Australian wine blogs: surveying the scene in 2012

With Australia day shortly upon us, it seemed an appropriate moment to pen a few thoughts on the wine blogging scene in Australia in 2012.  Let me start though with a couple of more general thoughts that are not limited to Australia.  I was thumbing through the latest edition of Decanter magazine, a magazine that I have always felt has provided the most consistently first rate depth and breadth of wine coverage, when it occurred to me, more than once, that some of the material was information I had already read and considered.  The reason?  I am now getting most of my interesting wine opinions, news and reviews from a combination of my RSS inbox which faithfully collates for me the various wine blogs and authors that I follow from across the planet and my twitter account.  I am not going to stop reading Decanter, because frankly I like it, but it did give me food for thought.

Which then brought me to a related thought.  Some 18 months ago now, I wrote a note (see the link here) questioning aspects of an article by Andrew Corrigan MW entitled "Writers, Bloggers & Tweeters" in Winestate magazine (published in Australia).  The article in question was reasonably negative in respect of the merits of wine blogs and wine related social media, and I felt it appropriate to disagree in several respects.  The thought occurred to me: has my opinion on the validity of wine blogs and wine social media changed since then?  And, on reflection, perhaps not surprisingly in view of what I have just written, it turns out that my answer is "no".  My Decanter example seemed to illustrate that wine blogs and other wine social media may have stepped ahead of the curve when it comes to conveying the latest news and opinions that matter in the wine world, and also as a source of wine reviews that I actually read.  (I now rarely read wine reviews in print magazines.  Often there are too many and I don't know the reviewer well enough.)  In addition, I have noticed that Decanter refers in several places to blogs authored by its contributors, suggesting further convergence between the purported dichotomy between traditional and online wine media (and I would argue the apparent increasing acceptance of an absence of a substantive dichotomy).   I am therefore left thinking that wine blogs are more relevant than ever, a happily biased conclusion if nothing else.

Returning then to Australia, I am always on the lookout for wine blogs and the different perspectives they entail.  Sometimes though I find it hard to find them.  To illustrate, the leading hit in Google for "Australian wine blogs" is currently for an article written in 2006 referring to various Australian wine blogs, a number of which no longer seem to exist or I have never heard of!  Presumably the article sits there, because people want the information, and keep clicking on it.  Which then, on normal principles, probably means that this information is valued.  So to that end, I thought I would pen an outline on the Australian wine blog scene as I see it in 2012.  There is some great content available in Australia if you know where to look.  Let us start then a geographical excursion noting this ostensibly logical approach is not in fact logical to the extent that I am not sure that different geographies give way to differing styles.  But that salient point aside, let's commence.

I am going to start with my own blog, Grape Observer, since well, that's what I am authoring.  Grape Observer has entered its third year now, and my aim has been and remains to offer a mix of wine reviews and considered wine related opinion pieces.  Wine reviews from the Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, Yarra Valley, Margaret River, Mornington Peninsula and the French wine regions (Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley, the Loire Valley and Burgundy) feature most regularly, which is perhaps no surprise given my location and interests.  Due south in Tasmania, seasoned wine scribe Winsor Dobbin, who is very active on Twitter, writes "wine of the week" posts and travel guidance.  Turning west to South Australia, Chris Plummer has been writing the Australian Wine Journal for a couple years, with mostly Australian wines reviewed and Chris' unique and must read contribution, "Oz Wine Toons".  I find this as consistently amusing as the cartoons that appear in Decanter.  Philip White, a wine veteran, writes the cause driven and dramatic Drinkster focussing on, among other things, McLaren Vale and the some of the (less) social aspects of wine consumption, politics and industry developments.  Vino-Freakism is dedicated to natural and other wines from well off the main path, coupled with long narratives.  Vino-Review is a newer wine blog, with wine reviews released regularly.

Over in Western Australia, Wino-Sapien is possibly one of the longer standing of Australia's wine blogs, with its combination of cooking and wine reviews with a lot of attention to pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling.  Thoughtful phrasing and clever photography feature.  Jesse Lewis writes Good Drop, which has its focus on wine reviews of the burgeoning alternative wine varieties scene and is a Twitter regular.  The hot climes of the Northern Territory appear unrepresented, and I don't get too many readers from there either, so this may mean they have very poor judgement or, alternatively, very good judgement.  Returning east via Queensland, Jeremy Pringle writes the thoughtful and entertaining Wine Will Eat Itself, which mostly focuses on reviews of Australian wine, with particular soft spots it would appear for grenache and chardonnay.  Stu Robinson writes the challengingly entitled Wine Wankers, and is also a Twitter regular and leads a focus on mataro/mourvedre wines.  Venturing south to Sydney, Andrew Graham writes the Australian Wine Review, with a mix of wine reviews and opinion pieces, and an apparent soft-spot for riesling and aversion to overripe reds, and also spends a chunk of time on Twitter.  Alontin's Australian Wine Reviews contains mainly wine notes that are carefully considered, Red to Brown Wine Review has a mix of wine reviews, opinions and satire, newcomer My Wine Journey holds promise for its admirable brevity and Wining Pom provides wine reviews, some opinion pieces and more general wine communication services.  Wine Muse contains a mix of wine reviews and news.

