Do wine blogs and expensive wine make a good blend?

About a year ago, a friend of mine asked me for advice on starting a blog. My first thought was, “why not? Who DOESN’T have a blog these days?” But this friend is an avid wine collector (and a consultant to other collectors) and wanted to blog about his fine wine experiences. The more I thought about it, fine wine and blogging seemed an odd mix.

Mike Steinberger explores this disjuncture and much more in a rich and very worthwhile essay entitled “Everyone a Critic: The Future of Wine Writing.” It graces the current cover of the English magazine, The World of Fine Wine (available free this week only here as pdf).

The most interesting thread to me is the economic angle. It should come as a surprise to nobody that there’s little money in writing (but the glory! Yes, the glory!). Further, as prices have risen on the top wines, indicating demand outstripping supply, those wines have become increasingly out of reach for wine writers. What incentive do producers have to give wine writers a sample? And in the absence of that sample, how many writers can afford to buy them on their own?

It got me thinking: are fine (expensive) wines relevant to wine blogs? I think so. But a steady diet of them would likely run the blogger to ruin or bore the audience to tears. The economics of blogs is based either on a labor of love or on eyeballs for ads–and there just aren’t a lot of eyeballs that are seriously interested in $1,000 bottles of Burgundy. A previous poll here showed that blog readers prefer free content. So my friend might be better off contributing to the Parker bulletin board where the audience delights in bling bottles or starting an online newsletter with his notes and charging $100 a year.

Do you think expensive wine and blogs are a good blend? Do you drink a lot of wines north of $100?

I was pleased that Mike included me along with Jamie Goode, Alice Feiring, and Tom Wark as some “fresh voices taking wine journalism in new and important directions.” I’d like to return the compliment since I have always been a fan of his writing–whether in Slate, the Financial Times, Saveur or wherever–finding it to be polished, provocative, entertaining, and informative. Too bad he doesn’t have a blog.

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13 Responses to “Do wine blogs and expensive wine make a good blend?”

  1. I thought it was a great article and most of the people who write wine blogs are interested, of course in nice blingy bottles….but most do not drink them. As they say any idiot can plop down a cool grand for a great bottle but the real skill comes in tracking down really interesting wines in the $10-$35 range. That is where wine bloggers excel. Of course if I taste La Tache or Romanee Conti I wanna open the window and scream that I have tasted these wines . . . .and I still haven’t yet since I started my blog…but one can only hope….I taste alot of wines north of $100 as a retailer but drink…hell no! But it seems every note on ebob these days is for dinners that are pretty much my year’s salary!

  2. A couple times a year, I purchase a bottle or two priced over $100. However, I read tasting notes for expensive wines often, and I do have the opportunity to taste expensive wines at formal tastings held by distributors. Having someone else’s opinion before going to a tasting is incredibly useful, as I can compare it to the vintage I’m trying.

    It’s interesting to read about high-end wines, not only for the ‘wow factor,’ but also because I think the average person, on occasion, is in a position to try a famous label, and if they know it fits in with their tastes, they’re more likely to go ahead and purchase that wine.

  3. Hi,

    expensive wines and a blog fit together, no doubt! Here in Germany we have a blog called “Wineterminator”. A wine-collector who let us take part on his experience of drinking expensive, old bottles in restaurants and at wine-tastings. It is a good source to learn about old wines and a little bit take part on his drinking-experience, as of course most of the wines are too expensive for me.

    BTW, a friend of mine takes part sometimes at his tastings and he told me that he enjoys to share his old, expensive wines with friends. This is all about, to drink a good bottle with friends…….

    So, I would encourage everyone who drinks expensive wines to start a blog!

    Greetings from Berlin/Germany,

  4. “It got me thinking: are fine (expensive) wines relevant to wine blogs?”

    They are more so than $20 and under wines. I’m much more likely to go out and get the 2003 Pegau Reservee if the blogosphere is all jumpy about it then I am the “2006 Wine I’ll Never See In A Store” coming it at $14.

    I think I’ll go blog about this!

