am saying that. Ideas like this one put the power in the hands of the readers, and effectively they get to decide if any core ethical questions are violated by the premise.
The more I think about it, the more brilliant I think idea behind The Wine Whore is (though I receive far too many samples now to effectively steal it!). It’s ultra-cheap publicity for a winery, retailer, or distributor, and it’s useful and entertaining for other wine drinkers. Many wine writers will bristle at The Wine Whore’s premise, but the blog is getting wines and you need to admire the gumption of someone who’s willing to throw that caution to the wind, challenge the wine writing paradigms, and share their thoughts with other wine consumers.
But there are wine writers in wine mags, and in well-established and “serious wine blogs” (if the term is extended to include A- and B-list wine bloggers, which arguably includes 1WineDude if we collectively lower our standards just enough for a moment or two here) that don’t seem to give a crap about wine consumers. They seem to be writing more for one other without taking a consumer view.
I won’t be naming names, and I don’t dismiss this as flippant or somehow wrong – because we’re talking blogs here, and the basic premise behind blogs is that you can write about whatever the hell you like, and all of your real-world certifications and credentials don’t mean jack if you don’t contribute something meaningful to the on-line conversation. I just think it’s a shame to spend all of that talent and potential in writing for other writers. Don’t we have chat rooms and forums for that? Sometimes I think that wine writers, when they lack inspiration for writing about wine, instead write about writing about wine (case in point: this article! oh… the irony…).
Or, even more absurdly, when they are really bored, they attack other wine writers for not meeting their personal blogging or writing standards. Personally, I find this extremely boring reading. Do consumers really enjoy that, or are they just temporarily entertained by the ensuing on-line cat fight, sort of like a sad reality show featuring frustrated and drunk wine writers. I can’t imagine it increases consumers’ appreciation for wine or their opinion of wine writing…
If you’re a “serious” wine writer, or even a wine hobbyist blogger who wants to detail his or her tasting notes and publish them for other to read on the web, stop for a moment and really consider why you’re writing, and who you want to benefit from reading your thoughts. It can’t hurt, and it may just bring some clarity to what you want (or don’t want) to achieve. Who do you love?
As a consumer, consider why you’re reading what a writer is telling you about wine, and if you feel that they really have your best interests at heart – because if they don’t, there is no dearth of competition for your attention at the moment.
But then, I’m the kind of guy who thinks fighting should not be allowed in ice hockey, so what they hell do I know…
(images: uglyradio.wordpress.com, winewhoreblog.com, si.com)