Wine Reviews Tasting Notes and Education for the Non-Snob, by Vino Joe, a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)

The Top Seven Wine Bloggers (not really)

No, Vino Joe did not make the list. Rumor has it that I finished 8th.

According to Kansas City Wine Examiner Dennis Schaefer, WineOpinions released the list of the top seven wine bloggers according to the wine trade as:

1. Eric Asimov, N.Y. Times, The Pour 23%
2. Eric Orange, Local Wine Events 21%
3. Steve Tanzer, International Wine Cellar 15%
4. Jancis Robinson (tie), Jancis Robinson 13%
4. Alder Yarrow (tie), Vinography 13%
6. Tyler Colman, Dr. Vino 12%
7. Gary Vaynerchuk, Wine Library TV 9%

Again this was a survey of wine trade — meaning, the professional drinkers — and this list is who the trade says they visit “frequently,” as opposed to “occasionally”.

Schaefer had this comment on the list:

Interestingly enough, populist wine disciple, Gary Vaynerchuk, who has become a new media cultural icon, was rated dead last by the wine trade. This would seem to suggest that his popularity rests with regular wine consumers and those millennials and gen-xers who are looking to learn more about wine but in a non-old school, digitally direct way.

Taking that suggestion a step further, Vaynerchuck’s ranking probably has much to do with the fact that many people in the trade don’t see the value in visiting his blog (vlog, actually) — for their purposes, anyway. Vaynerchuck is, after all, a retailer whose focus is to promote his wine sales. I’m not sure exactly who in the “wine trade” was surveyed, but one would guess it included other retailers (Gary’s competitors). People in the trade generally read / watch influential, unbiased media for wine reviews — meaning, people who don’t have a motivation to rank a wine highly. If an unbiased critic / journalist such as Stephen Tanzer rates a wine as “94 points”, for example, it holds more weight than someone trying to sell the same wine. In turn, that 94-point rating can be turned into sales support materials (sell sheets, case cards, shelf talkers, etc.) that will help sell a wine to a distributor, a retailer, and a consumer.

In contrast, if a wine sales rep went to a wine shop and said, “hey, Gary V. says this wine rocks!”, there’s a possibility that the owner will throw the rep out of his store. That could change as time goes on, but right now, most people in the wine trade spend their non-sales / internet time researching information that can help them close their next deal.

More interesting about this list is that there are only two “true” bloggers — Alder Yarrow and Tyler Colman. Though, my definition of a “true blogger” is up for discussion. Asimov writes a “blog” but is really a newspaper journalist whose boss added a blog to his daily duties. That’s not to take anything away from Asimov — his blog is excellent and he’s one of the pros who “gets it”, in that he goes beyond just posting an electronic column, and will interact with his readers. But when I think of a “blogger” I think of an independent enthusiast without formal ties to a print publication. That said, I don’t see Jancis Robinson as a “wine blogger” — and I imagine she wouldn’t be happy to be described as such. Robinson is a longtime, highly influential educator, journalist, and book author (she’s edited such tomes as the Oxford Companion to Wine). Her “blog” is really more of an online magazine, and doesn’t even have comments (though it does have a forum and a “your views” section). Robinson’s website is excellent and informative, but I don’t see it as a blog. Same thing goes for Stephen Tanzer’s “blog”, which, again, is an online magazine. There might be a blog by Tanzer in there somewhere, but I don’t have a subscription to access it.

Similarly, how did Eric Orange qualify as a “blogger”? If he writes a blog on Local Wine Events, I can’t find it. That’s because his site’s focus is as clear as its title — it lists local wine events. There are articles on wine at the site, and a few videos, but it’s far from a “wine blog”. It is, however, a fantastic place to find wine events in your area, so if you are interested in wine tastings, winemaker dinners, and similar events, DO visit.

In the end, this list looks more like “the top seven internet resources” for the wine trade, which happens to include two or three bloggers. I personally would be much more interested in a list of the top wine bloggers — the independent enthusiasts and writers online to whom the trade and consumers are paying attention (regardless of whether WineWeekly makes the list!).

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Comments

  1. Gary Vaynerchuk does his best to give am unbiased opinion on his wine vlog. He’s blasted some of his top sellers, and has told consumers to pass on wines that WineLibrary sells. At the same time does it in lingo any Joe can understand. The industry doesn’t like him cause he’s unconventional as he was first to social networking. He openly states he wants to put the big 3 rating system out of business.

    Everyone has an opinion and every opinion has some bias, but I’ll take someone who open shows his reaction to a wine over some pencil pusher in an office worried about advertising dollars.

  2. Greg – it may be true that Gary V is unconventional and sometimes unbiased, but it’s not a case of the industry “liking” or “not liking” him. From their point of view he doesn’t have value to them, because, again, you can’t create a sell sheet or POS using his recommendation (not yet anyway).

    As for “pencil pushers worried about advertising dollars”, I suggest you consider reading Tanzer or Parker, neither of whom accept advertising in their magazines. Further, Wine&Spirits magazine is known inside the industry as a publication that has never and will never be swayed by advertising. Personally I’ll listen to any of those three over a retailer trying to reach multimillion-dollar sales goals any day of the week — regardless of whether he’s blasted “some” of the wines he sells or not.

    That’s not a knock on Gary — what he’s doing has changed wine drinking in the US. I simply give more weight to the reviews and opinions of people whose job it is to review, rather than sell, a wine.

  3. Vinjoe

    I wasn’t referring to the bias or unbiased opinion of the big 3 (WA, IWC, WS). I was saying its a goal of Gary V’s to change how wines are rated.

    Specifically, I was referring to the new york times writer as a pencil pusher.

  4. Greg –

    So, Gary wants to change the way wines are rated? Not so sure about that – the first words out of his mouth (after he tells you how many bones the wine cost) is a score he gives the wine based upon the 100 point system – how exactly is that different?

    I think Gary V has been good overall – but you can lump him in with all the others on the scoring thing.

    From my perspective – I would prefer a more objective approach to how one likes a wine – for instance, “this wine is a good value at the price” – as opposed to, “I give this 86 points – what does that really mean anyway? We have been conditioned into buying into the LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) for most things in life – including wine.

    My take is that anyone who needs a subjective number from one persons palate to make a wine buying decision is a L-O-S-E-R…I would also go that far to give that assessment to anyone who feels compelled to “grade” a wine in that way as well.

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