The Future Of Wine Writing: GrimDark

The future of wine writing: kill, or be killed?

The future of wine writing is kind of like… GrimDark.

No, I don’t mean that wine writing is headed for GrimDark as a cultural style of expression. Though that conceivably could happen as a symptom of where things are headed.

What I mean is that the future of the wine writing profession is f*cking bleak. As in, step-over-the-dead-bodies-of-your-former-comrades bleak.

Sorry to bust up your Holiday Cheer, but this topic has been weighing on my mind since my friend and wine-marketing-maven Tom Wark published the latest incarnation of Wark Communications’ Wine Writers Survey. He also took the time to add a bit of additional commentary on the more influential wine writers (as cited by other wine writers) on his Fermentation blog. Full disclosure: I happen to be among those writers cited, for reasons that I still don’t fully comprehend.

I love me some Tom Wark, but I am in a state of some disagreement with the Wark Communications conclusions from the survey; specifically, this tidbit:

The Future Of Wine Writing: GrimDark
from warkcommunications.com

If wine continues to grow in popularity, if the now fully adult Millennial generation is as committed to the beverage as they seem, and barring any economic catastrophes, I’m confident that the wine writing project will continue full speed ahead. More new voices are coming. More new publishing exercises meant to meet the needs of new generations will arrive. Even new ways of understanding and communicating about wine are likely to appear.

from warkcommunications.com

While it’s of course true that more new voices are coming, the Millennials are devoted to the beverage, and that new ways of understanding and communicating about wine will appear, I have severe doubts as to the viability of the “wine writing project” in the future. Why? Well, that same survey serves up some very compelling reasons in some of the take-away commentary on the aggregated survey responses…

-No more than just over a quarter of wine writers earn 50% of their income from wine writing.

-Most writing about wine earn very little income doing so.

-No more than just over a quarter of wine writers earn 50% of their income from wine writing.

-Most writing about wine earn very little income doing so.

-Maintaining a living writing in the wine genre is the greatest concern.

-Two-thirds of those who primarily write for their own blog or publication earn 10% or less of their annual income from wine writing.

-Despite the rise in digital publishing, there has been almost no change in the breakdown of publishing frequencies from the 2004 survey.

In the end, the viability of wine writing as a profession will, like other literary and journalism genres, depend on the financial health of the publishing industry going forward.

from warkcommunications.com

Ok… sooooooo… Wark’s rosey future is based on what, exactly? The facts that a) most wine writers cannot make a living now, b) wine writers are worried about ever being able to make a decent living, and c) wine writing is tied to the viability of writing as a profession, which has seen a decline as precipitous as a Mosel vineyard slope?

Well, F*CK ME, then.

There are more people wanting to write and communicate about wine, with fewer outlets outside of personal blogs and social media, and even fewer that are willing (or able) to pay anything even close to resembling a living wage for it.

You’ll forgive me for not getting the warm and fuzzy feeling all over about this theoretical future that Wark is seeing on the horizon, in the hopes that, hey, something is bound to come along and make all of this ok, despite the ever-mounting volume of evidence to the contrary! That’s not really hope, that’s… well, I want to write “delusion” but that seems a bit harsh. But then, if we’re headed for wine-writing-dystopia, then sure, let’s go with “delusion.” To quote Interstellar‘s Cooper, “that doesn’t even qualify as futile.”

Of course, I am hoping that Tom is right, and that I’m wrong; it would have helped if Wark had offered up more insights as to why those conclusions were drawn despite what seems like a much grimmer perspective from the survey respondents. Personally, I’m not quitting my gig any time soon, but I’m not about to recommend the wine writing path to budding enthusiasts of the written word – and the grape – as a means for building any kind of wealth, either.

Cheers (I guess)!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at The Future Of Wine Writing: GrimDark from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Get Yer Vote On! (2016 Wine Blog Awards Voting Is Now Open)

image: WineBlogAwards.org

Voting for the 2016 Wine Blog Awards is now open, so you need to get yer digital ass over to their website and cast your vote to help determine the winners.

Before you ask – no, I am not a finalist this year. I was a judge, and therefore requested that 1WD be recused from the awards (for all I know, 1WD wasn’t even nominated, so maybe that was an easy task for the organizers!).

