The Difference Between Wine Writers, Bloggers and Critics

dictionaryOver the course of the past week, I’ve been interacting with different folks in a number of forum where the subjects of the wine media and the wine trade in particular have been commingled in the discussions. It became clear that too often these conversations are stalled when different terms are used differently, particularly where the subject of the wine media is concerned.

So, I thought I’ve offer a few definitions and explanations on this subject. Below are words often bandied about in different ways when the issue of the Wine Media is discussed along with descriptions of what I mean when I use them and what I think they ought to mean when others use them.

Wine Expert:
They who are more informed, more learned and more experienced in the subject of wine or a sub-set of wine subject matter than the vast majority of others who possess either a passing or professional interest in the subject. They are often recognized for their expertise by being sought out for their counsel or advice, through the regular publication of their ideas and thoughts, and by often appearing at public events—almost always for a fee. They may not be Wine Writers, but they often do write about wine for publication. Wine Critics are often Wine Experts, but Wine Experts are not always Wine Critics.

Wine Authority
Practically a synonym for “expert”. Oftentimes one sees “recognized” appended before the word, though this seems redundant.

Wine Blogger
In their most basic form, a wine blogger writes about some aspect of wine in a self-published format that is commonly defined by “posts” or articles that appear sequentially, with the latest on the home page or the top o the blog. While not always true for most wine bloggers, it can be said that they generally are not writers first, they generally are unpaid beyond occasional ads on the blog, they have a regular schedule for new posts and they have a relatively small readership compared to established wine media. The Wine Blogger has, however, become established as a part of he wine media.

Wine Author
Not a term one sees commonly, but when used it tends to describe a person who has had their work published in book format by a reputable book publisher and they are paid. A Wine Author might be a Wine Authority, but isn’t always a Wine Authority or a Wine Critic.

Wine Critic
A Wine Critic has as their primary pursuit the review of individual wines. The term is almost always applied to a person who critiques wines as a profession. They may or may not rate wines on a scale or some sort. A Wine Critic is most commonly also a Wine Expert, but not always a Wine Expert. A Wine Critic is not always a Wine Writer, but they often are.

Wine Reviewer
(See “Wine Critic”)

Wine Writer
A generic term that is often applied to Wine Critics, Wine Bloggers, Wine Authors and those who are paid to write about wine in a variety of publications. When the primary moniker used to identify the person, it is likely they get paid for their writing, but it is not a requirement that one be paid in order to be deemed a Wine Writer (See Blogger). A Wine Writer is almost always a Wine Expert, but isn’t always a Wine Expect, nor are they always Wine Critics, but they may also be a Wine Critic.

Wine Advocate
A relatively obscure term, but sometimes used to identify an individual who in one way or another promotes the consumption of wine as a positive thing. They may promote the consumption of wine in professional writing, in blogs, on social media platforms, as a member of the wine trade, or simply in their daily interactions.

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19 Responses

  1. Michael Pleitgen - March 12, 2013

    Sorry Tom, what does mean: “A Wine Critic is most commonly also a Wine Expert, but not always a Wine Expect.” What’s a “Wine Expect”?

  2. Tom Wark - March 12, 2013

    Michael:

    That is a typo. Commonly executed by a blogger, but not always a blogger, though sometimes a blogger.

    (thanks)

  3. Paul Franson - March 12, 2013

    And:

    Writer: Someone who writes about various subjects, perhaps including wine, but also maybe lifestyle and other subjects, and may or may not be paid for that work. I’m often called a “wine writer,” but I’m not. I happen to know a fair amount about wine and write about both its production and consumption, but that’s far from all I do. And I only write when I’m paid. My suister reminds me I don’t write to her…

  4. Michael DeLoach - March 12, 2013

    Tom,

    This is too tempting to resist parody. Here goes:

    Wine Expert: May be identified by any number objects hanging from neck. Could be a tastevin, could be a sommelier medal, could be a wine glass sling, could be a wine groupie.

    Wine Authority: Total Wine’s new competition. Look for one opening in a mall near you.

    Wine Blogger: Has access to a computer. Able to create WordPress account, also to fog mirror when held under nose.

    Wine Author: Member of a group that can be numbered on one’s fingers.

    Wine Critic: False God worshipped/abhorred by Wine Experts.

    Wine Reviewer: Regularly sent mulitple cases of wine by unsuspecting producers.

    Wine Writer: Columnist in search of publisher.

    Wine Advocate: A widely admired wine reviewing publication in the 1980s.

    Cheers.

  5. Tom Wark - March 12, 2013

    Michael,

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I can always count on you to deliver the proper perspective!

  6. Kyle Schlachter - March 12, 2013

    Wine Bloggers “have a relatively small readership compared to established wine media. The Wine Blogger has, however, become established as a part of [t]he wine media.”

    That’s quite the contradiction… do explain…

  7. doug wilder - March 12, 2013

    From Kyle: Wine Bloggers “have a relatively small readership compared to established wine media. The Wine Blogger has, however, become established as a part of [t]he wine media.”

    That’s quite the contradiction… do explain…

    Kyle, this is easier to understand if you look at it as an indidual wine blogger (could be Alder, or someone just discovering blogspot.com) having x or 1000x readers. However if you look at the Wine blogger community as a whole there are well over 1000 individual parts. And as Wine Bloggers Conference shows, it is growing and maturing.

    Established wine media means – wine columnists from newspapers, advertising-driven magazines, freelance writers and independent critics such as myself. As you can likely appreciate, these cover fairly precise segments of style, length and frequency of what they write. Some of the above may actually write a blog as well but they tend to have established larger readership derived from their primary brand of opinion.

