Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Monday 25 October 2010

Some thoughts on the 3rd European Wine Bloggers Conference

The popularity and size of this conference ( continues to grow. The first conference in Logoño Rioja attracted between 30 and 40 participants. The second in Lisbon was up to around 130. This year it is just under 200.

The level of sponsorship is also increasing with Austrian wines leading the way not only with wine dinners and wineries showing their wines, but making it possible to hold the conference in the Orangerie of the Schônbrunn Palace and associated buildings and to have the closing party in the Österreicher im MAK ( Other major sponsors included Wienwein, Rona (glassware), Wines of Chile, Wein Burgenland and The Wine Management Institute.

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.

I happened to ask an editor at a specialist magazine just before I set out to Vienna whether they were sending anyone. “No I can’t see the point of going to Vienna to hear Charles Metcalfe tell me about blogging. He ought to come to see us.”

Sadly he has spectacularly missed the whole point. Charles was here to chair just one of the discussions. The conference was an opportunity to meet wine bloggers from 30 different countries, to hear two very good keynote speeches as well as seminars on various issues and the latest technical developments. The keynote speeches were by Elin McCoy and Evan Schnittman – both were excellent and thought provoking.

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.

Elin posited Robert Parker as the now archetypal ivory tower wine critic - tasting many thousands of wines a year giving them scores out of 100, probably assessing many wines from countries he has never visited but wielding, particularly in the case of Parker, remarkable and enduring power.

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 (

Post conference there was a choice of three day trips on the Sunday to Burgenland, Weinviertel and one up the Danube. Then on Monday two longer trips to Burgenland and the Danube returning on Tuesday.
The 2011 European Wine Bloggers Conference will be in Franciacorta (Italy) next year: 14th-16th October.


Our thanks to the organisers – Gabriella, Ryan and Robert – and to all the sponsors who made this conference possible.



great summing up Jim, although thinking about presence of UK media maybe as Drinks Business were the media sponsors it kept the others away?


Great summing up Jim, perhaps the absence of other UK trade press was due to the fact that Drinks Business were the media sponsor?

CRM said...

You could well be right, Alison. I still think it was short-sighted. Jim

Luc Charlier said...

Ivory Tower ... say you ?
An anecdote, once more, but directly connected to both the subject, wine and Britain. So, I will be forgiven.

There used to be a pub (clearly premises where wine can be had, and where bloggers could convene), in the Southwark area (clearly Britain), called “The Infant of Castille”.
The place is now known as “Elephant & Castle”, clearly connected with the Ivory Tower, in more than one way.

Of course, Londoners all know that, but it may amuse some of your other (continental) readers.
Courtesy of Eleanor of Aquitaine (not the one who uses to pick up the rice in churches, you know who I mean).

Fiona Beckett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fiona Beckett said...

Good post Jim and very helpful to those of us who weren't there. (Not because I didn't take the occasion seriously but was booked to speak at the Dartmouth Food Festival!)

ryan said...

Decanter did have Darrell Joseph there representing them, and Hungarian Decanter. That said hopefully next year we see more!

Jim's Loire said...

Ryan. Thanks. I knew Darrell was representing Decanter. I meant editorial staff and have now amended the post.

Luc Charlier said...

By the way, Adriano Benvenutti was there too, representing Pope Benedict.
This tells a lot about Il Corriere della Sera’s implication in good wine for the purpose of celebratin’ Holy Mass.
Rumour has it Gabriel (the Angel, not Peter) is interested in wine-blogs too. He’s got a few announcements to make.
Does anyone have Mary’s e-mail address out there?

Alastair said...

Good summary Jim, but a little light on the social side of the occassion. For example I note you ommitted to attempt a calculation of the number of litres of wine spat (or, in some cases, swallowed). And the number of visible hangovers on early morning buses was also a high point.
It was good to meet you, and the many other particpants in any case! The networking opportunity is substantial. See you in Italy?

Luc Charlier said...


First of all, I love your given name. It comes only second (and a close second at that) to Duncan, Malcolm, and, strangely, Thelonious.
Then: social aspect, networking, participants ... ?
What are these words?
The French would have us believe, here, that wine (as other alcoholic beverages, all creations of the Devil with capital D) breaks down social behaviour, interrupts networking and eliminates all types of participation, leading to an entrapment in one’s ... Ivory Tower.

Footnote: Yes, I fully realize that, when you come second to THREE others, you end up fourth, actually. So it is when you indulge in “liquors”.

Jim's Loire said...

Alastair. Fair comment, although the second photo in this series may illuminate one of your points:

Mariëlla said...

Thank you, for a great summary. We suffer from Ivory Towerism here in the Netherlands a lot, I fear. Not one wine magazine nor regular newspaper was interested in EWBC. I have a hard time believing that the 'established' wine press even knows it exists. I hope to get around gathering and writing my own thoughts on this theme soon....

Jim's Loire said...

Mariëlla. Many thanks. I'm sure it is not confined to the Netherlands.