The role of the wine blogger is something the industry loves to debate. As someone who entered the wine industry late, it’s quite startling to see how much energy is expended on the topic, often by other writers themselves.
The latest misdeed getting everyone’s knickers in a twist (mine included, obviously) is whether bloggers have an obligation to write about wineries who wine and dine them, a response by ex-critic and now blogger Steve Heimoff to an article in trade magazine Harpers accusing bloggers of bad behaviour if they didn’t write anything after visiting a winery who’d paid for their trip.
“In other descriptions of commerce, a one-way transfer of value could also be called ‘theft’,” opined Dr. Damien Wilson, who leads the MSc Wine Business programme at the Burgundy School of Business.
It seems *gasp* that wineries are just like any other client who has spent a bit of money on PR and expects coverage as a result. If you want guaranteed coverage, pay for advertising.
Bloggers have their uses. They’ll often turn up to events that “real” wine writers (i.e. the ones who are paid to do so) are not interested in attending. They’re bums on seats for a PR who needs to show his or her client that they can fill up a dinner table (any PR worth his or her salt will have researched and targeted the appropriate bloggers to invite). And bloggers can create a bit of noise about a launch, event or visit via social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Of course, as it’s been pointed out, not all bloggers are created equal. Some are campaigning, some are more features-led while others are simply logging what they drank and tasted. But I’ve yet to meet a blogger who would invest time to go on a trip and not write anything.
However, this doesn’t mean they write about everything they tasted and everyone they visited. That would be tantamount to sponsored content. The bloggers I know well all look for an angle, a story and use relevant content gathered.
I’m no exception. By way of partial redress, here are the posts I never wrote:
1. The visit to Bodega Trivento last November with Concha Y Toro. I did write three features on the Chile part of the trip, but somehow never got to complete one that involved the Argentinian operation. Perhaps it was because I’d already had a lunch with them in the UK (which I did write up). Perhaps it was because I wasn’t overly fond of the wines we tasted that day. Or perhaps because I’d partied hard the night before and our plane over the Andes was very delayed.
I can tell you this. The asado by the lake in Trivento’s home vineyard was one of the most welcoming sights ever; tasting barrel samples of Trivento’s top end Malbec, Eolo, as it went on its journey from young buck to more measured adult; the tatty, overgrown verge outside the prized vineyard with the old vines growing the grapes for Eolo; the walk in the vineyard as the sun was setting with Eolo winemaker Victoria Prandina.
2. Visits to a number of wineries on a bloggers trip to Western Sicily. For example, tasting Perricone with the engaging Marilena Barbera at the stylishly minimal Cantine Barbera in Menfi.
A fabulous lunch and tasting at Planeta including a trip into the hills to see the ruins of an ancient winery and seeing how well Grecanico can age.
A tasting of older vintages of Mille e Una Notte wine at Donnafugata and realising I preferred the (then) current vintage of Ben Ryé to the 1999 one.
I did write a long feature on Marsala and a piece on natural winemaker Nino Barraco.
3. Anything from a three-day trip to Friuli apart from the magic of the Carso, which just blew me away. It was just really hard to write anything else. But in this instance, I really, really should have. No excuses. I hope to go back on my own dime.
4. Anything from a trip to the Sevilen winery in Turkey. We’d been promised a vineyard visit at another winery, where we’d pick grapes under the stars. This never transpired (we were taken to an art gallery instead). The masterclass on Turkish wine at the DWCC event I attended were all online. I simply didn’t have enough content to make an interesting piece.
5. Dinner at High Timber with Adrian Vanderspuy of Oldenburg Vineyards in South Africa who was entertainingly less than complimentary about Pinotage. But I knew I had to put my elderly dog down the next day. I should’ve have cancelled, but didn’t want to seem rude and leave an empty chair.
6. A more recent dinner thrown by TerraVin Wines. They wanted to celebrate winning some IWSC trophies. I was interested because the winemaker, Gordon Ritchie, used to work at one of my favourite wineries, Seresin. He wasn’t there. One of the businessmen owners was, and he’d only recently got involved.
