If you love wine, you can do something that costs $0.00 and almost certainly will up your wine appreciation and wine tasting I.Q. score varios puntos. Namely, start a wine blog.
Right now. It will take you less than ten minutes. Go to wordpress.com and create a blog, and your first post can be as simple as “hey, I really think I dig wine, and I want to talk about it.”
You shouldn’t expect anyone to read it yet, but that’s not the point. The point is to journal your own personal journey with wine.
I can feel the collective groan of WineSpectator.com forum members, other wine bloggers, and print media at the suggestion that every Tom, Dick, Harry, Sally, and Bacchus start churning out their own personal impressions on the wines that they try and how it affects their lives.
And I’m here today to tell those people to go shove it.
Start a wine blog, and piss all of them off. Do it because it will help you learn about wine, because it will help you share some of your wine experiences with your friends, because it will encourage you to taste more and more wine and get to know your own wine preferences better.
But most of all, do it because it’s good for the wine industry if you start blogging about wine, because the positives of every additional ounce added to the volume of the current wine media sea change far, far outweigh the potential negatives. More on that in a minute.
You will hear from many that you shouldn’t, of course, for a large variety of reasons. So let’s just call bullsh*t on just about every one of the reasons right now…
You shouldn’t blog about wine because you can’t write well, or you don’t know enough about wine, or no one who doesn’t know you will care about what you write. But that assumes that your aim is to court an audience of wine consumers instead of just wanting to share, learn and grow; it assumes that you want to compete with the best wine blogs in the world, or that you have aims to single-handedly topple The Wine Advocates of the world. You don’t – you just want to talk about wine. So that argument holds about as much weight as saying that I shouldn’t play roller hockey with my buddies because I’m not good enough to have tried out for the Philadelphia Bulldogs – in other words, it’s bullsh*t.
You shouldn’t blog about wine because you’re blog will contribute to the undermining of the “real” or “legitimate” wine press in America. Again… you can safely call bullsh*t on that one. While it could be argued that you’re diluting the pool by (sort of) jumping into the wine media waters, your contribution is infinitesimally small compared to the dilution that the wine writing genre has brought upon its own head from years of churning out content so formulaic and predictably banal that it has effectively adopted an outsourced business model. You can tell anyone who gives you that angle to go pound sandy soil in some Hungarian vineyards.
You shouldn’t blog about wine because wine bloggers have a terrible reputation as wanna-be critics who whore themselves out for free wine samples. Buuuullshiiiiiizzzzz. There are for sure a group of posers in the wine blogging world, people with limited ability who are pretending to matter, act as though they are bigger than their audience, and demand free stuff. Of course, that same group exists in on-line and printed versions of all media, no matter what the topic. But their presence, volume, and influence is largely overplayed; they make up a tiny fraction of the wine blogging community. And just ask any of several hundred wine bloggers who talk about vino just for the love of it – you will NOT get freebies or samples unless you have cultivated an audience that wine PR people want to reach for their clients. An undue amount of attention is paid to the exceptions, but riddle me this, Batman: is it more likely there are stories made about the posers because they rule the roost, or is it more likely that the folks covering than angle are doing so because it’s the most sensationalized spin that they could put on it?
You shouldn’t blog about wine because it will add to the confusion about wine already rampant among consumers; helpless, the poor consumer won’t know which way to turn, won’t know who they can trust about wine, and their heads will explode messily in supermarket wine aisles nationwide. [ Insert sign-language sign for bullsh*t here. ] You’re a wine consumer – do you consider yourself an idiot? I certainly don’t consider you an idiot. If a wine consumer out there can’t tell the difference between GoodGrape.com, or PalatePress.com and some poser site looking for free handouts, or if they can’t sort through the fact that someone blogging just for the fun of it has a different aim entirely than AnotherWineBlog.com, then those people deserve to drink crappy wine because they either aren’t paying attention or they don’t have all the right synapses firing. The “muddies the waters” argument is demeaning – it’s telling you that (poor, poor, pitiful you), you just don’t know any better; and that, my friends, is bull honkey.
The fact is, you can start a wine blog, you can do it in a few minutes, without any prequalification in the wine biz, and nobody can stop you. The gatekeepers should really just suck it up and stop trying to deter you, because it’s ultimately better for them (oh, the irony!) and the entire wine industry if you blog about wine, and if you do it for the love of it and without pretense, and without any sense of entitlement. Blog your vinous-lovin’ heart out, and don’t sweat the rest of it. If you do happen to attract an audience, then the game changes significantly: you then owe it to yourself, your readers and the entire wine industry to continually improve your tasting, writing, and reporting skills (not to mention increasing your overall wine knowledge). But that day may never come, and that’s okay because it’s not your aim. Blog about wine for you. And maybe for a few of your friends who will read you and dig what you have to say about wine.
You may not realize it at first, but your small wine blog audience, added in aggregate to the audiences of many, many, many, many other consumers blogging about wine, adds up to something big – something very, very big – that is fundamentally morphing the wine media world. I offer this tidbit from Jancis Robinson’s keynote speech at the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference, as reported by (talented blogger and fine writer) David McIntyre at WashingtonPost.com:
Robinson seemed genuinely excited when she spoke of the changes brought on by new media. With consumers no longer dependent on one or two magazines for advice, and with more and more-varied wines available to choose from, the market is being transformed, she said. “Retailers will regain the right to make their own choices of what to sell instead of following the one or two voices, and my own dream of consumers making up their own minds about what they like to drink will finally come true,” Robinson said. “Develop your own opinions and get in touch with your own preferences. Remember that with wine appreciation, there are no rights and no wrongs. We all have different tastes, and no single one of them is right. Be open: There are other grape varieties than chardonnay, and there are other colors of wine than red.”
I love Jancis’ dream. And I think it’s attainable, though on some days it may seem a bit distant. Which wine world would you rather inhabit – the one in which a handful of critics make or break wine brands within narrow definitions of what constitutes “good” or “bad” wine (f*ck, it sounds like an Orwellian vision of wine Communism!), or the open-minded, multifaceted one that Jancis talked about at WBC11? That’s a hypothetical question, by the way…
So here’s a toast in anticipation that you’re wine blog will help, just a little bit, in bringing that dream to life.