The Why & What of Amateur Wine Writing

by Tim Elliott on June 1, 2009

Aerating 2005 Bordeaux
Image by nasv via Flickr

Josh Hermsmeyer, the guy behind the must read Pinotblogger site, has issued a challenge to all wine bloggers and will reward the winner with a prize of up to $1,000 depending upon how many respond to his call. In a nutshell, he is asking us to answer two questions:

  • Why are you passionate about wine/what motivates you to blog about it?
  • Is it appropriate for a wine reviewer to prescribe the ways in which a wine should be made or is their job chiefly to review what’s in the bottle?

Times being what they are, I will attempt to answer these somewhat provocative questions and perhaps give you some more insight into what makes amateur wine writers tick. Or at least how I come at this craft.

So the first question is pretty straightforward. I blog and podcast about wine because I can and like to do so. Like a lot of wine bloggers, I was the guy everyone asked for wine tips so I found it easier to just write them down and record reviews. Now I just point people here for my picks as opposed to trying to remember them at will. My podcasting got me into blogging due to the same software being used (WordPress). It was easy to blog so I did so soon after I started to podcast in late 2004. I got into podcasting after something clicked with me in September of 2004 when I first discovered the genre. At the time there was something like 25 podcasts but no one was doing anything about wine so Winecast was born. Over the years the podcast has ebbed and flowed but I still will be posting shows and continuing until I don’t find it enjoyable. So I guess I do this because I love wine and like sharing what little I know about it. I had much the same answer a couple years back but with a slightly different spin.

The second question is a bit more complicated. I think Josh is asking this in response to Robert Parker‘s recent statements about wine bloggers (or shall I say “blobbers”?). Mr. Parker has long been accused of influencing winemaking styles in order to garner higher scores which many times leads to more demand and higher prices. The biggest beneficiaries of his ratings has been the classified growths of Bordeaux but some Cali cult wines and Aussie Shiraz has benefited, too. And I don’t blame any producers for making such changes in order to get the scores. It helps sell their wine but is also something that I hope we will get away from in the next decade as Mr. Parker retires and drinks down his cellar.

Wine writers of any level should tell the story of the wine they are reviewing and not dictate what that story should be. Sometimes this is a terroir story, sometimes it’s not. For a review to communicate the essence of the wine, as much context as possible is required. I’ve not delivered on this ideal as much as I would have liked in the past but hope to help invent the new language of wine reviews going forward. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’ll keep trying new things to communicate how a wine moves me. Wine is a living being that is in constant change. Those of us who write about it should respect this and attempt to bring all the nuances displayed in the glass into our writing.

Unless it’s plonk, of course ;-)

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  • http://crureview.wordpress.com Sarah Freeman

    The whole situation reminds me of the situation in the music industry brought on by new technology. Small independent artists could create, produce, and distribute their own music reaching fans in a way unseen in the past, while big labels whined that they were losing revenue through piracy. The leveling of the playing field created by new technology will always benefit new parties, leaving the "Old School" grumbling about the the unworthiness of the newcomers.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/LukeJones LukeJones

    "Wine writers of any level should tell the story of the wine they are reviewing and not dictate what that story should be." I think you are right on with this.

    I guess winemakers should just be thankful that Parker didn't taste the wine that Jesus made from water because I think they would have a heck of a time trying to please him after that.

  • http://uncorkedventures.com/Wine_Clubs.html Mark

    Good stuff. It's interesting in that Parker himself isn't even tasting from France any more is he? This all somewhat ties in to Michel Rolland as well, right?

  • http://www.uncorkedventures.com/wine_of_month_club.html Wine of Month Club

    That's an interesting article. The whole wine industry can sometimes struggle with what story to tell. Sometimes wine makers take the fruit a different direction then they should…bloggers sometimes go a different direction then they should. I think there is a fine line between not offending people you may want to work with in the future and needing to give honest opinions.

  • http://wine-complete.com wine lover

    Excellent article! I have often thought about the rise of blogs and how its really starting to open up the world of wine for me. Although a lot of wine bloggers are really novices and dont know what they are talking about, its still a good thing overall as I have learned a huge amount over the last couple of years from wine bloggers.

  • http://www.goldennose.blogspot.com Pedro Benito Sáez

    Not so many years ago when I started to love wine was almost impossible to find, websites, blogs, magazines to find information about wine and gastronomy. Today everything has changed thanks to new technologies and the Internet everyone's can find updated information or become a star in the industry (if your material is good of course)

    Each person perceive the quality of wines in different ways, some people perceived quality in fruit driven wines, fleshy, voluptuous and there are others who perceive quality in wines that have been aged, evolved, matured, complex and delicate characterisics. Which of them are better? That depends on each person; one thing is for sure it shouldn’t be dogmatic matter.

    http://www.goldennose.blogspot.com

  • http://www.beyondthemargin.net/2009/09/santa-barbara-county-vineyards.html BeyondTheMargin.net

    I enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts with others. I am not the most social person, but documenting my experiences and ideas on paper (or its virtual counterpart) are something at which I have always excelled. My passion for wine leads me to seek out new experiences and opportunities to learn. I feel like the so called experts dominate the conversation about wine, while wine evaluation is subjective and largely determined by individual preferences and ability to discern the subtleties of each wine. As a result, I share my thoughts and opinions on my blog.

    http://www.beyondthemargin.net/search/label/Wine

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