Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What is a wine blogger?

I have been well and truly bitten by the facebook bug, and there are lots of things I still need to explore there. However, one of the groups I came across recently was brand new and it was specifically set up to gather together wine bloggers from around the world.

[If you are wine blogger, I encourage you to join us in the Wine Bloggers group as the more we gather, the greater expertise we access and the more we can do to build the profile of wine in the blogosphere.]

"Wine bloggers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your isolation."
[hat-tip to Karl Marx]

One interesting result was that I have made contact with some very interesting bloggers I had not explored before. One of these is Ryan Opaz whose wine blog is catavino.net and focuses on Spanish and Portuguese wines. Ryan is also a budding community builder though and one of his sites is trying to define what we mean by a "wine blogger".

Most wineries are, quite rightly, primarily focused on making great wines, so posting on the web does not feature highly in their daily routine. However, this is changing (I think of Pinotblogger for example), and trying to explain what it is we do and how we might be useful, and more importantly how it might help them, is not an easy thing.

Most wine bloggers are not trying to replace 'proper' journalists, but do we have an influence over what people buy or drink? I'd like to think so, but maybe others have a different view. Are we really only talking to ourselves?


elisabetta said...

here I am! an italian journalist and wine blogger.
I dont't think we talk - and write - only for ourselves: I think a lot of people read our opinions, and news, and so on, in our wineblog.
And probably we are more influent than others: because this, for now, it's not a work, most of us don't gain anything. We're not paid for writing here, I mean.
So, probably, we are more free to say what we really think.
And so, probably, we have an influence over what people buy or drink.
Because people believe us.

from www.vinopigro.it

Robert McIntosh said...

Grazie Elisabetta!

Mi fa piacere sapere che ho degli amici in Italia (o almeno una).

I think journalists would take exception to being described as not being free to say what they want, especially if you think of wine columns.

However, I think you are right that the non-commercial, hobby nature of most blogging means it has a different tone and may possibly appeal to a new kind of reader or drinker.

Whether it has an influence, I don't know. There are certain bloggers that I feel I have got to know a little, and if they specifically recommended something it might influence me enough to take some action so I guess that is true.

I'm cynical, but mainly because I don't read blogs looking for recommendations, whilst I know lots of people do.

Of course, one obvious example of the power of blogs is the whole stormhoek/gapingvoid story, and also the gapingvoid/thresher promotion of last Christmas (only relevant to UK readers)

Alastair Bathgate said...

Hi Robert

I blog about wine but I am definitely not trying to be a journalist. However, I am not only writing for myself - if anyone else benefits or enjoys reading my blog I am delighted.
Personally I subscribe to some (not all) wine blogs. You can get too much information.
Having said that I always search for blog entries if I am trying to find a review of a wine or restaurant. I find them much more reliable and independent than some "journalist" reviews. Even if the vast majority of journalists are independent of their sponsors, there are worse evils. Have you ever read reviews on toptable and other "recommendation" sites? I try to avoid these because they are anonymous and could have been written by the owner/manager or their friends.
I suppose it's a bit of a democracy. If 1 journalist likes a wine maybe you will try it. If 11 bloggers also say they like it then I would order a case, even if one blogger dissented.
If toptable recommend a resto, avoid like the pague (unless 11 bloggers love it!).
The beauty of the internet is its ability to aggregate opinion. As long as blogs exist there is no hiding place for poor customer service/products. Conversely good service and products will get a genuine reward.

Robert McIntosh said...

It is a good point. There are all sorts of "spam bots" as well as people "pimping" their sites, so you never know whether to believe the reviews. I believe this happens more and more on Amzon nowadays.

The good thing about a blog is that you can spend time to build the relationship with the blogger and decide whether you agree with their recommendations or not.

I do read some reviews, but I prefer squaremeal.co.uk (not user reviews).

I had an interesting discussion on this topic on gapingvoid recently (scroll down to read the comments)