Will Whore for Wine: An Interview with The Wine Whore

Vinted on June 3, 2009 binned in commentary, interviews, wine blogging

Back in April I wrote about my perception of the intended audience of wine blogs and wine writing, which at times seemed (to me) to be other writers and bloggers instead of wine consumers.  In that article, I also postulated that some of that “inbred writing” was a good thing, because it meant that a good portion of wine bloggers were in fact wine consumers who were sharing their experiences on-line with other wine-blogging consumers, and that this would ultimately have a positive impact on the wine industry as a whole.

I also offered up one example of such an uber-consumer, The Wine Whore:

“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.”

Reaction to The Wine Whore blog has been mixed, especially within the wine blogging community itself.  Some view the premise as an affront to wine writing.  Others think the idea is a well-needed smack-in-the-face to an industry that too often takes itself far too seriously.  I sit squarely in the latter camp.  Usually.

I caught up with Randy Watson, the man behind The Wine Whore, to see how the blog was getting along nearly six months into its young life.  In summary: pretty well, despite its detractors.  Randy’s twitter account numbers nearly 6,000 followers, and he has a sizeable friend base on facebook as well – and no, they’re not all wineries and PR folks…

Check out the interview with Randy below, and share your thoughts on whether or not The Wine Whore is a bane, or a thing of beauty…

1WineDude: Since you started blogging, what type of growth have you seen in your readership?  What kind of readers are being attracted to your blog?

Randy Watson:  At first, I think a lot of people were visiting the site just to see what the heck was going on… kinda like rubbernecking an accident while traveling down the information superhighway.  A lot of people were just wondering if I was for real or if the concept would work.  Honestly, in the beginning, I had some doubts.  Having a racy name like ‘The Wine Whore’ can make it difficult to ask for freebies.  I am really glad I persevered. 145 posts later, over 120 bottles of wine, and 40 contributing wineries, the site boasts an awesome base of hundreds of loyal fans and readers.

The best part is that I get to do what I love and meet a ton of great people in the process…  I could not ask for anything more out of life.


1WD: Has your review concept worked?  What volume of samples are being sent to you?  Are you receiving samples from related types of wineries (e.g., large wineries working with PR firms, smaller wineries looking for more exposure), or has it been a mix?

RW: The concept has succeeded 100% in fulfilling my intentions.

The whole idea of the site was to provide a way to further my journey into the world of wine.  I don’t profess to know everything and I don’t claim that my opinions are the law.  Instead, I try to share what I feel are interesting facts about the wines and wineries that choose to contribute to my ’cause’.

Regardless of the source, the most exciting part for me has been the chance to taste wine that I would never had the chance to try otherwise.  From large distributors, to the small family wineries, I get a mix of all different types submitting samples.  It really just seems to depend upon the specific winery’s marketing strategy at the moment.

1WD: Has your own palate / wine knowledge developed as a result of starting the blog?

RW: Absolutely!  I started this journey as a way to develop my palate and wine knowledge.  The ironic part is that the more I drink, the more I realize how little I know.  It is really funny how life changes your perspective the more you live.  I look forward to each bottle since I never know what lies behind the cork.

1WD: Opinions on the concept behind your blog are divided.  It seems many bloggers (though certainly not all) view it negatively.  What would you say to those that are critical of the concept?

RW: The core values behind the site are honesty and credibility.

Although the name may lead people to believe that I have no integrity, the opposite is actually true.  I chose the name ‘The Wine Whore’ to be as transparent as possible with readers as to how I receive the wine that I review and my reviews are written to honestly share my experience. How many other websites are willing to integrate their disclaimer in with their name?

I am not Robert Parker, I am Randy Watson.  The reviews are written to be entertaining and factual about the wine samples that I have received.  I provide my tasting notes and opinion… but it is exactly that: MY tasting notes and opinion.  If you want information about a bottle of wine, read a wine website… if you want to know for sure whether or not you like a bottle of wine, I encourage you to try it for yourself.


How are PR Firms and wineries reacting to the concept behind your blog?

RW: I am sure it is still a mixed bag but that’s okay.  All of the wineries that were willing to share a glass of their wine with ‘The Wine Whore’dig the concept.  It’s really all about sharing the story about their wine.  They are thankful to have an fun and entertaining outlet

on the internet to accomplish this goal.

Regardless of whether or not everyone out there supports the site, I am just happy to have met those wonderful and interesting people that I have come across so far on my journey.  This includes all of the wineries, wine bloggers, wine lovers, and everyone else out there who has heard about my story.

I look forward to meeting many more!

Cheers!