  8. Kyle Schlachter - March 12, 2013

    Tom, sure, I understand your point that you’re looking at two different groves in the same forest and not the trees. But consider this rewording… Wine Media has a relatively small readership compared to established media. The Wine Media has, however, become established as a part of the media.

    Even the average “true” wine writer (member of “true” wine media) has a relatively small readership compared to the “truer” wine media… and there are perhaps almost as many parts of the wine media as wine blogging community.

    It is hard to say something is really part of something when it isn’t really part of something…

  9. Kyle Schlachter - March 12, 2013

    I’m meant, Doug,……

    • doug wilder - March 14, 2013

      Kyle, I just realized that your comment to Tom, may have been intended for me based on the correction. I am not sure though, because I dont understand your comment about the concept of ‘true’, and ‘truer’ wine media. I have no idea what that is. Thanks.

      • Kyle Schlachter - March 14, 2013

        Doug, yes that comment was intended for you. My point with the “true” vs “truer” is that you and Tom (and many others) seem to be parsing the definition of wine media. It seems that there is still a debate if wine blogging counts as being considered wine media. Media is any mode of communication, and in our case about wine. As you say, bloggers, whether of Alder’s stature or any old no-name, are part of the wine media. Tom’s bifurcation of wine media seems like he’s saying, sure bloggers are part of the media but they’re not really part of it or that sure bloggers are a real part of wine media, but “wine columnists from newspapers, advertising-driven magazines, freelance writers and independent critics ” are more real. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a stratification of influence, to which you alluded. Seems that generalizations of blogger vs. columnist seem to be too broad and the case for being established is more of a case by case basis.

        As I reread the post and your comment again, I see your point and generally agree. I think I would have had nothing to say initially if Tom hadn’t used “established” twice in that line I quoted, but said traditional print media or something like that. Does that make sense or did I just completely mentally vomit all over the screen?

        • doug wilder - March 16, 2013

          Keeping the bag of cerebral kitty litter unopened for the moment… I consider any writing that gets read by others as media. A couple years ago, I wrote some very general suggestions for online wine journal writers to adopt if they want to stand out. Here is the link:

          http://www.purelydomesticwinereport.com/worth-noting/2011/6/25/thinking-of-writing-a-wine-blog-not-so-fast-kid.html

          Fundamentally, I support the advancement of all writers to go as far as they dream, however do suggest that unless they already have a platform somewhere that narrowing the focus of writing to a niche is advisable simply because there are already a plethora of blogging generalists (and according to Heimoff, we already know who the good ones are) and as with anything, knowledge, authority and expertise = influence. As a former blogger who made the transition to publishing a subscription-based wine review magazine with a niche focus, I can attest there is very little difference in how I write now compared to before, it was all in shifting the platform of engagement, therefore changing the expectation.

          Your Colorado focus is an example of niche writing, as is Lenn Thompson’s New York Cork Report, or Hawk Wakawaka and her imaginative take on describing wine in illustrations.

  10. Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka - March 13, 2013

    I mourn the decline of copy editors.

    dang. I think I’m supposed to misspell somethink.

  11. Paul Gregutt - March 13, 2013

    Tom, you are the Noah Webster of wine scribe definers! It’s an interesting skill list, and as far as I can tell, I’m all of them rolled into one. I don’t believe there are very many like me out there. Does that make me a Winosaur?

  12. Tom Wark - March 13, 2013

    Paul, there are not many like you and it takes quite an effort to get to where you are. We can probably count the Paul Gregutts of the wine media world on two hands.

    Tom….

  13. Fredric Koeppel - March 13, 2013

    The very amorphous nature of several of these terms implies the amorphous nature of what many of us do. Wine critics can be bloggers; bloggers can be critics and writers. Bloggers who write narrative posts, review wines and provide commentary on the wine industry — and there are some — should not be categorized too narrowly. We’re all writers, albeit some are better writers than others, so the notion that there are important differences between writers for print media and writers for electronic media doesn’t really matter, except, of course, in monetary compensation. I suppose that’s why freelance journalism was invented…

  14. Bob Henry (wine industry professional) - March 23, 2013

    On the subject of compensation for being a professional wine writer . . .

    Excerpt from the Los Angeles Times Online
    (March 20, 2013):

    “Wine Advocate Sues Ex-Critic Antonio Galloni for Missing Tasting Notes”

    [Link: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/dailydish/la-dd-wine-advocate-sues-excritic-antonio-galloni-for-missing-tasting-notes-20130320,0,2753202.story

    By S. Irene Virbila
    “Daily Dish” Column

    The breakup of the Wine Advocate’s Robert B. Parker with his former lead wine critic Antonio Galloni is getting ugly. . . .

    . . . now the Wine Advocate is suing Galloni for breach of contract -- and fraud. According to a story up at “the Wine Cellar Insider” by founder Jeff Leve, “the problem is that prior to the sale of The Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni, who was being paid $300,000 and expenses per year, contracted to write about and review the wines of Sonoma, California and other regions for Robert Parker and The Wine Advocate. Galloni refused to deliver the work product once he ended his business relationship with the company. He claimed that he was unable to finish his report on time as it would not do justice to the region.” Read more of Galloni’s side of the issue at his site.

    First thought: $300,000 is an astonishingly high salary [for Galloni's contributions to The Wine Advocate]], especially since I remember seeing a tweet sent by someone at The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley in February.

    Only three of the wine writers in the room earned more than $25,000 per year from their writing.

    . . .

  15. Aston Lovell - April 29, 2013

    The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley in February.

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