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Don’t censor the winemaker’s blog!

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Most of the chatter about wine blogging has been from the point of view of the amateur wine blogger: how can he or she monetize the blog? Who’s writing the best blog? Who’s on what panels, who’s got the latest book deal, who’s got the most visits, who’s the new kid on the street, who’s the coming star?

All good questions, but we sometimes forget that there’s another source of blogs out there: winemakers. Their blogs may not be as widely read as the amateur wine blogs, but an argument can be made that they’re more educational. Because, after all, what do most wine bloggers know about wine, except (a) they drank something last night and (b) they’re going to tell you about it. But winemakers live and breathe wine. They have great stories to tell.

I’ve urged winemakers for years to blog. Usually their reply is “I don’t have the time” or “What would I say?” Both of those concerns are baseless. Blogging takes very little time — you can put up a post in 10 minutes. As for what to say, if you’re a winemaker, all you have to do is describe what you did yesterday or this morning. “Woke up before dawn to the sound of the frost alarm going off.” “Had a little earthquake that popped a few bungs in the cellar.” There’s always something interesting going on in a winemaker’s life.

Now, the wine world welcomes a new winemaker’s blog. It’s called “Making Dom Perignon” and it’s the personal blog of Dom’s chef de cave, Richard Geoffroy.

The blog was just born, in late January; so far, Geoffroy has written 3 posts. It’s unusual for a highly-placed winemaker to write a blog, especially in Europe, so Geoffroy is to be congratulated for taking this step.

The blog shows promise. Geoffroy obviously is smart and a good writer. I would offer a few suggestions to make the blog better. For one, the posts are not particularly long, and there is an atmosphere of marketing around them, as though Dom Perignon’s P.R. people went through Geoffroy’s originals with a red marker, deleting here, adding there. Then, if you click on the “read more” section to learn more about Geoffroy, you come to an “About the comments” section written by someone called “The moderator” who, it would seem, is someone other than Geoffroy. Who is “The moderator”? Why is Geoffroy letting someone else into his blog? The moderator writes: “Please be assured that Richard Geoffroy will read [all submitted comments], even though it will obviously not be possible for him to react to all of them.” Why not? I don’t react to all comments on my blog, but it’s certainly possible for me to do so. As soon as you tell readers upfront that it’s not possible to reply to all comments, you’re telling them, in effect, “I don’t really care all that much what you say, so don’t bother to write in.” And believe me, under such circumstances, they won’t. Besides, when I read the blog (this morning), there was exactly one comment up. Is that too many for Geoffroy to reply to?

Still, it’s a good thing that Geoffroy is writing his blog. I hope he gets into more detail about Dom Perignon and sparkling wine in general. Tell us, Richard, more about your job, your travels, the great meals you have, the people you meet, the places you go. We want to hear all the behind-the-scenes stuff. Your blog can be a real hit, if you don’t allow the marketing and P.R. people to censor you. They’ll try to, you know. That’s what marketing and P.R. people do: control messages. (It’s not a bad thing, it just is.) A blog, on the other hand, is pure spontaneity. It’s a peek into the blogger’s id, without the restraining filter of the superego. The best blogs feel pure and untrammeled, not like they’re the product of a carefully-calculated message.

  1. How encouraging to read your post – it’s just made my day :) I’m a small wine-maker (in Spain) and I started blogging about a year ago, doing just what you suggest, ie just writing about what we did (or are planning to do) in the vineyard and winery.
    My reservations and hestiations at first were: a) I don’t know how to write for the public, and b) I’ve got nothing interesting to write about.
    Well, after a year, a) I still don’t know how to write for the public! and b) I think to myself “well, maybe someone somewhere finds it interesting”
    Thanks again – I was getting depressed at the tiny number of visitors I get! :)

  2. Jason Moore has a good winemaker’s blog recently started as: http://winemakerjasonmoore.blogspot.com/

    I can see how winemakers wouldn’t feel they’ve got anything exciting to say. It’s the classic case of being too close to the subject to understand how truly exciting winemaking is to someone trapped in a 9-5 cubicle. The whole idea of getting paid to drink wine is absolutely thrilling to many people.

    I’ll have to say, however, that you, Steve, are in the highest percentile of blogging aptitude. What may take you 10 minutes takes the rest of us three to five times longer.

    For my own “winemaker’s perspective blog” for the local newspaper, it is really A LOT of work for this writer procrastinator here to get three 200-word musings out each week. Granted the format makes it more of a challenge to be concise.

    One issue is that while there may seem to be nothing to write about between barrel toppings, there is actually SO MUCH going on in this industry that sometimes it’s tough deciding what to write on next.

