The popularity and size of this conference (http://winebloggersconference.org/europe/) continues to grow. The first conference in Logoño Rioja attracted between 30 and 40 participants. The second in
It is surprising that the only UK print media represented here is the Drinks Business with no sign of any editorial staff from the commercial press: harpers, Off Licence News, etc. Also the consumer press – there was no one from Decanter or The World of Fine Wine. My impression is that the UK is far from unique here with few editorial staff of Europe’s wine magazines present.
Elin, who writes for Bloomberg News, presented on the future of the wine critic and talked about the change from the old system of wine criticism (the ivory tower critic) to the new more democratic wine criticism that the internet, especially blogging, has allowed to flourish. She stressed the difference between the small number of ‘ivory tower’ critics and now the large number of bloggers on the net.
This, Elin said, is changing. The ivory tower critic is less influential than they were, especially amongst the younger generation who are more confident in their taste and also more adventurous. The younger generation are now used to sharing opinions and tasting notes with their peers on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Clearly Elin sees the era of the wine critic gurus ending. This may be true in some areas but in Bordeaux the established critics, especially Parker, still surely hold sway. At the start of the en primeur campaigns it is scores and comments from Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson MW, Andrew Jefford (etc.) that are consulted by potential buyers and listed by fine wine merchants rather than any coverage they may get on the blogosphere. Neal Martin is the sole example of someone who first established his reputation on the net and has now joined this elite group of critics who matter in relation to top Bordeaux. Perhaps the top end of the Bordeaux market really is different, especially the en primeur market where many of the top wines are now bought for investment and the 'ivory tower' critics are in effect investment
Evan Schnittman, managing director of group sales and marketing, print and digital, at Bloomsbury, talked about the arrival of ebooks and how they had their ‘iPod moment’ in 2007 with the arrival of the Kindle reader from Amazon. This has transformed the market and possibilities for ebooks, making it attractive for immersive reading (novels etc.) as well as extractive (reference works etc.). This also provides opportunities for self-publishing. It is noticeable that more and more members of the Circle of Wine Writers are turning to self-publishing.
Unfortunately the webinar session run by The Wine Management Institute showed only too clearly the current limitations of video conferencing across the globe. Doubtless it can be a very useful tool when it works properly but to claim that it could make ‘the press trip … obsolete’ is purely foolish, at least for the moment. Although press trips are not perfect, journalists have a chance of selecting what they see whereas with webinars you see only what someone wants you to see.
Towards the end of the conference’s formal sessions, the organisers Robert McIntosh, Gabriella and Ryan Opaz announced that they are setting up a new series of awards for on-line journalism called Born Digital. The new awards have some interesting criteria: an entry has to have been published on-line first and not in traditional media and then made available on-line. It has to be available to all on-line. Perhaps the biggest innovation is that entries can be in all languages. Articles will be translated and the judging will be carried out in English. Details are here (http://borndigitalwineawards.com/).