Tuesday, December 8, 2009
FOR A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
There has been a lot of chatter on the wine blogs of my wine brethren in recent weeks, everyone from local guy Tom Johnson from Louisville Juice, to Jeff at Good Grape and Wine Enthusiast writer Steve Heimoff. One of the discussions I found interesting was one Tom had initiated, related the frequency with which political bloggers exchange links through their comments sections (Tom is a former political blogger himself) and the extreme lack of linking amongst the wine blog counterparts.
For the everyday wine consumer who doesn’t spend much time (if any) in the blogosphere, this discussion topic is difficult to understand or empathize. Yet in the growing world of social media communications and more succinctly how ideas in the wine world get exchanged, there is some real world correlation and significance to the debate.
It is no secret that the print media is dying, though I suspect that most traditionalists will not part with the printed word completely, and many magazines will adapt themselves to the digital age quite nicely, so while they (magazines) won’t disappear, the expanding influence of blogs (and their inevitable genesis into more conventional constructs) will become increasingly more significant and relevant to the average reader/consumer.
So what am I trying to say?
For almost two years, I have been slowly finding my way with this whole blog thing. It was born out of a combination of several things: 1) My overwhelming urge to write about anything (I am a frustrated novelist and poet BTW), 2) An extension of my day job as a buyer for a small group of retail stores and the need to give exposure/knowledge/insight into the wines I bring in that DO NOT have any national or international coverage (reviews in the wine mags, etc.) and 3) My demented sense of sharing with the world around me my left-of-center opinions about this wine business I love so much.
In following along with the conversation perpetuated by Tom, Jeff and others, Tom’s points brought out a lot of great responses in relation to the wine bloggers’ lack of interconnectedness, including a list of ten truths about wine bloggers found on Jeff’s site. The credibility of wine bloggers, the geographical context within the wine bloggers write, the content of their bloggers, and so on – the top blogs from Steve Heimoff, Tom Wark (Fermentation), Joe Roberts (1 Wine Dude), Eric Asimov (The Pour), Deb Harkness (Good Wine Under $20) and Alder Yarrow (Vinography) have branded themselves well, and are always first when talking about the national blogs. Good friend Michelle Lentz (My Wine Education) has done a great job of branding herself locally, and rising to national recognition, as well as Jeff at Good Grape, Tim Lemke at Cheap Wine Ratings and Mike Rosenberg of The Naked Vine.
There are thousands of wine blogs out there, all struggling to be heard. We struggle against the perception of incestuousness that permeated the wine blogosphere several years ago, the perception of self-absorption and smarminess that many of us have intentionally or unintentionally emanated from ourselves over the last two years, and the reluctance to exchange ideas more often, comment more often and involve our peers more often, since deep down, I think that is why we all started these wine blogs in the first place – to provide a forum for such idea exchanges amongst our fellow winos. It seems though that somewhere along the way, we got a bit sidetracked, became somewhat self-indulgent, and found ourselves presenting opinions and commentaries whilst shunning any outside critique, regardless of how positive or negative it may be.
Yet a comment was made by Jeff Stai, from Twisted Oak Winery, suggested that a lot of the bloggers are active participants in the biz, and therefore, to paraphrase, need to be a bit more restrained. Being on the retail side of things, I found myself agreeing with him, because as most folks know, I can run off the rails and launch a vulgarity-laced tirade like no other, and it tends to get me into trouble (with suppliers, importers, my boss).
When I first learned of the Internet a decade ago, I learned that the whole premise was for scientists to have a means to exchange ideas, proof theorems and experimentations, and otherwise build upon a foundation of scientific insight in order to make a better, closer knit world. I think that the wine bloggers (and bloggers in general) have the same goals, and should exercise the same level of informational camaraderie. No one person is going to be entirely right (and the one most wrong will most undoubtedly be me), so the burgeoning egos we wine geeks may have (not saying that everyone does, just mostly talking about me) should be checked at the cyberdoor.
Who knows, come next year, these 1000+ wine blogs may all be interconnected. Here’s hoping so.