Thursday Rant–Wine Blogs

I have nothing against wine blogs–quite the opposite, I technically write one, I guess. I also follow several really great blogs and really admire their authors and are inspired by them daily. The problem I have with them is that as a “unit” there is really not much cohesion and at the same time not much in the way of differing viewpoints.

Both could be certainly due to the subject of our blogs: Wine appreciation is rather personal and certainly contextual. I might like a wine simply due to the fact that it tastes good to me. I might like a wine because it was part of an overall incredible experience for me. Another drinker/taster might be drinking the exact same wine in a completely different (or even a very similar) context and have a different opinion of the wine. When you come right down to it, though, unless a wine is “flawed” in some way, it is rarely “bad”. Sure, I might like it more than someone else, but it is difficult to find a “bad” (again, not “flawed”) wine.

I think I can safely say that we all write wine blogs because we all like wine and we all like to write (mind-blowing observation, I know). I feel like I get stuck in a bit of a rut, however, even though the wines I am drinking change from night to night and week to week. On the other hand, I find it rather challenging (and dare I say exciting?) when either we have friends coming over for dinner and I go down to select the wine or I get a call asking for advice on what wine should be paired with a particular meal. As we all know, there are no absolutes in any of these questions, so for me, at least, I try and take in as many factors as possible to make the decision. In short, it requires me to be a bit creative.

I might be off-base here (and certainly call me on it if you think I am) but we as wine bloggers do not seem to challenge one another enough to step outside of our comfort zone and tap into the creativity that we all have. It seems to happen with other types of blogs (from photography to literature to even food) that I follow–every once in a while there is a concept of a “theme” introduced and it is up to the blogger to interpret the theme the way he or she desires. (Perhaps something similar already happens with wine and I am just a bit too obtuse to realize it.)

I listen to NPR all the time and last week was WHYY’s (the Philly station) Spring Fund Raising drive. Normally, I tend to tune out the calls for membership (after years of feeling guilty for never joining we finally joined last year–so now instead of “tuning out” due to shame, we “tune out” with a sense of smugness that is likely very annoying), but this year I heard something very interesting: WHYY was offering a year subscription to the Wine Spectator with every membership. At first, I was a little ticked off–when we signed up, we got a year of Newsweek–which quickly stopped publishing their print version shortly after we joined.

Why would the Spectator do it?

Then it hit me–they might be in need of a larger subscription base–I assume most of their income is derived from ad space, the cost of which is determined by the number of subscriptions. Is it a coincidence that Newsweek stopped their print version after trying the same tactic a few years ago? I guess we shall see.

My point in all of this? I am not sure, exactly. I never participated much in the debate over print wine mags vs. online outlets (including blogs). I left that to the likes of Steve Heimhoff and Joe Roberts. Could the long predicted (at least by some) demise of traditional print media be coming (or even already here)? Who knows? I do know that we as bloggers could do a lot more to inspire one another to be creative and write posts that begin to challenge our “normal” way of writing so as to be a viable alternative to the glossies.

Thus, this is what I propose. We set up our own weekly (monthly?) challenge around a certain theme. Wine “variety” is far too obvious and lazy. Instead, I suggest broader themes that leave open the chance for much more interpretation and creativity. My first thought was “Transportation”. That opens up a panoply of options: wines consumed while traveling, wines with a vehicle on the label, a wine that I drove an hour and a half to purchase, and so on. Or we could do “Green” which has an equally wide range of possible connections to wine. Really there is no limitation other than the creative ability to tie it back into the overarching theme. Who knows? Perhaps we could even vote (or allow readers to vote) on the submissions under each theme (but that is just the competitor in me talking).

It is a small and perhaps insignificant step, but I really do think that we as wine bloggers need to branch out of the traditional or habitual ways that we have been approaching our passion.

Let me know what you think. Good idea? Horrible? Suggestions to make it better?

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About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Rant, Traditional Media, Wine, Wine bloggers and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Thursday Rant–Wine Blogs

  1. Heidi Siegel says:

    great idea

    Like

  2. talkavino says:

    Great post, Jeff. Couple of points, if I may.

    1. Print media versus digital media – Print is not dead, but have to greatly adjust to the digital era – all over the place, not only in the wine world. Some will do it more successfully than the others, but print will be challenged going forward – simply because this is where lots of books are going anyway. I think Wine Spectator has lots more challenges than just print versus digital, but don’t forget that they have digital subscription for the very long time, and it is not discounted.

