I’m Tired of Being Told What Not to Write

I read a lot of wine blogs. I have over 1,000 in my feedreader. Every single day I go through the new posts on all of them. Once every couple of months I do a widespread search to look for new wine blogs. Why? Because I like to read about wine and I like to monitor what’s going on in the wine blog world.  While I’m not the oldest of the wine blogs out there, I’ve been around for quite some time in terms of the age of the wine blog-o-sphere. In nearly 4 years I’ve seen countless wine blogs come and go….some flaming out in a couple months and some mysteriously disappearing with no warning after years.

Recently, I’ve seen articles pop up on many different wine blogs and in the comments of others decrying those of us who write wine reviews. It’s “boring,” “useless,” “not entertaining,” etc. At Palate Press just two days ago, an entire article ran on why no one reads wine blogs and a long comment train followed saying that folks don’t want to read wine reviews. Additionally, check the comments in this post over on 1WineDude.

But here’s the thing: Only other wine bloggers (and perhaps PR and industry folks) care about articles about wine blogging. It’s navel-gazing of the most extreme sort. (I fully realize that I’m being hypocritical as I am currently writing a piece on wine blogging, forgive me the transgression.) Articles on the wine industry as a whole? Again, generally not something the regular everyday consumer is interested in either. Leading me to the main point: Who is your audience? I write wine reviews, vineyard visit stories, the occasional book review, and the once in a blue moon dabble into navel-gazing. My target audience is someone looking for a review on a wine they are thinking about purchasing, wondering what wine in their price range that they might enjoy that night, or perhaps thinking about visiting vineyards in part of the wine country that I’ve happened to visit.

I may just be one of those “amateur bloggers whose coverage of wine is limited to a handful of random samples we’ve just received, a trade tasting we’ve attended, or a press junket we’ve just been treated to” * (by the way, go read this “About” section on Stephen Tanzer’s new blog, it’s one of the douchiest and most self-serving things I’ve read in a while) but as a fellow wine blogger, even if you don’t write wine reviews, what does that matter to you? Go ahead and write about the wine industry or educate people on wine terms, or whatever it is that floats your boat. I’ve got my schtick and you’ve got yours. I won’t tell you you’re boring and useless and how about you stop telling me what to write too?

*I’m being facetious here. If you continue to read Tanzer’s “About” section, apparently living wine is the key—defined as visiting wine regions for a total of several weeks a year (yep, I have that one covered), tasting thousands of wines with their makers annually (so I probably taste closer to 500-1,000 this way), and more at their dining room tables (totally have this one in the bag). Given I’m only one person, this is not my job, I do it in my spare time, nor do I make a penny or ever intend to make a penny from it, I’ll say I taste a damn lot of wine a year. Though I would never make the claim that I am a professional. I am what I am and I’ve never held myself out to be any more or any less.

47 Responses

  1. Outstanding post and you hit all the points. Bloggers and wine folks are some of the best to have as friends. We have a common bond and to me that’s all that matters. Plus it fun to write about wine.

    Cheers
    Dan

  2. Thanks Dan! I’ve grown tired of seeing folks rip on what I’ve been doing, for fun mind you, for the last 4 years! If I’m harming you in anyway, let me know, but to make broad statements that no one wants to read blogs with wine reviews, is simply, untrue.

  3. Well said! I enjoyed your post very much… interesting that you make a distinct separation between those who are professionals and those with the desire to write about wine in loving terms.

    I don’t necessarily expect people to read my posts but grateful if they do, and more grateful if they get the mouthwatering sensation that makes them want to drink a glass of wine, think about it and appreciate it for what it is… nectar. As you said… it is the love of it that motivates me rather than the desire to tell people what to think and be published.

  4. Is anyone forcing them to read your blog? What the hell is someone who doesn’t like what your write doing reading your blog? Good post!

  5. I agree with you. I read the article you cite, from Palate Press, and was struck by the irony of reading – in a wine blog – that no one reads wine blogs. In an effort to be “controversial” we can sometimes be just plain wrong. Keep writing what pleases you. We’ll all be here to read it.

  6. I am 100% with you on this. Blogs have NO gatekeepers and the thing that really gets my goat is when other bloggers in any genre (wine, whatever) act as if they are gatekeepers or take their personal opinion (ie., no one should write only wine reviews) and treat it as fact.

