Pull up a seat, pour yourself a glass of wine and let's look at why wine blogging has grown in popularity–and importance. Before wine blogging started to catch on, the average wine drinker might refer to wine critics from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast or Robert Parker for guidance on which bottle to buy. The opinions of wine critics helped perpetuate the growth of "cult" wines in the 1990's, and have become the main barometer by which wine is judged by. The upside of going by a trusted wine critic's ratings is the reliability that comes into play when deciding what to spend on what. It takes out some of the guesswork and research needed if you know and trust a wine critic's palate. On the other hand, the wine critic is one person motivated by who knows what. Is the wine critic influenced by the ad dollars wineries spend in their publication? Did a winery make their wine specifically for the wine critic's palate just to get the high rating? You'll never know because chances are that wine critic doesn't know you or care who you are. Their opinions come off mountain high to be used, and often abused by the wine industry. Next time you go into a local retailer, check to see how accurate the information is on the shelf talker, especially if it was hand written by the distributor. Here in my home state distributors have vested interest in local wine publications. Coincidentally, the wine publications always seem to give high scores to the wines those distributors carry.
My point is not to rant on the flawed concept of points by wine critics. This is the very reason wine bloggers have grown in popularity. Rather than one person telling you their opinion and perceived rating on a wine, a wine blog is more of a collective source of opinions where anyone can share their view on a wine. The individualization of wine critics is giving way to the crowdsourcing model of wine valuation. Not only is the wine blogger more accessible to communicate with, but if they post a blog about a certain wine, anyone can leave a comment agreeing or disagreeing. It's a much more collaborative way to get opinions about wine from someone who's more like a friend. Would you rather trust your wine-knowledgeable friend or some stranger to influence your wine buying decisions? Wine bloggers represent a more honest representation of a wine.
The Wine Blogger Conference (#WBC on Twitter) is a place where wine bloggers can come share and learn what they know about sharing a passion for wine. This July the second Wine Blogger Conference in Santa Rosa (there's also a European Wine Blogger Conference) will bring together a wide spectrum of different wine bloggers. These are some of the pioneers of the industry who will replace the Robert Parker's and Wine Spectator's of the world. These are knowledgeable people who are passionate about wine, and spend many unpaid hours sharing useful information about wine with their audience. The unpaid part is key here. That's why there's a new WBC Scholarship Fund designed to help get key wine bloggers out to the conference. The actual site for the WBC Scholarship Fund can be found here.
The economy is in the crapper, and belts are tightening. Friends of the vine, wine drinkers and social media wine people are asked to help perpetuate this simple request: Direct folks to that WBC Scholarship link and ask folks to give $10. Better yet, give $25. It's one of those things were lots of little donations add up, and it will help the very people who are conduits of wine information, and who do it for free. Check the #WBC tag on Twitter around July 24th as the Wine Blogger Conference shifts into high gear.