Today marks the 1oth birthday of this website, Australian Wine Review. A bloody decade!
What an incredible ten years it has been – a time that has changed my life.
But it didn’t begin that way…
When I started this website, blogging was a cool thing that everyone wanted to do, and it seemed a natural progression to get on the bandwagon. That said, I didn’t necessarily start it to be a blogger. Instead, I started this website to serve another purpose – as a place for my wine notes to go. At the time, I had endless notepads full of barely legible tasting notes, and putting them on the interwebs seemed like a quick way to keep them all in one place (there’s an explainer in this video and this one I did many years ago for a previous birthday).
Of course, I had dreams of becoming a full-time wine writer, so it wasn’t just about a note repository, I wanted people to read my words and comment too.
Still, it still took ages for anyone to notice that the website existed, despite how much I enthusiastically posted (and those early posts are cringeworthy). But I was keen, and disciplined enough to post regularly which is the key to success. What’s more, in 2008 there was a vibrant wine blogging community that helped push me harder too.
Within 18 months things started to click for me – I went from ‘aspiring wine writer with a shitty website’ to ‘published wine writer with a shitty website’ and the samples started flowing in. Back then, the twitter wine scene was also a thing, with ‘tweetups’ seen as somehow the route by which wineries would sell wine to Gen Y. It was a fun time, and I lapped it up hard.
Since then it hasn’t always been easy – I’ve lost count of how many times people have stolen my content (fuckers) or the annoying French hackers who try and crack it all the time (why do they bother) and more. But on the whole, this website is now something fun – a place that has changed from being my main wine outlet to be a specific outlet. A place where writing about the wines that pass my desk is a creative outlet with no editors of commercial realities in the way.
More than fun, it’s a great feeling to get something back when you post. To know that someone, somewhere, might give a shit and agree/disagree violently with your ramblings to correspond with what you’ve written. Sure, it might just be an ego stroke/validation of opinion, but that sensation is what makes writing worthwhile.
Speaking of worthwhile, I’ve met some awesome fellow bloggers via Australian Wine Review over the years, many of whom, sadly, don’t post regularly anymore. I’m looking at people like Julian Coldrey (Full Pour), Chris Plummer (oh man I still haven’t found out what happened to Chris, and I’ve put some time into it. He was at Australian Wine Journal) and Jeremy Pringle (RIP JP. Wine Will Eat Itself).
Thankfully others are still powering on – like Stu Robinson (The Vinsomniac), Steve Q (qwinereviews going strong), Regan Drew (Vinonotebook.com) and Sean Mitchell (grapeobserver.com) which is much more heartening.
It’s rather dreary thinking how many of my favourites have dropped off over the years actually, and it’s not like new ones are coming on. I think, aside from those that I’ve mentioned and the likes of Ed (who predates me at Wino Sapien) or Philip (Drinkster), there aren’t many other ‘old timer’ Australian wine bloggers left around anymore.
We’re a dying breed.
Indeed, wine writing as a whole is in poor health in the country, with fewer columns, fewer websites and less critical thought devoted to wine now than ever in my drinking lifetime. There are plenty of quality words still being written (the boys at The Winefront do a great job for example), but there are almost no pure wine writers left in this country. Nearly everyone now has to maintain a side job selling/marketing/events etc to sustain themselves, and some that are left seem to feel the need to pump up their scores for their own self-importance (don’t get me started).
The model is broken.
Personally, the last 12 months have seen me considering the future of Australian Wine Review for the first time in my life too, as I struggle to justify the costs. Advertising no longer comes close to covering off hosting, so the site probably costs me $50 a month (and let’s not talk about how many hours go in) which is harder and harder to justify.
Just to further question intentions, my body last year decided to start attacking itself, and alcohol makes things worse. I went through a torrid few months late 2017 miserably staring down the barrel of arthritis medication that would stop me drinking much ever again, and I lost interest in drinking full stop. Wine? Not much use when you can’t straighten your fingers.
But I’m coming back. Slowly. There’s still a war happening in my body but now I feel less powerless and better informed. My health is better, my outlook is better and, surprisingly, I’m tasting more now than ever before. Professionally, I’m writing more, have more projects on the go (The Tasting Glass is killing it) and I can proudly proclaim that life is good.
Before I get all teary though and starting thanking The Academy, I’d just like to say again that the single best thing is when someone comments on a website post. Please, call out the wines you like/love/hate etc. Hassle me when you disagree about a wine. Just something. All of it is useful, as this wine reviewing caper is a lonely pursuit otherwise.
On that note, I wonder if that’s why few people bother writing stuff on blogs anymore? Because they get nothing back? It certainly doesn’t pay very well…
Next up then, a word of thanks. Thanks to all the good people who point up my spelling mistakes for one (the perils of self editing). Regan, Jime et al, I appreciate it greatly. Thanks to Sumith for all your help with my tech, thanks Chris for your logo work and thanks to the Balgowlah Hts Post Shop for being good people and holding on to mounds of wine boxes for weeks when I go away.
Further, a very big thanks to all the wineries and PR peeps who send samples, provide winery information and more. Thanks as ever for your patience especially with crap local couriers. I couldn’t do this job without you either.
Again, a massive thank you also to everyone who regularly reads and interacts with this website. In the immortal words of that great intellect Jeff Fenech ‘I love youse all’.
Finally then, here’s cheers to ten years of Australian Wine Review (or ozwinereview for short) and to ten more!
Now, I’ve got a plane to catch.
(The image up the top of the page is from exactly six years ago, taken near the Dookie College Vineyard. I had some great times at Dookie, and learnt a lot. It was a long road to finish my degree, however, much like how the last ten years. You can’t see in the photo but there are some rude dips in the road too even though it looks straight. Life is like that, eh).
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