This Just In… Wine Blogs Are Boring!

by Tim Elliott on February 16, 2008

There was a little bit of discussion in the wine Twitterverse this evening about a post over on PBS’ MediaShift blog. In a rundown on video podcasts, writer Jennifer Woodard Maderazo described most wine blogs as having, “…content dull enough to bore an enthusiast like me.” Not sure which wine blogs she is referring to but I thought it was a pretty interesting comment from a fellow blogger.

Sure, many of us are not as zany as the folks at Ask a Ninja, entertaining as Gary Vaynerchuk or as quirky as Rocketboom but I’d hardly call “most” wine bloggers boring. Many of us try to inform, educate and feature wines most people might like and write in not the same way as the established wine press (well, most times anyway). There is a camaraderie among wine bloggers that I don’t see in other parts of the blogosphere that is far from pedantic. Whilst we might be seen as somewhat geeky for our language and devotion to all things vino, I wouldn’t characterize the majority of wine bloggers’ work as “boring.”

But I’m biased. What do you think?

  • http://www.spittoon.biz Andrew

    One of my over-riding concerns is whether my writing is dull and boring! How can I write in a more entertaining and informative way. THe fact my readership continues to grow is perhaps an indication that I shouldn’t worry so much!

  • http://wineculture.blogspot.com Robert

    I wouldn’t categorise all/many/most wine blogs as boring, but I do see the point however, that many blogs are not “well written”. But if all we wanted were beautifully crafted prose, we’d stick to the mags that are full of qualified journalism majors and wannabe published authors.

    Blogs democratised writing and allowed all of us to express ideas and share news that were not available through those channels. It means that not everything will be as entertainingly written as it could have been, but instead we get real personalities.

    These personalities might not be of interest to everyone but a blog can keep going even without a big audience, so who cares? Move on! Find another blog or blogger that you do like and read that instead.

    I personally prefer blogs that have more than tasting notes and explore wine ideas, but that is just me.

  • http://www.steverunner.com Steve Runner

    Wine blogs are most definitly NOT boring. As a newbie to wines, and someone who very much appreciates the advice and recommendations of those who have been a part of this “sport” for awhile, I depend on wine blogs to educate me about wines. Boring? NO WAY. I have never read a wine blogging post that has left me bored. They are all remarkable resources, especially for someone like me who appreciates the thoughts and opinions of those who appreciate wine.

    - Steve “Runner”

  • http://1winedude.blogspot.com 1WineDude

    Whether or not something written is interesting usually boils down to 3 things: 1) the subject matter, 2) the writing style, & 3) personal preference.

    I happen to agree that there are a good many bloggers (not just wine bloggers!) that pick dull topics and/or make their topics boring by virtue (or the lack of it?) of their writing.

    I also agree that writing off the whole genre flippantly is dumb. Jennifer sounds like just the type of personality that I would find boring myself…

  • http://winecast.net Tim

    Dude, Steve, Robert and Andy:

    You’ve all hit on points that crossed my mind as I read the post last night. Like all blogging genres, there are good ones and not so good ones. But to write off an entire special interest group seems a bit extreme particularly when there are so many really good wine blogs today. And I don’t think we all need shtick like Gary V.

    Hoping to hear from some blog readers on this point, as well.

  • Rod

    In general they are boring. I’m a huge wine nut. Virtually my entire social life and many vacations revolve around wine. I subscribed to pretty much every podcast. I’ve since unsubscribed to every one of them except Grape Radio. They just became boring. Some had a good concept, but it was exactly the same thing over and over and over and over and over.

    I scan your blog quickly, but rarely read it close. I subscribed to a number of other wine blogs, but have since stopped all of them. Gary V. is the only other really interesting thing going on, but he is so annoying that I’ve dropped him too.

    I follow too many blogs and podcasts. Except for some directly related to my industry, none are professionally done. Compared to the other podcasts and blogs I follow, wine ones have put me off, and I really wanted to love them. They are indeed generally BORING.

  • http://napavalleywineradio.com/blog Nancy

    Sorry, I’m a blogger – AND a reader – but I think the medium invites a whole bunch of mediocrity and worse, no matter the subject, because of its nature. For the majority of bloggers it appears to be vanity press without the cost. I don’t read much in the way of blogs outside of wineblogs, but in those perusings some of the writing is just garbage, some of it’s rude and a lot of it doesn’t even use good English. The quality I see from wine bloggers, for the most part, seems high, relatively. Maybe I’m also biased or I’ve just been lucky…

  • http://wineculture.blogspot.com Robert

    Tim, is “schtick” good or bad?

    Much as I respect what he has done, and admitting I even find an episode or three entertaining, I must admit that I find Mr V rather grating after a while. I particularly find the self-promotion (on facebook and elsewhere) and rants against ‘lurkers’ rather tiresome. I certainly hope that we do not take this as a model for lots of other sites!! I think he is, and should remain, unique.

