A curious comment from Tim Atkin, wine writer and blogger, quoted in OLN as he picked up an award from Wine Intelligence. WI seems to be a marketing/PR company that recently gave one to embattled WOSA CEO Su Birch (cynics may wish to count how many Wine Intelligencers crack a freebee to Cape Wine 2012 as Su has long used WOSA largesse to market her own career). “Wine journalism is under threat from bloggers and declining interest in wine.”
I would argue that public interest in wine has changed focus, away from those laundry lists of which Carmenere to buy with curry after the variety was born out of Chilean Merlot. While the story of Vin de Constance being the favourite tipple of Napoleon has been told once too often, like a boring but beloved grandfather telling the same story each Sunday lunch. Wine news has moved on and interest in vin will surely rise as the sober majority visit Norman Goodfellow’s, a rite of passage on the inexorable journey to middle class status.
As for bloggers, in SA they provide a vital channel for those stories lifestyle magazines are reluctant to carry when advertisers hold the oxygen tank. On the international scene, Jancis Robinson is perhaps the most influential wine writer, thanks to her perch on the Weekend Financial Times. Her subscription blog with purple, as opposed to pink pages (which she relentlessly punts in the FT) must make her a fortune and give pleasure to dozens of anoraques.
Far from killing traditional wine writing, I would argue that blogs enhance the activity and as mainstream publications go increasingly electronic, wine blogging is surely the channel of the future.
This very blog is a finalist in the Brandhouse Responsible Drinking Media Awards which go down next Wednesday at a black tie bash at the One&Only in Cape Town. This is no Wine Intelligence foefie but rather a serious attempt to focus the flighty SA media onto substantive issues. Rather than playing patsy to self-promoters who paint bad portraits of the President with his membrum virilis alfresco, fortuitously defaced just as a TV crew passed by. Performance Art 101 – boring.
With the written word quality is all that counts: there is no possible reason that a blogger’s 400 words cannot be equal in quality to a 5000 word essay. Short stories helped the careers of Hemingway & F. Scott Fitzgerald; A.A. Gill mesmerizes with erudite and succinct flurries of adjectives bound within his own grammatical dexterity… and Jay McInerney lends literary gravitas to words on wine… while the majority of wine blog postings all too frequently obfuscate meaning, diminish prose writing to Chav level and make wine seem as complex as Coca Cola.There will always be different levels, and to paraphrase an age-old cliche, as with any skill, those who can’t write all too frequently blog… we must suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous bloggery to locate occasional gems, though all too frequently, extreme self regard, emperor’s clothing and advertorial disingenuity block our path. It is hard to craft fine journalism or elegant prose with repetitive back label phrasing, but it is possible to write well of the people, places and sensations which surround the great subject of wine. Alas, there is such a dearth of quality in wine journalism and a keenness to both self-promote and push the product, that any intellectual aspiration is sucked clean up the chimney-piece. If talented people wrote about fine wine as they do about food, gastronomy or travel, this worthy subject might metamorphose from the ugly duckling domain of those whose day jobs subsidize their ramblings, into the elegant swan of an Elizabeth David or Richard Olney… these are the people who transported us to another world when reading of ‘mere’ cookery. Anecdotal wine writing of quality seems to have stopped at Hugh Johnson, we now live in an age of picture books peppered with jargon but no imagination or creativity. When I see my regular dose of Winepectator spam arrive in the mailbox each day – proffering a ’4.99 Merlot to accompany my lamb kebabs’, I sense the ‘everyday’ world of wine is hereby defined; I feel diminished and my heart sinks. The rich and endlessly fascinating subject of fine wine deserves better.
@David Eley – the problem is exactly that – most bloggers write their 400 words with a very different audience and an alternate attention span in mind. The quality of the writing, putting aside better and worse for now, would necessarily be different to proper literary writing.
Neil, I would go so far as to say blogging is killing traditional writing in general – not just about wine. An unfortunate consequence of the Google generation.
Dear Mr Spear, I take your point: alas, grammar is grammar and I am not just referring to the literary merit of any online posting, but on a more basic level, the inadequacy of those who purport to be ‘wine professionals’ – if they cannot spell or research their facts correctly, it is a pretty sorry state of affairs. Puts me in mind of the ‘plays what Ernie Wise wrote’ (sic)- though Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise provided entertainment at a much higher level than the train spotterish drivel offered on some wine blogs. While there continue to be young and ambitious new wine producers, there will always be vinous tick-birds whose online organs feed off their ‘victim’s’ goodwill… this limited and dubious media exposure has questionable merit; certainly in terms of any commerce gained by those whose need is great. They do say, any publicity is good publicity… but reading execrable tasting notes and commentary is the vinous equivalent of viewing B movie Sci-Fi, or better still, watching paint dry. As to your comment ‘a different audience with an alternate attention span’, I quite agree, when I read the frequently sycophantic comments of blog disciples, I can only imagine they require very little cerebral stimulation to ignite their seemingly limitless passion for wine-related piffle.
Finally, with reference to your comment to Neil, you are absolutely spot-on, the immediate gratification of online exchanges has killed letter writing and those who still indulge are considered dinosaurs. The spontaneity and speed of the email removes time for consideration, doubt or second-thoughts… furthermore, it has seemingly killed off the last vestiges of courtesy in correspondence.