The Wine Blog Categorizaton Project

Categorization I don't know how many wine blogs there are today. Over a 1000 in the English language is the best I can offer and even that is such a useless estimate. Most folks who have gone about attempting to categorize and list the various wine blogs that exist eventually just start to list them. Alder at Vinography has a pretty damned impressive listโ€”about 700 or so in English. But that's the best that even he can do: "Blogs in English".

Categorization. It's everywhere, yet no where to be found in the word of wine blogs.

The person who goes about attempting to categorize the 1000 (1200?, 1100?) wine blogs that are out there will have my eternal gratitude. But how would such a categorization categorize? I started thinking about this as I was looking at the various nominations that have been delivered up in the 2011 Wine Blog Awards. There are 8 categories of blogs there: Best Overall, Best Writing, Best Business blog, Best Single Subject Blog, Best Presentation, Best Wine Reviews, Best New Blog and Best Winery Blog.

It's a good enough categorization for awards purposes as it hits a lot of the bases without being so specific as to divide every blog into its own category.

But what if we were to go about categorizing all the blogs we could find? How?

1. To be useful, it would have to create categories that allow us a decent chance of finding what we are looking for.

2. It should be such that it will introduce us to blogs we didn't think we knew we wanted to read

3. It should take account of the way the world of wine divides itself and assume that wine blogs are likely to take on similar divisions: Varietal, place, professional, amateur.

Clearly what we need is an industrious person to go about looking at all these blogs and placing them in various categories, with the understanding that a single blog might not only be, for example, written by an amateur, but also focus on tasting notes and only of wines produced in Oregon.

Clearly we would need a search mechanism. The searching blog reader should be able to tell the engine they want a blog that focuses on Pinot Noir and travel; or emphasizes wine law; or is general in nature and prone to essays of the same sort.

Every now and then I come across a blog I've never heard of. The blog will be very good and interesting and I enjoy reading it, but from the looks of the comment section, it appears the author is toiling away in obscurity. Then I discover they have been doing this lonely toiling for two and a half years. At first I'm astonished at the lack of ego possessed by the writer, then I realize I need to let them know someone is reading. So I'll write them. Sometimes I'll write about them. But most of all, I'm impressed.

It ought to be easier for me to find these blogs I've never found. I wish it were. I wish someone would take up the "Wine Blog Categorization Project".


28 Responses

  1. Paul Mabray - May 30, 2011

    Two things – you should talk to [email protected] – through the Cruvee engine we have cataloged ALMOST all wine blogs on the internet (and categorize them about the understanding of what they blog about).
    @pinotblogger started a great project awhile ago called that seemed like an awesome project that we’d love to help mature.

  2. Maciek Gontarz - May 30, 2011

    Tom, I believe wine industry needs such a place as a really useful feature to deal with different type of wine writers (as you wrote – all wine bloggers are wine writers…).
    To me the very best way to achieve goals you’ve described is to launch open platform which will allow everyone to register/add their web-place to catalogue and in the same time to assign them to listed categories: topic, language, etc.
    Anyway, I’m really impressed by Alder’s list!

  3. Tom Wark - May 30, 2011

    Alders list is impressive.
    I’d actually prefer to see an individual with an editors head take on the project. My sense is it would become comprehensive more quickly and be more consistent. It might be too hard to get 1000+ bloggers to do it themselves.

  4. Tom Wark - May 30, 2011

    Why mot publish the vintAnk work?

  5. Marie Payton - May 30, 2011

    It’s a very impressive list but doesn’t help us categorize and thus easily find what we’re looking for! There are a lot of us with a love of wine and different things to say …

  6. Tom Wark - May 30, 2011

    So, Marie. All we need now is a categorizer. 1000 blogs. 20 categorized per day. Less than 2 months of work.

  7. swirlgirl denver - May 30, 2011

    here’s one worth checking out:

  8. Maciek Gontarz - May 31, 2011

    @Tom – try to think positive. I really do believe in power of the internet. To me it’s just a matter of agreement with something like 20 bloggers who have the biggest reach by asking them for announcement about project and encourage people to add to the catalogue.
    Seems to be possible, maybe it’s worth to try…;)

  9. 1WineDude - May 31, 2011

    A system like that would be interesting but I think of very limited utility to the general wine-buying public.
    That’s because just about all the data gathered on Internet usage shows that people don’t use those types of catalogs – they search instead. So to be really useful, the categorization would need to be incredibly search-friendly. COuld be that the Cruvee stuff is already this way – dunno, waiting on Paul’s response to Tom’s comment above. But generally speaking, this kind of proposed list doesn’t get used, or rather it’s utilization is far, far, FAR eclipsed by search.

