Wine Blogs Missing Visual and Human Elements

It is hard disputing the “wine blog burnout” that Tom Wark pointed to last month when he wrote “the movement to use the blog publishing format by wine lovers [is] waning. I see fewer new wine blogs launched. The retreat will be slow, but the retreat will be with us.”  Why are wine bloggers losing interest, why aren’t there more entries, and how does this trend compare to other vertical blogospheres?

Photo by Hardy Wallace

Following three days in Los Angeles organizing and hosting the sold out Design Bloggers Conference, I have a little more perspective on all of this.  You read that right; not the Wine Bloggers Conference, but rather an event attracting one very good looking crowd of 350 savvy interior design bloggers.  Since it’s my conference, and just because I can and want to, I take the liberty of integrating as much wine content as possible.  Wine and design are like fitting puzzle pieces; both about good living and taste. We poured 350 glasses of Gimonnet and Geoffroy Champagne at 10am each morning. Celebrated wine blogger Hardy Wallace was along to give a talk on how he used video and blogging to change the course of his life.  And, a cool group of sharp design and wine peeps joined me for dinner replete with the orange juices of Radikon Jako and Gravner Anfora, white acid from Donkey & Goat Untended chardonnay, and the funky old world nuances of Clos Rougeard. They were a glorious few days.

Unlike wine blogging, design blogging is on the rise.  It’s a curious fact.  More than 40% of our conference attendees have been blogging for one year or less and 2/3rds for less than two years.  The design blogosphere is intensifying.

Design blogging is not any newer than wine blogging. But, there are emblematic differences between the two.  To name one, when a blogger shares a wine image readers can not access nor appreciate the wine in the same way the author did tasting it. The same dynamic applies to shared text about a wine’s characteristics. Design bloggers share photography and imagery every day, often more than words, passing experiences and sensory touch-points around the web in photographic form. The photos are connection points, eliciting sensory reaction similar to the author’s.  You can download colors and textures that turn you on, but it’s impossible to live-stream the aromatics of Clos Rougeard, Gimonnet, or Donkey & Goat.  Here is an image including both wine and design to demonstrate the sensory and emotional joy you can have with design while pictures of the wine remain a distant and inaccessible mystery.

While chroniclers of the wine blogger retreat blame traffic traction problems, the audience picture reported by design bloggers attending the Design Bloggers Conference suggests very similar traffic levels to wine bloggers. So why are wine bloggers waning while design bloggers multiply?  Maybe it’s something other than weak traffic after all.

Wine bloggers are hanging it up because they fail to connect with their audience.  They overlook and underestimate authentic and humanistic ways to express visceral joy.  It’s a two way street; bloggers create the right content and the community gives back through engagement. So many wine bloggers fail to give themselves up to their audience.  They review wines with words, report on regional statistics, imply numerical scores, and summarize forays into wine country.  I hate that my own content leans that way sometimes.  The failure to connect the human element and wine experience is leaving a gaping hole in a large part of the blogosphere, draining engagement from the already dry tanks of retreating bloggers.

I knew this to be true when I spent time a few weeks ago with Steve Heimoff and learned that it was all about the human feedback and engagement that kept him focused and creating content every day for four years, only missing three days of posting.  I cemented the conclusion while I listened to Hardy Wallace share his DirtySouthWine story with the design bloggers in Los Angeles; from laid off-tech executive to Murphy Goode contest winner to living the dream, now working for Cathy Corison, making wine in California.  He talked about how he went beyond the wine and focused on the humanity attached to the wine experience.  He stayed authentic all the way through, making fun of himself and anything else that made wine feel affected or too serious.  For all that, Hardy was rewarded with an intense level of engagement that propelled him to create the video and textual content that helped him persevere through a risky time in his life.

It is never about the numbers nor audience size for the best of the web 2.0 wine writers.  It’s about engagement, authenticity, humility, and the humanization of wine.  Design Bloggers might have an advantage through imagery, but wine bloggers ought to take note and figure out their own individual paths to connection by humanizing themselves and wine.

