What’s it all about….EWBC?

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.

10 Responses to “What’s it all about….EWBC?”

  1. Justin Says:

    Good post Alastair. I´m sure we´ll work it all out eventually…

  2. gianpaolo Says:

    I think we are all wondering about the meaning of it all, but from my side I can certainly say that there must be one, otherwise we wouldn’t all be happy to have been and to meet with each other. Nice meeting you, I hope your bag enjoyed Palermo.

  3. Robert Says:

    very good points! I hadn’t read this while we talked yesterday, but lots to think about

    I trust you, and your bag, got home OK in the end

    Very glad you could make it and I look forward to getting together again very soon

  4. Alastair Bathgate Says:

    Thanks All.

    To conclude the saga you will be pleased to hear that my bag sent a postcard from Palermo saying the weather was nice.

    It eventually turned up at London Stansted at midnight last night. One of the wine bottles had shattered, leaving shards of glass in my clothes and a good stink of English wine everwhere!

    Sorry you never got a chance to try the wine – next time eh?

  5. Andre Ribeirinho Says:

    I agree with Gianpaolo. I believe there is a stronger reason why we all joined in Rioja. We can see some light at the end of the tunnel but we don’t see what is generating it.

    It was a pleasure to meet you!

  6. José Eduardo Says:

    Allow an opinion of a non-wine blogger on this matter! It’s quite clear that all of this is quite in the beginning and directions are still being searched. That was the feeling I had when the discussion subject was “To point or not to point in blogging” or “How to earn money (monetize) with wine blogging”. We/They want to be different and do it brand new in this new platform, but at the same time they are not so sure about it. And I understand why, I think, they have to break the circle and contact the outer world to reach the real “masses” of Wine Buyers (not wine drinkers) and see what’s their feedback.

    Al, it was a real pleasure to have exchanged a few thoughts. Cheers!”

  7. David McDuff Says:

    Hello Alastair,
    As I’m still giving consideration to attending the US WBC in October, I appreciate your thoughts on the EWBC. Let me ask you a simple question, if I may. Did you find the overall experience worth the time and expenditure?

  8. Alastair Bathgate Says:

    Hi David

    That is a very easy one. A big YES.

    It was very interesting to meet other bloggers and equally the wine tastings and winery visits were worth the trip on their own.

    The expenditure was remarkably low thanks to the organisers who secured sponsorship and negotiated good hotel rates.

    If I could be in California for the USWBC I would be. Assuming you attend, say hello to Doug Cook from Able Grape for me.

    BTW – I like your blog and have added to my blogroll.

  9. Gabriella Opaz Says:

    Jose Eduardo, I might suggest that you are indeed a wine blogger. Albeit new to the scene, you are still sharing with us your stories from your winery, have RSS and are accepting and responding to comments. Hence, I would absolutely call you a blogger, and clearly, a passionate one at that.

    What I think was so wonderful about this conference is that we attempted to bridge the gap between personal, wine journalist, retail, winery and potentially, wine consultant bloggers. We all share a desire to interact with wine, as well as share our passion with others in a very positive and collaborative way.

    Do we know where we are going with our newfound discoveries from the conference? No, but I don’t think it matters. As Alastair so beautifully pointed out, “there is room for some serendipity”

  10. David McDuff Says:

    Thanks for the quick response, Alastair. And thanks for adding me to your blogroll. I’ve returned the gesture.


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