Wine Talk

Snooth User: Winebusprof

What makes a good wine blog?

Posted by Winebusprof, Oct 18, 2009.

It has just occurred to me that there appears to be an endless supply of experts and comments on wine as a topic of keen interest. As such, as a relative novice to the world of wine-chat and discussions, I want to know what (in your humble opinions) makes a good wine blog?

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Reply by gregt, Oct 18, 2009.

Same thing that makes any blog worthwhile - great style and interesting information.

If you taste maybe a hundred or so wines a year, or if you've been drinking wine for five years and have decided you're equipped to write all about it, you'll be like most bloggers. Some people like to write about their experiences discovering new grapes that most people already know. That can be nice, but it's like writing about your relationships. Some people like to read that kind of thing but then again, some people read Cosmopolitan. It's not really a wine blog at that point.

So if you don't have any particular expertise, or new information, or news, or experience to share, then you should be an excellent stylist so that people will read your blog for the literary value. Given the illiteracy of the American populace, if you take that route, you might consider a language other than English.

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 19, 2009.

Now, now, now Greg. Here you are again, doing the dastardly of calling things like you see them.

Have to admit, though, you are spot on. I sometimes think the only thing worse than another wine club is another (passle of) wine blogger(s)...

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Reply by Jimmy Cocktail, Oct 20, 2009.

Ok gentlemen, you both seem to have strong ideas on this topic. So please educate the uneducated. What exactly denotes particular expertise, new information, news, or experience in your world? Are you saying that you'd rather read something poorly written if it contains breaking news of minor import? Do you not care about the personality of the individual when reading about wine? Are tasting notes on exclusive and high dollar wines that normal people can't afford where your head is at? Do you feel that a person's impressions and feelings about a wine they have tasted are invalid because they've only done it for a couple of years and/or tasted only a couple of hundred wines? Or that you can't be bothered with them because serious wine tasting is an exclusive club?

Yeah, I'm a touch defensive here mostly because what you said makes you come off as an elitist snob that looks down upon the general populace and their appreciation of wine. Look, I'm not trying to invalidate your feelings, you have a right to them same as anyone else. However, the attitude you've just expressed is exactly what some of us bloggers attempt to work against. Exposing people to the intricacies of wine, including the opinions of someones uneducated palate is not a bad thing. In fact, I would argue that it may be better for the people just entering the world of wine to read that sort of thing because the Robert Parkers of this world just aren't in touch with the common man any more. But hey, that's not you so why worry?

Jimmy Cocktail -> At Least I'm Enjoying the Ride (http://www.corrundum.net)

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Reply by Philip James, Oct 20, 2009.

You guys (GregT and DM) can be harsh.

Turns out that over 600,000 people read Cosmo - at least according to their Media Kit: download.mediakitmanager.com/ACP%5CWomens%20Lifestyle%5CMediaKit-Cosmopolitan.pdf

The wine blogs that I read regularly are:

- lenndevours - he writes about NY wines, and I know Lenn, so there's a personal connection - lennthompson.typepad.com/lenndevours/

- Steve Heimoff's blog - its very well written and looks at the Social Media side of wine a lot: http://www.steveheimoff.com/

- Bevlog - They point out wacky COLA label registrations, its like LOLcats for wine lovers - http://www.bevlaw.com/bevlog

I skim the headlines of lots of others (using igoogle), and dive in when something catches my fancy.

Back to the original question: What makes a good wine blog?
- I'd like to know good for what or who? If you enjoy writing it and 100 people enjoy reading it, then that's good (although it won't make you famous or rich). If you write about a certain small, upcoming region, Texas Hill Country, for example, you don't need to be that big to, over time, become an authority on that area. But, I still think you'd be doing important (good?) work.

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Reply by gregt, Oct 20, 2009.

Not at all Jimmy. I don't know where you read anything referring to the price of wine. Or anything mentioning tasting notes, especially on rare wines. It seems as if you're arguing with something you want to have read, not something that was actually stated.

I'm not sure what the offense is. I think I've posted a number of times about the lack of correlation between price and quality.

But I'm curious - your post suggests that you are suggesting that a blog must be about tasting notes of inexpensive wines? That could be a very good idea. But how is that any different from any other blog? What would make it better or more compelling reading than another one doing the same thing?

My point was only that many many blogs already exist and they cover much the same area. And if you want the average opinion of the average customer, then Snooth is one of your best bets because the varying opinions are aggregated and available in one place. A good blog however, should aim for more than simply adding to the background noise.

As far as "exposing someone to the intricacies of wine", that's laudable. But are you suggesting that Parker's many books, or Robinson's, or Oz Clarke's or Hugh Johnson's or those of many others, somehow don't cover that ground and don't do it well? I'm certain that you've at least read some of Parker's books because you express a confident opinion about his writing, but what is it that he or the others failed to do, that could be done so much better by someone else? The wine audience in general is small, and the audience for specialized areas is even smaller, so most wine writers try to cast a wide net.

For general information regarding an area, a grape, or a practice, I would argue that it is better for people just entering the world of wine to read those authors, who spent a number of years tasting and researching, because they are more reliable than someone who is traveling the same path as the novice. Similarly, in a college biology class, the professor is usually a more reliable source of information than the person sitting next to you.

However, that's not to say that the student next to you can't be a great writer with interesting things to say.

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Reply by Jimmy Cocktail, Oct 20, 2009.

Sorry for being a bit prickly this morning Greg. Your original post just struck me as a tad condescending and I felt the need to speak up for the blogging community.

Now that being said, it does not mean that all blogs are worth the time to read them. Some are totally in agreement with you, some are not. Some are well written, some are not. Some contain little or no factual data and are highly opinionated, some are well researched and provide sound evidence for the conclusions drawn by the author. What makes a wine blog good? Well, what makes any writer good?

This really is the point of your original post, was it not? Information that is well written, well researched, presented with enough personality to engage the reader and keep them coming back for more is what makes a good blog. To me, that means that there may very well be people that won't read it becasue they do not find my personal style interesting enough to want to come back, no matter how well researched or written it is. Conversely, there may very well be folks that are tired of my personality but come for the value contained in my posts. I don't know how that could be, but I welcome them if they are. ;-)

There is a lot of noise out there in the world, but if someone is starting out, trying to make a name for themselves as a writer with serious, informed opinions about wine, how exactly are they supposed to accomplish this without adding to the noise? Every new person writing on a subject is part of that noise until they find a way to distinguish themselves. That does not happen overnight.

The list of questions in my earlier post wasn't meant as a literal, this is what must be done in a blog, sense. They were moreso a reaction to what I got from your post and other perceived slights and injustices I've either been subjected to or picked up anecdotally over the years. There is and continues to be a real and/or imagined class system with wine and the people that enjoy it.

For the record, I very much enjoy your thoughts on wine Greg. You've got a ton of info tucked away in that brain of yours, you write well, and you're willing to share with most everyone here. The points in your second post are well taken.

However...

My take on things (probably not dissimilar from yours) are that things are going to hell in a bucket. Folks that can read seldom do thanks to ever increasing demands on our time and the nature of our needing to be ADD to deal with everything society throws at us. People don't want to read a book, they want information in tiny consumable bites that are spoon fed to them in a way that doesn't make them think. Hence, the popularity of blogs.

Ms Cocktail took a crash course in filming for the Travel Channel last weekend. One of the things that was driven home by the instructor was that no shot should ever be longer than 10 seconds. No panning, no zooming, just little bites of action that keep the viewers' interest. Simply put, the masses don't want it any other way right now.

The print medium is the exact same way. I'm afraid that those well researched and written books are as much of the background noise as anything else these days. I've read much on the subject of wine, not as much as I'd like, but more than the average Joe. I'm afraid that much of that knowledge will be missed by the masses, only to be passed on in bits and drabs by the likes of me. I don't necessarily like it or agree with it but ultimately, I don't make the rules, I only have to play by them.

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Reply by TL NJ, Oct 20, 2009.

I'll take a layman's / "non-expert" / blogger's crack at answering the original question...

If you want "expert" opinions and facts based on research and experience - go to the experts. If you want to see what the average person has to say about something, learn some interesting trivia, take part in an interesting discussion, and NOT feel like you've be spoken down to then come to the blogs.

What makes it good for me is reading a bunch of folks' opinion on any topic and thinking about something differently than I have in the past - perhaps even getting a good suggestion that I never thought of before - hopefully being able to do the same for someone else.

I have read the "experts" and to me - their years of experience and research gives me a point of reference that is helpful. I would expect someone who professionally drinks several hundred different types of wine a year, for 20 plus years be able to speak intelligently about why a 2000 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild is or is not better than a 1996 Chateau Latour - the average person (including me) will never get there - so that information is meaningless to me.

What is more valuable to me is getting a note from a fellow Snoother saying - "Hey T, I was reading some of your blogs, and read the types of wine you like - if you havent tried "Woop Woop Shiraz" yet, give it a go. I think you might like it". That's what makes a site like this fun and interesting for me.

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 20, 2009.

Well said T!

"What makes it good for me is reading a bunch of folks' opinion on any topic and thinking about something differently than I have in the past - perhaps even getting a good suggestion that I never thought of before - hopefully being able to do the same for someone else."

This is what it is all about!

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Reply by Winebusprof, Oct 20, 2009.

So,if I may cast that proverbial cat amongst the pigeons here- what makes this wine blog worth reading?

I'm going to argue that many of the comments that were listed above aren't all that applicable in describing the appeal of this particular piece of literary gold.

However, what I want to know is your opinion on whether that is because the question is atypical for a wine blog, or because our level of interest/expertise with wine is atypical, or perhaps for some other reason?

Your wine for thought...

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Reply by Jimmy Cocktail, Oct 21, 2009.

Question Winebusprof: Are you calling the entire Snooth site, the Snooth Forums, just the Snooth blog, or individual wine blogs as a generalization the piece of literary gold?

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Reply by gregt, Oct 21, 2009.

I think JimmyCocktail nailed it -

"Information that is well written, well researched, presented with enough personality to engage the reader and keep them coming back for more is what makes a good blog."

It's what I was trying to say.

Whether your interest is wine, food, stocks, history, games, gardening or whatever, the above criteria apply.

But are we using the terms "blog" and "forum" interchangeably? By "blog" I had in mind a singular voice, i.e. someone who posts his or her thoughts for the day , week, whatever. By forum, I had in mind a collection of voices.

In the latter case, I think what makes it worth reading are the personalities and their levels of engagement. In other words, if people just drop in to shill a store or product, they aren't really engaged and it's not interesting. On some forums the conversations turn into name-calling one-upmanship. That's not interesting either. I happen to like learning, so if there's a place where I can learn, that's interesting to me personally. But if someone is funny, that's almost as good.

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Reply by Tamar1973, Oct 23, 2009.

One of the most important tools in a blogger's tool chest is a good copy editor but many bloggers out there think their opinions are so awesome that they don't want their lofty words edited. They mistake honesty for readability and the entire blogosphere suffers.

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Reply by MTB, Oct 24, 2009.

Speaking as one of the bloggers who this group would likely classify as "part of the noise" - I want to respond to JimmyCocktail's comment about tone. One of the reasons I enjoy Snooth is for the opinions, information and expertise of people like GDP, GregT, DM and others. I learn a lot from you guys. But I also have a number of friends who I have tried to either get to join Snooth, post their reviews of wines, or even post or respond to Forum comments that we've read and discussed over dinner. The response I get most often from them is "oh I couldn't - those guys are serious, they don't want to hear from someone like me." (I've even gotten a few "I'm afraid to post anything - those guys will rip me to shreds"). One friend actually backed out of joining me for one of the wine dinners GDP organized in New York after reading some of the Forum posts. She said she'd be "too intimidated."

I thought she was being rather silly (she's actually quite knowledgeable about wine for an "amateur") until I read the comments on this stream and found myself thinking "Wow, I hope these guys never read MY blog."

Anyway - to the point at hand. I don't necessarily disagree with any of the comments in this discussion, and I do agree that there is a lot of noise out there. I personally am not a big fan of "what I drank last night blogs," although there are a few that I find charming because of the personality that shines through.

That being said, I also think there is a lot of room for a multitude of voices. I really enjoy Alice Feiring, Frederic Koeppel and Eric Asimov, but I also recognize that these guys are pros - with a lot of experience and great copy editors. I also read (and often enjoy more) blogs like Lenndevours, WannaBeWino, The WineSleuth and Wine Conscience, and I do so with the understanding that they aren't necessarily pros - they aren't trained sommeliers, or wine critics for major newspapers, or even trained writers. But they have an interest and a passion, and most importantly, a point of view that I don't find from the "pros."