Recommendation: For all you winos, here is a look at my favorite design blog called Quintessence, Living Well With Style and Substance.  The author is an impeccable writer with outstanding graphic design talent. Best yet, she wrote about wine just about every Wednesday last year.  Her treatment of wine is refreshing while being a valuable and good read.  Check her out.

  • The Sediment blog

    “So many wine bloggers fail to give themselves up to their audience. They review wines with words, report on regional statistics, imply numerical scores, and summarize forays into wine country.”

    Well, not us. Facts and figures rarely find their tedious way into our writing, because we aim to entertain rather than inform. Perhaps you should differentiate between critics and writers – some of us hope to fall into the latter category rather than the former.

    The Sediment Blog

  • awjapko

    Hey SB, I will stick with my claim that so many wine bloggers, not critics….wine bloggers, fail to connect with the humanity of their audience. But, I am glad I gave you this platform so you could step forward to let everyone know how good you really are:-) Now, if you add just a small dose of humility, you’ll be all set.

  • The Sediment blog

    The humility is in the “aim” and the “hope to”.

    We’ll certainly leave it to others to determine whether we succeed.

  • awjapko

    SB- Fair clarification

  • Steve Heimoff

    Hardy’s a great guy who “gets it.” So many wine bloggers write so boringly. I don’t know why. The reason my blog draws eyeballs is because people know they’re always going to get a good read.

  • quintessenceblog

    Wow Adam – I am humbled by your praise! And impressed with your fabulous wine and champagne choices at DBC! You and Bob did a truly fantastic job at conference and loved your inspired picks for out of the box speakers! Cheers!!

  • awjapko

    Glad you came:-) ?

  • awjapko

    Both of you guys get it really well. I dig knowing and learning from both of you.

  • quintessenceblog


  • Jason Phelps

    I can’t argue the point being made at all.

    I concluded something a bit different from all of it though. Unless you work in the wine industry sharing all of your adventures amounts to a second job. If you haven’t chosen to be in that business, or a journalist, it is likely not a second job you can do nearly as well as you do your primary one. That is certainly true for me. To be fair I will admit that there will always be exceptions. I work in IT and I can’t stand the thought of blogging about tech topics because it would offer no downtime or diversion. Is this true for other industries? I am in no position to say and your analysis of the design industry gives me cause to think I might be wrong here.

    I stopped writing so often, and without the needed elements too often, because I just wanted to get out to experience and enjoy the humanity without the self imposed pressure to share. I’m still making plenty of wine, beer, cider, mead and taking commercial examples for spin just as often as I used to. The difference now is that my “blog” is most often the conversation I have with the people I am with. There is a richness there that I don’t feel I can do any justice to in words. Maybe I’m not that guy and others are able to make it work. I know they are out there. Maybe I gave up without trying, but I’ll be damned if I’m not having a great time!

    To some degree I think technology has allowed us to get too focused on digital sharing without considering why and the dehumanization that comes when your online and offline worlds aren’t in balance. Our current fascinations with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and all the other sharing and social networks is my proxy here. Everyone has to have one, but why? Just get signed up and the why will follow? Really? Are we sure? I have no idea and worse yet I am starting to grow anxious about all the data and control of it we are giving up in the process. Maybe digital sharing isn’t going to be as awesome of a thing as we think…


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  • The Wine Brat

    I’m with you Jason. I am also in IT, and while people encourage me to blog about my particular tech experience, I can’t imagine doing that with any joy. Even wine blogging can feel like work sometimes, and I struggle to be inspired and write things of interest that are the same old sh%W@.

    Stepping back, posting lest often but more meaningful content, and focusing on myself as the primary audience is an important way to balance and gain perspective with all of the social sharing tools out there. Is traffic really the most important thing? Or is engaging with your audience – whether that’s on twitter, the blog, facebook, pinterest, google plus, or via smoke signals the most important goal?

    To me, the important thing is having a consistent message. I think Hardy is doing an excellent job with that – he might not write a 600 word post every week, but with video, short post, and tweets, he engaging his audience and expands the horizons.

    Great post Adam!