Apart from a flabby late harvest Pinot Gris, the wines were very good, especially the whites. The 2011 Chardonnay and the Te Ahu oak-fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2011 were delicious. Beyond that, I found I had nothing more of note to say and began tuning out when I heard that familiar phrase “the passion we have at TerraVin is to make great wines”. I’ll probably now drop off the PR’s list for saying this. I won’t be the first time…
Does not writing the above make me unprofessional or does it make me discerning? I’ve written some seriously dull pieces out of obligation. Isn’t that unprofessional?
Also, as someone with a full time job, I’ve not always had time to write up all the stories that might have been more interesting (see Cantine Barbera). That is the nature of many bloggers. Some in the industry may view this as freeloading. But I see this as part of PR. On most of these trips, or dinners, I was not the only blogger so even if I didn’t write something or make a video about a particular winery, chances are, someone else did.
Having a discussion about the value of bloggers in helping wineries raise their profiles is a valid one. Having been a PR in the tech industry, this was something we did a few years back. But bloggers should be part of the wider PR debate, not THE debate.
7 thoughts on “All The Wine Blog Posts I Didn’t Write”
With you on bloggers should be part of a wider PR debate…
In regards to trips and dinners etc I do try and mention everything – it might just be a photo or a twitter mention of a specific wine though. Sometimes, as you mention, it is hard to find much worthwhile to report (and lists of tasting notes get really boring after a while, both to write and to read). And of course with time the memories fade, the notes get lost and something else pops up…
it was amazing to meet you at Cantine Barbera with your wineblogger friends: I am sure there will be more opportunities to see each other and to taste again!
I totally agree with you that bloggers have no obligations in writing every time and about everything they have visited or experienced, and that sometimes time flies by so quickly you simply don’t have enough time for all…
To me, what really matters are the memories that all bloggers, visitors and journalists bring back home after they have visited my vineyard. Memories and impressions create a winemaker’s reputation in the long term, and this is the most important asset that any of us must take into consideration.
All of us are part of an intricate net of relations, both online and offline, and those relations are able to generate attention and consideration around a brand or a wine. It doesn’t matter if an article or a blog post has been written, sometimes just a nice word dropped during a conversation with friends while sharing a good bottle of wine can make the difference.
Hope to see you again soon!
You are refreshingly honest about why you haven’t written all the posts you feel you ought to have.There is always a reason why these write ups get overlooked or delayed. But I sense you feel an obligation to write something and therefore guilt when you don’t.
I know I do. I make every effort to write something even if it is only on Twitter. After all the producer/region as put effort into the event and money so feel it is only fair to reciprocate in some way. Whether it has any effect on sales though who knows.
As a blogger who incessantly tweets, Instagrams and posts on FB about every place I visit, whether it is an event or a trip, I don’t feel too bad if I don’t write on my blog about each winery/event individually because they have all gotten real time exposure via my social media platforms while I was visiting. I’ve been hanging out with a few travel bloggers lately and many of them seem to think that as long as they tweet/Instagram about the event while it’s ongoing, they are not under any obligation to write about it on their blog. Thoughts?
I don’t think the noise they create on these platforms should be discounted, if they get retweets and interactions. This may get more attention that any ensuing blog post, and ultimately provide more PR value. Also, as I said in the post, I don’t think there should be an obligation. A journalist never turns up to an event promising to cover a story. Is there a different code for bloggers? Having said that, I cannot understand anyone who would go on a trip and never write a post. And anyone inviting bloggers to anything should do their homework first eg how much they post, how many followers they have on social media etc.
Fantastic blog post!
I’m also guilty of not writing about every wine event/dinner/tasting that I go to. For the most part, it’s because I couldn’t find an interesting angle (my fault as much as the PR/organiser’s.)
Reading about your experiences is refreshingly honest and I can totally relate. Thank you! 🙂