The Wine Blog Award Judges & Some Commentary

In looking for a panel of judges who would contribute 30% of the weight to determining the winners of the American Wine Blog Awards, I was seekng a specific set of qualities. I wanted folks that knew wine, wine consumers and the wine industry. I wanted folks who both were writers and read a lot. I wanted folks who had immersed themselves in the world of Wine Blogs. And I wanted folks who were professionals at communicating. Finally, I wanted folks I knew, knew to be fair and deliberative and who I could trust to be fair.

Those judges were:

Jack Everitt, Fork & Bottle
Jack is one of the two people behind the Fork & Bottle website, a very good writer, a good editor and a gentleman that is well versed in the genre of wine blogging. He has been watching and participating in the food and wine blogging world for quite some time.

Dan Fredman, Dan Fredman Public Relations
Dan is a 25 year veteran of wine retailing and wine marketing and certified wine geek as well as a brilliant communicator and consultant. This means that he’s spent quite sometime looking at wine from the consumer perspective, the sellers perspective and knows what good communications looks like.

Steve Heimoff, Wine Enthusiast Magazine West Coast Editor

Steve is among the most passionate professional wine writers I know. He is the author of two books and writes in every issue of Wine Enthusiasts as well as reviews wines regularly for that publication. He is an outstanding writer, knows wine, and is a keen observer of the world of wine and wine consumer.

Derrick Schneider, Obsession With Food

Derrick is a professional writer and puzzle creator who  maintains one of the best food and wine blogs I know: Obsession With Food. Most importantly, he is very well versed in the wine blogosphere and he world of blogs in general, as well as being somewhat obsessive about good writing and communications.

Wolfgang Webber, Wine & Spirits Magazine Senior Editor
Wolfgang is an editor at Wine & Spirits Magazine where he writes on all manner of topics as well as tastes and reviews wines on a regular basis. He recently began his own wine blog, Spume.  This is a person ensconced in the world of wine and what it takes to create a publication as well as create compelling copy for a wine publication.

Tori Wilder, Wilder PR
The former Director of Communications for Napa Valley Vintners and Princess Cruises, Tori now maintains her own PR firm in Napa Valley. I know few people with a better eye for what works in terms of communicating effectively with the general public. She has a remarkable BS Meter. She is unique among wine PR folks in that she tends to first and foremost view the world of wine from the consumer perspective rather than the marketer’s perspective.

As I’ve mentioned before, this years American Wine Blog Awards did something different from the first year: the format for choosing the winners from among the finalists combined the vote of the public and the vote of the judges. The public vote accounted for 70% of the input, while the vote of the judges accounted for 30% of the input.

Before the winners are even chosen, however, our panel of judges are responsible for looking over each of the nominated blogs and assessing them based on the the same general criteria that was created for the nomination process. The judges rank the the nominated blogs and from this ranking process the finalists are determined. I give them a general, rather than quantitative, guideline for assessing the nominated blogs simply because I don’t believe there is any possible way to quantify blogging quality. Instead, offering a portrayal or a model of good blogging in each category seems to me the best way to influence the assessment process.

There has been some suggestions here and there that a large panel of judges from across the globe be the responsible party for determining winners of the Wine Blog Awards rather than the public/panel split. Or, that a panel of wine wine bloggers determine the winners giving the Awards something of a Peer-review character. I can’t bring myself to do that.

Determining the winners by the vote of a panel of wine bloggers alone simply does not provide accountability by those for whom blogs, or any publication, are predominantly written: the reader. Instead it provides an evaluation by those who possess a perspective of an insider who must be focused more on the process rather than the output. This is an absolutely valid way of evaluating not only wine blogs but any output of any kind. But it’s not what I’m looking to do with the American Wine Blog Awards.

Determining the winners by a vote of a judging panel alone, while it might bring a keener and more sculpted perspective to the judging process, it is in the end a panel that offers the perspective of the person who creates the panel. While I’m confident I could create a broad panel of judges that together deliver an eye trained on wine blogging quality, the result would be skewed toward me since I created the panel. While I believe my view of the world to be the most important view in the world, I’m not trying to impose my view of the world on these awards. For these awards I think the panel approach works well for the vetting of the nominees and for determining the finalists. But for determining the winners it is more problematic.

