Above: my wine writing Master’s class last year at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont, Italy. Next week I’ll be teaching both print-media and digital-era wine writing to a new group of Master’s students there. Enrollment in next year’s Master’s Program in Wine Culture, Communication, and Management is now open. Click here to read more. If I were 20 years younger, I’d enroll just to attend the seminars with Armando Castagno, one of my teaching fellows and one of the tasters, wine writers, and wine THINKERS I admire most in the world.
“In the context of wine communications,” writes veteran wine blogger Tom Wark on his blog Fermentation this week, “wine blogs should best be understood as the minor leagues of wine journalism. If you observe the wine blogosphere as a whole, some bloggers are clear standouts and are likely to be assigned a place in the major leagues; given exposure in outlets beyond their blog where more eyes and minds are exposed to their singular voice.”
He’s not denigrating wine bloggers, he notes (he’s a wine blogger himself):
- This may come off as a view that diminishes the importance of wine blogs… [In fact, it] is the most exciting thing about the genre. It always has been. On that occasion when you discover a new, exciting voice that rises above the crowd and delivers a perspective not previously encountered, any keen observer of wine writing and wine communications should be excited or at least highly intrigued.
Tom is a leading member of the American wine community, well respected by his peers and widely read by his colleagues. I like him a lot, I read his blog religiously (one of my favorites), and I look forward to every opportunity I get to interact with him. He’s one of the most intelligent and thoughtful voices in wine writing today. Not only does he have something intriguing and compelling to say but he also says it exceedingly well.
I’m going to be sharing his post with my students next week in one of my seminars for the Master’s program in Wine Culture, Communication, and Management at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont, Italy.
But I take issue with the intrinsic (and misguided) hierarchy that he projects on wine writing today. And more specifically, I believe he is wrong that there is an inherent dichotomy between the major leagues and minor leagues of wine writing.
Here and now is not the space or time to get into a discussion of just exactly what constitutes a blog. But I will point out that nearly all the “major leaguers” he cites (including himself, if he puts himself in the privileged category) are also wine bloggers. Master of Wine Jancis Robinson (one of my favorites) is one of the few leading wine writers who still publishes with a print-media outlet (the Financial Times). But most of her writing appears on her tasting note portal and blog JancisRobinson.com. Antonio Galloni (another favorite) may have been a minor leaguer by Tom’s standards when he published Piedmont Report, which he distributed as a PDF. But today, he and his online Vinous.com are considered top resources for wine writing, even though the media is available exclusively in digital format — a web log, updated frequently (the very definition of a blog).
The bottomline is that there is no difference between a blog and a website or a print media outlet today. Print media is dying out. And websites — even the New York Times — are consumed primarily by digital users. That’s a fact that no one can dispute. Does that mean that the Times is a blog? Or does that mean that blogs can’t be associated with former print-media brands? It doesn’t matter anymore…
Tom’s post and his emargination of those writers who don’t make the grade in his binary wine-writing hegemony (and I write this with the greatest respect for his writing) made me think of a wine blogger whom he considers a major leaguer, the HoseMaster of Wine. The title alone of this award-winning and much celebrated blog is as offensive to current sensibilities as is the hateful (however satirical) content it hosts. (My suggestion would be that he change the title to Petroleum Flex Connector of Wine.) A Harvey Winestein of wine blogging (pun intended), H——– frequently attacks other wine writers/bloggers with explicitly sexual and misogynist language (the Donald Trump of wine bloggers?).
Tom’s post also made me think of another spite-fueled wine blogger, On the Wine Trail in Italy, a devoted detractor of the “Instagram generation” of wine writers, as he calls youthful wine-focused social media users and bloggers.
The Lambrusco Twitter troll @LambruscoDay was another writer (blogger/social media user?) that came to mind. He’s the world’s leading expert on Lambrusco (in his mind) and is determined to tell you how little you know about the category, whether you like it or not.
I don’t know if Tom considers the latter two to be major leaguers but all three of these writers have something in common, something key to their whole approach to oenography: you know less about wine than me and I’m going to denigrate you for it.
The parallel I draw between Tom’s hierarchy and the prime motor behind the three bloggers (or micro-blogger in the case of the @LambruscoDay) is borne out of the malignant notion that there is nobility in disparaging those who see the world differently than you. Your major-league aspirations make you better than them and you find purpose in letting the world know you’re better than them.
I agree wholeheartedly with Tom when he writes that we “should understand the Wine Blog as the voice of a single individual.” But I also believe that the voice of every individual deserves our respect and a place in the blogosphere. After all, wine writing and the synesthetic art of describing wine culture is an expression of human subjectivity and idiosyncrasy.
There is no minor or major league in wine writing. Everyone is and deserves to be in a league of their own — just like Tom.
Thanks for reading. Please check out the Master’s program in wine culture at UniSG. Beyond my own seminars, I highly recommend it.