Above: Tracie P and I couldn’t resist taking a dip in the salt water pool at the Four Seasons Las Colinas Resort in Irving, Texas, where I spoke at the seventh annual Texas Sommelier Conference on Saturday. Baby P is doing great and so is Mamma P!
During our Saturday seminar on wine blogging at the Texas Sommelier Conference, San Antonio participant Mark Fusco (author of 1337 Wine), asked Alfonso and me whether we felt there was a place in the enoblogosphere to write about wines we don’t like. Mark was referring to what we called “the golden rules of wine blogging,” including avoid negativity and write about things that you do like.
Print media wine writer Rebecca Murphy responded fervently, noting that “there are so many good wines out there, we can always find wines we like to write about” and avoid negative reviews.
After I posted the golden rules here yesterday, two of my European wine blogging colleagues — top print and virtual media writers Franco Ziliani from Italy and Wojciech Bońkowski from Poland — commented that “we must write also about things we don’t like [because] a critical approach to wine world of today is essential” (Franco) and that “it’s important to review bad wines, too, [because] from a reader’s point of view it adds balance to your praise, and makes you more trustworthy.”
Above: Alfonso snapped this photo of me with Mamma P on Saturday night at the conference speakers dinner party. I think anyone who saw her would agree. Tracie P is simply aglow right now. Me? I’m just happy to be sitting next to such a beautiful lady!
Others, including Alfonso, have weighed in: here’s the comment thread.
As Kim Pierce syllogistically pointed out during Saturday’s print media panel, many [print media food and wine] journalists are bloggers but not all bloggers are journalists.
As the lines of print and virtual media continue to be blurred and as many professional writers are increasingly prompted to contribute to commercial and institutional blogs, the question of where journalism ends and blogging begins becomes more and more fuzzy.
In my view, the main difference between traditional media and blogging is that the former is ostensibly objective while the latter is proudly subjective. By these terms, I do not mean one is better than the other. I am applying these terms as a semiotician would: they reflect the authors’s points of view. Personal pronouns — the lice of literature, as Gadda once said — are omitted in print media. They are embraced in social media.
As a child of historical Deconstruction and post-Modern critical theory, I am a firm believer that these terms are essentially irrelevant. (Not enough time and space to address this now and here.)
But I do believe that professional writers like Franco and Wojciech (and myself for that matter) are able to address thorny issues (like bad wines) in a judicious manner: they have institutional experience (and often training) that guides them. And as a result, they can be critical without agression or violence.
In social media, because so many of the writers lack these qualifications, unfounded controversy and imbalanced critical evaluation often takes the place of sound writing.
This is why I believe we wine bloggers should avoid negativity but not critical thinking. This is especially applicable for those of us coming to the table for the first time (like many of the participants in Saturday’s seminar).
I do think that Franco and Wojciech are 100% correct (and I am thrilled that they have weighed in here because I admire both of them immensely): we mustn’t abandon critical thinking. But can we maintain honesty without aggression and violence?
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in a comment!