    2. You idea of “themes” is exactly what existed in the wine blogging world for many years – this is what was called Wine Blogging Wednesday, or #WBW, where the theme was set once a month with the “host”, and then all would be writing for that theme and the blogs would be posted and summarize. There used to be even a dedicated web site for that – after running for about 80 months, it is now closed : ( But here is a glimpse for you for what it was: http://drinkwhatyoulike.wordpress.com/tag/wine-blogging-wednesday/
    Yours truly even participated in a few of the #WBW events, and it was fun. I don’t think we can do it more often than once a month (speaking strictly for myself), but I will be glad to support “Wine Blogger Challenge” if you want to start that movement. We can have a joint “announcement” from all of the supporting bloggers and we will need to promote it on Twitter, but again – you can count me in. And as a show of the support, I’m going to reblog your post on my blog 🙂
    Cheers!

    Like

    • Hey Anatoli, thanks for the comments (and the reblog). I really do not know what to think about print media right now. I got a three year subscription to Wine Enthusiast a few years ago for $3. Yes, $1 a year. That is not the sign of a “healthy” magazine. As for online choices, I guess WE and WS will continue to get revenue from their online options, but I can’t imagine that it will be anywhere near as lucrative. What happens then? We have already seen some respected writers venture off on their own–how many more will follow? Who will be left at Spectator et al?
      As for Wine Blogging Wednesday, I do remember it and even thought about participating once (and should have included it in my piece). But I thought it was particularly lame since it was completely variety centric. It did not require anything special or out of the ordinary, just “Viognier”. Yawn. Bloggers just went about what they normally did, but had to find a Viognier instead of a Chardonnay. OK, I know I am simplifying far too much, and my slight alteration to the idea might be equally as lame to some, but I think there are a lot of blogs out there (including mine) that tend to be far too formulaic. As a result, we tend to just “talk among ourselves” without much impact on non-bloggers.
      Maybe I am just waxing quixotically, but I think there is the opportunity to reach beyond other wine bloggers.

      Like

      • talkavino says:

        With me mention of the #WBW I only gave you an example of what was done before. Some of the themes were about grapes, true – but there were other themes as I remember (fiction stories, singles nights, etc.).
        I’m not asking to reinstate WBW – that chapter is closed. All I’m saying is that I will support whatever you will throw in there in terms of “going at the uncomfortable angle”.

        Like

  3. talkavino says:

    Reblogged this on Talk-A-Vino and commented:
    Here is the post from the fellow blogger Jeff @ The Drunken Cyclist, with my comment which was left on Jeff’s blog.

    Like

  4. wineismylife says:

    Good post. I’m not sure how I would react or participate or what not but it is thought provoking nonetheless.

    Like

  5. Interesting post. I won’t weigh in on the print magazine issue except to say that I don’t believe that print media is dead. At least not yet. Not surprising that something similar to your Wine Challenge idea has been done before. As they say – nothing new under the sun. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done this time, this way. I’m supportive of the idea.

    Like

    • Yeah, just when I started to blog, the #WBW thing was going on. If I recall correctly, it was being spearheaded by the Drink What You Like blogger down in VA. He seems to have tailed off a bit in writing (which probably would be good for me as well)…..

      Like

      • Why would you wanna do that? Tail off on blogging, I mean. You add a lot to the info in the blogosphere about wine, and you find creative things to share. Your saber technique, for instance. Not that I’m going to try that any time soon!! lol If you need to for your own sanity, that’s one thing. I think there are plenty of people reading and benefiting from your blog – and other wine blogs – who don’t necessarily provide feedback. For those folks, I think a certain amount of consistency in the info is a good thing. On the flip side, I understand the urge to keep things interesting for the blogger as well as the readers. Oops! Where did that soap box come from? OK. I’ll shut the f- up now.

        Like

      • Thanks for the vote of confidence! I was actually trying to say (unsuccessfully) that I spend a ton of time on the blog and probably should tone it down a bit for other priorities….

        But I know I won’t….

        Like

  6. I’m all in!! This is a terrific post and highlights one of the struggles I’ve had over at my site – I have “wine” in the title but I rarely write about it. Part of that is that I’ve been on a beer kick lately… But a bigger part is that when I write about it it is solely my experience with it. And I struggle with making it interesting for me and for readers. You do a terrific job writing about wine – as do Winegetter, Talkavino, and others. So I’m a little jealous that I haven’t found my wine voice yet. So selfishly I think the theme thing would be great.

