…a very responsible blog…catavino.net…[it's] refreshing to see such professionalism.
Robert M. Parker Jr.

Pimp My Wine Blog

Gabriella's Reading Club

I’m new to this wine writing thing. Wine is still as foreign to me as, well, learning how to write. If I dig through a few memories stored deep in my mind, I can recall holding my very first pencil in kindergarten. It was gigantic, glowing yellow and so heavy that at times I needed both hands just keep it vertical. And like any new tool, it always took awhile to get a handle on using it effectively. In the beginning, I found my letters to be crooked and backwards, looking more like hieroglyphics than an attempt at modern literacy. I remember panicking that my “a” would never stay below the dotted line, nor would I be able to hit that upper solid line just right so that I would receive a gold star next to name. Unwilling to accept defeat and humiliation by asking for help, I tried to move class time forward by focusing my attention on the clock, wanting to trade the distinct smell of eraser pilings and lead for sun and four-square. Yet, each and every time, I finally gave in, having to accept my teacher hovering over me, guiding my hand with hers to make each letter rounder, straighter and more legible. My cheeks would turn a progressively darker shade of red, terrified that everyone would laugh at me during recess, but they never did. Why? Because they needed just as much help as I did.

Although practice and time has aided me in becoming a better writer, I would never call myself excellent. If anything, I stumble and falter, hoping that someone out there will actually take my writing in hand and say, “Gabriella, this is a good piece of work. Well done.” or “I liked this part, but I might suggest you include X next time.” Regardless if the critique is positive or negative, it gives me something that I don’t have now, direction.

This has led me to the great question, at what point does the wine blogging community step out of the shadows and take responsibility for their work? When do we stand up for quality? Or is this just another case of individuality, where a wine blog is seen as a personal endeavor created for the author and the author alone. Like the president, who surrounds himself only with like minded fans who cheer him on during a public speech regardless of the consequences of his policies, are we also surrounding ourselves in a reader bubble?

In a Web 2.0 world, we bitch and moan about community involvement, frantically embedding every user generated platform we possibly can on our website. Through Twitter, Facebook and Jaiku, we know when you sleep, eat and whether you floss at night. We tell each other everything, in a desperate attempt to keep us together, inter-linked, but the environment we’ve created is rather adolescent and isolated, isn’t it? Because let’s face it, is you knowing what we placed on the grill last night going to help me improve my posts? Granted, we may build a closer relationship swapping good wine pairings with blue cheese and garlic stuffed burgers, but I doubt this will cross over to whether you have some pointers on my posts.

On the other hand, we typically feel comfortable critiquing outside our world, but not inside. Somehow, we’ve deemed it okay to slam or praise Parker or Wine Spectator, but rarely will we do it among wine blogs. We overlook poor translations, grammar, style and content as unimportant as compared to the message. As wine bloggers, the art of writing comes secondary, if not tertiary, to tasting notes, wine awards and harvest reports. We complain that the professional wine community doesn’t take us seriously, but do we take ourselves seriously? Do we help one another grow as wine writers, podcasters or vidcasters?

Being an aspiring wine writer, I would love your feedback! I would appreciate someone telling me that I always misspell “there” and “their” (thanks Jack!), or that my articles are repetitive and consistently written in the same style or tone. The only way I can improve and change is with your help, your expertise, your experience. Sure, for a short while I may curse you and your online thesaurus under my breath, but I’ll improve and be a better writer for it!

Where does this all lead? Well, after much consideration, Ryan and I came up with an idea this morning to spur dialog around wine writing. Recognizing that there currently isn’t a common forum for us to discuss our work, we thought it was high time to create it. Pimp My Wine Blog, is a new Facebook group dedicated to wine bloggers who want to improve their writing. This group is intended solely for those of us willing to be vulnerable, to put our work on the studio wall for the world to look at with a fine tooth comb. Post a video, a podcast or a written article, placing your trust in us to offer solid constructive criticism on areas such as structure, grammar, style, or whatever the author/producer wants for their piece. The only area I think we need to keep separate, regardless of the medium, is content. The goal with the group is to improve the piece, not the message. Let’s clarify this with some examples of a critique on a written article where the author asked us to focus on the overall structure of the article:

A Good Comment:
Michael, in paragraph two, I suggest you cut down on the wordiness because I think your message on over oaked chardonnays is getting lost.

