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Wine Blogging question – Do you have to charge to be considered “professional”?

What would happen if tomorrow, all of Robert Parkers reviews were given out for free? Or Stephan Tanzer, Jancis Robinson, or any other “wine professional” for that matter? Would they mean less? Robert Parker was a wine amateur who happens to have a long history of writing about wine, so when did he become a “professional”? Does it make someone more of a professional if their reviews are only accessible through payment? Does the exchanging of money make a person’s opinion (what any review by anyone really is) worth more?

I ask this because we were recently contacted by someone who wanted contact information for the Penin Guide. When I wrote back saying I had no personal information, I received a reply that really made me think:

” I was interested in exploring a licensing relationship for his professional reviews like we have with Stephen Tanzer, Allen Meadows, and Roy Hersh.”

I REALLY want to know what everyone thinks is the threshold where you move from amateur to professional. I know Robert Parker is an amateur, if you choose education as a defining factor. Roy Hersh, a good friend of Catavino, is an incredible amateur, if measured by this same criteria. I wonder if there is a threshold of time or acknowledgment that suddenly makes one a professional. How long do you need to be involved in wine to become more than an amateur?

I take about 3-400 notes a year. Granted, not all of them make it into our site, nor are they all cataloged online, but they are tasted and make, in my opinion, a very strong argument for at the very least semi-pro status. Next month, we are becoming trained as official (by the DO of Jerez) sherry educators. Does this mean that with this credential, we’ll be elevated to professional status in regards to sherry?

On the other hand, maybe I need to move to a paid model of wine publishing: charging for every word and thought, no matter how silly they may seem. Then, can I say I’m a professional? I could finally say that my writing provides me an income…wouldn’t that be dreamy! Lenn of LENNDEVOURS recently was asking on twitter about what it takes to make someone realize that you don’t need tons of education to be a viable wine writer/critic. It’s a good question, what does it take?

I make no claims to be in the same class as Tanzer, Parker, Robinson, or others. I don’t have the same super palate as they do. On the other hand I taste and write about Iberian wine everyday, can I be a “regional wine expert”? Other bloggers what do you think/say? Alder are you a professional? Professional Blogger, or Wine Professional? Maybe, I’m looking at this all wrong. Maybe professional is something to avoid. At this point in my life, I get the majority of my wine advice from amateurs; consequently, maybe professional will become a pejorative denoting writers too far removed from the actual wine drinking process to deserve merit? Maybe the tide will turn in the near future, where people no longer look to the Royal family of wine for advice on what they should drink, but to the fellow lay people!

Just thoughts, but I really want to know what you think. Maybe we need a new site to parallel Wine Blogger. WineAmetuer.info – definition yet to be determined…

Ryan Opaz

BTW – I can’t wait to see what all of you amateurs are going to taste for WBW #38…see you Wednesday!

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