"Karma police, arrest this man…"

by Katie Pizzuto on July 31, 2009

in Blogs

attenzione_prostitute1There has been a shitload of mudslinging recently between wine bloggers and print media wine journalists, and I’ve been doing my best to find shelter in a foxhole because I’ve got better things to do with my life than worry about what old-school writers think of my blog or my ability to write about wine…that whole “sticks and stones” thing and whatnot. I also don’t much worry about what other bloggers are busy doing because in the end, the only thing that reflects on me is my writing, not theirs. The only one with the ability to embarrass me is…well…me, and I don’t embarrass easily. I touched upon this issue not long ago but I’m revisiting it now because I’m witnessing what could be the most blatant whoring I’ve ever seen online that doesn’t involve gang bangs or big-nipped double Ds.

There’s a wine whore out in the blogosphere that revels in telling you that, in exchange for free press samples, he’ll write about whatever wine you send him. I use the term “write about” loosely as it doesn’t entail much other than winery PR, numbers, bar charts and stock photography. It suffices to say that I’m actually surprised that wineries are readily responding. Of course you never want to bite the hand that feeds, so most reviews include direct quotes from the wineries and scores that don’t drop below a 7 out of 10. This is normally the kind of crap I run away from quicker than a stick of butter can run from Paula Deen, but I’m finding myself compelled to rant. Why? Because now the Whore is pimping—err, I mean recruiting. I’m not sure if that means he’s got more free wine than he can handle or he’s just tired of being on his knees, but either way I’m freaked out.

If Parker, Blue and company ever wanted a poster boy for all they despise in wine blogging, man have they struck gold with this guy. This is the one that you point at and say, “You see that guy? That is NOT what I do, so please don’t throw me in the same sandbox with him.” This is the one that makes you rethink whether or not requiring a license to blog is such a bad idea. This is the one that is the exception to my long-held belief that prostitution should be legalized. This is the one that pees in the goddamned punch bowl! Hey, man, I like punch! I stayed silent and bowed out when he was just doing his thing, cuz who the hell am I to throw stones? But now that he appears to be forming a friggin’ brothel, all bets are off. He has every right to do what he’s doing, mind you, and wineries have every right to solicit him…but I have every right to mock it. It certainly isn’t journalism—it’s a circle jerk.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 RJ Flamingo July 31, 2009

Unbelievable! Okay, maybe not so unbelievable. But still! DM me & tell me who this slime is, so I know to avoid him when I’m out & about researching my next purchase. Nothing like true impartiality!

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2 Lenn Thompson July 31, 2009

You know that I’m just as against all of this “wine bloggers writing about wine blogging” bs, but I’m with you 100% on this…with one caveat: I actually think that my reputation as a blogger IS damaged by lesser bloggers.

People accept samples and on one level I do appreciate this slut’s transparency. On the other hand, the generally positive reviews and regurgitation of press materials is troubling.

Why do wineries send him wine? They are virtually guaranteed good press, why wouldn’t they?

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3 Katie Pizzuto July 31, 2009

Agree with ya, Lenn…when he first started out, I kinda gave him props for at least being transparent…but that was under the assumption that he’d review the wines candidly and actually…ya know…WRITE. Like I said, I generally bow out of shit like this, but it’s a lot like a circus.

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4 GregT July 31, 2009

I’m curious. Do people buy wine based on blogger’s recommendations? Is it any significant amount? Other than a few established industry people who also blog, are there any stats on the sales generated by people who only blog? I always want a way to sell more wine but I haven’t sent any to many bloggers. Maybe I’m overlooking an area? The problem is that any sales revenues have to cover the cost of shipping so it’s not worth it to sell a case or two.

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5 Katie Pizzuto July 31, 2009

That’s actually a great and very legitimate question, Greg. Because I straddle both sides (reader and blogger) I can speak for myself and say that yes, I do sometimes buy based on a blogger’s recommendations, but it’s usually because I know (based on their other posts) that we have similar tastes. I think a valuable purpose bloggers can serve (though most don’t) is to review negatively as well, so that readers can avoid pitfalls, especially with the higher price tags. Then, from a blogger’s perspective, I’d say that yes, I know my readers have often bought wines based on my recommendations. And the truth is that bloggers have a reach that extends beyond simply their website. They use platforms like Twitter and Facebook as tools to rave about a wine that they’ve loved. And then there’s always the simple “word of mouth” as well. Most bloggers are fantastic people that are eager to share something they love with others, so it’s usually more than just a post on a blog.

