Thinkng About Awards
I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of "Awards" lately. As I set my mind to this topic I seem always to come back to the same questions:
What is their purpose? What do they accomplish?
In the case of wine, awards usually come up in the context of competitions…wine competitions into which producers enter their products, have them judged in various (usually varietal) categories and hope to get a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal awarded to them.
These competitions are good things. They have their flaws, but they do point folks to wines that rise to the top based on the evaluations of experienced drinkers. Clearly there is a purpose to these competitions and they do accomplish something good: They recognize good wines.
In the world of journalism, particularly wine journalism, there is very little recognition going on. The James Beard Awards deliver two or three wine-related awards that carry a justly amount of prestige with them. There are also a number of annual awards given out mainly to books that cover wine. But there is no annual awards that honor the various facets of the wine writing genre. But there should be.
Consider the various types of wine writing:
This is a very specific kind of writing that is probably the most useful kind of writing for consumers. And when it is done well and contentiously, wine reviews convert a sensory experience into a literary tale. Not an easy thing to do.
2. Wine News Reporting
There are not a lot of folks, relative to the size of the wine writing genre, that report wine-related news as a profession. Done well, it is not impassioned but rather points the reader to the nugget of information that is timely or has impact. This kind of reporting on wine takes a seasoned nose who can wrap their arms around the entirety of the industry and the consumer segment.
3. The Wine Essayist For the Trade and Enthusiast
Again, this is a relatively small part of the wine writing genre. However, it might be the most impactful. In the pages of places like The Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits, Quarterly Review of Wine, Wine Enthusiast, Wine News, The Wine Report, the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Section and a few other venues wine is explored in depth. This writing can be very influential, helping to move along nascent trends, draw attention to the details of a vintage or highlight an industry practice that might or might not be good for the consumer. This kind of writing almost always demands the attention of a writer that is very well informed, someone who makes a living doing it. But the really hard part about this type of writing is knowing that your audience, while likely made up of industry types and hard core enthusiasts, is probably also populated by folks of lesser knowledge. Writing to both these groups is a task.
4. Writing on Wine for General Consumption
These are the teachers, the educators. This kind of wine writing shows up in newspapers and general interest magazines and usually attracts an audience of casual wine drinkers who have a casual interest in wine. Writing over their head simply can’t be done. Yet, the introduction to wines and regions and wine styles and accessories and learning materials and people that tends to define this kind of writing has to be done with authority to work. It’s a different kind of wine writing.
Then there are blogs. Wine Blogs.
If you don’t believe this is a different (and new) approach to writing about wine then you simply have not acquainted yourself with this new format.
Most wine blogs take an approach to writing about wine that is unique in these ways:
–They are opinionated
-They are personal
-They are interactive
-They are updated regularly
-They represent an type of ongoing discussion about wine.
In two years the number of wine blogs have increased in number nearly 10 fold. They focus on a remarkably broad array of topics, come in various languages, and present a variety of perspectives.
My view is that they are important and those writing them need to be encouraged.
And this answers the questions: What is the purpose of Awards and what do they accomplish?…At least as it relates to the notion of Wine Blog Awards.
The American Wine Blog Awards are coming Soon.