Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Are you kidding?

By Rob Bralow

Again, for the gazillionth time, I fell behind in my blog reading. I know what happened, and it was quite distracting, and if you ask me about it I'll tell you. But the fact of the matter is, if I let it go for even a day, that means there are 100 more blog posts than there would have been if I had just scrolled through my Google reader and gotten them out of the way.

Most of the blog posts were end-of-year recaps, which had top 10 lists, and best-of lists and any other list you could imagine. Some interesting, some not, but all were there. Amazing what happens when bloggers find themselves with a little time on their hands and a need to escape their families for a few hours.

Some thoughts that jumped out at me that I feel the need to write about. All are paraphrased from one or more blogs that I read on a consistent basis.

1) Consumers have more access to higher quality wine at lower prices than ever. - So what else is new? I saw this headline in 2008, and 2007, and 2006... There is a lot of wine out there and the competition is driving down prices. Oh and no one has any money to buy this wine, so the prices dropped even further. And then a huge wave of bulk wine has entered the U.S. market, with critter labels and creative marketing springing up left and right. So are we really in a buyers' wine market? I think "buyer beware" more than ever.

2) The relevance of bloggers has sky-rocketed - Are you sure? How can you tell? John Mariani of Bloomberg expects wine blogging to increase but that most of these blogs will be focused on the cheap wine (yes, it is OK to call it cheap) and that they are not to be trusted. I think that has already happened, and that every PR rep or winery in the under ten dollar market is already sending samples to every blogger they can to get a buzz about their wines. In addition, the wine blogging world seems to be on a repeat cycle. Thomas Pellechia at VinoFictions outlined the most common gripes and questions that wine bloggers seem to have stuck on their minds. Really I think this is just a function of reading the posts of every other wine blogger. Everyone has to have their say on a subject, whether I want to read it or not. I do not think there is anything wrong with that, it just makes for very repetitive reading. I also think that Tom Wark had a good point about what happens when retailers start using quote from bloggers. Already I have had the idea passed before me of whether or not a marketing sell sheet (something to give to distributors to help them sell the wine to wine buyers) should include a glowing quote from a well-known blogger. What do you think?

There is clear evidence that wine bloggers do have the power to influence not only the market at large, but thousands of dollars in the process. Alder Yarrow at Vinography held his annual Menu for Hope and raised almost $78,000. Both Alder and Joe Roberts at 1WineDude have been taken on press trips to different regions, and both have come back with stories expounding on the virtues of those regions. ViniPortugal held a contest to bring a wine blogger over to Portugal for the European Wine Bloggers' Conference.

Wine bloggers are gaining force. People are reading, and watching, and learning, and going out and using the knowledge they gained. It should make every wine blogger out there keep writing. It should make every marketer pay attention. I certainly am.

CORRECTION: Menu for Hope is a campaign that Alder Yarrow participates in as one of several host bloggers, and the amount raised was from readers from all of these blogs combined.

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