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generation transformation Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

But lest I come across as an unconditional proponent of online media in the context of wine, allow me at least to mention its less attractive side: it very easily becomes focused more on the medium than on the message, more about the technological means than the vinous end.  Or, perhaps more precisely, it can often slip into something that's less about the human connection that makes wine special, magical, spiritual, even transcendent, and more about Twittering and Flickring and (My)Spacing out.  Each of these trees is great, but let's not miss the forest for them.  Nothing in my experience thus far has illustrated this better than an event that took place on the initial day of the first-ever North American Wine Bloggers Conference that I attended recently in Sonoma County, California.  Officially called the Live Wine Blogging event, it entailed wine producers and winery representatives moving from table to table, where the wine bloggers sat in a hotel dining room, to pour their wines into our glasses as we listened to them talk up their respective products.  With about 150 people in the room, about ten bloggers to each of more than a dozen tables, the atmosphere was loud and a bit frenetic.  What made it even more so was that the exercise had to be done in a span of five minutes per table — a constraint that earned the event the ostensibly affectionate and quite appropriate monicker of "speed dating."  I'm not sure if the speed element was chosen out of practicality or to accommodate inherently low attention spans, but looking around me and watching my table mates furiously tapping away at the keyboards of their laptops in which they had their faces buried was something I found amusing, baffling, and frankly disturbing.  Witnessing this scene, I couldn't help but think to myself, "Is this about wine… or about how quickly we can fire off evaluations about wine to a presumably eager and faceless audience out in the ether, awaiting with bated breath on assessments being posted in real time?" I wanted so much to reach out and snap those laptops shut, and invite my companions rather to dialogue and share their experiences with one another… you know, using eyes, ears, and mouths.  It was at that point that I realized what I'd strongly suspected all along: I'm no blogger.  And while I may benefit in learning a thing or two from this approach that's so "automatic for the people," I don't naturally shoot well from the hip.

Now, none of this is to say that the act of writing about wine via blogs (or any other online tool) as a collective medium isn't significant.  My entire point is that it is — when it's done with careful thought, genuine passion, focused intention, and true creativity.  In those cases, it's really quite powerful and moving.  And it works; it touches people's lives.  Which is a core value of media, regardless of its platform.  Sure, just as with newspapers, magazines, and television broadcasts, there's fluff and mediocrity all over the internet; there's a great deal of people publishing online who believe that just because they can, then they should.  But nobody said the sleeping giant of online media had to be nicely groomed and well-mannered.  The point is, he's growing in size and power, and the bellow of his voice and stomp of his boots will soon be heard the world over — a sound too loud and clear to ignore, even among the Lilliputians of print publications, even as they are strong in number and tight in organization.  In fact, they'd do well to take heed.

In some cases, they already have.  One of the most compelling images of the industrial media supporting — in fact, embracing — the independent web-based media as a significant source of wine information is the following video.  Taken from Gary Vaynerchuck's WineLibraryTV, arguably one of the most influential sources of wine information on the internet, it features as his guest the pre-eminent wine author, Jancis Robinson.  Having written a number of books on wine — so many, in fact, that (as she admits in the video) she has lost count — she can easily be considered to be the quintessential wine academic.  Of course, so can Hugh Johnson and even more so, Michael Broadbent — but, we don't see either of them on internet TV, let alone occasionally allowing their feathers to be publicly ruffled with North Jersey boisterousness.  Which bring us back to Jancis, whose appearance alongside the raw, irreverent, and audacious Vaynerchuck was simultaneously fascinating, heartening, and inspiring.  Admittedly, I was bracing to be shocked, but instead I became excited and mesmerized as I watching the two of them not only interact, but engage in a bit of a dance.  And then it hit me: this was… significant.  Robinson's good spirited embrace of a medium so vastly different from anything we might normally associate with her, is a testament of hope that mass media will warm up to and even integrate with the unorthodox and oftentimes experimental methods in which the newer generation of web-based wine writers and broadcasters regularly engage.  Not that the sleeping giant needed any validation, thank you very much… but it's certainly very empowering to have earned it.  This, my friends, is the old guard embracing the new.



 

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Martha Stewart for 1-800-Flowers.com

dvds on wine