Watching the Wine Community Rumble

Friday, April 17, 2009

Photo by ncbronte

Everyone loves a good fight, so even if you're not into wine you might enjoy the scene over at Dr. Vino's wine blog this week. And just like a good baseball brawl, after a while it becomes difficult to figure out who is fighting with whom. But unlike a baseball brawl, wine rumbles include near-flawless grammar and crafty use of debating techniques. Not one but two great posts, targeted at:
  1. Heavy handed censorship on The Wine Advocate forums
  2. Questionable alignment with Robert Parker's ethics from his underlings
Everyone jumps in- Thomas Matthews from Wine Spectator, fellow wine bloggers, Robert Parker and Jay Miller from Wine Advocate. It's quite a scene. Who knew wine was such an edgy topic?

The Wine Advocate is a wine publication of considerable esteem, founded by Robert Parker. Along with Wine Spectator, I consider it to be one of the two most influential sources of wine ratings in the United States. It prides itself on refusing to accept ads and uses this fact as proof that its information is credible and untainted.

Frankly, the issues raised in both of these pieces bother me. It's really lame to delete forum posts unless they are really out of bounds, and from what I can tell these posts didn't even come close to being objectionable. It would have been far better for The Wine Advocate to directly address the issues in their forum.

Second are the issues raised related to Jay Miller and his hobnobbing with wine distributors at steak dinners. Robert Parker seems conflicted on this issue. On one hand, he wants to have breadth in the wine reviews he provides so he farms the job out to contractors like Miller, but on the other hand he espouses standards for The Wine Advocate that seemingly apply only to himself. He can't have it both ways- either everyone who reviews and writes for him is on the same page and conform to his standards -or- the ratings in his publication are suspect. I expressed similar concerns in a prior piece on the subject of whether all of The Wine Advocate's tastings are done blind like they say they are.

The tenor of the responses to these inquiries from both Robert Parker and Jay Miller are disturbing. There's an air of aloofness, and they sound as if they think they're above the law. It also seems as if they are out of touch with contemporary norms of communication.

Somewhat non-related to this, and in an effort to continually improve this site- I've been following along with "31 Days to Build a Better Blog" from Pro Blogger. Pro Blogger is by far the most useful and helpful source of information about blogging I've found on the Internet. By a mile. So if you're interested in giving blogging a try I'd encourage you to follow him on Twitter and read his site. Great stuff.

At any rate, I mention Pro Blogger because of the irony associated with his recent recommendation to participate in a forum relative to the niche that I blog in. With folks being banned on The Wine Advocate for valid commentary, and (separately) Wine Spectator forums being (in my view) often crowded with snarky/sarcistic commentary that make it unenjoyable to wade through, I'm at a loss for where to turn for an interesting wine community. I've found that between subscribing to wine blogs I enjoy -and- interacting with likable and interesting people on Twitter that I've assembled a custom community that I can dial in just the way I like it.

Which wine blogs are my favorites? I'm glad you asked. Here is my list of some of the best wine blogs on the Internet
to get you started.

What do you think of all this?

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