A Bad Comment Focused on the Message: Michael, I don’t agree with you about over oaked chardonnays because….

A Bad Nonconstructive Comment: Michael, your article sucked!! Maybe you should start drinking more beer.

We want people to walk away feeling as if you just gave them some tangible ways they can improve their post, rather than needing therapy.

Sign me Up!

If you’re committed to improving your wine blog, you can post on Pimp My Wine Blog by doing the following:

1. Use the discussion board for general ideas and comments.
2. Use post a link to direct people to the article you want critiqued
3. After link is posted, follow it up with a comment about what you want us to focus on.
4. Then, take a moment to reply and critique someone else’s post.
5. Done! You can go on with your day knowing you’ve actually done something constructive to help your wine blogger community!

Remember, this is a new idea, and therefore, in need of some adjustment. So please, let us know what you think. Are there ways we can improve it? Change it?

Cheers,
Gabriella

  • Beth Graham

    I'm sorry to post this here, but I couldn't seem to find an email address on the site. I am trying to find out the name of a regional Spanish wine that is made with the leaves and stems and, for all I know, bugs, birds, small mammals, and the neighbors' children that might fall into the vat. Not because I want to find the wine but because my husband and I sampled it once at a wine tasting and it was the worst stuff either of us ever put into our mouths and we'd like to avoid it at all costs in the future. Do you know what it was? Thanks! Beth Graham

  • RichardA

    Mmm…I don't see the Wall. I attended a Writing Workshop last year (as I am a would-be novelist) and I believe I still have some of the materials, including info on critiquing the work of others. I will look around for it as it might be helpful.

  • Dr. Debs

    I think this is a great idea for anyone who wants to take their writing to the next level. But I wonder if it is really true that the writing is secondary or tertiary to the message for all wine bloggers? It certainly isn't for me, and I typically spend days on a single blog post editing and revising and trying to proofread it (I'm terrible at the last). Ideally the message should be enhanced by the writing, and vice versa, but this takes a lot of work and not all bloggers can devote that much time to their project. As for spelling and grammar, this is always going to be a problem as long as blogger doesn't allow the use of accents or other special characters, unless you change the language of your blog. A rose is just a rose without them–but it isn't exactly the blogger's ignorance or bad writing that leads to the problem. There are technical problems that confront the blogger, too. There is a great blog, Storytellers Unplugged, that is written by 30 authors that has some good stuff not only on giving constructive criticism but on the even harder part: taking it. Here's a link to their story, in case you're interested: <a href="http://tinyurl.com/2fsbca “>http://tinyurl.com/2fsbca

  • Dr. Debs

    I think this is a great idea for anyone who wants to take their writing to the next level. But I wonder if it is really true that the writing is secondary or tertiary to the message for all wine bloggers? It certainly isn't for me, and I typically spend days on a single blog post editing and revising and trying to proofread it (I'm terrible at the last). Ideally the message should be enhanced by the writing, and vice versa, but this takes a lot of work and not all bloggers can devote that much time to their project. As for spelling and grammar, this is always going to be a problem as long as blogger doesn't allow the use of accents or other special characters, unless you change the language of your blog. A rose is just a rose without them–but it isn't exactly the blogger's ignorance or bad writing that leads to the problem. There are technical problems that confront the blogger, too. There is a great blog, Storytellers Unplugged, that is written by 30 authors that has some good stuff not only on giving constructive criticism but on the even harder part: taking it. Here's a link to their story, in case you're interested: <a href="http://tinyurl.com/2fsbca “>http://tinyurl.com/2fsbca