On the negative side, I had to trudge through and eliminate a lot of (I’m being kind here) amateurish writing during the judging process. That is, however, to be expected; blogs are, at their heart of hearts, online journals open to anyone, not just those who write well. So I was unpleasantly not surprised by the volume of writing and media production that wasn’t (again, being kind) award-worthy material.

On the positive side, however, is that the writing that I did put forward from the nominees as potential finalists was, at turns, excellent; well-reasoned, deep, poignant, funny, useful, well-executed, and sporting personality. In other words, exactly what excellent blogging on any topic ought to be.

Those of you who have been following along with this WBA stuff for the last several years will see quite a lot of new faces among the list of finalists. Personally, that is the single most gratifying thing for me; seeing all of those “new” websites in the finalist lists, and realizing that I know so few of them (a situation that I will be changing with all speed).

When I won a WBA back in 2010, told the audience that I didn’t really want to win another one, because I sincerely hoped that the wine blogging community was more dynamic than that. Turns out, it really is much more dynamic than that. That’s heartwarming in a holy-crap-I’m-like-a-Wine-Blog-granddad kind of way.

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Get Yer Vote On! (2016 Wine Blog Awards Voting Is Now Open) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Recharging My Batteries

A recent wait staff training at Ruth's Chris in San Francisco gave my batteries a needed recharge. It reminded me who the critics are that I should be concerned about as a winemaker - the people that drink them.

The wait staff loved my wines and they rekindled my love for them too. They tasted alive and fresh and were just what I hoped they would be.

Last weekend brought another recharge as I presented my upcoming 2013 vintage Napa Valley releases to our distributor in southern California. They loved them for their balance and refinement. That’s what I love them for too.

It’s not that wine criticism has no place, the issue is that some critics actually love a style of wines that most normal wine drinkers don’t prefer. Sugary, bloated and alcoholic should describe neither wines or critics.

My continued support and enthusiasm for wine commentary on wine blogs is that it comes from real people drinking real wine the way it is actually consumed in the real world. The average consumer is far more likely to get wines that match words on a wine blog than from a critic tasting hundreds of wines, in a matter of hours, on their own. That's like saying you have a better idea of what a tiger is all about by seeing one in a zoo rather than in the wild. It's odd that an activity that is pointless generates almost all the point ratings given to wines.

Winemakers have to try to remember that wine is about not about critics. It’s about people enjoying food and each other.

Hopefully we are on the edge of a pointless era for wine as it's time that the point of wine is not points. Points are for games.

Recharging My Batteries

A recent wait staff training at Ruth's Chris in San Francisco gave my batteries a needed recharge. It reminded me who the critics are that I should be concerned about as a winemaker - the people that drink them.

The wait staff loved my wines and they rekindled my love for them too. They tasted alive and fresh and were just what I hoped they would be.

Last weekend brought another recharge as I presented my upcoming 2013 vintage Napa Valley releases to our distributor in southern California. They loved them for their balance and refinement. That’s what I love them for too.

It’s not that wine criticism has no place, the issue is that some critics actually love a style of wines that most normal wine drinkers don’t prefer. Sugary, bloated and alcoholic should describe neither wines or critics.

My continued support and enthusiasm for wine commentary on wine blogs is that it comes from real people drinking real wine the way it is actually consumed in the real world. The average consumer is far more likely to get wines that match words on a wine blog than from a critic tasting hundreds of wines, in a matter of hours, on their own. That's like saying you have a better idea of what a tiger is all about by seeing one in a zoo rather than in the wild. It's odd that an activity that is pointless generates almost all the point ratings given to wines.

Winemakers have to try to remember that wine is about not about critics. It’s about people enjoying food and each other.

Hopefully we are on the edge of a pointless era for wine as it's time that the point of wine is not points. Points are for games.

Wine Blogging Is Dead! Again! Long Live Wine Blogging!

Tom Wark recently asked me to chime in for an article he was considering for his blog, on the topic of whether or not interest in wine blogs was waning. I offered my views, some of which are quoted in his thoughtfully-considered piece.

Alive, though maybe not totally well (image: Grape Collective)

As to whether or not I agree with Tom that wine blogging has “died without a funeral,” I think we first have to ask ourselves if wine blogging is inherently different from other niche blogging topics. If we accept that it isn’t (in the same way that, say, DVRs aren’t inherently different from one another – they all basically do the same thing at the core, which is record broadcast video media), then Tom is also asking if niche blogging is dead.

