Wine Writing is Broken? Viva Wine Blogging!
While I would love it to be my full-time job, Another Wine Blog is something that I do in my “free” time – between the laundry, feeding the dog, making the bed and the one-hour commute each way to slave away as an attorney.
Since joining a new litigation project in March, I’ve been working weekends to make up for evening hours at wine tastings. Because the litigation is moving into a new phase, I’m advised that I should start averaging 55-hours a week. Add in the 2 hours (minimum) each way on the freeway, and we’re talking 65 hours a week. Who needs sleep, right?
Combine all those hours with the crashed laptop for a month and a half, and I’ve gotten seriously behind. So much so that I barely have time to keep up with wine “news” much less to read other blogs. So it takes something especially clever or infuriating to get my attention.
Last week I encountered both.
Blasphemous Tirades about Alcohol
The world of wine writing is insular. It treasures its own elitist terminology. It prizes information before communication. It jealously, gleefully guards its own exclusivity — a hideous, smugly masturbating gatekeeper — crooning and babbling, gollum-like, at its own shrivelled genitals. – Old Parn
I wish I had written that!
But it comes from Old Parn’s Wine Reviews. Old Parn aka Tom Parnell writes from Jolly Old England; Oxford to be exact. He revels in irreverence. He fails to follow proper blogger protocol. He asks not for permission from the self-appointed gatekeepers and swears with wild abandon. He ridicules the supercilious. And attracts the ire of the old guard, on purpose!
Gee, do we know anyone else like that?
So when I came upon his post Wine Writing is Broken, I thought to myself, I like this guy!
I want to be inspired. Or tickled. Or shocked. Or provoked. I don’t want drab, dusty sentences or bland, self-effaced meanderings. – Old Parn
I give Old Parn a Stephen Colbert, “Tip of the Hat!”
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Several of the more popular paid wine writers have taken particular notice of bloggers. They come in two varieties – the writer who disdains us outright, and he who fancies himself a mentor to the rest of us unwashed masses. The mentor targets up-and-coming bloggers, giving them tips on how to achieve greatness as a serious and respected writer — one who follows all the rules. Most certainly not in the vein of Old Parn!
Both claim hyper-concern with blogger ethics, so much so that they lobbied the Federal Trade Commission to create disclosure guidelines specifically for bloggers. Although paid writers and bloggers alike receive all-expense paid wine trips and free samples, the guidelines direct only the blogger to disclose how she came to taste a particular wine she reviewed. The press release announcing the guidelines spoke of an $11,000 fine for failure to disclose. This caused quite a stir back in 2009, and Dave Honig over at Palate Press posted a fine legal analysis to calm the furor.
There is one brand in particular we do not review. Ever. In fact, Joe gets mad when I accept the samples. He says our “no bad reviews” policy gives them license to send us crap (He uses the more “colorful” Old Parn vernacular). I just figure they send out the stuff to everyone – especially bloggers, because they figure someone, somewhere is simply whoring for wine and they’ll get a positive mention.
Imagine my surprise when I read one of the aforementioned mentors admit that he gives bad wine good reviews in his paid gig. Why? His own words seem a tad patronizing.
Are all the [Brand Name] wines good? No. Are they necessarily what I would drink at home? No. Fortunately, I’m in a position to drink better. But millions of Americans depend on these wines…
WTF? The guy has been recommending wines he thinks are not good, that he wouldn’t drink, because he’s better off than millions? The millions of Americans who depend on these wines? For what? A good, cheap drunk?
He goes on to talk about the impressive sales figures of the brand. That he helps promote. With no qualifier in the rating he gives to people who have paid to read it!
It occurred to me that perhaps a crappy mass-produced wine might not be so popular if the writers of trusted publications did not sing its praises in editorial while their employers reap the benefits in advertising.
Some traditional wine writers say bloggers lower the bar. I supposed there are some who do. But I imagine our lists see no overlap. On mine would be those who play it safe. Who follow a prescribed formula. Who pay homage to the gatekeepers and scorn the irreverent. The kind I give a Colbert “Wag of The Finger.”
Then there are the other guys. The truly inspired. Those willing to take a risk.