Live wine blogging at Barbera Meeting 2010 represents a point of no return

Even though I’m not the biggest fan of this grape and the wines it is used to make, I’m almost sad that I missed Barbera Meeting 2010, which took place over the course of four days in Asti. It simply wasn’t possible for me to get into the game this time around.

Four days devoted to tastings of Barbera, from Asti, Monferrato, and Alba. I must confess that the thought doesn’t exactly thrill me. But in the light of the organizers’s professionalism and their hard work, their interaction with the press, and above all, the innovation they have introduced — the “Barbera blog” — I’m sure that it would have been fun to be there, not to mention professionally interesting. For those of us who had to stay home, it was possible to follow what was happening in real-time thanks to the blog.

And it also would have been to contribute, inasmuch as I am a journalist who also blogs. And I could have involved of my Italian friends who were there as well, Carlo Macchi and Alessandro Franceschini, who are not true bloggers but still publish on the web. They could have posted comments, impressions, photographs, and tasting notes of the many wines tasted, just a group of winebloggers from the U.S. and the United Kingdom did, coordinated by Jeremy Parzen author of Do Bianchi.

Their presence and their “outside-the-box” contributions were possible to the speed of the web. And others took note, as is evidenced by articles devoted to this novelty, like that published by Sergio Miravalle in La Stampa (see Parzen’s translation here).

One of the most interesting posts was published by American wineblogger Saignée, who wrote about the phenomenon of the so-called “Super Barberas,” in others words, Barbera d’Asti with special characteristics inspired by the Super Tuscan model. Powerful wines, very concentrated, dark in color, and rich with wood.

After reading the American wineblogger’s post, it doesn’t seem that this choice curried favor with the tasters and commentators in Asti. And he wasn’t the only one who repudiated the excess of wood in the wines, their lacking of balance and drinkability.

Had it only been possible for me to be there, I would have liked to participate in the discussions with producers, which took place during the afternoon sessions and in the evenings, in order to understand the director of this most popular of Piedmont wines. A great deal of Barbera is produced: I’d like to know where the producers are heading and how they intend to win over the various markets, especially foreign markets, with their wines.

But as an observer who followed the event from afar, I know that one thing is for certain: the innovation and novelty introduced at Barbera Meeting marks a point of no return.

And it will difficult — impossible, in my opinion — to organize similar events, in Piedmont or elsewhere, without taking into account the sounding board of talented bloggers, in other words, ones who write seriously and with authority, tastemaker bloggers (and there are plenty of them, here in Italy and abroad).

To not invite them along with journalists who publish in the print media and guides and to maintain that “they’re just bloggers” would not only be stupid. It would show that organizers of such events haven’t understood that times are a changing. The wine-loving public that surfs the web knows the difference between wheat and weeds. They are more likely to believe writers who publish unhindered than conventional information, often immobilized and mitigated, like that found in magazines and wine guides. They are more likely to trust in immovable winebloggers who freely express their ideas, tastes, and distastes.

That’s why this year’s Barbera Meeting, sung in the key of wineblogging for the first time, with live blogging provided by seven well-coordinated wine bloggers (perhaps next time there will be fifteen) constitutes a memorable event in the chronicles and discourse of wine writing. And it merits serious consideration in future.

—Franco Ziliani