It should be noted, though, that blogging, at least in the world of wine, only goes so far—and may, in the future, not be enough. Twitter and Facebook are increasingly becoming online stomping grounds for critics, wineries, and retailers. As Derrick Schneider, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle this February, pointed out: In October 2009, there were close to 864,000 online conversations about wine, according to the social media monitoring site Cruvee, three-fourths of which happened on Twitter and similar sites. With those kinds of numbers—along with the ever-growing world of social-media startups—bloggers and traditional publications, to remain viable, will need to stay on top of emerging trends. “We’ve seen a lot of bulletin boards—forms where people can go and have conversations about wine—and Twitter has exploded where people can talk about wine, too,” says Alder Yarrow, who runs the widely-read blog Vinography.
Still, while these trends are important to consider, traditional critics and bloggers need not be overly concerned. Platforms will continue to change, but the glut of information will remain too widespread and too overwhelming for it to make a real impact. At least for now. Readers will continue to want someone who can entertain and inform them—just as it’s always been—while curating the information in a simple format. Most important, though, will remain the prose itself. The more in-depth and enlivening the writing, the more likely the critic or blogger will get noticed. “What we really need are more thoughtful, lengthy blog posts about wine and the changing landscape and things like natural winemaking,” says Jessica Yadegaran, a wine columnist and blogger for the Bay Area News Group.
Wine is, after all, a complex drink, and it needs to be analyzed in a complex way, usually by someone with a deep understanding of wine or by someone with credentials, such as a WSET advanced degree. Which means that while passionate amateur drinkers can write about their experiences with a Bordeaux, say, they’d ideally be able to do so with as much authority and understanding as a professional—something many talented bloggers already do. In fact, at times, it’s hard to discern who’s a professional and who’s not. The surest sign of a blog’s quality: reading a review of the site. As Joe Roberts puts it, “It’s no different, in a way, than picking up a book. If you see a lot of accolades for the work, you think, ‘Maybe I’ll give this a shot.’”
Which is to say, whether written by a professional or an amateur, the one standard for writing about wine today is that it should be entertaining and fresh, maybe even funny, and, at the very least, relatable to its audience—the average drinker, the collector, whomever. It should invite people in and allow them to explore their palates and be curious. Perhaps most of all, as Arnold and Rosen know with their e-newsletters, wine writing should, on top of all these things, make use of social media, too.
Just look at Gary Vaynerchuk, who turned his day job at a family wine store in New Jersey into a digital-media empire through lively, high-energy online TV episodes. Vaynerchuk found so much success, in fact, he wrote a self-help book about it. Is he the next Robert Parker? No. Not yet, anyway. But what Vaynerchuk did (and is still doing, it should be added) does prove a point: All it takes is for a wine critic or blogger to have a unique idea—a Daily Candy-like newsletter for wine, say—to create next big thing. No print publication necessary.