So, there's my round-up.  Perhaps the greatest medium to long term challenge facing the genre is the small matter of payment.  As Jamie Goode covered in forthright detail, few would seem currently to be paid much for hosting wine blogs.  The debate to date has focussed around whether advertising or subscription based models would be most viable going forward.  I have not decided on either at this point.  Perhaps the wine world will see an iTunes like moment similar to that witnessed by the music industry, where internet content can be paid for by micro-payments.  Perhaps it won't.  Passion I suspect will keep me going for a little while yet.  So, enjoy, I think there's some great content out there, particularly in Australia.

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9 comments:

  1. You are quite correct in saying that there is some great content out there. The Australian blogging scene being passionate but still small (as a side - I have not added many to my blog roll in the past 6 months, have you?).

    There is always the question of monetisation as you mentioned. However, I think that there is another string to the debate. For myself, as a wine professional, I also look at my blog as a portfolio rather than as a primary money spinner (or money pit??) for the short time. Not that I am against monetising my site, and in the long term it may well be a different scenario of course.

    Thanks for the mention. Sean.

    Lisa

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  2. Great article Sean.
    You make an interesting point about uncovering Australian Wine blogs and most of those I have come across have been referred from other blogs.
    I'm interested in your thoughts how to get greater exposure (my blog www.qwineblog.blogspot.com didn't make the cut! :) )
    The beauty of blogs is they engage the reader increasing their knowledge. Social media coupled with that has the added plus that it builds and strengthens relationships between industry personnel to your average punter. This can't happen reading a magazine.
    The more you share the more you learn. Only the industry can benefit.
    Cheers,
    Steve

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  3. Thanks Lisa and Steve for your thoughts. For me, Grape Observer is perhaps more of a "time pit" at this point ;) And Lisa, I too haven't noticed a large expansion of wine blogs in Australia, contrary perhaps to the implication from a post on Drinkster recently suggesting there were 1000s of them. Which there are of course, just not locally in Australia (or at least not that I've seen).

    And thank you Steve for your compliment, and sorry I didn't mention your wine blog, it wasn't intentional as (a) I link to you and (b) I read it! I won't pretend to be any great source of wisdom on marketing exposure, though time and niches seem to help. Meeting people in and around the trade seems to help too.

    Cheers
    Sean

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  4. Thanks for listing all those wine blogs, Sean. Really helpful. I run a blog too, but it's about wine, food, photography, Sydney and politics occasionally. Not strictly a wine blog but ... in case you get bored.
    :-)

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  5. Hey Cheers - thanks for the nod. It was the final push I needed to do some twitter consolidation and remove the challengingly titled Wine Wankers (it seemed an appropriate choice when I started it about 2 years ago and really only added content at my own leisure).

    Lisa - likewise, I haven't added new bloggers to my blog roll for a while, but I do always seem to be unearthing new blogs to add to my reader. I think the scene is very alive. I think with any labour of love, discipline and tenacity are key attributes.

    Good piece as ever Sean.

    Cheers

    Stu

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  6. Sean

    Great article. I have certainly found that the majority of wine reviews that I now read are via other blogs, rather than magazines or newspapers. That said, whilst I had noticed the RSS feed on your site, I haven't yet been brave enough to click on it or figure out what its all about. I may have to check it out.

    Starting a wine blog has been great fun. It has forced me to be more disciplined as I aim to assess wine consistently and objectively. It has also been a great way to keep a record of what I have been drinking.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    Cheers
    David

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  7. Good article,

    I think if you look at the US which we are always a little behind wine blogging is really big.

    I have just started up and have been working Twitter primarily as I find a lot of the wineries are quite active there.

    Regarding money for your blogs, I guess there is scope through advertising, particularly the online sellers etc.. Plus, other things may pop up if you work hard and play the game with a straight bat.

    Anyway, just thought I would let you know that another Aussie wine blog has arrived on the scene.

    BTW: Nice blog!

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  8. Cheers, will add you on board!

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  9. Excellent article, great to see a keen blogger out to build an informative, strong content website focused on wine review.

    You should check out our website Australian Wineries, it is an online directory for wineries and vineyards in Australia.

    You can review, share and connect to the wineries, friends and family through social networking as well.

    Let me know what you think!

    ReplyDelete

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