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05.29.2010

Where Are All the UK Wine Bloggers?

blogging_this.jpgOne of the longest running UK wine bloggers, Andrew Barrow recently wrote an article on his blog Spittoon, entitled The Definitive List of UK Wine Bloggers. My first reaction after reading it was: that's it ?!?!?

His list of every single wine blog published in the UK was merely 28 URLs long, and one of those was actually written by someone who lives in Spain. Granted, this list did not include blogs by wine retailers or by UK wineries, but even so, it is remarkably, even dumbfoundingly brief. Another reader of Andrew's blog chimed in suggesting the list was more like 70 long. Even so, that is far below the number I would have suspected, especially given that the number of wine bloggers in the US exceeds 1000 at this point.

With 30 million residents, the UK is roughly one sixth the size of the United States, yet its wine blogging population is easily 1/150th that of the U.S. And this from a country that has arguably the longest history of, and highest quality of, wine writing in the world.

The lack of English (and from my anecdotal experience, European as well) wine blogs is truly surprising, and likely not pure happenstance. Something cultural or circumstantial is clearly at work.

I'd suggest it's purely a matter of sensibility.

That is, most of the British are far too sensible to dither away their time spouting wine nonsense on the Internet. Indeed, why would they spend hours of their precious time each day offering up their own opinions about wine on the internet when they could be doing something much more rewarding, like having a pint with friends? Or is it just that they can pick up a newspaper and read Jancis Robinson anytime they want, so why even make the attempt? Or is it that Americans are just narcissistic hams who want more attention than we deserve?

Joking aside, I'm struggling to find any demographic explanation for the situation, whether due to age differences of our respective populations (insignificant), wine drinking habits (they drink more than we do), etc.

Got any theories?

Image courtesy of Foxtongue.

Comments (15)

05.29.10 at 3:06 PM

Yes, I do. As the one who has the longer list that I've been maintaining for a few years, I see good reasons why there are fewer blogs based in the UK. However, the explanation is too long for a comments box so I'll blog about it myself.

One possible explanation, made to me by an American friend visiting the UK, is that wine is so ubiquitous here that the majority of consumers do not need to bother thinking, never mind writing, about wine. The rest are preoccupied with only very high-end wines and don't bother with blogs as their audiences are already well gathered in a couple of key forums.

Sad, but at least part of the truth.

I'd say the view of Europe is wrong though - there are a LOT of blogs across Europe, but very few in English.

Stick with us! There'll be more along soon, I hope.

So, will you be coming to the EWBC to talk about this?

Tom wrote:
05.29.10 at 3:12 PM

I'm not sure if its a missprint but the UK has a population of around 70 million unless you're referring to the population that can drink.

jamie goode wrote:
05.29.10 at 4:44 PM

It's quality not quantity, Alder!

John wrote:
05.29.10 at 5:21 PM

Do they blog less in general? If it's due to sensibility surely it can't be restricted to wine writing.

Alex wrote:
05.29.10 at 7:18 PM

I do think narcissim is part of it (pleae don't pillory me, US readers!) - I come across many US wine blogs that appear to consist solely of brief tasting notes (often of wines that are samples) with very little (if any) value added. These blogs are often popular, so the authors have obviously captured a certain market.

However, in the UK, the person interested in wine can turn on any number of cooking shows where interesting (and widely available) wine matches are offered with the dishes made, the national papers offer interesting and (and usually well written) wine columns (unfortunately, increasingly brief), and there are accessible television series about wine shown on free to air tv. Why would you want to read the tasting note of an unknown with dubious 'qualifications' when you have ready access to what might be perceived as 'quality' information?

And yes, as Robert said, wine is ubiquitous and socially very acceptable. The impression I have from my visits to America and American tv is that people mostly drink (an approximation of) beer and consume wine rarely. Also, the quantities of both consumed seem to be much less than in the UK.

When I was UK based my blog contained quite a lot of wine posts but not enough to qualify me as a wine blogger. I rarely posted tasting notes alone - if I were to write about a wine it was because I had something to add: a great (or terrible) food match, a visit to the winery itself etc.

I suspect you'll find a lot of UK food bloggers do blog about wine but lack the single focus required to make them a 'wine blog'.

05.29.10 at 7:48 PM

My thinking on this is that it's simply a smaller percentage of the population are passionate about wine. One reason is, unlike the US, the UK has a much smaller selection of the B wines (the $25-$100) of the world.

Compare both NY and CA to the UK - both US states have many, many more wine stores that have many, many interesting bottles of wine.

How many Canadian wine bloggers are there? Not many. Mexican? Yeah.

Alder Yarrow wrote:
05.29.10 at 8:23 PM

Tom,

According to the last census figures available from the UK National Office of Statistics, the population was 61 million and change. Those official figures are 2008 dated, but I hardly think it's grown 15% in 2 years. Or has it?

Alder Yarrow wrote:
05.29.10 at 8:25 PM

John,

I've been looking for some data that slices and dices blogs by geography, but I can only find such statistics broken down by language, and unfortunately, as the old saying goes, England and the U.S. are two countries divided by a common language.

Tom wrote:
05.30.10 at 2:11 AM

No you're right the population is about 61 million still.

Benito wrote:
05.30.10 at 5:56 AM

The distribution within the US is even fairly lopsided. Early in the year I tried to put together a list of winebloggers in the Southeast, and came up with around 50. Texas, Georgia, and Virginia have a good number each, but several have none and others only one or two per state. (I actually went through the thousand or so links you've got, Alder, digging for geographical location, and then got recommendations from other bloggers. Still only about 50.)

For statistical purposes you could frankly just use California versus England, since that seems to be the origin of the vast majority of wine blogs. Doesn't answer your question, but I thought I'd throw the data in there.

[email protected] wrote:
05.31.10 at 3:03 AM

"Why would you want to read the tasting note of an unknown with dubious 'qualifications' when you have ready access to what might be perceived as 'quality' information?"

This basically has hit the nail on the head. Your local wine merchant in the UK invariably has some young guy with a pony tail who spent his last vintage working in some obscure vineyard in the South of France and can even tell you the name of the vineyard dog. Information is basically everywhere in the UK!!

05.31.10 at 3:15 AM

Christopher, you have a VERY romanticised view of the UK wine retail business. I'm not sure I would trust the folks in most 'wine' shops to tell the difference between the output of the vineyard and that of the vineyard dog :)

louis wrote:
05.31.10 at 9:35 PM

Sadly that UK blogging list is one shorter...as I've just moved to California.

Max morales wrote:
06.01.10 at 6:08 AM

I think is pure economics. Is hard To make a living out Of writing a blog. They can get bottles Of Wine, invitations To tasting and trips To visit wineries but with few publicity and advertisements i think is hard To sustain if The blogger does not have a primary activity that allow them To live and do The blooging as a hobbie. They have The passion, expertise and experience but maybe is just not profitable To hold so many Wine blogger.

Gavino wrote:
06.02.10 at 10:51 AM

Comrade! In the UK we are subjects not citizens. We are born into deference, to doth our cap to the privileged few. Our thoughts and tastes are dictated to us by our elders and betters...

...but times are changing. A new wind is a blowin'. We are evolving. We are mutating into a mass of sniffing, slurping, swallowing oenophiles.

Winedrinkers of England! UNITE AND TAKE OVER!!!!

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