I touched on this issue about a year ago, but I'd like to revisit based on a recent article in the Sf Chronicle. According to the Chronicle, there are hundreds of voices out there, but their actual impact on the world of wine is difficult to gauge. This is not completely inaccurate. How do you measure the impact of wine blogs? If you are looking for direct influence of wine case sales, that will probably never happen. How do you take the collective voices of hundreds of "wine writers" and determine the tidal shifts? Also impossible. Should all wine bloggers be measured by the narcissism and bad writing that exists at the lowest levels? No. None of these are the actual issue.
The editorial spin could have been: "What influence do wine bloggers have on the young demographics, and how are their wine sensibilities shaped by the bloggers?" I speak with young wine drinkers weekly. The vast majority of them read wine blogs. They are on Facebook, Twitter and they follow wineries and wine writers in each of these arenas. Facebook and Twitter have become intertwined with blogs and have a ton of cross pollination. This generation has become very resourceful, and they realize the insincerity of the glossy publications. They're much more interested in winemaking theories than your typical collectors that read the print rags. Blogging, while often frustrating and amateurish, represent the truly passionate wine lovers. Their collective voices help inform those that are ramping up their love in the entry ranks from Wine Library, which yes, is a blog. All the way up to Alder Yarrow and Alice Feiring.
Further, these collective voices accelerate theory and give a forum for a very sophisticated discourse on all things wine. Even if the only people reading wine blogs are bloggers, wouldn't Darwinism help propel the upper echelon of wine theory by sheer numbers alone? Creating a think tank for wine? That is exactly what the wine blogoshpere has become. a "think tank for wine". This also could have been an interesting take on the subject. Their take that wine bloggers don't go after themselves is inaccurate, Parker is obviously a bigger target, but he has been the most successful individual wine writer/ influence.
Very few products exist in our lives that have such a diverse impact as wine. It's international and spans language barriers. It holds culturally influenced methodology. It is impacted heavily by the environment as well as geo-politcial situations. It can be produced today and live for 100 years. It is a leading indicator of business and economic health, and involves complex sales strategies. It is intertwined with food, which has become a wealth of creativity and personality unto itself. And most importantly, wine is awesome. The aggregation of all of these factors make for a very vibrant and colorful discussion that may be only partially about wine, or can be about wine as a microcosm of other more globally significant events.
The final impact that wine blogging has had on our wine culture is this-It has helped to sharpen the collective wine profession's reliance on creating their own opinions. This can't be overstated. As a collective, we have been able to distance ourselves from conventional wisdom very quickly. Robert Parker can exist in this universe, but his opinion has no more weight than the typical blogger in this world. Wine blogging has turned into the great society.
As we blog, the sincerity that creeps into the wine world cannot be measured easily. We see this everyday on the streets when 22 year-old novices say things like "Sancerre is how Sauvignon Blanc is supposed to taste". We didn't hear that 10 years ago, and Wine Spectator certainly didn't teach anyone that. It teaches people that wine is about your opinion, and having your own constantly evolving opinion is one of the amazing things about wine.