Wine Bloggers and Their Awards Deserve a Change

changeThis blog was recently honored with “Best Industry/Business Wine Blog” at the 2014 Wine Blog Awards. That achievement made me very proud. I’ve spent nearly a decade working fairly diligently at FERMENTATION. In many ways spending almost a decade pondering, writing and generally getting stuff off my chest keeps me sane and centered.

Along those lines of writing and pondering, and to a degree staying sane, I have some ideas about The Wine Blog Awards, and particularly how I think they might evolve for the better

Nominations in each category should be more than simply a matter of anyone tossing out the name of a blog as a nomination and then being done with it. Instead, a nomination, in the category of “Best Writing on a Wine Blog” for example, ought to come with the submission of five or so examples of specific posts that would be used to represent the writing on that blog.

Because reviewing wine, writing about wine, maintaining a wine blog, writing about the business of wine on a blog and such is no different from reviewing wine, writing about wine, writing about the business of wine in any other medium (digital or print) nor from  maintaining a media outlet that isn’t in a blog format, the judges ought to have demonstrable expertise in writing, reviewing and publishing in any format.

Creating a shortlist in each category and ultimately choosing the awards winners ought to be up to the judges, and not the public.

It is time for the Wine Blog Awards to have a name sponsor who can dedicate the time and resources not only to organizing and maintaining the awards, but to publicize farther and wider throughout the awards process.

Beyond these recommendations, there is some thought that needs to be given to the nature of wine blogging, what it is, what it represents, and how the Wine Blog Awards can recognize what is unique or definitional about wine blogging. Wine blogging, and blogging in general, is not the pursuit it once was if only because it is no longer the transitional and door-opening medium it once was. New technology drove the emergence of the wine blog. That technology is now old. Still, the craft of wine blogging is something different. The Wine Blog Awards need in some fundamental way to recognize this difference.


14 Responses

  1. Ron Marsilio - July 22, 2014

    I would bet big money that most followers of wine blogs don’t even know that the awards exist let alone who has won them. Congratulations on a great job Tom. Even if we don’t always agree, you always have something interesting to say. Keep up the good work.

  2. Tom Natan - July 22, 2014

    All good ideas. I do think, though, that the public’s input is useful and could still be part of the judging beyond the initial nominations. Perhaps the popular vote for each entry could be quantified and used as one element in the final tally.

  3. Ex-WBC - July 22, 2014

    There’s just no credibility. Randall Grahm was nominated for two awards, and he blogged a whole four times in 2013. I’m afraid is just too late.

  4. Julie Brosterman - July 22, 2014

    Tom – I have been think the same thing for the past two years so think that it’s a very timely post.

    Those with more social media influence get the votes in which may not reflect the best quality.

    Keep doing what you’re doing – you’re at the top of the game.

  5. fredric koeppel - July 22, 2014

    I have won three awards, in 2009, 2010 and 2013, in my category and am no longer eligible, but I have to say, in regard to your No. 2 point, that I was shocked that one of the winners this year writes so poorly and with an amount of grammar and spelling errors that would get it kicked out of freshman English. Do the judges have no standards?

  6. Mary Baker - July 22, 2014

    Amen. I was a finalist once or twice when you originally hosted the awards. I think the whole process would be better off in your capable hands. Now that I am no longer wine blogging, I volunteer to be judge if you take it over! Maybe you could get one of the large culinary sites, like Chowhound, to be a sponsor?

  7. Frank Morgan - July 22, 2014

    Wine Blog Awards. Yawn.
    While each of your suggestions for improvement, if implemented, would improve the awards, the real improvement would be to scrap WBA altogether. Aside from a (very) few, does anyone really care about WBA? (maybe they do, I’m just not aware of too many that do)

    Do the Wine Blog Awards add any value to WBC? As a four time WBC attendee (2009, 11, 12, 14), I can’t identify any value the awards have added to the conference. Many finalists and winners are not even present (for many valid reasons, like family expansion) while many WBC attendees skip the awards for lack of interest. Just look at the Twitter stream during the awards this year — many attendees were enjoying dinner at local restaurants or spending time with friends at various other tastings. If WBA continue, I do hope your suggestions for improvement are considered. Just 2 cents.

  8. Charlie Olken - July 22, 2014

    I do like the twin ideas of submitted materials by which awards are judged, and I like the idea of professional judges. I would even go so far as to suggest that there might be separate panels for individual categories as the writing of a general blog is very different from and industry blog is very different from a tasting note blog, etc.

    Finally, while I think that popularity contests lead to things like Randall being nominated, I would hate to see the public shut out altogether. Maybe a category of most popular blog could be created that would be done by the vote of the audience who actually care.

  9. Rebecca Gomez Farrell - July 22, 2014

    This was my first WBC, and I can tell you that I’d never heard of the awards before nor did I know most of the winners. But I am not steeped in the field, just writing wine reviews as part of my food and drinking blogging, so I am not the primary target, I think.

  10. Shawn Burgert - July 24, 2014

    Observations –

    Many respect you Tom, and what you do.

    Common theme I could not help but notice in the comments, regarding the awards: credibility.

    I also cannot help but notice, it seems so many of the winners are not in attendance. I’d be curious their thoughts, and why they are noticeably absent.

  11. Tom Wark - July 24, 2014

    Hi Shawn….

    I know this much, the winners are not aware of their status before they are announced at the Wine Bloggers Conference, so they have no way of knowing if they should be there. I won this year, but could not make the awards. So, I don’t think that attendance at the Wine Bloggers Conference, where the awards are announced, is a factor in any issues of credibility.

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