Archive for September 1st, 2008

What’s it all about….EWBC?

Monday, September 1st, 2008

With apologies to Cilla Black, the European Wine Bloggers Conference is over and I have made some terrific new friends – Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, even American, but I am left wondering what it’s all about.

A group of people got together with some overlapping interests, basically an enthusiasm for wine and an opinion itching to be aired via digital means.  We discussed what blogging is, its importance to the wine industry, how to monetise blogs, quality and ethical standards, and whether rating systems are relevant to the wine blogosphere.  Of course, since the conference was handily located in the famous Rioja wine region of Spain, there were ample opportunities to sample wine and food from the Iberian Peninsula.

As you might expect the laptop is mightier than the sword, and opinion frothed like a breakfast cappuccino.  A tidal wave of wine testosterone streamed through alcohol thinned veins.

Wine and computer geekdom collide somewhat incoherently in a region where tradition stretches back hundreds of years.  And yet, we heard leading wine producer, Santiago Vivanco, say that the internet is a new door to wine, albeit that only hours later his brother was explaining how long it takes to innovate in the wine world – tradition is fiercely protected in most of the old world wine regions.

On the final evening of the conference, a handful of remaining souls, including the organisers, sat in the market square in Logroño over a beer (yes beer) and wondered what we had learnt.  Sure there was goodwill.  Friendship.  Trust.  Confidence.  Enthusiasm.  But a lack of clear direction.

Everyone has some idea of what they want from this new group and there is always a temptation to quickly place rules around a situation like this.  A mission statement; constitution; membership qualification criteria; communication protocols and platforms etc.  But I think this is putting the cart before the horse.  There is room for some serendipity here.  Group behaviour is an entire subject in its own right and I don’t intend to attempt to understand it, but I do think that if the group is cohesive and finds a purpose it will survive and thrive.  If there turns out to be no more common purpose than a willingness to read each others blogs and share an occasional glass of wine, then the group will ultimately split.

There is a danger in this type of “first” conference being a bit too introspective.  We need to consider the outside world, and allow a bit of time to find a common purpose.  Something that will unite the group and deliver value much more than the sum of its parts, not only to the bloggers, but also the wine industry, wine drinkers and even those that simply like to read about wine.

I am going to hang around to find out what this might be.