And that's what I believe makes a good wine blog - a point of view. and yes, I think many wine blogs are completely lacking a point of view. It takes a while to find that, and many bloggers aren't even looking for it, but those that find it are generally the blogs that have staying power, and over time, develop into some of the more interesting blogs, IMHO.

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Reply by gregt, Oct 24, 2009.

I agree with the last bit. Someone mentioned a copy editor - I agree with that too. I actually do check people's blogs from time to time, rarely, because there is only so much time one has, but it's fun sometimes. And the one thing that would keep me coming back is the voice of the writer. Not that people need to develop a kind of style or persona and in fact I think that's the problem with many of them - they put more effort into having a "style" than they do in saying something interesting. Style should be in the service of commentary, not the other way around.

But as far as your friends go - do NOT let them think that their attitudes and questions and opinions are irrelevant. Quite the contrary.

One reason I frequent this site more than some others these days is that I get weary of reading the same comments over and over about a small group of concepts. Wine geeks can sometimes be really annoying - there are some stereotypes that simply recur over and over. For example - "Burgundy Burgundy Burgundy", or "new world wines suck", or "that wine has no terroir and this one does", or "I have so many cases of this or that and I'm so crazy for spending so much money".

And no matter how much someone knows, NOBODY knows everything. I was at a tasting with a guy from Germany who was a "Master of Wine". He knew more about German hills and vineyards than I could ever hope to learn and for me, was fascinating for that reason, in addition to being a pretty good guy all around. But he sure didn't know how to identify a monastrell that was put in front of him blind, or how to distinguish one region in Spain from another. That's of course nothing to be ashamed of and like any wine lover, he was interested in learning. Even the most knowledgeable wine people are frequently wrong - Parker famously can't identify the Bordeaux chateaux blind and apparently neither can Broadbent, although he's not as down to earth as Parker and so is more likely to sue you if you mention it.

Anyhow, your friend should go to some of those dinners. Greg is a pretty down to earth guy and he'll make her feel right at home. And so will the others. I haven't seen any one-upmanship on this board yet and never at any of the events Greg has organized.

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Reply by cigarman168, Oct 25, 2009.

As my opinion, different people has their own defintion of good blog, of course, most of them would like to got lots of fans to read it, some will like to earn money on it, some will like to increase their exposure, some just want to keep contact with their friends... For me, I strongly believe the enthusiasm for wines, open mind mentality of the blogger will be important.

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 25, 2009.

MTB, what you write is at once so familiar and so foreign.

To begin with let me say that I hear from my friends, wine geeks and snobs alike, that they don't come to participate in this forum because it's too elementary!

Some people are just looking for an excuse not to do something i suppose.

More importantly though the body of your comments both saddens and frustrates me. I am working hard trying to make wine more accessible and to defeat the stereotypes surrounding wine appreciation. Unfortunately it sounds like i may not be doing such a good job.

I would appreciate hearing from your friends and finding out what they would like see in order to turn this place into a "bigger tent". Perhaps we can convince a group to come and visit Snooth, participate in a tasting, and just have a good time. That is ultimately what all of this is about, having a good time. Making life a little better.

There are plenty of place I can go to one-up someone. I don't really visit those places much anymore. To be honest I visited quite a few once, not so much to one-up people, though it is tough to resist the temptation when the recipient of your one-upping is fully deserving of being brought back down to earth but that is another discussion.

I don't visit those places much anymore and participate there even less simply because in this forum I am able to try and create the type of community i am most comfortable in.

A community that fosters inclusion, education, and sharing. Where threads are not all about who drank the most expensive, the rarest, or simple the most. Where we are not beating each other over the head with our intimate knowledge simply for the benefit of seeing our words in print.

I guess I'm just saying that it's sad so many people don't see the value in what we're doing and decide not to mingle with those who know more or less than they. One of the traits of great people is that they realize that you can always learn something from a person so keeping an open mind is essential.

