Bloggerview #1: Fredric Koeppel
THE BLOGGERVIEW #1
Name: Fredric Koeppel
Blog: Bigger Than Your Head
Fredric Koeppel has written about wine professionally since long before there was an Internet or e-mail. In 2006 he launched "BIGGER THAN YOUR HEAD", a wine blog meant to "gazes critically at the creating and preparing, the marketing and
selling, the truth and the hypocrisy, the issues and the language
behind what we eat and drink."
1. When did you begin blogging and why?
I launched BTYH in December 2006 because I wanted to reach a wider audience than I get for KoeppelOnWine.com, which is a "magazine" style format for wine reviews and commentary. Not that KOnW isn’t personal, but it’s rather formal in composition and educational by policy, and I wanted a voice that was more personal, more direct and snarky. BTYH is a forum where I can be a little weirder and take on other issues related to wine and food, wine lists, peeves, wine industry silliness and so on. It’s ok to be a little bit of an asshole if you do it with a pure heart.
2 In two sentences describe the focus of your wine blog.
BTYH is primarily about wine, not in the sense of a series of reviews (or the "wine of the day" format) but in making connections among styles and genres of wine and of making their contexts and even their reasons for existing clear. I also want to make connections between wine and food and the eating experience, including "the good, the bad, and the rest of it."
3. What sets your wine blog apart from the pack?
I think, first, the design, which is clean and elegant and easily navigated. Second, while not meaning to disparage the efforts or blogs of people who are newcomers to wine and writing or new enthusiasts, I have the knowledge and experience of having written about wine since 1984, first for 20 years with a weekly, nationally distributed newspaper column and then on the website. Third, I bring the skepticism of a full-time journalist; a lot of wine-writers and bloggers are too respectful and accepting of industry greed and publicity hypocrisy.
4. How would you characterize the growth in your readership since beginning your blog?
In January this year, hits on BTYH were 6800; for August the number of hits was 14,640. It ain’t YouTube, but it’s growing.
5. Do you accept sample for review?
6. What kind of wine rating/review system do you use and why?
I have never used a numerical rating in wine reviews. My system is Avoid, Good, Good+, Very Good, Very Good+, Excellent and Exceptional. Seven categories should cover every possibility. The important factors are the words, the descriptions, the sensations, the attempt to convey the spirit of a wine.
7. How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
Ha! During the week, I get up at 5, deal with the animals (see below) and write on the blog or website for an hour, do breakfast and the newspapers and go to work; then I try to get in 30 or 45 minutes before crashing at night. On weekends, I try to spend three to five hours each day between the usual tasks and errands (and making the pizza for Saturday pizza and movie night).
8. Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
So far all the marketing has been word of mouth, or I guess "word of web," through links (other blogs and websites) and email. I have a MySpace page (who doesn’t?) but I don’t keep up with it. I’m considering a few possibilities in the form of print advertising, in a small way, just to see how that works. There must be some way to make money at this game.
9. In your view how, if at all, is blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
Any print source dictates limitations in space, style and language. The chief freedom of blogging is the near elimination of those constraints. This can be a detriment, of course (there’s an edge of hysteria out there in the blogosphere), but largely serves as an advantage in breaking down barriers of time, space and knowledge.
10. Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
Fermentation (of course!), The Pour, Vinography, Mondosapore, Benito, Alice Feiring. There are so many wine blogs! And food blogs!
11. Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
I think that gradually wine blogging will have an impact on the industry, just as political and cultural blogging has had an impact on national politics. It’s a matter of positioning blogs as entities of importance and seriousness and wide range.
12. Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?
Paris. Give me restaurants and museums, wine shops and old architecture any day.
13. Pet: Dog or Cat?
Two cats, five dogs, all rescues.
14. Airplane Reading: New Yorker or People?
New Yorker. My whole background and education is in English and American literature, and I taught English and creative writing at college level for 17 years before leaping into journalism.
15. Car: Prius or BMW?
BMW. Not that I don’t care about the environment. My car is a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 380 SEL, my means of transport and also a hobby, an avocation, a commitment.
16. Chablis or California Chardonnay?
Oh, Chablis, please, Chablis!.
17.Your Last Meal Would Be?
For The Last Meal, I wouldn’t go to any of the great restaurants or anything, much as I enjoy that kind of thing. I would rather be home and have one of the meals we ordinarily have in the house we love, with the dogs sleeping on the floor around us, candle-light, and Vivaldi on the CD player. So I’ll say, a little dish of cod, potato and chorizo stew to start; followed by a roasted chicken and a chopped radicchio and endive salad; and a peach with vanilla ice cream to finish. A Bourgogne Aligote with the stew; a Chambolle -Musigny Les Amoureuses with the chicken; and follow the dessert with a glass of Amaro Nonino. I guess that would do it.
18. What is Heaven Like?
Everything good that we have here on earth is heaven enough for me.
19. If you could invite 4 people dead or alive to your fantasy dinner party, who would they be and who would you have bring the wine?
I hate these kinds of questions! But here goes. Rubens (artist, traveler and diplomat); John Keats (poet and letter-writer); Susan Sontag (cultural critic and intellectual); Josephine Baker (dancer and humanitarian). I do the wine; you think I would trust anyone else?
20. What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?
Keep an audience in mind. Don’t write about everything that happens to you every day (nobody cares). Don’t be scatter-shot: learn from every wine you taste and write about. Taste wines all the time and read about wine, where it comes from and how it’s made. Go ahead and pay a designer to do your site, unless you’re really experienced. And ALWAYS include the price of the wine. Holy crap, it pisses me off when people don’t do that!