I COMPLETELY understand your concerns about the costs of shipping, so I’d say that a little homework is usually in order. Most in the industry pick up on which bloggers are worth the time and money. But you can’t always think about “tit for tat” either. Even though it may not be worth the cost of shipping a few bottles out if you only sell an extra case or two, if you can develop strong lines of communication with those that are constantly talking about wine, a reputation as being “part of the conversation” can go a long way.

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6 The Wine Commonsewer August 4, 2009

I *wish* these guys would realize that I am a complete prostitute for wine.

Start with Dominus and then on to Diamond Creek. And those cult wines, yes. Send a bottle of Colgin, I guarantee a good review. A stellar review if you send a case.

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7 Katie Pizzuto August 4, 2009

Oh, who you kiddin’ Mike…you’d be happy with a bottle of Ripple 🙂

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8 The Wine Commonsewer August 6, 2009

I had a rather snappy rejoinder composed until I realized that you said ‘Ripple’ not ‘Thunderbird’.

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9 Katie August 6, 2009

Oh, come on now, man….I gotta hear the retort now, even if it was for the wrong product!

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10 Greg August 13, 2009

Your speaking of Randy Watson aka the Wine Whore?

http://www.winewhoreblog.com/

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11 Katie Pizzuto August 13, 2009

If the spiked heels fit, Greg….

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12 Randy Watson August 24, 2009

You are right!

You won’t find bashing wine reviews on my site, and you will also NEVER find a negative post about a wine blogger there either…

I may be a whore but I still have respect for others and their work.

Cheers!

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13 Katie Pizzuto August 24, 2009

As I said, Randy, you have every right to do what you’re doing. This isn’t about wine-bashing reviews, but about balance. I’ve had repeated conversations with readers and the consensus is that they appreciate the “not so great” reviews for three reasons: 1. It creates a more complete version of what you like and dislike, so they know whether or not they can trust your palate (meaning it’s like theirs). 2. They know where potential pitfalls are in wine buying, and appreciate not blowing money on something they won’t like. 3. We all know we don’t love everything we drink. Readers who see balanced reviews that include some negative thoughts here and there, feel more comfortable that you aren’t simply spitting out wine PR.

If this blog is to be true to being about “The Angels and Demons of Food and Wine” then I am obligated to speak my mind when I see something I don’t like just as much as when I see things I love. Thing is, I actually DID respect your concept at first.

Cheers.

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14 Shelly August 24, 2009

I think if a winery is offering you samples to review then you owe them the respect to talk about whatever good points you find in the wine. If there are none, then never reviewing the wine is the road I would take, along with letting the winery or distributor know.

I have been sent samples and have reviewed wine that I have purchased and the same rules apply. If I try a wine and don’t care for it, I just don’t write about it. There’s no reason to talk about bad wines as we all have our own opinions. If you respect a blogger (and I happen to enjoy Randy’s blog) then you trust when they say it’s good. Why steer people away from a wine THEY may enjoy just because you don’t? That’s a little conceited…don’t you think?

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15 Katie Pizzuto August 24, 2009

No, Shelly, that’s not any more conceited than assuming you can steer them TOWARD a wine just because you like it. I have talked to many wineries who send me bottles for review because I’m honest enough to tell them that if I don’t particularly like the wine, I may very well blog about that as well. They STILL send samples and insist that if I review it unfavorably, that’s just fine because at least it’s HONEST. To simply ignore discussing wines you don’t like is, as I said, unbalanced. “There’s no reason to talk about bad wines as we all have our own opinions” makes NO sense. Then why discuss good wines, either…after all, it’s just opinion. And therein lies the problem. IT’S ALL JUST OPINION. If we could just get over ourselves and simply discuss OUR OPINIONS for better or worse, it would be a more honest and complete discussion. After all, if you discuss wines you haven’t enjoyed in private conversation, there should be no need for you to hold your tongue online…it’s just another type of conversation. There is a reason, Shelly, to discuss EVERYTHING.

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16 Lenn Thompson August 24, 2009

Shelly,

I think you’re off base here completely…but that’s because of my own perspective and my own belief that negative (though respectful) reviews are a MUST if you want to be taken seriously.

You don’t “owe” a winery sending you sample anything, and if you ask winery PR people who are good at their jobs, they’ll say the same. They know you may not like the wine. They know you may not even taste the wine…but they think the potential ROI is worth sending it.

Hiding wines that you’ve tasted and dislike is doing your readership a disservice. It’s that simple. One, as Katie mentioned, it makes it impossible for them to truly know your palate’s likes/dislikes. My readers know that I like my whites fresh and lively and my reds restrained and not-just-fruity.

You are also doing them a disservice by not warning them against wines they might want to avoid. True, they may never know, but if you really care about your readers, you need to be balanced and transparent.

Listen, I like Randy and I consider him a friend within the blog world. I just don’t subscribe to what he’s doing, nor will I ever operate the same way. That doesn’t mean he’s not a good person (he is). I just don’t think he’s pushing wine blogging further and up…

But it’s his blog and he can do what he likes. I respect that in any blogger…but I don’t have to agree with it.

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17 Shelly August 24, 2009

So it’s the debate of journalism versus business? If we’re talking of all blogs from a journalistic point of view then I totally agree that full opinions should be disclosed, but again we still have the right to write about what we want and therefor leave out negative opinions. From a business standpoint, and a desire to review products (wine or otherwise) is it smarter to review everything, with a positive or negative? or do we write only about the positive thus creating a forum to spotlight the best. What do the PR people prefer? Sure, even bad press is press, but would they rather take their chances on being included on a blog that only talks about good choices or roll the dice and possibly get negative reviews? I’d say that the PR people are pretty happy with what Randy is doing and that’s why he’s been so successful with the wineries and distributors.

Now, what was the purpose of this post?
As a personal opinion I can respect that you don’t like what he’s doing and you have every right to post about it. If we’re talking journalism, then I think a personal attack on an individual, just because you don’t believe in what they’re doing, is a pretty shitty thing to post about.

That’s just my perspective.

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18 Katie Pizzuto August 24, 2009

Personal attack? I never attacked Randy as a person and wouldn’t attempt to do so as he’s a nice guy. In fact, I’ve written about him before for WBW with nothing bad to say. The purpose of this post, like any other on this site, is to voice my opinion (last time I checked I could still have one) on things going on in food or wine. It was called op/ed last time I checked. MY reason for having a blog is to have an online voice, not to be a PR vehicle for wineries. I never looked at it as business, and never will.

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19 Shelly August 24, 2009

“I’m not sure if that means he’s got more free wine than he can handle or he’s just tired of being on his knees, but either way I’m freaked out.”

“This is the one that makes you rethink whether or not requiring a license to blog is such a bad idea. This is the one that is the exception to my long-held belief that prostitution should be legalized. This is the one that pees in the goddamned punch bowl!”

“It certainly isn’t journalism—it’s a circle jerk.”

Wow. If that’s not a personal attack, I’d hate to be on your bad side.

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20 Jim Mosier August 24, 2009

I thought wine was supposed to bring good people together? Otherwise it would have been spelled “whine”

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21 Shelly August 24, 2009

I agree with Jim. Wine should be fun.

Wanted to find out more about you and found this (on your about page)to be ironic…

“and won’t bash something I dislike no matter how much fun it may be to do so”

Hmmm.

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22 Ryan Porter August 24, 2009

Shelly, what is the name of your wine blog? You don’t mention it or reference it here.

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23 Lenn Thompson August 24, 2009

I think we got off track here…this (at least I don’t think so) wasn’t meant as a post JUST about Randy.

Just like anything else, as wine blogging grows, it’s going to splinter into different factions. It’s natural. I’d be shocked if it didn’t happen.

Some bloggers are trying to do anything they can to refine the art/craft of wine blogging and push it to new heights.

Others are content to take samples, write only positive reviews and enjoy a lot of free wine.

It’s up to the individual blogger to decide how he/she wants to operate.

But that doesn’t mean that the other camp needs to like it.

And, until these factions are clearly delineated, those pushing the envelope MAY feel the need to differentiate themselves with posts like this one.

I try not to write about this sort of blog-focused stuff on my own blog, but I want to be known as something entirely different from Randy’s blog. That’s not a shot at him, it’s simple fact.

