A Winemakers Blog about Wine Bloggers
I was lucky enough to spend this last weekend in Charlottesville at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011 with some of the countries most passionate wine people. There is a lot I learned or at least realized while I was there. I think the most important lesson was that these bloggers don't get paid for the most part, they do it because they love wine. So really that makes them a lot like you most likely if you are reading this.
Bloggers came to Charlottesville from all over the United States and Canada to explore different blogging ideas, learn from two of the worlds most renowned critics and hopefully a strong portion were there to learn about Virginia wine and taste a few. We had the opportunity to pour for several of these bloggers on Wednesday here at the Tarara, and then again four times in Charlottesville. The opportunities included two "Live Blogging" Sessions, a massive tasting at the Monticello (way too awesome) and an event called "The Other 46". The Other 46 was a tasting of wines from anywhere in the USA not including California, Oregon, Washington and New York.
What I found was an overwhelming excitement and appreciation for our wines. It really did not matter where they were from, I seemed to only hear positive feedback. This was difficult for some because they had been outside in the blistering heat as we experienced over 100 degrees with crazy humidity that day.
So, besides a great experience meeting several bloggers (check out our twitter page or look up the #WBC11 on twitter) what do we at Tarara think of the boom of wine bloggers? Though still new, we are trying to understand it a bit more, but in short it is great! To put this in perspective, we poured wine for close to 300 people on the weekend. One of the people we poured wine for was Jancis Robinson who is arguably the second most influential wine critic in the world. Will she write about our Viognier, Nevaeh Red or TerraNoVA? I have no clue. I hope she does, but I just don't know. If she does, it will absolutely not be a cover story so will be part of a much larger program and it will only be there from one person regardless how influential she is. We have currently received 72 tweets directly involving the rest of the group that tasted our wine. Most of these are brief tasting notes about particular wines and all are very positive. I have no idea how many blogs might link us by the time they are all tallied from this group, but certainly there are some and it is great to be viewed by people from all over. Many of the bloggers were not local and it was exciting to read their streaming comments. It was all is very cool.
The blogging world is not without its flaws though. Most of the bloggers in the world are not classically trained in wine like most of the traditional journalists. That said, Robert Parker, Jr. is a classically educated lawyer, not sommelier or Master of Wine, etc but he is the most influential wine person in the world and has been said to have the greatest wine palette in the world. Does he? I don't honestly know, I have never met him or tasted with him or most of the world. I have tasted now with a lot of these blogger peers though and there are some very talented tasters. There are also some that are still learning, but what is cool is that they want to learn more so this media format should constantly get better and better. I think what is really key in reading blogs is that everyone needs to find particular bloggers that seem to match their own style. Find a blogger that enjoys similar wine as you, similar wine experiences as you and follow them for their suggestions. The biggest difference I find with bloggers and traditional media is that traditional media is forced to shy away from biases. They are supposed to attempt to taste simply on qualitative aspects regardless whether it is a Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, crisp Riesling, Carbonic Maceration Gamay, or massive Syrah. Does this ability to turn a blind eye to preference really exist? I don't know, I know I can't do it. Bloggers include their preferences which can be great, but can also upset some wineries. I don't think there is any need to be upset by it though. If someone slams Tarara Winery for not having sweet Chambourcin or fruit wine, why should I be offended? We don't offer that and I would hate for someone who is only interested in fruit wine to arrive at Tarara only to be disappointed. There would be nothing for them to buy and would just leave miserable. It does not help the winery or the customer. If someone is only interesting in unoaked whites, or lighter reds, same story. We have limited offerings. But, if someone is interested in more extracted reds and rounder lush whites with terroir as a focus, then the likelihood is they will enjoy our wines, and that goes for bloggers as well.
There are bloggers that have wine preferences and there are bloggers that focus more on the experience than the wine. Some love dog friendly wineries, some family friendly, some want a more formal tasting experience and some really don't care as long as the wine is awesome and to the style they want. Are any of them wrong? NO! That is the difference with new media instead of traditional journalism. It is far more opinionated. They tend to also lack scores for the most part which is a good thing in this case. If you are not trained and cannot act without bias, then you shouldn't "score" a wine or an experience because that is a critical analysis. To add scores is to quantify a result so scoring should be left to those that have specific criteria other than opinion. Opinions are great in written word so the reader can understand why someone loves or doesn't love a wine or experience.
A great quote that I remembered that might have seemed off putting to some was from Jancis Robinson. "Bloggers are, like people". This really was a great quote, because what is says is that it is far easier to connect with a blogger about their experience with a wine than a critic in hard copy form. You can interact with bloggers and comment on most of their sites. It really can open up a dialogue and a relationship with the blog you most like to read.
In conclusion, what do I think of how bloggers are so prevalent in the wine industry now? Well, it doesn't matter what I think because the reality is the Internet was created and it has developed into a place where everyone has a voice. But, I do love it anyway. I think it creates a challenge to consumers to find the voice of someone who might have similar tastes. Bloggers are bringing a new focus to all wine styles, all experiences and truly are helping to remind many of us the importance in supporting local since many of the bloggers are massive advocates of local. Most serious bloggers are on a constant mission to better their personal blog and their knowledge of the subject matter and that is why there is a Wine Bloggers Conference. I look forward to the future of wine blogging and seeing how it further benefits not only the current world known wines and regions, but makes wine more global for all regions and wine styles. I also hope that we do not lose traditional media as they both hold separate uses in my mind. Blogging simply gives more accessible information to the broader public at the touch of a button. Very Cool.
Just for a little plugging of our local bloggers, here are some great blogs if you have not already checked them out: