I had been planning this post for awhile, but the past couple of days have been eye opening to this newbie wine blogger, and I figure now’s as good a time as any to write. I had finally settled into my role in the blogosphere after meeting and learning from several milestones a wine blogger could face:
- Posting your first review and waiting to be sniped at by more knowledgeable writers
- Posting your first review of a bad wine and enduring the fallout
- Starting a weekly feature, then failing to continue it (though I’ll hopefully be reviving the Irreverent Weekend Reader)
- Realizing how traffic arrives to your blog and strengthening those avenues
- Botching a review and all the shame and guilt that accompanies it
Though I know I have a lot more to learn, which is like saying there’s a lot more of the ocean I have left to swim in, I was fairly certain I had at least found a groove. A couple sites have, in fact, reaffirmed a decision I made last week to change the direction of my blog. In an article at Palate Press, Tom Johnson says, quite plainly, that wine blogs are too personal, too uncontroversial to warrant a consistent audience. In a rather minute controversy, wine critic Stephen Tanzer took a swipe at wine bloggers in his new website, Winophilia, essentially calling us amateurs in the lowest sense of the word, then tempering it with a self-contradicting nod to “extremely well-done” but “sporadic… hobbyist” wine blogs. Ouch, especially if he doesn’t consider your blog of the “well-done” variety. Consider the riposte from Steve Paulo at Notes from the Cellar: “Stephen Tanzer is a Jackass.”
The feces can fly both ways, Mr. Tanzer. As of this morning, Stephen Tanzer has removed the offending words from his website, opting instead to leave the wine-blogging community completely out of his pitch. Very quick response to a PR issue, and a welcome nod towards our position.
I realized early on that my wit, enthusiasm and formal training in writing will not make up for a lack of knowledge and experience. I simply don’t have the time, resources, or palate training to consistently crank out reviews of wines five times a week. Even if I did, how would that distinguish me from every other wine blogger jousting for an admittedly tiny online segment of wine drinkers? It wouldn’t, obviously. What I need to find, and what I plan on searching for, is my niche. What have I got going for me that no one else does, or that very few others would? I think I have a few ideas…
But the change of direction doesn’t stop there. I’ve been sequestered on my site since the beginning, as have most bloggers. We write our reviews, and we read each other’s reviews, we occasionally comment, and that’s basically it. Some bloggers reach out to others, but largely the posts are simply output. We chastise people on Twitter who shout shout shout and never engage. Why don’t we try to interact more in blogs? How many times have your posts induced honest discussion in the comments? How difficult is it to link to another blog post that might be related, or to respond to another blog post with a post of your own? It’s a little bit of effort that has benefits beyond simple traffic increases. It builds relationships.
Just as a side note, Google loves those interlinked sites in its search engine. They make crawling and indexing real easy, and that impacts search ranking.
I’ve been working with Ben Simons at Vinotology on a Virginia-Texas Wine Summit, and it’s been incredibly fun and productive. It’s made me learn a lot about Virginia wine, and Ben’s side will teach me quite a bit on Texas wine. Best of all, the fruits of our labor will go to you, our readers, once it goes live. It doesn’t end there, either. What’s to stop, say, Michigan By the Bottle and Suburban Wino from holding a Michigan-Georgia Wine Summit? Maybe a California wine enthusiast wants to go in a different direction and make a case for the “Big Four” actually being the “Big One.” I read a blog comment yesterday that referred to Cali wine as “fruit syrup.” That’s gotta ignite a fire in someone, right? Anyone want to make some dialogue out of that?
As an example of an experiment that got recognition and views, Josh at Drink Nectar and Randy at The Wine Whore organized a video review and finished it with a 2500-mile-apart guitar and drum jam. Why not intersperse the daily reviews with a partnering with another blogger? What’s a crazy idea you’ve had to spice up your reviews? I talked once jokingly about a hip-hop wine review. I’ve got years of creative writing experience just going to waste right now, so why not, right?
We still need to review. We still get traffic from them, and they still prompt discussion, purchases, and occasionally controversy. I’m a fan of print wine publications, but why should they get all the fun and the final say? And what’s the harm in posting a review that *gulp* agrees with Stephen Tanzer? Why not quote another review within your own? I’m positive someone out there reading this has disagreed with one of my reviews. Why not call me out on it and discuss it? Lord knows wine makers have.
I linked to 8 blogs in this post, and I barely broke a sweat. I plan on doing this (and much more) in the future, and I hope you, my fellow wine bloggers, will join me in giving it a shot.