  5. Gary, I don’t follow your logic. Why is a $14 bottle you’ll never see in a store any worse to review than a $100 bottle you’ll never see in a store?

    The wine market is so different depending on where you are, and I haven’t noticed a greater consistency at one price point or another.

    Besides, there’s always online searching for wines.

    I agree with Lyle’s comment that it’s easy to pay a lot and get a good bottle. Finding a good wine for less money is much harder. And that’s really where blogs excel.

  6. I drink *some* wines north of $100.

  7. It seems to me that fine wines and blogging do not go together. If you are already educated and experienced enough to even know what a Romanee-Conti is, then chances are you will be often bored by the kind of people who start and write wine blogs, that is to say, “ordinary” souls who blog precisely because it’s a cheap, fun, un-supervised-by-the-experts way to explore a very new passion. I don’t buy or drink $100+ wines, although I may have tasted some at the first professional tasting I was lucky enough to attend a month ago. I purposely write my wine blog with people like me and my friends in mind — people for whom, a year ago, “wine” meant Ripple and a “rize-ling” could conceivably be a red. That is not meant to sound condescending and I apologize if it sounds so anyway. And as to those bottles over $100 — how about bottles under $10? Much more to the point, for me anyway.

    But by all means, for those who can, blog away on Pegau Reservee, whatever that is. I look forward to catching up.

  8. “Why is a $14 bottle you’ll never see in a store any worse to review than a $100 bottle you’ll never see in a store?”

    If we change $100 to $50 (because I go up to triple digits rarely if at all)…

    0) The universe of $50 wines is much smaller than the universe of $20 and under wines. If someone recommends a $50 bottle, it is likely that I’ve heard of it before and will remember the recommendation.
    1) I’m more likely to seek out the $50 bottle using tools like wine-searcher or putting in a request with a retailer.
    2) It will be more cost effective to seek out the $50 and have it shipped to me.
    3) #2 would be true were I in a state that allowed direct shipping.

    It looks like I’m in the minority given these comments and those of my friends when I brought this up recently. The number of under $20 wine blogs out there certainly fills some need.

  9. I have to admit that I don’t often drink wines over $100. That being said, my co-bloggers, Kevin (my husband who is often on expense account) and Rory (the beverage director at David Burke’s Prime House) do.

    So I like to think that I balance their high-falutin’ ways!

  10. People read blogs about many things they might not be able to afford or have access to, such as cars, electronic goods and fashion. I don’t find fine wine to be such a stretch as long as the blog is well-written.

    I often write about Chinese wine: I get a good deal of traffic from beyond China, from people who most likely have no access to these wines but nevertheless read the reviews. People are simply curious.

    Cheers, Boyce

  11. I think that’s a great distinction between “unobtainable” yet affordable wines and expensive wines in the exchange between Mark, Gary, and Boyce among others.

    I like to read about diverse wines that are exciting whether or not I can drink them. Of course, connecting with them in my glass is always the best. But the US market is so large and varied that, sadly, many wine enthusiasts can’t access the wines they like. Oh wait, I wrote a book that has a big discussion about this–more details in July!

    I also find wines under $35 to be a particularly sweet spot for blogs…

  12. Hi Tyler – I’ve always wondered about the fine wine thing (and I read this post as I was checking my statcounter). Generally I drink the good stuff, not the everyday stuff (the average bottle price in my 550 btl cellar is about $50, most of my posts probably average well above $20 and into the $30s, with lots of pricey stuff when we do a tasting). So why are “Under $12” and “Great Value Wineries” my top hits? I think you know the answer – fine wines are a limited audience. But it is so much more fun…I have never accepted a freebee, but if DRC calls I might break the rules, just once…

  13. Tired of blogs that explore “great” $10 wines. Give me a blog that teaches me how to get in on a $100 wine for $10, and I will give it my eyeballs (and maybe wallet) every day! Mind you – not a $10 wine that “tastes” like $100, but a real $100 wine (a grand cru Bordeaux, a top Rhone, a good Barolo, a solid 1er Cru Burgundy) that I can get for $10 – that’d be a trick!!! And why stop at $100 — great wines from top producers cost much much more than that!


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