    But rather than continuing sounding discouraging, I’d like to encourage winemakers to just sit down and start typing in your own voice with all the typos and imperfections. Ultimately, readers just want a connection and to get to know who that person is that put that nice wine into that bottle.

  3. Steve-

    One thing to keep in mind with winemaker / winery blogs- A lot of them need to be checked, not necessarily to make fluff (though that is usually the case), but in parts to make sure the producer isn’t going to be fined or sued.

  4. Well, Hardy, that’s exactly the problem. Once the lawyers start censoring, the blog loses most of its interest and turns into an advertisement for the winery.

  5. Steve, after 10 months, and 40 blogs later, I have continued to write for no readers…at least, so I thought. Fabius, this may reflect your experience also. Friends from high school yrs(50 yrs ago), distant family relatives I have never met, and a whole host of other folks have read one,(and most, more or all) of the blogs I have posted. Yet, I have had but 2 or 3 responses total, to all these blogs. Curious as to why many folks have read my blog, yet never commented, I tried to do a rundown on all those I have found who have read my blogs. The simple answer is, while many have enjoyed reading my blog, very few if any, feel comfortable in responding, asking a question, and so forth. So Fabius, don’t despair, and same to those of you other grower/vintner types who write a blog and think it is not being read. There are just many folks out there who feel uncomfortable putting their words or thots to the page. I was literally amazed to find out how many folks have read my blog…yet have never responded/interacted. Strange , no?

  6. It’s strange indeed. Keep on blogging!

  7. Great comments.

    Who is better to learn from than the person who made the wine? Winemakers who blog show the world and potential customers there is a real person behind the wine and for some that will become enough of a buying criteria.

    You are right about the urge of others to control the story – I think the closer to the wild west the better – yes there will be a content hiccup along the way and most likely it will be easily cleaned up as needed rather than sterilize the realities of every day. That’s what creates the magic.

  8. I’ve been publishing our blog since January 2006; it covers the joys and frustrations of a small winery and vineyard in Ripley Ohio. We also have created many “mini”-movies for youtube, which document various processes in the vineyard and winery. Since it is basically just the two of us with some part-time help, you are getting the real stories!

  9. Welcome to the winemaker’s blogging world, Geoffroy! Glad to have you among us! (via Steve’s post).

    I am the wife part of a husband/wife family owned winery in Portugal, (he’s too busy in the vineyard and the winery, and disdains the idea of writing a blog post!). But, the Mrs. here, has always been verbose to the extreme, and therefore, we chat at the breakfast or dinner table about what is going on in the vineyard or winery that day, and voila, the next blog post idea emerges! True team work!

    There’s nothing I like better in my spare time (?) to read other winemaker’s blogs, so I look forward to reading Geoffroy’s, and also look forward to having a look at the other blogs linked to the winemakers who have left their comments here.

  10. I agree this is encouraging. Thanks for this post Steve. I’ll give it a second try following your advise and as Fabious wrote, maybe someone somewhere, any time, finds it useful.
    Regards

  11. I’ve been blogging about wine, winemaking, grape growing, and my own take onthe wine industry since 2004. My blog has never garnered a lot of comments, so I am always astonished when a customer in our tasting salon starts a conversation with “I read on your blog…” Same thing in emails and Facebook notes. I will be thinking I have no readers, bam – someone mentions the blog, then I remember to check stats, and sure enough people ARE reading.

    Honestly, I have written, and would write whether I have readers or not – the blog has always been to me a journal and an outlet for rants that build up over time.

    Our winery is too small to have a PR department to “edit” my posts, but I do self-censor: don’t want to embarrass my business partners, or libel anyone, or infringe on anyone’s intellectual property. I’m not sure what my other legal constraints are – Hardy, what might we be “fined” for?

    All of which reminds me – my posts have been pretty thin on the ground of late – perhaps I’m too busy with Facebook and Twitter? (nah – just sick, tired and/or lazy lately) – so I need to write something. Steve is one among several bloggers I follow and admire for their regular and cogent postings – I wish I could be more like you guys.

  12. I had to chuckle a little because I had all the same thoughts before I started blogging a couple of years ago, didn’t really believe that anyone would want to follow along, but they do. Comments are slim to none, but just knowing that people are reading is enough. This has given me cause to think that I should just let people know that if they have any questions that they chime in- haven’t really sent out the invitation!

    It is a very creative outlet that I enjoy on a personal level- Steve, you have given me encouragement to continue and not worry as much as I do about what I write- Thank you!

  13. Penelope, thank you. It means a lot to me, more than you know, to believe I encourage anyone. Keep on blogging!

  14. The issue with winemaker blogs is we aren’t opinionated enough to express ourselves:)

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