  • http://winecast.net Tim

    Rod: Point taken… sorry for being boring in both text and audio formats, etc.

    Nancy: There is an interesting comment on the MediaShift post that makes a similar point: most blogs are boring whatever the genre. I concur that wine blogs tend to be better written on average than most other blogs but the ease of blogging and little or no editing is an element of the medium.

    Robert: In describing Gary’s work on WineLibraryTV I intended the term shtick in the most positive way (sorry for the misspelling). I used the word to convey that I believe Gary is very different in person than he is on his podcast where he turns it up a notch or two.

    I also think no one can or should base their own show on WLTV as it is uniquely Vaynerchuk and anyone else will look foolish and unoriginal. But I also think that for a wine podcast to become popular it has to be informative and entertaining.

  • Rod

    Now that I finished a nice dinner and a bottle of decent White Burgundy, I can be more generous. I still find most blogs fairly boring. Perhaps it’s so many blogs wanting to be interesting and “educational”.

    Too many blogs and podcasts start out with these great altruistic ideals. They are interesting. The person says, I’m not an expert, but I love wine. Then they give their hook. The initial writing and podcasts are interesting. Then somehow these writers must get some feedback. A little time goes by and all of a sudden they are wine educators and know more about wine than you do, so to speak. They are part of the magic wine blogosphere. They are receiving some recognition, and it seems their heads grow faster than the readership. It’s not just writing skills that make the professional press more popular. They tell interesting stories. They actually live and travel to places other than Napa. They teach without being “educators”. Bloggers should look at the writers they enjoy and figure out why they enjoy them. I can guarantee you it’s not because they write tasting notes and cover tidbits other writers wrote about the previous week. They tell stories. They write about things that interest them, and us.

    Tim, I’m not specifically putting you in those categories, although you show some of those traits. I look at the blog because you write things that are often interesting. I listen because chunks of many podcasts are interesting. However, I wanted to scream during most of the self absorbed podcast on the impact of blogs and alternative media on the industry. Get several podcasters/bloggers together and stroke each other for an hour and a half. Arggh. Get someone on that isn’t part of the closed system stroking each other to be on the podcast. Excellent personal websites like Gang of Pour and Grape-Nutz existed for years. They beat most blogs by far. Wine forums like WLDG, WCWN and Squires were around years before blogs. They have dozens of wine makers on them. Many of them well respected and cutting edge. Yet, it is arguable that they haven’t had any real impact on the industry. Has Mondavi or Beringer changed things because blogs? Is Gallo and Bronco changing styles because of blogs? Are local wine stores carrying obscure wines and wine from previously ignored countries because of blogs and forums? I don’t think so. Are Tanzer, Parker and Burghound losing readers – or gaining readers – from blogs? Probably not. Outside of Parker, I don’t think you could get Jancis Robinson, Burghound or Tanzer to say they affect the industry. Somehow the wine blogosphere feels they are. Get back to reality. Blogging and forums make wine more accessible for those people who are learning AND make an effort to go looking for additional information that’s not at their local library or book store. That’s about it. It’s yet another outlet for people who have don’t get enough wine talk from other channels. I think it can add a new dimension to wine, but it’s not going to move the industry in the foreseeable future.

  • http://winecast.net Tim

    Rod: Of the nearly 57,000 comments this blog has provoked (most of them unpublished SPAM, BTW) yours is the most well written and insightful. I really appreciate the time it took to post this.

    I think you are mostly correct here, but I would say many established wine writers do have an impact on the wine industry besides Mr. Parker (Jim Laube comes immediately to mind). And I think some wine blogs are having an impact but it’s minimal and will not lead to a lot of sales. So why wine bloggers are being treated in much the same way as the “pros” is somewhat of a mystery to me (perhaps we tend to write more favorable reviews or our thoughts are better Google indexed than professional reviews).

    You have given me some things to think about as I try to improve the content of the blog and podcast. Thanks again.

  • Rod

    There was a reason for leaving the Spectator out of the loop. It is certainly more powerful than say, for example, Decanter.

    I don’t want to minimize blogs, and other alternative media. I think there are a number of small wineries that owe a huge amount to blogs and forums. Perhaps, in the end, they will move the industry. Certainly the fame of Heidi Barrett(sp?) and Helen Turley was initially created by the Wine Advocate shortly before the alternative media showed up, and it would be hard to say they didn’t move the industry. These days one could argue that wineries like Pax, Sea Smoke, Loring, Siduri, really owe a lot to wine lovers sharing through public forums. A lot more probbably to lists of wine lovers sharing among themselves via e-mail. These small wineries and big Parker and Spectator scores may be able to move an industry in the end. Who knows.

    I know when I wander Napa, Sonoma, and the Central Coast, a lot of people have heard of the more established forums. Not so much most blogs. You are now in a good place to do some informal discussions with small and large wineries to actually find out what the impact is. Perhaps neither of us have it pegged.

    Anyway, I’ll give reading things a better try. Thanks for the nice response.