  10. Tom Wark - May 31, 2011

    Hi Dude…
    I see your point. However, I think it’s important to note the difference is substance between what Bing or Google will return to a query and what a well categorized database would offer the searcher. Google will return the most popular and surely not all the blogs that match a particular query. However, our imagined database will return them all. I’m more concerned with comprehensiveness than with likely utility to the masses.

  11. Maciek Gontarz - May 31, 2011

    @Tom – I agree on your approach.
    @1WineDude – such a thing might be helpful not only for the people but also to the industry; finding contacts, inviting to the events, etc.

  12. Paul Mabray - May 31, 2011

    As soon as we get a spare cycle, we will but we are just underwater with cruvee upgrades, and other client work

  13. Alder Yarrow - May 31, 2011

    Hey, I’ve also got the “Blogs in Slovenian” Category too !
    When I started the list, it was enough to distinguish by the language the blog was written in as there weren’t that many. Native language is obviously not the best way to categorize now.
    But now that there are thousands, why do we need categories? Once you get beyond some very high level categorizations like: Blogs that review wines, blogs that don’t review wines, etc. it becomes very difficult to come up with buckets that subdivide the group into meaningful and navigational chunks.
    The only real way to make sense of them would be to do more of a semantic tagging mechanism (think

  14. Nova C. - May 31, 2011

    Alder’s list is amazing but I didn’t see mine on there. I think the idea of categories is fantastic! That way we can focus on the types of blogs that we like to read or that we can recommend to others.

  15. Tom Wark - May 31, 2011

    I’m a little surprised you didn’t chime in earlier. What, you have clients or something?
    One of the reasons I think an editor’s eye would be appropriate for this project is that a system can’t quite get at the heart of a blog’s focus without additional interpretation.
    What I think would be very helpful, and which I think an editor could do best is to analyze blogs and determine if they are..
    1. Primarily wine reviewing blogs
    2. Based out of particular countries
    3. Focus exclusively on a specific topic (Pinot or Trader Joes wine)
    4. Are marketing oriented
    5. Are graphics heavy
    6. If they accept sameples.
    I’m not a complete fool. I realize this is a pretty darned big project (something I don’t have time for). But I do think its an editor’s eye that is needed.
    …And thank God someone like you IS listing the Slovenian wine blogs.

  16. David Honig - May 31, 2011

    Tom we played with it, and did it with an “editor’s eye,” and decided it was a futile exercise. Why? A whole bunch of reasons.
    1. What is a “wine blog”? Is Palate Press a blog or a magazine? How about Bottlenotes, really a business, but it’s a blog, too. Cork’d? WineLibraryTV? Is a “blog” a personal diary, just one person’s thoughts, or is it anything on line about wine?
    2. Even as you write the list it becomes outdated, not just from new blogs, but old ones that don’t publish anymore. Heck, you’re more up to date than just about anybody and you still have a Hosemaster link. His last post was in August. Do we really need another list to old or dead links?
    3. Animal, vegetable, or mineral? Joe Roberts writes wine reviews. He writes about the wine industry. He writes wine travel stories. He writes personal stories about his exploration of a career in wine. So what category do you put him in? If several, now you’re talking about taking 1,000+ and adding one of those little numbers to the right and slightly above and trying to count all the zeros.
    4. Enormity. If we start taking the number of bloggers to the 2nd or 3rd power, how useful is the list? Who would actually use it, and for what? Even if we narrow down the list to just those sites that review wine and accept samples, how useful is that? Unless the winery has real numbers about how many page views somebody gets and how many uniques they have, does it really matter?
    5. Utility. Perhaps rather than going through the list-making exercise, a better one might be asking, “what is the value of wine blogs to industry and consumers, and how can we help them?” Industry really wants to know two things – how many page views, and how many uniques. If you write like Meg Houston Maker but get page views like my eight-year old’s personal website, does industry care? Do consumers? Does putting you on a list help anybody?
    I might just be a contrarian (okay, I AM a contrarian), but I’m not sure succombing to the human tendency to make lists serves any actual purpose in this particular case.

  17. Ryan Reichert - May 31, 2011

    Hey Tom,
    First, I agree with David’s argument … even though I myself am constantly lured into hours of time wasting at places like It’s something we just inherently love to do.
    That said, Wine Blogger ( did a decent job, using useful categories (and cross categories) by region, topic, etc.
    It’s been a while since I looked, and now that I do, I see they’re in “maintenance mode.” Assuming that “maintenance” is just temporary and the site hasn’t just been like that for a long while, I’d suggest checking them out.