    Might I suggest “Lindsay Lohan” as a theme?

    Like

  7. moonzblue says:

    Love the idea of a weekly challenge, great way to get out of the head and into the bottle!

    Like

  8. Hi, I write about many things and sometimes about wine. I also tend to approach wine from a personal perspective focusing on who I was with, what we paired it with, what it tasted like.

    I like your idea of a different angle. Trasportation, ecological angle or even the colour of the wine and which objects it reminds you of (food & object association) or which music it should be paired with. I’m in.

    Like

  9. Duff's Wines says:

    Would enthusiastically participate! Great idea. let me know if I can help with ideas, set-up, etc.

    Like

  10. I started my blog to have a forum to document and organize the information I am gathering about the wine, beer and spirits industry. For me, it’s convenient to go back to my index and look up a particular cocktail recipe or to check out my tasting notes on a particular wine.

    It has become more than that, though, after commenting on other people’s blogs and responding to people who comment on my own. There is a wonderful community here of people learning about wine, sharing their thoughts, and ultimately challenging each other. I like this idea because it would challenge me to step outside of the box and get more creative in the writing aspect, branching out from the informative nature of what I typically write.

    I look forward to seeing what you come up with in terms of ideas!

    Like

  11. I’m in, but only if you promise to never,ever mention “Lindsay Lohan.”

    Like

  12. It’s all new to me Cyclist. What do you propose? I accept your challenge! p.s. I have a whole pile of wine mags that I subscribe to, mainly untouched. Not because they’re magazines, I love magazines, I just get bored of the content and find it all a bit serious and impersonal. Online wine writing is so much more varied and fun and I like that about wine.

    Like

  13. I am pondering your “rant.” I tend to not write on other sites, for fear of encroaching. Wine is so personal, I am not sure if a common thread would be popular, because if everyone wrote about a certain varietal on the same day, it may seem like over kill. Also everyone writes their blog to fit their own fancy. Sometimes wine may appear as an afterthought in some of my ramblings, but it is the glue that bonds all of my remembrances. I tend to “like” every wine blog article that I encounter, some I enjoy more than others, but I feel that everyone needs that little boost, that their writing is appreciated, as I have noticed some have withered and died, rather than go for the distance. Wine like writing is personal taste, but I like to think that what we do, helps others, either in their writing or by mentioning a wine that they may not have had.
    – John

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    • While it is certainly up to you, I envision a “challenge” that will require a bit of reflection and creativity. Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but I have faith in the wine bloggers here!

      Like

  14. I’m intrigued and up to a good challenge 🙂

    Like

  15. dakegrodad says:

    I occasionally read the spectator usually about canadian wine since that is what I drink. I don’t think I would read an online version. I do enjoy reading various blogs about wine just to see what people are drinking and thinking

    Like

  16. Challenge accepted! I’m in!!

    BTW, I hear there’s a #VARosé Day chat/theme on May 29th. I’ve never participated before, but will try to throw my 2cents in as a newbie and a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I also saw the Drinkwhatyoulike guy is organizing some chat/themes around Virginia wine topics: http://drinkwhatyoulike.wordpress.com/va-wine-chat/.

    I’d like to participate, but that will require me to figure out how to use Twitter . . . and those #hashtag thingys.

    But I love the idea of a wine blog theme . . . that allows for some creativity in interpretation. Wunderbar!!

    Salud!!

    Like

  17. foxress says:

    Love this idea! Count me in.

    Like

  18. winingdaily says:

    I admit some weeks its hard to come up with something I feel will excite everyone! Though I do it to share my experiences and learn more, it of course matters to me that you all enjoy reading what I write. Sometimes, cool ideas just fall in my lap because I went somewhere or tasted something truly amazing. So I welcome the idea of having themes, even if I can’t participate every single week with my crazy schedule! keep me posted.

    Like

  19. Pingback: No, seriously, I do know a lot about wine… | The Food and Wine Hedonist

  20. myweeklywine says:

    Great idea, count me in. I’ll even try Lindsay Lohan if needs be.
    I have struggled to find a direction for my blog. A theme challenge will help with motivation, and add a sense of camaraderie and fun to the process.

    Like

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