  • Dr. Debs

    I think this is a great idea for anyone who wants to take their writing to the next level. But I wonder if it is really true that the writing is secondary or tertiary to the message for all wine bloggers? It certainly isn't for me, and I typically spend days on a single blog post editing and revising and trying to proofread it (I'm terrible at the last). Ideally the message should be enhanced by the writing, and vice versa, but this takes a lot of work and not all bloggers can devote that much time to their project. As for spelling and grammar, this is always going to be a problem as long as blogger doesn't allow the use of accents or other special characters, unless you change the language of your blog. A rose is just a rose without them–but it isn't exactly the blogger's ignorance or bad writing that leads to the problem. There are technical problems that confront the blogger, too. There is a great blog, Storytellers Unplugged, that is written by 30 authors that has some good stuff not only on giving constructive criticism but on the even harder part: taking it. Here's a link to their story, in case you're interested: <a href="http://tinyurl.com/2fsbca “>http://tinyurl.com/2fsbca

  • Gabriella

    Sorry about that Richard. We took it out so that people keep their discussions focused to the Posted Items and the Discussion board. I had meant to change that. Thanks for alerting me!

  • Ryan

    I'm with you Deb, not sure about the writing being second or tertiary. For me and others I assume this is not true. But I would say that no matter what we do in life we can always do better. I'm involved in a bunch of photo critique groups, because I hope to get better. When I was in art school, our professors, many of whom were professional artists in gallery's around the nation, would make us critique their work, just to show us that you never are finished. In the end I think we hope that people might use this to address not only grammar concerns, but article style choices. One for us, is a what makes a compelling, not encyclopedic, grape profile post? Also this might be a good place to better make Tasting notes more descriptive and useful…I guess we'll see what happens….Cheers,

  • Gabriella

    Deb, I agree with you that I should have prefaced the comment by saying "for some of us, the art of writing….", rather than making it a blanket statement. Like yourself, there are several wine bloggers who commit hours and days of hard work on their posts and I would never want to diminish that. However, I still feel that if we want to influence the overall wine community, it's important to be open to growth and change. Plus, look at the plethora of wonderful people we have to offer insight. I would assume that being in the educational system, you have an array of tools you could offer us that we would never consider ourselves. This is equally true of our resident novelist, Richard. Therefore, if we combine our talents, maybe, just maybe, we could better our blog in ways we never even considered.

  • Jill

    Hi. This is a really interesting topic. Our writing definitely varies in quality depending upon each post…we have a few different categories on domaine547, and the Freshly Pressed articles get more attention, for the most part, than the Grapewise articles, for instance. Sometimes we churn things out in an effort to get new content up, and haven't paid as much attention to detail as we would like. Sometimes we speak off the cuff. Sign us up. We have our own personal style, which sometimes goes against the Elements of Style and other accepted grammatical standards. Mostly these "style" deviations are intentional, sometimes they are not. After all, as a blog, domaine547 is trying to establish a voice of its own, lest it be too similar to other blogs covering similar topics. But we are certainly open to the idea of improvement, and open to anything that encourages that.

  • Beth Graham

    I’m sorry to post this here, but I couldn’t seem to find an email address on the site. I am trying to find out the name of a regional Spanish wine that is made with the leaves and stems and, for all I know, bugs, birds, small mammals, and the neighbors’ children that might fall into the vat. Not because I want to find the wine but because my husband and I sampled it once at a wine tasting and it was the worst stuff either of us ever put into our mouths and we’d like to avoid it at all costs in the future.

    Do you know what it was?

    Thanks! Beth Graham

  • Gabriella

    This is where it could get fun Jill. You decide what you want us to focus on! You have your style, and hopefully, we will honor that by giving you the feedback you're looking for on whatever article you want. It could be as simple as, "Hey guys, I think this particular article could have been written in a more interesting way, but I have zero ideas how. Any thoughts?" I was thinking on our walk this afternoon how fabulous this would have been for our videos! Simple feedback like "You might want to look in the camera more" or "Fabulous sunset, but I think it would have been more successful if you poured the wines before the sunset so that we could see the color of the wines more clearly" would have been great. I would never want to suggest making our posts molds of one another, but I would suggest that once in a blue moon, you might discover something about a post you never even thought of.