To which I would say, No, it’s not dead.

This is the kind of question that gets posed periodically (go ahead, search it) when we see dynamic informal institutions, like online communities, do what they do, which is change (wait, you really expected this stuff to stay static forever? duuuuuude…. wtf?!??).

We shouldn’t mistake community maturation and the movement of engagement discussions from blog comments to Facebook, Instagram, etc., as a lack of interest in the sharing amateur content about wine (which is what blogs inherently are about – sharing info and opinions). Just because one outlet (longer form blog posts) isn’t as popular as another (image-centric, short updates on larger social media platforms) doesn’t mean that people no longer care about the core thing: sharing wine online.

They do care. A lot. There is no lack of interest in sharing content about wine (to wit: see just about any recent stat from Vintank on online wine mentions). And where that content is being shared, influence and money (in terms of what people who read and participate in those updates and discussion will buy) will often follow (though, maddeningly, in ways that are difficult to track, but that’s not the fault of the platforms themselves).

Anyway, if wine blogging is actually dead, then someone forgot to send that memo to Grape Collective, you also recently quoted me in dear-gawd-TMI-bro! fashion when they interviewed me for their “SpeakEasy interview series with influential bloggers.”

I’m not dead yet! I think I’ll go for a walk!

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2015. Originally at Wine Blogging Is Dead! Again! Long Live Wine Blogging! from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

OK, Everyone, Remain Calm And Have Another Sip (Wine Website Ranking Madness)

OK, Everyone, Remain Calm And Have Another Sip (Wine Website Ranking Madness)

image: ExcelWines.co.uk

Ok, everyone… calm down.

Pour another glass of something nice.

Have a sip. Relaaaaax.

Feeel zeee tension leeeaaaving your body…

Every once in a while, we get a roundup/list/ranking of wine websites, and then oscillate between being happy for some of the sites on the list, and getting bent out of shape about the ones that aren’t on it (or taking issue with the reasons/methodology/stats behind the construction of said list).

The latest is an attempt at measuring and ranking wine blog influence by a Scottish wine purveyor, Excel Wines.

For me, it’s great to see so many passionate people’s excellent wine-centric websites included. Other than the additional bit of exposure that it brings to those websites, and the potential for discovering some new (to you) and interesting (to you) wine blogs listed therein, I think that the following popular Internet meme/graphic accurately sums up how much of a f*ck most of you ought to be giving these lists in general:

OK, Everyone, Remain Calm And Have Another Sip (Wine Website Ranking Madness)

The fine art of not giving a f*ck

Now, if I were a wine PR-type person, I’d be writing Excel Wines with all haste, and thanking them for doing part of my job for me (in making a current snapshot of the potential reach of some of the major English-language wine blogs out there… just sayin’).

But I’m not a wine PR-type person, and I’ll just be thankful that I was included and leave it at that. I don’t actually understand all of the criteria used to formulate the latest list, but it at least looks as though some time and effort went into it. Ok, so I’m not actually leaving it at that… get over it!

Folks, before you allow any such lists to get under your skin (positively or negatively), please realize that these lists/rankings/etc. are not going anywhere. That’s because lists in general are not going anywhere. The Internet loves lists because people love lists; in fact, there’s compelling evidence suggesting that we are hard-wired to love them.

Bear in mind also that popularity-based lists tell us about potential reach/exposure, but do not tell us about audience engagement. One size doesn’t fit all, particularly for a niche topic like wine. If as a consumer you want to find your next favorite wine blog, or as someone in the biz want to identify the best wine blogs to which you should pitch your wine, these lists are a nice starting point, but are not a shortcut to actually doing the homework and taking a detailed look at the actual sites on the list. Sorry, there are no shortcuts for that.

So, let us not sow our fields with fvcks, but instead treat these lists as a nice bit of recognition for the hard work being done by some talented tasters, writers, and community builders.

To them I say: Congratulations! Now, go make us all proud to have supported you, and continue to make us give a fvck!

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2015. Originally at OK, Everyone, Remain Calm And Have Another Sip (Wine Website Ranking Madness) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!