As far as the discussion going on about what makes a great blog. Great people make great blogs when the are writing about something with passion and enthusiasm.I know several very knowledgeable wine people with blogs and they are basically unreadable.

Keep on doing what you're doing. Don't worry about those who won't read your blog, worry only about those who will. And please let me know what i can do to attract your friends to join us here at Snooth.

Best regards
Greg

GregT, thanks for the kind words. they are appreciated.

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Reply by MTB, Oct 25, 2009.

Greg DP et al,

First, my apologies for what I now see was not a very clear response to this discussion. I was actually a victim of too much editing, as I spent quite some time crafting my comments so as not to offend anyone. So to clarify, perhaps it's best if I start at the beginning.

I opened this discussion thread with great interest; as a wine blogger myself I'm definitely interested in what others feel makes a good wine blog. The subject also crops up in other forums at least once a year around the time the Wine Blogger Awards are announced, but I find that often the debates around the legitimacy of the Awards are just whinges about the dearth of "good" wine blogs out there as a means of justifying why they always nominate the same 10 blogs every year. [As a side note, Tom Wark wrote a nice piece on this last Spring arguing that moving the Awards to the Open Wine Consortium might open things up to a broader audience and also perhaps open up a few more categories so the "amateurs" aren't competing with the Frederic Koeppels and Alice Feirings of the wine blogosphere].

Anyway, because I definitely find Snooth to be open and inclusive, and because Greg, you and the team have done a great job of making this a place where people at all levels of experience, interest, etc. regularly publish comments and contribute to discussion, I looked to this topic with some anticipation.

Unfortunately what I found in GregT's and DM's first posts left me speechless - actually that's not quite true, my first reactions are unprintable in a public forum. I think JimmyCocktail put it best when he said "what you said makes you come off as an elitist snob." And he was spot on. It also, I felt, took the discussion in an unproductive direction (which I unfortunately contributed to with my somewhat incoherent response), because I feel like the discussion has now veered towards a defense of wine blogging - which actually wasn't the question.

And that's when I had my 'aha' moment about my friends. I thought, "O.k. yeah. I can see how if you only take a quick look through the site and the forum, and you hit a few threads like this one, you could be intimidated because it feels like the people who know a lot are too quickly dismissive of those who don't." As with this case, it's not the content, it's the tone.

GregT, you've made some very good points, and in reading your response to my initial comments, I admit I may have read condescension and arrogance into your first comment than you intended. But I have to admit, I still have a lot of trouble with the tone of those first two responses to the original question.

I also want to be clear that I am NOT saying that those of you who are extremely knowledgeable and educated about wine should "dumb it down" for the rest of us. Absolutely not. One of the things I would hope that you would do is continue to challenge us, raise the bar, and encourage us to come closer to your level. I'm also NOT saying that there's no place for individual opinions. I'm just saying that tone matters, and it can be off-putting even when that wasn't the intent.

Finally, I want to wrap this up by saying thanks to Greg and the Snooth team. I love Snooth. I find it to be a really open forum; I've never felt that my opinion or participation was held in any lower regard than any others, and I've watched all of you "experts" openly welcome everyone.

I've learned a lot from this site, not just in terms of "book knowledge" but also in terms of wine knowledge. I've found it very helpful as I try different wines to see what others said about them here. "Someone picked up grassy notes in that wine, interesting..." And next time I try a glass I keep that in mind - and often wind up learning something. To me, that opportunity to learn is what makes this site exciting.

I also feel there are contributions I've been able to make to the site and the discussion, and hope I've started to open up people's awareness of the regional wines and wineries here in New England (yes, New England produces more than fruit wines!)

I think you guys at Snooth have done a great job of "bridging the gap" so to speak, and I can only imagine your frustration when you hear comments like mine (or those of your friends). I apologize for adding to that frustration.

I continue and will continue to encourage my friends to join - and Greg, to your point, some people are just looking for excuses not to do something. But now I have a personal experience that allows me to relate to what they may be reacting to, and perhaps by understanding their reaction where I didn't necessarily before, I can better allay their concerns.

Regards,
Marguerite



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Reply by cigarman168, Oct 25, 2009.

Hi Marguerite,

Expecting it : I've started to open up people's awareness of the regional wines and wineries here in New England (yes, New England produces more than fruit wines!)


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