  • http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com/ RichardA

    Mmm…I don’t see the Wall.

    I attended a Writing Workshop last year (as I am a would-be novelist) and I believe I still have some of the materials, including info on critiquing the work of others. I will look around for it as it might be helpful.

  • http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com Dr. Debs

    I think this is a great idea for anyone who wants to take their writing to the next level. But I wonder if it is really true that the writing is secondary or tertiary to the message for all wine bloggers? It certainly isn’t for me, and I typically spend days on a single blog post editing and revising and trying to proofread it (I’m terrible at the last). Ideally the message should be enhanced by the writing, and vice versa, but this takes a lot of work and not all bloggers can devote that much time to their project.

    As for spelling and grammar, this is always going to be a problem as long as blogger doesn’t allow the use of accents or other special characters, unless you change the language of your blog. A rose is just a rose without them–but it isn’t exactly the blogger’s ignorance or bad writing that leads to the problem. There are technical problems that confront the blogger, too.

    There is a great blog, Storytellers Unplugged, that is written by 30+ authors that has some good stuff not only on giving constructive criticism but on the even harder part: taking it. Here’s a link to their story, in case you’re interested: http://tinyurl.com/2fsbca

  • Pingback: University Update - UN Studio - Pimp My Wine Blog()

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    Sorry about that Richard. We took it out so that people keep their discussions focused to the Posted Items and the Discussion board. I had meant to change that. Thanks for alerting me!

  • http://www.catavino.net Ryan

    I’m with you Deb, not sure about the writing being second or tertiary. For me and others I assume this is not true. But I would say that no matter what we do in life we can always do better. I’m involved in a bunch of photo critique groups, because I hope to get better.

    When I was in art school, our professors, many of whom were professional artists in gallery’s around the nation, would make us critique their work, just to show us that you never are finished. In the end I think we hope that people might use this to address not only grammar concerns, but article style choices. One for us, is a what makes a compelling, not encyclopedic, grape profile post?

    Also this might be a good place to better make Tasting notes more descriptive and useful…I guess we’ll see what happens….Cheers,

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    Deb, I agree with you that I should have prefaced the comment by saying “for some of us, the art of writing….”, rather than making it a blanket statement. Like yourself, there are several wine bloggers who commit hours and days of hard work on their posts and I would never want to diminish that. However, I still feel that if we want to influence the overall wine community, it’s important to be open to growth and change.

    Plus, look at the plethora of wonderful people we have to offer insight. I would assume that being in the educational system, you have an array of tools you could offer us that we would never consider ourselves. This is equally true of our resident novelist, Richard. Therefore, if we combine our talents, maybe, just maybe, we could better our blog in ways we never even considered.

  • http://domaine547.com Jill

    Hi. This is a really interesting topic. Our writing definitely varies in quality depending upon each post…we have a few different categories on domaine547, and the Freshly Pressed articles get more attention, for the most part, than the Grapewise articles, for instance.

    Sometimes we churn things out in an effort to get new content up, and haven’t paid as much attention to detail as we would like. Sometimes we speak off the cuff. Sign us up. We have our own personal style, which sometimes goes against the Elements of Style and other accepted grammatical standards.

    Mostly these “style” deviations are intentional, sometimes they are not. After all, as a blog, domaine547 is trying to establish a voice of its own, lest it be too similar to other blogs covering similar topics. But we are certainly open to the idea of improvement, and open to anything that encourages that.

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    This is where it could get fun Jill. You decide what you want us to focus on! You have your style, and hopefully, we will honor that by giving you the feedback you’re looking for on whatever article you want. It could be as simple as, “Hey guys, I think this particular article could have been written in a more interesting way, but I have zero ideas how. Any thoughts?”

    I was thinking on our walk this afternoon how fabulous this would have been for our videos! Simple feedback like “You might want to look in the camera more” or “Fabulous sunset, but I think it would have been more successful if you poured the wines before the sunset so that we could see the color of the wines more clearly” would have been great.