    I read VERY few blogs that are merely wine reviews (yours and BiggerThanYourHead.net, a few others from tme to time), but that’s because I prefer more in-depth pieces on stories behind a wine. It doesn’t at all mean that what you’re doing is wrong, irrelevant, etc.

    The beauty of blogging is that we can approach it in any way that we want – so I hope you continue doing what you’re doing and don’t let the offhand comments deter you in the least!

    Justin makes a sound and succinct point here – if someone isn’t into what you’re doing, there are 1,000 other wine blogs to read. It’s not like they’re paying for your content, and it’s certainly not like our blogs are taking up valuable space that could be given to other writers! :-) There’s more than enough room right now for everybody!

    Cheers!

  7. Amen, Sonadora. I couldn’t have said it better. I write my blog because I get enjoyment from scratching a creative bug and it makes me feel more involved in wine (learning, participation, etc.) I write about what I want- it’s my own perspective- and I don’t really care who my audience is. I appreciate anyone who checks it out, but in the end I do it for myself.

    I’ve many of the navel gazing blog posts that you talk about- to each their own I guess… but I would think there’s better content to add than worrying about what other bloggers write about or the validity of blogs in general.

    Nice work- Matt

  8. You nailed it with “Who is your audience?” Keep doing your thing… I’ve enjoyed reading it for a long time now.

  9. Great, and well spoken response. I’ve been wrestling with how to respond to the Palate Press article since I read it yesterday. I think some of his numbers and analysis were interesting, but I felt the whole direction of the entry was really misguided. I for one would be thrilled if I had an audience of the small population of wine drinkers who happen to be enthusiasts, plus the occasional search hit looking for something to drink or buy. It just bugged me that my measure of success should be the traffic count of a political blog. That is not what I do, not what you do, and not really what any of us set out to do. As far as I can tell, that is.
    I also have several wine related blogs (and even a political one or two, but I won’t tell) in my feed reader and don’t read them to be incestuous. I read them because it is fun, which is the same reason I write one. Thanks Sonadora for saying what a lot of us are probably feeling inside.
    Final thought, there is another rebellious part of me that loves to think that my amateur-ish, uneducated words are getting under some elitist, establishment skin out there….

  10. Too funny — Tanzer cleaned up the language on his ‘About’ page. In addition to being douchie, he apparently lacks a spine as well.

  11. Thank you for saying what I’ve been thinking since reading that nay-saying piece of defeatism.

    Having met Tom, it wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t specifically engineered to get everyone’s dander up rather than make any kind of real, valid point. Regardless, I’m going to honor our First Amendment rights by continuing to write shitty little wine reviews that no one reads. So there. (Okay, so about a thousand people a month do, so almost no one.)

    By the way, I LOVE your use of the word “douchiest”. Keep on keepin’ on.

  12. Nice post…and comments.

    The PPress wine blog about no one reading wine blogs and what rules we should follow in writing our own wine blog was thoroughly ridiculous.

    Doubled with the Tanzer About page gaff it suddenly seemed like the “authority” was telling wine bloggers that they were doing it all wrong.

    We’ll keep reading their and the hundreds of other blogs, but the only advice we’re going to follow: “It’s your thing, do what you wannna do.”

    (And smiling, not scowling all the way.)

  13. Oh Sonodora, I am so with you on this. That Tanzer piece is ludicrous, putting a time qualifier on living a wine life!!! So, does that mean because I live in Napa, work at a winery and have my own vineyard, that I am living more of a wine life than you or him? No, it doesn’t.
    People need to get over themselves, wine is just a drink, just enjoy it, don’t try to one-up each other. Whilst I don’t often read wine reviews (scoring systems are annoying), I do read blogs like yours to keep up to date with what other wineries are making, what varietals seem to be popular, and in the case of your blog, what is somebody elses take on a particular wine that I may, or may not, have tried myself.
    I am more likely to be out in the vineyard, distracted this time of year from pruning, by the fuzzy red-butted spiders (Phiddippus johnsoni) that are darting away from me as I move from vine to vine, (I will probably blog about this particular beneficial insect in the future, if I can get one to pose for a picture for me). But I don’t expect anyone to be particularly interested in it (besides my family in England), and I certainly don’t expect to be criticised for it, that’s just what personally interests me about the wine industry. Everyone should write about what they know and what they like…the blogosphere is a big place.

  14. I’m the anomaly here. I don’t drink wine very often and I’m certain not a wine-blogger. But I follow your blog because I like your writing. That’s a good enough reason for me.

