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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 3, 2008

RAISE A GLASS
Sip vicariously through a few great wine blogs

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By Andre Lopez

For the many wine-drinking novices and wine-swirling experts who exist in the universe, there also exists a vast world of wine and accompanying information. The process of gathering the information, then deciphering it to help us make buying decisions can be a fun and easy task to some, but is a very daunting process to most. A wine blog can be a worthwhile and valuable aid in helping to make sense of all the madness. These now-ubiquitous Web journals authored by self-proclaimed wine experts are a great complement to the other more commonly used sources.

So what is a blog? A blog (a contraction of the term "web log") is a Web site, usually maintained by an individual, that contains regular entries of commentary or descriptions of events. Blogs have made it possible for aspiring and amateur journalists, hobbyists, your mother and pretty much anyone to have their voices heard. Anyone familiar with the celebrity gossip blog Perez Hilton can attest to the potential impact that something so simplistic can have on the flow of information to the public, how big the audience can grow, and how perception becomes reality. Blogs have become very popular sources of information on all subjects imaginable. Most importantly, my favorite, wine.

Through my experience in the restaurant and retail aspects of the wine business, I have firsthand knowledge of how consumers look to institutional aids for advice on which wines to purchase. As mentioned in a recent article by the influential columnist for the Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, Wine & Spirits and Decanter are a few of the more noteworthy resources of wine information available. These resources are where consumers can cull information on the newest products, the latest trends, industry news, and tasting notes on current wines. These sources are excellent at writing objective wine reviews to a wide audience.

In my opinion, what these institutions lack is the human component. This is where wine blogs excel, in the gap between the clinical and actual human experience. For me, having a full glass in the context of a social setting allows for a more ethereal experience. A tasting memoir based on the overall experience associated with the wine will probably yield a quite different review than one done in a more clinical setting.

I find wine blogs useful because they offer an unfiltered, conversational and passionate point of view. The excitement of a blogger can be contagious. The author may talk about wine that they have had with a nice dinner, during a special occasion or even last Wednesday night with a simple roast chicken. Their detailed experiences make me want to experience what they are writing about.

A wine review written by one of the more institutional industry sources is most likely accomplished in front of a computer, among a slew of other similar wines. Unless you can relate to enjoying wine while tapping away at a keyboard, under fluorescent lights and in front of a glowing monitor, your better bet is to read a personal entry on a blog. You'll probably get a better sense of how you might enjoy it in a more intimate or social context.

In keeping with the theme of "personal connection," another reason why a wine blog can be helpful is that it allows readers to react and leave their comments. These comments can lead to dialog between the reader and the writer, which can lead to more detailed and individualized discussion about the wine or wine subject in question. Who knows what other personal wine suggestions stemming from the dialogue you may receive now wouldn't that be a bonus?

So now that I've shown you what a wine blog is and a few of the ways it can be used to aid in one's wine research process, you can start by checking out the following blogs. These are just a few, and I mean a few, to get started with. Also look out for more reading suggestions on the blogs themselves; many of them have a listing of links to their own favorite wine blogs and to other related subjects like food and restaurant reviews. Happy reading.

  • Vinography, www.vinography.com. Probably the most comprehensive and highly trafficked wine blog on the Web.

  • Dr. Vino, www.drvino.com. This blog offers an alternative slant on wine by examining the politics and economics of the industry.

  • Wine Doctor, www.thewinedoctor.com. For those who prefer wines from across the Atlantic, the Wine Doctor is a good read. His reviews are detailed and light-hearted, and if you've been hesitant to try European wines because of the difficulty of deciphering what's in the bottle, his musings will get you started.

  • The Pour, www.thepour.blogs.nytimes.com. Eric Asimov is an insightful and thoughtful writer. The popularity of his blog is reflected in the number of comments left by his readers.

  • The Grape Crusader, www.thegrapecrusader.wordpress.com. Of course what would this article be without a reference to a blog recently started by yours truly? It's a work in progress, indeed. Stop by and leave your comments.

    Andre Lopez is a certified specialist of wine and blogger for the newly formed Grape Crusader blog, www.thegrapecrusader.wordpress.com.