26th November, 2012 by Tom Bruce Gardyne
A few days ago I read my obituary in the drinks business. It wasn’t just me that had expired, but the small sub-species I belong to.
“The Wine Writer is Dead” declared the headline above a report on Andrew Jefford’s comments to the European Wine Bloggers conference in Izmir, Turkey. I checked my pulse and felt a faint throb, but there it was in black and white: ‘the creature we used to call a wine writer has died.”
If I am still around it may be because I write about other drinks like whisky, rum, beer and Tequila besides wine. Yet according to Jefford that is even worse. “Can anyone hope to be a generalist any more in a wine world which, like the universe, is expanding rapidly in every direction?”
Of course he is correct up to a point. With declining circulations across the board, print journalism is in dire straits. The idea of buying a few sheets of processed wood pulp, commonly known as a newspaper, has little appeal to a new generation, even those doing media studies at university. When the last copy of Metro rolls off the press, you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t feature a wine column.
The decline of such columns is partly self-inflicted. Some columnists cling on too long and become dull and repetitive. Personally I believe there are limits to how often you can write about cork taint before readers will desert you, while on TV and radio, wine soon becomes stale in the studio with just a bottle and a glass for props. BBC4’s excellent Château Chunder on 12 November about the rise and fall of Australian wine, proves how well it can work in a social context.
Beware the wine writer. For we are the living dead. Mwaha ha ha.
For wine to retreat to specialist magazines and the blogosphere where bloggers preach only to the converted would be a big mistake. Writing on drink in the Herald every week, I like the idea that occasionally readers might stumble on my column by accident. If I was doing a blog how often would that happen?
Booze gets a bad press in the mainstream media that is fed by the well-oiled PR machine of the public health lobby. Like all drinks, wine needs to fight against this puritan vibe with plenty of wit.
Jefford says “there is an urgent vacancy for humorous, witty, caustic writing about wine powered by gonzo irreverence.” Of course he is absolutely right, it is in short supply especially on-line. With a narrow audience and no editor to keep things sharp and snappy, many bloggers take themselves way too seriously.