    To me, blogs are basically journals, right? You write in your journal about what matters to you. It shouldn’t make one iota of difference to anyone what someone writes in his or her journal.

    I would click on the douche-writer’s bio, but I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of a page view. ;)

  15. Sonodora, I think you are totally wrong! Just kidding, I just didn’t want you to get a big head from all the positive comments here. :)

    Seriously though, I think that you are exactly right. Everyone should just do their own thing and stop worrying about what other people are doing. I think that most of us write our blogs because we find it fulfilling in some way, so why should we write what someone else wants us to write? Makes me think of the fable that Aesop wrote about what happens when you try to please everyone. First off, you can’t do it, and secondly, you won’t be happy if you aren’t doing what you want to do with your blog.

    Keep on doing your thing, which I think you are the best at BTW, and don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  16. One word. Superb!

  17. Amen. Obviously wine blogs get read, otherwise you wouldn’t have 15+ comments already! People refer to wine blogs as self-sustaining, that it’s just a lot of wine bloggers reading other wine bloggers. Even if that were true (and my search engine traffic would beg to differ after only a month of activity), so what? We’re doing it for our enjoyment and for others. Unless we’re trying to monetize it, the argument is moot.

  18. Good post and I agree totally with Joe Roberts. Bloggers shouldn’t tell other bloggers what to write about or what not to write about. If others don’t like your content they can move on. The same can be said for you, if you don’t like their content, move on. Don’t let it get to you. You do a very good job here. Keep it up! Cheers.

  19. Playing off of Richard’s point above, there is an approach to this stuff that’s gaining momentum among the more established / older / whatever wine bloggers (now I feel really old!), which is to ignore that type of criticism entirely (unless it is directed very specifically/directly at you by name) and just keep on doing what you do.

    In other words, prove the detractors wrong through your success and determination. Keep on keepin’ on!

  20. I wrote about pretty much the same thing today in a post called the Accidental Wine Blogger about when I got “questioned” recently:

    http://comeforthewine.blogspot.com/2010/03/accidental-wine-blogger.html

  21. Which wine blog one reads is surely a matter of personal choice.

    My reading ranges between your blog (which I would describe as primarily concerned with wine review and tasting notes) through to http://wineconversation.com/ where Robert covers a much broader range of wine-world matters. I see these two blogs as the limits of MY blog content spectrum and the other dozen or so I regularly follow fall somewhere between these boundaries.

    I also believe that one instinctively knows if a blog will suit them (or not as the case may be). If it meets your own criteria for what constitutes something you are willing to spend some time with then great! You’re entertained and the author feels that little bit more loved. It does not mean that if a blog does NOT satisfy your expectations that blog is therefore worthless and should be held up to ridicule.

    By definition blogs provide free content. The vast majority of wine bloggers are not under any commercial pressure to grow circulation numbers and maintain revenue; if no-one is reading no-one is going to loose their job. This also means that bloggers have no obligation to constantly achieve the same standards, nor does it have to appeal to the widest possible audience.

    Blogging is a vainglorious past-time: we all crave the reputation and kudos associated with owning a well respected blog, but I would guess that for the majority of us are satisfied with the simple pleasure of writing about a subject we are all passionate about – wine.

    Blog-on baby!

  22. Great post Sonadora! I agree completely that if we as wine bloggers want to take a seat at the grownup table of the wine industry and not continue to be relegated to the kids table, we need to stop navel gazing and wallowing in a pool of underdogness.

    My advice to us (wine bloggers) is write about whatever you are passionate about. Like my father says “don’t complain and don’t explain” Thanks to the internet and long tail phenomenon there is an audience for almost any wine blog.

    Let’s all stop writing for our own tight-knit wine blogging community and go back to writing about what we are passionate about, WINE! Let’s leave the middle school playground and go out and explore the greater world.

    Again great post and I am glad you said what needed to be said.

    Cheers!

  23. Sonadora–an excellent post that is spot on. The wine audience is more than large enough for wine bloggers like us to do what we want. You have no shortage of readers. If people don’t want to read wine reviews, they have no shortage of other options.

  24. Wow. Thanks everyone for all the comments. Wasn’t quite sure what I expected when I put this up.

    I do want to address one thing–All I ever see are posts telling people what to write and what not to write. I never seen anyone write a post to say: do what you are passionate about. So I put this up to basically say to everyone: Who cares? I do my thing you do yours and it’s all good. I would have packed it in years ago if writing wine reviews didn’t do it for me, yet I’m still here with no plans to go anywhere.

