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:

1. Reviewing
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.

18 Responses

  1. Paul Mabray - December 7, 2006

    Please count us in to sponsor these awards.
    Inertia – Powering the Wine Revolution
    —Paul Mabray – CEO

  2. eljefe - December 7, 2006

    hi Tom – love the logo!
    If winery blogs are not to be considered (I think we kind of fit into the 4th type, sorta) then you can count Twisted Oak in as a sponsor (if appropriate) or at least as a supporter.
    Why just American?
    – j

  3. winehiker - December 8, 2006

    If I may offer a suggestion, there are some pretty good wine blogs out there worth nominating under a few categories I can think of, including best wine journalism blogger, best wine marketing blogger, best wine review blogger, and best new wine blogger. One could also break these down by number of posts/length of time posting and/or a combination of writing ability (subjective) and Blog Juice (objective).

  4. Steve Bachmann - December 8, 2006

    We are a society intent on measuring and reviewing everything from wine to TV shows, acting, food, movies, journalism, art, advertisements, etc. — so why not wine blogging? It sure seems like there is a critical mass to analyze. The prior comments on creating different categories of review is a good idea. I suspect there would be plenty of candidates willing to help sponsor it too.

  5. Ralphie Nadal - December 8, 2006

    Everything in life is about achieving something if you are a well educated person. Awards are a stupid and important thing. In a certain extent they just say: “you got the vote from most of the people.” In another way, it means you achieved a goal by letting others know what you make. In this case wine, so people around the world will know you and your product as one of the best.

  6. Dr. Debs - December 8, 2006

    I think the idea of categories is a good one, but since many blogs cross categories suggested here, it will be tricky to decide where they go.
    As for what these awards could/should do, Tom, you have a lot of loyal readers. Just by starting and supporting these awards you will draw attention to blogs that are newer, quirkier, and important to all of us in terms of bringing more voices into the national conversation about wine. When you mentioned my blog (very kind of you, by the way) in a post, my circulation quadrupled in a single day. I like your weekly wine link feature that you did today on Ken, and I’m guessing he saw a jump in his stats, too.
    Just imagining that the awards could do a similar thing, and recognize folks who are making a contribution to the culture of wine–cause that’s what they’re doing. Blogging is the new wine culture, in my opinion and the jump in numbers you spoke of recently reflects that.

  7. Gregg Johnson - December 9, 2006

    The American Wine Blog Awards is a great and timely idea. I like the categories you’ve outlined, possibly including an ‘Overall’ category as well. If nothing else, (as far as blogging is concerned which is my interest), it can be a learning vehicle for wine bloggers to see what makes a wine blog a great wine blog.

  8. winehiker - December 9, 2006

    Gregg, you make a good point. Learning is good, but a learning vehicle that points one toward achievement as an objective – even if that objective is viewed as flawed in some circles – is still good learning. And I’m all for upping the knowledge base.

  9. Larian LeQuella - December 10, 2006

    I can’t offer any other support than to read the blogs and send my friends to them, but that I will do. 🙂 Keep up the good work all of you.

  10. Alder - December 10, 2006

    I both look forward to and tremble in fear every time I hear of another grassroots blog awards program.
    Tom, I’d like to offer this small suggestion, which you may already have well in hand: figure out some way to make the the program as little of a “popularity contest as possible.” The second edition of the Food Blogging Awards did a very good job of this by essentially letting anyone get nominated and then assembling a panel of judges with a formal set of criteria for actually deciding the winners in each category. So much better than the “easier” route, which would be to let people flog their friends into a voting frenzy in an effort to win.
    If I can help in any way, let me know.

  11. Alder - December 10, 2006

    P.S. What was the thinking behind making them just American ?

  12. ryan opaz - December 11, 2006

    Yeah the American part is confusing! I’m an American, with a iberian wine blog. ALso you wouldn’t want to leave out people like spittoon….lots of good english wine blogs that are not american!

  13. tom - December 11, 2006

    Think of them as “American” insofar as they origninate from America.

  14. Taylor - December 11, 2006

    Great logo. Interesting idea. We look forward to seeing what happens next!

  15. Jason - December 13, 2006

    Tom, given the spirit of blogs, and web 2.0, the global community and that blogs have no borders etc., don’t you think it would make sense to include all blogs, wherever written? For eaxmple, our winery is in South Africa, our blog is on a UK server and I often write posts while I am in the US….

  16. Bradley - December 14, 2006

    Yes, drop the American and make it World.
    Own it, just like the major league baseball championship – the ‘World Series’.

  17. Bradley - December 14, 2006

    Yes, drop the American and make it World.
    Own it, just like the major league baseball championship – the ‘World Series’.

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