A vote that skews the results to the "reading public" can only be achieved by opening the voting up to all that want to vote and then trying to get the word out about the Awards as widely as possible. Obviously, voters will primarily consist of folks sufficiently wine geeky to spend time in the world of wine blogs and reading about wine in general as well as among those who actually produce wine blogs and who read their peers, though the latter will certainly be the minority in this group. This is exactly as I want it. The inclusion of a panel of judges that contribute 30% of the input toward the ultimate winners help offset any highly successful lobbying on the part of finalists. This year, two categories turned out differently than they would have had only the vote of the public been taken. The public vote overruled the view of the judges in 4 categories. And the judges and public came together in the case of two categories.

Sometime time in 2005, and I can’t identify the exact moment, I realized that wine blogs will change the way wine is discovered, the way we learn about wine, the way wine is thought about and the way people seek out advise about their wine choices. For a wine publicist such as myself this was a revelation of the type that changes my daily life, changes the way I do business and changes the way I view my profession. It confirmed that my own blog was not only a good way for me to accommodate my desire to express myself and do business, but it also confirmed that this unique channel of communications should be promoted if the world of wine communication was to be democratized and made far more interesting than it currently was.

The American Wine Blog Awards are a very small attempt at bringing attention to just how good, how useful and how meaningful this category of wine communication can be.

Will there be a 3rd Annual American Wine Blog Awards???

What a good question.

Posted In: Wine Blog Awards


10 Responses

  1. Dr. Debs - March 31, 2008

    Thanks for sharing this information, and thanks to you and all the judges for your hard work. I hope that these awards continue, because I do think that the awards have raised public and industry awareness of wine blogs.

  2. johng - March 31, 2008

    Some of my faves won; some did not. That’s the way it goes. Anybody who takes things much more seriously than that should ask themselves if “Dances with Wolves” is really a better movie than “Goodfellas”? Is “Rocky” better than both “Network” and “Taxi Diver”?? Beyond that, if you have an issue with the way the awards are done, fine, start your own darn awards.

  3. 750 mL - March 31, 2008

    I hate saying things this cliched, but it was really an honor to be a part of this. If you’ve done anything, it’s show the world how much people really love wine–that it is as much a calling as it is an avocation. That our blogs have such dedicated readerships says more than we can ever post online.

  4. AC - March 31, 2008

    Sounds pretty good to me, Tom. Thanks for all the fun…Along with all the winners, we’ll toast (and roast) you over @ Vinitaly

  5. fredric koeppel - April 1, 2008

    Will there be a 3rd AWBA? of course, keep it going. you can’t stop after two!

  6. Brooklynguy - April 1, 2008

    You’ve clearly put a lot of thought into how this is done. You’ll never get everyone to agree on how to do something like this, so trusting your own judgment and being open-minded is the way to go.
    Would you be comfortable “opening” the results for us all to see? In other words, what were the public results and the judges results? Who were the judges?

  7. Brooklynguy - April 1, 2008

    hmmm, i though i deleted the “who were the judges” part of my comment

  8. tom merle - April 1, 2008

    I believe you’ve come up with a suitable methodology for capturing the sentiments of those who read blogs, although because of the relatively low numbers voting, compared, say, to Dancing with the Stars, you really can’t prevent a kind of ballot box stuffing (the guy at Vinfolio, for instance, could have had all his clients vote for him, which is a considerable block).
    That said, I do hope the Open Wine Consortium goes ahead with a wine bloggers guild award given by the “Academy of Wine Blogging Arts and Sciences”. Peers honoring peers.
    They should also go ahead with an awards program that incorporates a far broader set of categories acknowledging excellence in the various applications of Web 2.0. No ~best of~, just citations for leading efforts to apply technology to the promotion of wine sales and marketing.

  9. Estelle Platini - April 1, 2008

    Wow, that’s an impressive panel!
    Congratulations Tom for having such good folks contribute to your competition. It is a success this year as it was last year. This is in part due to the efforts you continued to make at diversity.
    I hope you don’t mind that I mention my ‘citations for leading efforts. For those who don’t know yet this is a low-key list of websites about wine. It is not limited to the US and the inclusion is automatic — based on public data (PageRank, links, traffic). Therefore it lacks the humanity of the AWBA. Tom, please consider renewing the effort next year.

  10. William Vargas - May 5, 2008

    Can you send me the american wine blog awards logo for my magazine in Dominican Republic. Do you have it good resolution? I worte a article about the 2008 winners.

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