    I would never want to suggest making our posts molds of one another, but I would suggest that once in a blue moon, you might discover something about a post you never even thought of.

  • RichardA

    What has been challenging for me lately in my writing has been my restaurant review column. I am limited to about 800 words, which is really not a lot. So, I have to hone my writing, to make it more concise, and to better choose my descriptive words rather than just load up on several different descriptive terms. This helps me I think in all my writing. The more one writes, the more one usually improves. I am sure we all can look back at our first blog posts and see how our more recent posts seem better. And constructive criticism from others can give us a fresh point of view.

  • http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com/ RichardA

    What has been challenging for me lately in my writing has been my restaurant review column. I am limited to about 800 words, which is really not a lot. So, I have to hone my writing, to make it more concise, and to better choose my descriptive words rather than just load up on several different descriptive terms. This helps me I think in all my writing. The more one writes, the more one usually improves. I am sure we all can look back at our first blog posts and see how our more recent posts seem better. And constructive criticism from others can give us a fresh point of view.

  • Erika Strum

    Gabriella, this is a great idea. Lately I have been increasingly frustrated with some of the careless grammatical and spelling errors that I find online every day. I think the problem exists in all spheres and this is a great step to try to improve it- for us wine bloggers at least :)

  • http://www.StrumErika.com Erika Strum

    Gabriella, this is a great idea. Lately I have been increasingly frustrated with some of the careless grammatical and spelling errors that I find online every day. I think the problem exists in all spheres and this is a great step to try to improve it- for us wine bloggers at least :)

  • Gabriella

    Richard – I can absolutely imagine your frustration. Limiting words is one of the most difficult aspects of writing for me, but also, the one that defines a good writer versus a poor one (or so I believe). I had a professor once tell me, "If you can't say what you need to say in 500 words or less to a 5 year old, you're not communicating effectively." I'm horrific at this, but it's something I would like to learn. If you feel up to it, I think it would be great fun to direct us to one of your reviews so that we can potentially offer our two-cents! Erika – I am really happy you like the idea! As I mentioned to Richard, if you feel up to being a guinea pig and getting a piece of your work out there, letting us know exactly what you want us to look for, we can see what works and what doesn't work in good critiquing :-)

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    Richard – I can absolutely imagine your frustration. Limiting words is one of the most difficult aspects of writing for me, but also, the one that defines a good writer versus a poor one (or so I believe). I had a professor once tell me, “If you can’t say what you need to say in 500 words or less to a 5 year old, you’re not communicating effectively.” I’m horrific at this, but it’s something I would like to learn. If you feel up to it, I think it would be great fun to direct us to one of your reviews so that we can potentially offer our two-cents!

    Erika – I am really happy you like the idea! As I mentioned to Richard, if you feel up to being a guinea pig and getting a piece of your work out there, letting us know exactly what you want us to look for, we can see what works and what doesn’t work in good critiquing :-)

  • MonkuWino

    I like your blog just fine! You speak about our being critical of Parker or the Wine Spectator but not among ourselves – true, but then us bloggers are not charging people (and charging them handsomely) to read our material. I'd say you have to consider intent and motives when critiquing a blog – certainly if someone's grammar, spelling or writing style is so atrocious it makes you pity them, then constructive correction is in order. But I feel we can give more leeway and be more forgiving towards bloggers whose writing style/technical ability isn't the greatest. If their heart is in it, then that counts for a lot. That said, I think we all can improve how we present our content. Heck, I know my posts are bulging from too many words!

  • http://onewineperweek.blogspot.com MonkuWino

    I like your blog just fine! You speak about our being critical of Parker or the Wine Spectator but not among ourselves – true, but then us bloggers are not charging people (and charging them handsomely) to read our material. I’d say you have to consider intent and motives when critiquing a blog – certainly if someone’s grammar, spelling or writing style is so atrocious it makes you pity them, then constructive correction is in order. But I feel we can give more leeway and be more forgiving towards bloggers whose writing style/technical ability isn’t the greatest. If their heart is in it, then that counts for a lot.