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24 Katie Pizzuto August 24, 2009

Shelly, that quote is in reference to product reviews and product reviews ONLY, and that is definitely the case….I will not bash a product, but in no way does that mean I won’t write a negative review. As most people who read this blog know, if I really hate something I will rant, but if I love something, I will sing its praises eternally. Perhaps I’m in the minority expressing a full range of human emotion.

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25 Randy Watson August 24, 2009

The funny thing about this whole conversation is that everyone is assuming that I have received a wine that I did not enjoy. Honestly, the only bottles of wine that I have not written about have been the ones that were cooked (and in most cases, I have gotten replacements and written about those).

Maybe instead of trying to differentiate yourselves from me and my blog, you should understand that we aren’t much different. We all love wine (albeit different types) and we devote a great deal of time (for little or no reward) to this passion. It only adds insult to injury when we attack each other.

If anyone is interested in ANY of my tasting notes/opinions, I would be more than happy to share them. After all, that was the whole point of starting my blog from the beginning.

Cheers!

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26 Lenn Thompson August 24, 2009

Again Randy, this post isn’t just about you or your blog. The discussion leaned that way, but I don’t think that was really Katie’s intent.

And hey, we all need to differentiate ourselves if we’re going to do anything real with our blogs. It’s that simple.

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27 Evan Dawson August 24, 2009

I’ll be more direct than Lenn: as a wine blogger, Randy’s blog flat/out embarrasses me. There’s no doubt that blogs featuring very little original writing and a pile of love poems to winemakers affects those of us trying to be strong bloggers. MSM writers and consumers are more apt to take a small sampling of wine blogs and assume that all behave that way: no niche or unique content, blatant whoring, groupie behavior. And Ransy, while the most blatant, is hardly alone.

Is this a personal attack? I don’t think so. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t sincerely like Randy. And perhaps direct criticism will help his blog grow.

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28 Shelly August 24, 2009

Okay. I’m not just here to stir up controversary…I swear. I guess I’m just not into the politics (if that’s what you call it)of “wine blogging”. I have a blog. I write a little about wine. I DO NOT consider mysef a “wine blogger”. I just hate to see attacks on others that I consider friends. I know you all say that you “like” Randy as a person but don’t care for his blog. I don’t talk bad about people I like.

I’ve enjoyed this enlightening conversation. It’s taught me a lot about how serious some take their blogging. That is sincere.
I’ll leave my link so you can see that I’m not a threat to the serious wine bloggers:)

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29 ryan August 24, 2009

Why are we lumping all blogs into one category? Wine blogs include: Industry critiques, Educational, Wine rating, History based, toursim based, compliance based, Auction market, micro regions, and much more. This is a problem and the reason we can/do have power. We can define the long tail niches. Why do people keeping hope we all are the same and all subscribe to similar rules…

Seriously cream rises, smart people find smart content and sheep will always be herded no matter what we write.

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30 jpsb August 24, 2009

I’m coming in on this post way after the fact and do so agree with Shelly,Randy and Ryan puts a good conclusion on the it all. Good discussions, bad slamming of Randy as I do feel was done to him personally. I thoroughly enjoy his comments and have learned a lot from him. Plus you know what.. he’s FUN!

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31 Vinny August 28, 2009

I’m not a blogger so I feel like I can go ahead and attack Randy Watson and his horrible, ass-sucking blog.

I haven’t stopped by that blog in a while but it’s just a bunch of really bad, superficial writing about a bunch of lame wines written by a person who has no talent for writing or tasting.

The sheer audacity and outrageousness of the concept is the only reason he has attracted any attention at all. Attention that will, if there is a God, be short-lived.

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32 Randy Watson August 28, 2009

I’d like to thank everyone for their comments both negative and positive. You have given me a lot to think about and hopefully make my site even better.

Starting today, I am directing the focus of my site away from “advertorials” and on to my daily affairs with wine.

I don’t promise to be an expert on wine, writing, tasting, or anything else for that matter. Instead, I will simply share my story in my own voice as an average person who just really enjoys drinking wine.

Although I hope you will want to read what I have to say, I don’t expect everyone to be a fan. That’s okay. I welcome your different views and opinions which will hopefully help me develop as a person and wine lover.

Until then…

Cheers!

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