jamie goode's wine blog: Wine and Spirit magazine on 'how the internet transformed wine'

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wine and Spirit magazine on 'how the internet transformed wine'

Tasting at the IWC today, where the rather congenial panel I was on awarded many silvers, even more bronzes, but no gold medals. We didn't even come close to gold, alas, although I found one wine that I rated as gold in the last flight of the day. It was a stunning Cotes du Rhone Villages that was modern-styled, with dense fruit, but a lovely freshness, too. My panel thought it was 'jammy', but I reckon 'jammy' should be used to describe wines that have over-ripe, cloying fruit, with no life in it. Maybe they're afraid of fruit when it's this vibrant and exuberant - but this is a wine that I think had more to it than just fruit.

While I was at the IWC I picked up a copy of the excellent Wine and Spirit magazine. It grabbed my attention, because the front cover story is 'Revenge of the nerds: how the internet transformed wine'. It contains two articles on the internet wine scene, the first concentrating on internet-based retailers, and the second on wine bloggers ('Blogging a dead horse', by Claire Hu).

(An online version of the article is here.)

The standfirst sums up the article well. 'Online diarists have opened up new possibilities for wine. But are they still effective - or just open to corruption? Claire Hu investigates.'

Claire's piece is a good one. I'm happy to be quoted, mostly accurately (although she says, incorrectly, that I decided to go full time on my site after being made redundant from my day job - in fact, I'd say about one-quarter of my time is spent on my site - the rest is spent writing for other people and working on projects on a freelance basis). I also feel slightly that she pulled the bits out of our conversation that supported the agenda she had for her piece, which is that the wine blogging world is open to corruption, and that people taking money to review certain products is a big threat to the independence of wine bloggers.

I'm hesitant to say this, lest it give the impression that I think Claire's piece isn't good. I think it is good, and she has done her research properly, and given a good summary of the state of play of wine blogging. But from my perspective, I think the wine blogging community is quite 'pure' in the sense that people are saying what they think rather than answering to advertisers, or even more sinister commercial concerns.

She states that, 'At great risk to himself (imagine hundreds of wine nerds descending on your home), Charles Short of cluelessaboutwine.co.uk, has decided to lift the lid on what he sees as the hijacking of editorial integrity of wine blogs. "You have a lot of wine companies asking if you can write about products for £15 or £50", he says.' Considering Clive's site has an Alexa ranking (for what it is worth) of just shy of 5 million, I assume he's referring to other wine sites that have been approached in this way. I certainly haven't been approached by anyone offering payment for reviews - I'd be interested to know if any of the other wine bloggers with a decent readership have been. If they have, then I take this back. But the way I'm quoted, it makes me sound like I'm losing sleep over the issue of editorial integrity on wine blogs, which I'm not.

But where I'm very happy with the way my views are depicted is in the penultimate paragraph. Yes, I think blogs are a useful communication tool. But I still think there's a place for magazines and books - and an important one at that.

Back to wine. Tonight I'm drinking a lovely Argentinean wine, from the Bonarda grape, which we don't see a lot of, even though there's a lot of it planted there (only recently has Malbec overtaken it). It's a complicated grape to get a handle on: some people think it's the same as Charbono in California; it was brought to Argentina from Italy in the 19th century, but its Italian origins aren't clear.

Familia Zucchardi Bonarda Reserva 2006 Mendoza
A deep-coloured, oak-aged Bonarda weighing in at a modest 13% alcohol. This has an attractive, savoury nose of spicy plummy fruit, which leads to a palate that's dense, savoury and structured. There's plenty of forward red berry, cherry and plum fruit here as well as well integrated oak. Some grippy tannins on the finish make this a useful food wine. Great value for money and really delicious. 88/100 (£6.99 Oddbins)

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9 Comments:

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Bonarda is a bit confusing. I think it may well be the Croatina of Lombardy as opposed to the Piemontese Bonarda. As for Charbono there might be a family resemblance to Dolcetto (which in itself might derive originally from the Savoie region). There are so many local variants of grape varieties in northern Italy and its borders that even recent DNA fingerprinting hasn't yet provided the definitive answers.

 
At 11:53 PM, Blogger Robert McIntosh said...

I wondered what you made of the article. It certainly kicked up a bit of a storm elsewhere on wine blogs.

I think that the overall agenda was a little unfair and totally unrelated to the discussion I had with her.

There are no wineries or agencies paying vast sums for positive reviews on wine blogs - the wine magazines and their advertising revenues are much more the target for this.

It is a shame we are still depicted this way, but I do hope it will change soon.

Good luck with the last days of the challenge!

 
At 12:39 AM, Anonymous Alastair Bathgate said...