    That said, I think we all can improve how we present our content. Heck, I know my posts are bulging from too many words!

  • Paul Mabray

    Gabriella, Great leadership here. I think that wine bloggers are a key part of the future of the wine industry and your comments about professionalism and taking ourselves (even business wine bloggers) seriously hits home. I look forward to seeing this raise the bar for wine bloggers and I think also by having PR companies (like Wark et al) interweave you into their PR plans is key. I am excited to see the results. Inertia – Powering the Wine Revolution —Paul Mabray – CEO

  • http://www.inertiabev.com Paul Mabray

    Gabriella,
    Great leadership here. I think that wine bloggers are a key part of the future of the wine industry and your comments about professionalism and taking ourselves (even business wine bloggers) seriously hits home. I look forward to seeing this raise the bar for wine bloggers and I think also by having PR companies (like Wark et al) interweave you into their PR plans is key. I am excited to see the results.

    Inertia – Powering the Wine Revolution

    —Paul Mabray – CEO

  • Wine

    [...]In a Web 2.0 world, we bitch and moan about community involvement, frantically embedding every user generated platform we possibly can on our website.[...] Web2 is the future

  • Wine

    [...]In a Web 2.0 world, we bitch and moan about community involvement, frantically embedding every user generated platform we possibly can on our website.[...]

    Web2 is the future

  • Wine

    Good comment, but not constructive: Nice article :D

  • Ron Miller

    You asked on the podcast to send a note of who was listening. Maybe I'm technically challenged, but there is no obvious link to e-mail addresses or contact point to let you know. Your website is only for tech-savvy facebookers, not normal wine-drinking, tech survivors like me. If there is an "info@catavino.net" or something like that, please let me know.

  • Ron Miller

    You asked on the podcast to send a note of who was listening. Maybe I’m technically challenged, but there is no obvious link to e-mail addresses or contact point to let you know. Your website is only for tech-savvy facebookers, not normal wine-drinking, tech survivors like me.
    If there is an “info@catavino.net” or something like that, please let me know.

  • Gabriella

    Hey Ron if you go to our info page: <a href="http://catavino.net/about/ “>http://catavino.net/about/ we have contact info for all of us. At the end of Gabriella and I's "bios" we have emails where you can send us info. As a tech survivor you can be rest assured we attempted to make this a very easy site to use, based on testing by non-tech family members! ;) But we know we have a long ways to go. Please send us a note to let us know if there is something that would help you further…Oh and BTW if you send an email to "info" at Catavino.net we'll get it! Cheers!

  • Gabriella

    Hey Ron if you go to our info page: <a href="http://catavino.net/about/ “>http://catavino.net/about/ we have contact info for all of us. At the end of Gabriella and I's "bios" we have emails where you can send us info. As a tech survivor you can be rest assured we attempted to make this a very easy site to use, based on testing by non-tech family members! ;) But we know we have a long ways to go. Please send us a note to let us know if there is something that would help you further…Oh and BTW if you send an email to "info" at Catavino.net we'll get it! Cheers!

  • Gabriella

    Hey Ron if you go to our info page: <a href="http://catavino.net/about/ “>http://catavino.net/about/ we have contact info for all of us. At the end of Gabriella and I's "bios" we have emails where you can send us info. As a tech survivor you can be rest assured we attempted to make this a very easy site to use, based on testing by non-tech family members! ;) But we know we have a long ways to go. Please send us a note to let us know if there is something that would help you further…Oh and BTW if you send an email to "info" at Catavino.net we'll get it! Cheers!

  • Wine

    Good comment, but not constructive: Nice article :D

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    Hey Ron if you go to our info page: we have contact info for all of us. At the end of Gabriella and I’s “bios” we have emails where you can send us info. As a tech survivor you can be rest assured we attempted to make this a very easy site to use, based on testing by non-tech family members! ;) But we know we have a long ways to go. Please send us a note to let us know if there is something that would help you further…Oh and BTW if you send an email to “info” at Catavino.net we’ll get it!
    Cheers!