At some point after it concluded, the Wine Bloggers Conference transmogrified into the Whine Bloggers Conference.
Okay, let’s stipulate that it was damn hot that weekend in Charlottesville, and it is absolutely brutal to taste wines from several dozen wineries under a tent in sweltering heat and humidity that was well into the triple digits. No wines will taste their best under such circumstances, no matter how much ice is available. (It was strange seeing winemakers pull carafes of red wine from the ice buckets.) But the blog posts complaining about the heat – I’m sorry, folks, suck it up and deal with it. You were at Monticello, for crying out loud, and Mr. Jefferson himself greeted you. (Or at least, someone looking damn like him did – I could have been hallucinating with heat stroke.)
And let’s acknowledge that not all of Virginia’s best wineries participated in the WBC, while some of its worst did. So under any weather conditions, the out-of-state guests would have received a mixed impression of Virginia wine. Which, in fairness, reflects where Virginia is right now in its effort to be recognized among the “wine regions” of the USofA. Joe Roberts at 1WineDude wrote a balanced, open-minded and thoughtful post about the Virginia wines he tasted, concluding that “Virginia brought its B game.”
But reading through the various reports from the conference (Frank Morgan is helpfully maintaining a list of WBC11-related blog posts) one can glean several insights into the state of wine blogging, as well as the mindsets and prejudices of the writers. Here’s some of what you’ll find:
- Most bloggers write about themselves more than the wine. This may be a feature of the medium, since blogs are more or less a public diary. It’s a big part of the difference between wine blogging and (most) wine writing.
- Most of the posts by far have been positive. Lorrie Perrone of Wining Ways arrived from New England with an open mind and an adventurous palate. Note that she does not write about very many wines, just a few of her favorites and the winemakers she met. She also has a very optimistic view of her fellow bloggers.
- Many bloggers have an oversized sense of entitlement. Most of these seem to have come from the Wine’s Promised Land in California. They arrived after a lengthy trip (not many direct flights to C’ville from the West Coast, one assumes) in a bad mood that they stubbornly hung onto as if it was a key part of their identity. And they don’t handle heat and humidity very well. There were complaints that sponsor organizations fronting cash for the fete actually expected their wines to be tasted. One even dismissed Virginia as more suitable for growing tomatoes than wine, while bragging that he skipped the Saturday vineyard tours that would have given him a better (and air-conditioned) look at what Virginia is doing. Another issued a challenge to other bloggers to write negative wine reviews, calling his colleagues bottom-feeding “catfish” for sucking up to wineries in hopes of receiving samples. (Not all the wines poured were from Virginia, of course, and this blogger did tweet some compliments to Old Dominion wines.) Which brings us to point number
- Bloggers have a herd mentality. Once the catfish challenge was posted, other bloggers began discovering that their initial enthusiasm for Virginia wines waned once they returned home. There was lots of hearsay (“my buddy heard someone say …”) used to disparage the entire Virginia wine industry and generalizations such as “LOTS of them had some really good sulfur stank. Most others were just sloppy… lazy….boring with a HINT of sulphur (sic).” (I already linked to this post in point 3.) Hey dude – liberally spraying words like sulfur around your blog does not make you an expert. That said, Joe Herrig at Suburban Wino relates a first-hand discussion with a winemaker (not identified, unfortunately) about sulfur use and other techniques that serves as a question rather than a blanket condemnation. Much more useful and credible, though by no means applicable only to Virginia.
The Virginia blogging community has reacted to this brouhaha with some bemusement and a little bit of defensive snark and good humor, as in the graphic above. That last post has some great comments by Tarara Vineyards winemaker Jordan Harris. Frank Morgan has more of the winemakers’ perspective on all this frivolity.
I could go on, but it’s Sunday noon and there’s work to do. More thoughts on the current state of wine blogging in a future post, perhaps.