(images: winewhoreblog.com, illinipundit.com)

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    Comments

  • Steve Heimoff


    I have no problem at all with Randy's method. He's exploring a new model that may or may not work. Nobody knows. Obviously, for some wineries, it's viable. I do wonder what would happen if, say, 750 other wine bloggers adopt the same method. Can wineries send samples to all of them? I doubt it. Shipping is expensive. Sooner or later, wineries are going to have to get picky about whom to send to. Actually, they already are. PR people are double-checking their sample lists to make sure they get the most bang for the buck. Anyhow, I wish Randy good luck.

    • 1WineDude


      That's exactly the same way I saw it, Steve.

      I certainly understand that PR people need to see some return for their investment in sending wine to bloggers. I'm pretty sure that if I negatively review a sample, or if I decided not to review it, that I will probably not hear from that winery or PR group again.

      Where I draw the line is agreeing to write something in receipt of a sample directly from a winery or PR rep – I've turned down some VERY expensive wines that way, but in a way it's understandable for a smaller winery wanting to ensure that they get coverage for the expense I suppose. Oh well…

      What I will probably never do is give traffic numbers / results from coverage that results from a wine or product being featured somehow on my blog – if PR folks want that, then they ought to be tracking it themselves and ensuring that they get a holistic picture of the reach of that coverage, which usually extends far beyond a single post's visits for example.

  • RichardA


    Joe:

    1. What is your definition of a "wine consumer?"

    2. Does Randy only review wine he receives as free samples? If not, what percentage of wines does he review that he personally buys himself?

    Thanks.

    • 1WineDude


      A wine consumer, to me, is anyone whose primary interaction with wine is through consumption of it. I.e., they're not in the wine industry. As for Randy's personal purchases, I don't know the answer but hopefully we can get him to chime in here and respond… Randy…?

      • RichardA


        Thanks for your answer. I generally look at "wine consumer" a bit differently, more as a person who purchases wines. A person will drink far more wines than they would ever purchase. As a example, Person "A" might love to drink $500 Burgundy, but would never buy it themselves. The same might appy to a $50 Merlot.

        • 1WineDude


          Great point. I'd certainly drink a $500 Burg, but I'm not likely to buy one anytime too soon!

  • Randy Watson


    Good question Richard… to keep with the theme, all of the wine that I review on the site is wine that I have not paid for.

    • RichardA


      Thanks for your reply.

  • The Beer Wench


    I love the "wine whore" concept. Partly because I myself am a whore for wine … but that is neither here nor there.

    I have had the awesome opportunity of meeting Randy and drinking some of his free wine. In my opinion, Randy makes a good friend :) Perhaps you can consider me "The Wine Whore's Whore" … or maybe The Wine Whore's Mooch is a more appropriate title.

    I never really understood the whole ethical debate over receiving and reviewing free wine. EVERY single f*ing magazine in the world gets inundated with hundreds, if not thousands, of free samples every year. Think about all those beauty/fashion editors that get bombarded with free samples every day. This is no different. Free is free.

    Let the people decide whether or not WE want to CHOOSE to trust the writer's review about the product. I can tell when people are being paid or "bribed" to say shit. I can see through things.

    Let the guy have his free wine and drink it too. Oh and don't forget to fill up my glass :)

    • 1WineDude


      Amen, sistah!

  • Shelly


    I really enjoy The Wine Whore and think the idea is pure Genius. Someone else could have thought of the idea but not a lot of people could actually pull it off. Randy uses his own words as well as facts about the wineries and teaches us less knowledgeable folks a little something new each post. The fact that he is also continuously inviting new followers through FB and Twitter with his weekly tastings is something I believe will keep his name and blog at the top of the list for wineries and the PR folks.

    Cheers!

  • Kort


    I too love Randy's blog. :)

  • 1WineDude


    Wow – lots of love for TWW so far.

  • Randy Watson


    Shelly/Kort/Steve- You guys rock! Thank you for the support! :)

  • joeshico


    One of my favorite wine blogs (along with 1winedude, of course) is The Wine Whore. I can understand the concern
    on how he gets his wine to review, but for me, I just don't give a hoot! His blog is enjoyable reading and I find his reviews honest. Much easier to accept his method than be suspicious of those that may be being bankrolled with "Dollars for Points"

    • 1WineDude


      Sounds like Transparency is the key for you?

  • rjh


    for me, i think that the wine whore represents a transparency in wine that didn't exist before. there's no question that many many people have accepted wine samples over the years and i think it's kind of refreshing to see someone like the wine whore base his whole wine community persona around that one premise. is it right? is it ethical? is it good or bad for the wine industry? not sure i really care, to be honest. i have my way of appraching my blog, 1winedude has his, and wine whore has his – that's the beauty of blogging. diversity, authenticity and a whole new transparency into wine – that's what it's about.

    keep up the good work 1winedude – you always keep me interested

    • 1WineDude


      Cheers!!!

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