    I rarely do this type of post and rarely get riled up, but just the general sentiment I’ve seen in just the last few weeks of telling people what not to write seemed basically stupid to me. If you don’t like my blog, don’t read it, it’s all good. I’ve got my big girl panties on, I won’t cry if you don’t like me.

    Thanks to all of you for reading and taking the time to comment. And to some of you, thanks for leaving your links, I’ve added you to my ever-growing feedreader!

  25. Just for fun and in the small spare time we have being smaller every day, as almost all wine blog are doing.
    Keep the fun no matter what!
    Any chance that yuo have wine blogs in spanish in your feeds?

  26. Hi Gilberto-

    Actually, yes I do have Spanish wine blogs in my feed. Somewhere along my path I actually took my degree in Spanish language and literature, so I’m fairly fluent. I’ll add you to my feed reader!

  27. Gracias!
    Un honor que me leas y recibir tus comentarios.
    Saludos,

  28. Well said lady!!! I agree, do what you’re passionate about. Write what you’re passionate about. Don’t listen to the fools trying to tell you want to do and how to do it. I’ve been feeling worked up too due to all of the negative posts up about bloggers this week. I don’t know why, but leaves me with an unsettled feeling in my stomach. Why do they care so much? And why so much darn negativity. It’s just WINE and the people who love it for gods sake.

    You just keep doing what you’re doing!

  29. BANG.

    that is all.

  30. Great post! I have been reading your blog regularly for a couple of years and am always interested in what you have to say. Many of us wine lovers are interested in good consistently delivered wine information. Keep up the good work.

  31. Thanks Mary and Thea!

    Hi Eileen, thanks for chiming in! It’s always good to hear from a reader!

  32. I had another thought (2 actually) on this:

    1) There will *always* be douchebags (NOT saying anyone mentioned in your post or the comments is a DB, just saying that there ARE DBs out there) who do nothing but complain, so there will always be someone complaining that bloggers in any field shouldn’t be writing, etc. They’re looking for a fight and are best ignored.

    2) Anyone who thinks that any wine critic anywhere was imbued at birth with all of the complete qualities necessary to be able to astutely judge and write about wine is probably a DB.
    :-)

  33. This is an interesting discussion. I really didn’t discover wine blogs until about six months ago. I found a list of 100 wine blogs and visited every one. I chose about a dozen that interested me and bookmarked them. I dropped a few but I have about 8 that I still read. Of those, about half are “in the business” and half aren’t. There was something that appeals to me about each of these blogs that may be very different for someone else.

    I can’t really say why this blog appealed to me. I like the writing and I have discovered a couple of new wines as a result. The concept of tasting different grapes is something I discovered here. Sonadora’s passion for what she does is quite obvious. She loves what she does and has fun. This isn’t a “for profit” blog like some.

    Criticism of wine blogs that is painted with a wide brush, like a majority of forms critical commentary, are rooted in two areas: ignorance and poor information or fear and insecurity. For me to characterize Steven Tanzer’s comments in either of these categories would be as inappropriate as his comments were. Maybe the idea that I would purchase a wine based on Sonadora’s dinner tasting rather than his highly detailed tasting process doesn’t make sense to him. Denigrating the opinions of those who I have found to provide good information doesn’t help his cause.

  34. Thanks, Sonadora, for writing this! I hope you get riled up more often! (and please don’t take that as me telling you what to write!!)

    I’ve been thinking about this topic also and was considering doing my own post on it. I don’t get too many wine samples (yet!) and I often pick up wines on clearance at my local grocery store. Sometimes they’re label damaged but often they’re the previous vintage and they don’t have room or a code for them any more. It’s a great way to get $25 wines that are typically out of my budget. (That’s why I go to as many industry tastings as possible!)

    Before or after my purchase, I’ll google the wines, see what I’ve got, and how good a bargain it is.

    What comes up most in google are sites trying to sell me the wine or with the same notes over and over so what I look for is a blog and someone’s BLOG review. I know it’s someone’s personal opinion, and sometimes I get lucky and even know the blogger!

    You’re doing a great service here, Sonadora, as are other wine bloggers. There’s a lot of wine out there; most of it not written about at all beyond sales talk. So what it they’re not all great? As others have pointed out, leaving is just a click away. And I’m sticking around here to see what you have to say.

  35. Sonodora, you’ve perfectly captured what the rest of the wine blogger community has been thinking in what may well be the “final word” on this subject.