  • http://www.gollywinedrops.blogspot.com Golly

    I’ve always considered my blog to be pretty boring – the occasional thoughts of someone you don’t know. However, I find those random thoughts of others to be quite interesting, particularly when I’m reading the blogs of people from around the world, sharing lots in common as well as big differences in lifestyle.

    Perhaps I’m biased, a standard wine-snob, or even a wine (blog) bore, but there’s gazillions of blogs out there, and I tend to find ones about wine are better on average, with a better standard of writing. If I find one boring, I just don’t read it anymore.

  • http://winections.blogspot.com/ Dave Chouiniere

    I find wine blogs very interesting, even the ones where they are just tasting notes. None of my close friends are into wine, so I don’t have anyone I can talk to wine about. Wine bloggers give me a way to learn about wine and a way to share wine experiences. I am biased.

  • http://winecast.net Tim

    Thanks, Golly and Dave… I share your views as a fellow wine geek.

    Your follow-up, Rod, is also appreciated.

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  • http://www.flux.com Brian Ross

    I’m a big wine geek, so I read everything and often. But I agree that some wine blogs are tired. My suggestions on what (for me) makes a dream blog:

    1. More imaginative descriptors than “black fruit”, “red fruit”. Gary Vaynerchuk is good at stretching his palate imagination. We can do it too, if we try.

    2. Wine descriptions that are searchable and sortable, if not by producer and vintage, than at least by region or varietal. That’s why CellarTracker is indispensable for me, for tasting notes anyway. Sometimes browsing random notes is fun, and I make serendipitous finds – but often I’m just searching for input on a particular wine. Google is good, but not perfect.

    3. Let’s standardize scoring. 100 points, 20 points, 5 stars, thumbs up, enough already. If we’re going with scoring, let’s go with 100 points. It’s the de facto rule now, in my opinion.

    4. More video. It’s fun.

  • http://smellslikegrape.blogspot.com Taster B

    I’m late to the discussion as usual but, I just wanted to comment on Rod’s comments. I think he makes a lot of good points. Especially, the part about blogs trying to ‘Educate’ people as if they don’t already know, or as if they care, or as if they can’t conduct their own research. That to me is really boring (guilty of that myself as a Wine Blogger). I also prefer an interesting story or writing style to a textbook rendition of wine related minutia, and I also think most blogs are boring. I would also hasten to add that given the volume and variety of content out there, everyone is bound to find the majority of it boring to them but, almost every blog is probably interesting to somebody some of the time. If someone gave me a 13000 page book, I wouldn’t sit down and read it cover to cover, but I would probably skim the index and flip to the good parts, and read those. That’s what I do with wine blogs too.

  • http://smellslikegrape.blogspot.com Taster B

    p.s. I read this post and it wasn’t boring. :)

  • http://winecast.net Tim

    Brian: Some good feedback; thanks. I’ll try to make some of your dream come true here ;-)

    Taster B: Thanks for joining the discussion. I appreciate that you thought this post wasn’t boring. Will try to keep that going…

  • http://smellslikegrape.blogspot.com Taster A

    What a cool topic. I just have to jump into this one!

    Robert Parker, Wine Enthusiast, Wines and Vines will never be replaced by the wine bloggers. The majority of us are on man jazz bands. We at SLG are lucky because there are two of us. The magazines have the luxury of generating an income, having a team and having the funds to set up a distribution.

    Additionally, I don’t think that Taster B and I will be able to drink the 12,000 bottles of wine this year to keep up with the Parkers. Ain’t going to happen.

    Blogs that are just “I drank this”, “I tasted that”, “this goes with goat and this goes with frog” are common. But remember, they are documenting what they had and cared enough to share an opinion. We find that most people visit our blogs because they are looking for an honest opinion, for that one piece of data that they don’t know but want to read right now.

    I try to teach. I do that without apologies. I talk to so many people who are afraid to try a bottle of wine that is more than $10.00. Why? Because the don’t what to be taken for a sucker if they pay $20 for bottle and have a wine merchant or waiter laugh at them. That is sad because %97.5 percent of the wine professionals I talk to want to help the client enjoy a product at a price point the customer is comfortable with. A wine professional that does otherwise is cutting his own throat.

  • http://winescorecard.com/ Steve

    Isn’t most of what is written anywhere boring? I buy the NY Times, and maybe 10 pages of it is interesting to me. And I love to read the news.

    That said, I do think most blogs (probably mine included) are probably too unoriginal. When you can write something and publish it instantly, without significant cost or editing, it takes a special discipline to keep an eye on quality.

    Also, most blogs do not have a particular vision for what their blog is supposed to be. Nor do the writers research topics particularly well, because readers want a fairly constant flow of entries to keep returning. I think these things combine to make writing a consistently interesting blog very difficult.

  • http://3wineguys.com Stevo

    We don’t “blog” but anyone who thinks we’re boring needs to check out our wino-lympics video…and yes that is really Carlo Rossi!

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