The whole point of the blogosphere is that it's all about aggregation. Even if some bloggers are paid to write good reviews, if enough people blogged about their experiences, it would be much easier to see the truth "on average".
The man on the Clapham omnibus has much simpler demands than many of us imagine. For example, one person recently found my site looking for the telephone number of Le Raccard in Haute-Nendaz where they had lost a camera!
The worst corruption I have been exposed to is the kind offer of a job from one wine retailer "to liven up their website".
I really think that sometimes people make too much of weblogs. They are just a bit of fun and a chance for individuals to share their opinion with the world. They are not a substitute for paid journalism which everyone knows has a higher benchmark. Nobody should place a higher value on the information in an individual blog, over the aggregate of opinion across the web. Nonetheless, bloggers play a useful role in keeping the world free from corruption.

 
At 12:41 AM, Anonymous Alastair Bathgate said...

The whole point of the blogosphere is that it's all about aggregation. Even if some bloggers are paid to write good reviews, if enough people blogged about their experiences, it would be much easier to see the truth "on average".
The man on the Clapham omnibus has much simpler demands than many of us imagine. For example, one person recently found my site looking for the telephone number of Le Raccard in Haute-Nendaz where they had lost a camera!
The worst corruption I have been exposed to is the kind offer of a job from one wine retailer "to liven up their website".
I really think that sometimes people make too much of weblogs. They are just a bit of fun and a chance for individuals to share their opinion with the world. They are not a substitute for paid journalism which everyone knows has a higher benchmark. Nobody should place a higher value on the information in an individual blog, over the aggregate of opinion across the web. Nonetheless, bloggers play a useful role in keeping the world free from corruption.

 
At 8:40 AM, Blogger Douglas Blyde said...

There's some comment on this over at Spittoon.

http://www.spittoon.biz/blogging_a_dead_horse.html

PS. That Doug at the top isn't me (!)

 
At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jamie:

You are one very, very nice guy! I read Ms. Hu's article. The best you can say about it from a research and journalism perspective is that she at least reached out to you.

Beyond that, I found it quite ridiculous in all respects.

Tom Wark...

 
At 11:53 PM, Blogger Michael Pollard said...

Jamie,

Thanks for linking to the Hu article. I find the idea that there are bloggers who are being paid to review appalling, but Iíd like to see a little harder evidence before I believe what Ms Hu has written.

From my own experience I admit that I have been approached to review wines via free samples which I have declined; I purchase all wines that I review with the exception of arranged winery visits. In the past I have been given complimentary copies of wine books to review and I donít mind doing this but always stipulate that I will note that the copy was supplied by the publisher.

The one thing about blogging that I find most appealing is that by keeping it an unpaid pursuit its easy to maintain both a personal opinion and an ethical standard.

Mike

 
At 2:28 PM, Blogger Brian said...

"You are one very, very nice guy! I read Ms. Hu's article. The best you can say about it from a research and journalism perspective is that she at least reached out to you.

"Beyond that, I found it quite ridiculous in all respects."

Ah yes, Mr Wark, perhaps now we're getting to the bottom of things. The reason that Miss Hu's excellent piece is "ridiculous", or, as you put it so eloquently on your little bloglet, "CRAP", is that the silly woman didn't speak to you, the very centre of the blogosphere, nay the universe! Could that be the "agenda", the motivation, behind the nasty and repetitive little vendetta you seem to be waging against someone who merely had the temerity to suggest that not everything is absolutely perfect in the blogosphere?

How wonderful it is to be lectured on ethics and journalistic standards by someone who makes his living in that shining beacon of moral probity, the public relations industry.

To give my credentials here, I am a wine fanatic journalist (now almost entirely retired) who has never actually written about wine, but who consumes the wine press and the better blogs (ie this one, not Mr Wark's) avidly, and who still lectures from time to time on journalism to young students.

If I were to show Ms Hu's piece to those students, I would tell them that I think Ms Hu has done a fine job of investigating issues which, while certainly not specific to wine, are nonetheless of particular importance to anyone who cares about the validity of the information they receive about the stuff they love.

 
At 4:29 AM, Anonymous Alder Yarrow said...

Jamie,

Well, let me tell you first that I agree with you. Most people who make the serious effort to run a blog with original content would think the idea of getting paid to write reviews is silly.

On the other hand I certainly have been propositioned by companies to write paid reviews of their products on my wine blog.

The funny thing is, it's almost never wine! It's usually some nasty commercial product masquerading as food or candy.

I don't doubt that there are some wine reviews out there in the world that have been bought. But Ms. Hu has clearly overblown the "danger" of this in the blogosphere, and conflated it with the obvious (and tired) observation that there are a lot of crap blogs out there. Which there certainly are.

 

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