    P.S. I hope that one day my new wine (and sometimes food) blog earns a place on your blog roll.

  36. You took all the words right out of my mouth. I agree with you 100%. I write from my heart because each one of my wine experiences is personal and I want to share that with my readers. I’m not a technical writer. I want my readers to come away with a personal experience because that’s what they are going to remember, not some technical jargon about the state of the industry, new winemaking equipment etc etc etc yawn, yawn, yawn (LOL!). You do a great job! That’s why I try to read your posts every day.

  37. You have a very appropriate mention in Steve Heimoff’s blog today. I just proves the point, people ARE reading wine blogs.

  38. [...] just say, when you piss off Sonadora, you know you’ve gone too far. This was evidenced by her recent departure from discussions [...]

  39. I’m with you Sonadora.
    Let’s drink wine, write about it, make some good friends and have fun..

    Paulo

  40. I totally agree with you Sonadora! The question indeed is “who is your audience?” . Our blog started out from our heart, trying to locate great wines in the Livermore wine region for a great price and letting our friends in on it. The technical writing about wine is great for some people, but seriously, it’s so scientific sounding. I want to write about wines and wineries that make me say “WOW”….keep up your great blogs!!!
    Julia
    http://www.bryersantis.com

  41. Great stuff! I am in the business and I was just as peeved as you and everyone else. Gloriously moronic they are. Just keep doing what you do, ‘cos there are plenty of us out here who love what you do. Salud!

  42. Hi. I’m the guy who wrote the Palate Press piece. I’d write the same thing again with only a small change, and that is a clearer acknowledgement that people blog for different reasons. I knew that before and thought I had made it clear, but clearly I didn’t. I regret that.

    The type of wine blog I was talking about is those that seek to have a meaningful impact on the writer’s professional life. I was wrong to assume that was almost everyone. But my larger point stands: the audience for wine blogs is small, and that is not a sign that those blogs are hitting home.

    For the record, as a strong supporter of both the First Amendment and creative freedom in general, I would not inflict my creative vision on any other writer. Of course you should write whatever you want to write. Even given that, there is no reason anyone in any medium should be reluctant to discuss how to better attract and serve an audience.

    I posted a deliberately provocative piece about wine blogging, which I believe lags behind many other forms of blogging in impact. I did it not to scorn other bloggers, but to start a debate on what we, as a community with shared interests, can do to improve the quality of our work. In every other type of writing I’ve done — newspapers, magazines, television — there have always been ongoing discussions about how to improve. Blogging should be no different. You refer to it derogatorily as “navel gazing.” I think of it as professional development.

    Evidence of the effect of my posting is here on this comment thread. Your readers are smart, civil, and well informed. They also vividly illustrate one of my points.

    Valuable as the content they’ve generated here may be, it’s worth noting that had they posted all of their well-thought-out comments on their own blogs with links — and had those links been reflected in trackbacks on this thread — people would have clicked back and forth to follow the conversation. Literally thousands of additional site visits would have been generated. Additionally, casual readers would have been introduced to a dozen or more blogs they might never have read before.

    In other words, an equal amount of insight and labor would have yielded greater returns for the participants in your obviously vibrant community, and for wine blogging in general.

    Thank you for taking part in the discussion. I drop by your blog every few days to see what you have to say, and I never fail to appreciate your unique and compelling voice.

  43. [...] Good, if something less than supportive, discussion of my Palate Press screed over at Wannabe Wino. [...]

  44. Hey all – Tom pointed out to me (I edited his piece for Palate Press) that I’m probably not been clear enough in my comments above. I should clarify that my comments were meant to express two things primarily:

    1) Support for the idea that people should be able to blog for whatever reasons they choose

    2) My disappointment at Tanzer’s negative swipe at blogging.

    Sorry if there was any confusion!

  45. There’s room for everyone. Different styles appeal to different folks, and we’re doing this for fun anyway, right?

    Some want to read wine reviews. Some want to write wine reviews. Others stick to industry, experiences, videos, whatever. You can’t please all the people all the time, so do what makes you happy.

    If there is a measure of “success” on a blog, I’d say the amount of feedback on this post on this blog is a clear indication. Do what you do and have fun doing it.

  46. I run into the article on PalatePress you mentioned and I didn’t manage to read it till the end because it is freaking boring. I enjoy your reviews because they are concise and go to the point. Keep up with the good job, because this is your blog, and you can write whatever you want.

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