  18. Tom Wark - May 31, 2011

    1. A wine blog is like pornography
    2. Every list becomes outdated if it’s upkeep isn’t a priority
    3. We’ll categorize Joe as a ” generalist”
    4. The list isn’t as large as all that. 1500 max.
    5. Utility is in eye of the beholder. Some want uniques. Some want inspiration. Some want facts. Some just want more. Some want to discover new voices.
    And, I appreciate Contrarians.

  19. Kathy - June 1, 2011

    I wonder if this is something a student/students could do as dissertation at Sonoma or Cornell or any number of schools.
    Alternatively, would wine librarians be interested in participating?
    As a practical matter, this amount of time would require sponsorship of some sort And, it would need regular update – which, I guess, Cruvee could make happen.
    In the end, is this worthwhile…and to whom?

  20. Fabio - June 1, 2011

    Tom, as you say it’s just 1000+ blogs and a categorizer could do it in 2 months max. Why don’t you just send an email or tweet or whatever to all your friends/followers/whatevers? Surely one categorizer/editor will step forward and volunteer!
    It’s the sort of think I’d love to do myself, but like everyone else, have no time ๐Ÿ™

  21. Arnold Waldstein - June 1, 2011

    Very interested in this comprehensive bloggers list. Can you make an intro for me?
    Building a curation system for natural wine bloggers and this is a great asset.
    [email protected] or for contact points.

  22. Arnold Waldstein - June 1, 2011

    This post raises some interesting questions. Thanks for bringing this out.
    I suggest another point of view and approach.
    Categories are the thing of libraries; filters are the tools of the social web.
    Bloggers cross a lot of categories in their posts and categories will always break or become too broad to be useful.
    For example, I’m building a curation portal that will aggregate info and posts on natural wines. (Let’s not argue the definition now;))
    What would be great along with the traditional categorical ‘blog roll’ would be a simple API where the bloggers could categorize their entries, some are appropriate to be pulled into through the API, some not.
    This creates a filter for my reader, creates a market for the bloggers posts, and general recognition as readers will follow the links back and discover more of the bloggers writings.
    Filters not categories are dynamic tools and I think a better way to proceed.
    Looking for input on this and bloggers who would be willing to be involved.
    [email protected]

  23. 1WineDude - June 1, 2011

    For the record, I’d like to be categorized as “mineral.” Like a tank, or something cool like that.

  24. Robert McIntosh (@thirstforwine) - June 1, 2011

    This post comes about a day or two too early to share a possible answer to your conundrum, that we are working on at Vrazon … but the points you make are very valid, and there is a lot of goodwill out there to try and build and maintain a tool that would help us all, blogger and reader alike.
    I promise to share it here as soon as i can and look forward to all the combined experience and knowledge of this audience for constructive criticism ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. James Jory - June 1, 2011

    As Paul mentioned, Cruvee does track posts (and often comments–where possible) on blogs. Our scope reaches beyond what has been traditionally considered a wine blog, though. Essentially any blog that mentions wine will be picked up by Cruvee and added to our list. This allows us to discover blogs that would not self-select as being a “wine blog” or would be missed by an editorially managed list. Of the 110K blogs in our system, just over 7K are considered wine focused. Once cataloged, blogs self-categorize based on many factors including post frequency (wine vs. non-wine posts), post categories and tags, and post content (i.e. word clouds). Although less structured, this organic approach is more flexible and offers interesting opportunities for discovery when it comes to learning what people are writing about.

  26. Anatoli Levine - June 6, 2011

    As it was already mentioned here in the comments, I believe categorization of the wine blogs would be purely scientific exercise of very little (or none) practical value. Of course some of the blogs can be single purpose – for instance, winery blogs used for marketing communication. But most of the “amateur blogs” will span across great number of categories, making classification difficult if not impossible.
    I believe search engine would be a much better tool to navigate wine blogs on a particular subject – however, searching through full collection of all wine blogs on internet might be the best.
    And yes, based on Tom’s classification, I have one of those wine blogs “toiling away in obscurity” ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Rolando Mucciarelli - June 16, 2011

    The problem with a database is its maintenance. I mean, who check, everyday or every month, if are all listed blogs always up?
    Otherwise one can create a portal with only categories and three or four sub-categories, as every wine-blogger can insert his/her blog into that one he/she wants.
    I think this solution is less time-expensive that a search-engine dedicated at wine, and only effort is to evangelize wine lovers and wine bloggers.
    I’ve find your blog thank facebook, for example, and many other too with twitter or thanks link listed at side columns or link in the comments at this post…

  28. Ben Ward - June 20, 2011

    Tom, best of luck, these seems like a huge project!
    I think there will be great value here, just figuring out a way that is pretty much fool proof will be the challenging part!

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