Two years of Wine Rambling

Two years of Wine Rambling

Two years ago the Wine Rambler saw the light of day with a short review on a German Pinot Blanc and a posting on a wine merchant who had no idea about their own catalogue. What started out as a means for two geograpically separated friends to stay in touch about their respective wine adventures has taken on a dynamic we have not quite forseen. The Wine Rambler has changed our lives in more than one way, and I am fairly certain it will continue to do so.

cover of Samuel Johnson's The Rambler, Stanford University Libraries
cover of Samuel Johnson's The Rambler, Stanford University Libraries
cover of Samuel Johnson's The Rambler, Stanford University Libraries

As one of two proud fathers, it falls to me today to say a few words on the occasion of our baby's second birthday. And also to explain what this old newspaper has to do with the Wine Rambler.

Believe it or not, but early modern newspapers and prints had a major role in making the Wine Rambler happen. To study such exciting materials I spent many months in the UK while researching my Ph.D. in modern and contemporary history. And as the experience was a positive one, I decided to move to London when a suitable job came up. This was exciting, but also sad as it robbed me of the chance to visit Julian and Sabine every fortnight to cook, eat and drink - and talk about wine. So Julian and I started sending each other regular emails about our wine adventures, and after doing that for two years we concluded that we could as well have a blog.

There were three reasons in particular for having a website. First of all I like building digital things and structuring information of all sorts. I think Julian, who is also a historian and, even worse, an archivist, could relate to that. Secondly, we wanted better ways of searching all the information, to help us finding a particular wine the other had recommended. And thirdly I in particular wanted something to point my newly found, international wine loving friends to. After moving to London, I had started sharing my love for German wine - I get excited easily and then need to share whatever interesting things I discover - and found much interest, but not much knowledge on the topic.

After doing this for two years now, it is fair to say that reason #3 has become the driving force and also guideline for our rambling - to share our love and interest for German wine (and, to a lesser extent, whatever else we enjoy drinking). I still like to think that we share this with friends. We have indeed made friends among wine loving people across the world - directly through the blog, but also through social networks like Twitter. Sceptics may point out that these people are not "real friends". In many cases that may be true, but not only have we found a vast network of communication partners who are usually more than happy to help, advise and entertain, we have also forged friendships and partnerships.

In London, wine blogging and tweeting have dramatically changed my social life. I have made many new friends and acquaintances here, including people I meet regularly, and this network has resulted in more invitations to wine and food related activities and events than I can follow up on. This is not limited to London, of course, and we have made new friends in Germany and other countries. For the sceptics who deny the impact of social media as just digital and hence not real I would like to add that when I say we made new friends we have also met them, for real, in person. As the Wine Rambler became more visible, we have also received an increasing amount of business offers. Many were dodgy or not interesting, some plans fell through, but some things may see the light of the day at some point sooner or later. The Wine Rambler has also changed the way we drink wine. With the Wine Rambler mostly being about German wine, our drinking, like our engagement with the topic overall, has become more focussed on Germany. Often, we pick wines from other regions so that they complement that interest. And we have become much more interested in unusual, random finds. We also have stopped drinking the same wine twice. Well, we are of course still doing that on occasion, but these days we are much more likely to look for new things - either to write about or to broaden our wine horizon. This means that one of our original motivations for the Wine Rambler, to have a searchable database to organise what we buy, has now become much less relevant. We hope it may have use for other people though.

Over the last year, the Wine Rambler has had another impact on our lifes. It made me love photography. Before the Wine Rambler, I had never owned a camera, but after doing this for a while we realised that we would need photos. Of bottles, of course, but also of events and for other activities such as visits to vineyards. So I bought a used compact camera first and then eventually upgraded to a DSLR. Only just recently I have bought my third lens for the camera and I now take photos of all sorts of things, with bottle photography now only a minor part of what I shoot. In Munich, Sabine - Julian's wife - has been in charge of photography right from the start. Whether supporting Julian by taking photos of wine has helped her convince him to upgrade her to a shiny DSLR last year I can only speculate, but it is fair to say that photography has become more important for all of us. And I am mightily pleased with it, as our hero Samuel Pepys would say.

The famous 17th century diarist brings me back to the begining of this story, and that is the naming of the Wine Rambler. When we discussed this over a bottle of Riesling in the spring of 2009 we had several ideas. For our emails we had used "WeinUpdate" ("WineUpdate"), but we discussed - and luckily rejected - many others like "Groovy Grapes" or "WeinUpdate - Wein & Weisheiten von Londoner und Münchner Küchentischen" ("WineUpdate - Wine and Wisdom from London and Munich Kitchen Tables"). We also had a few better ideas, which we are still saving for future projects. The reason we settled for the Rambler was our shared interest in 18th century British history. The late 17th and early 18th century saw a range of odd periodicals appear and disappear, and the names were even more unsual. We took inspiration from that and looked for something the word "wine" could be attached to, such as "The Wine Intelligencer, communicating the affayres of those parts; and particularly, the agitations of Julian and Torsten, in two severall counties". Several of the periodicals I had looked at in the British and Bodleian Library were Something-or-Other Ramblers, and that was the one we liked best.

After all, rambling is something we enjoy. And it links in with a song written by the fantastic Townes Van Zandt, so we will leave the last word to him.

Sometimes I don't know where this dirty road Is taking me Sometimes I don't even know the reason why But I guess I'll keep a gambling Lots of booze, and lots of rambling. Well it's easier than just Waiting around to die

Submitted by Alex Tuesday, 17/05/2011

... Happy Birthday Wine Rambler! Keep on doing your thing! And I do think that "groovy grapes" wouldn't have been such a bad name either, haha! :P

Cheers, Alex

Submitted by Andrew Connor Tuesday, 17/05/2011

Alles gute zum gerburtstag. This has quickly become one of my favourite wine blogs, many happy returns

Submitted by Julian Tuesday, 17/05/2011

Thank you, all the friends and well-wishers, for your reading, comments and encouragement. Where to start with all those fond memories of two years a-rambling? Two points will have to be enough. First: 'Groovy Grapes'? Really?? Then, on a more serious and personal note: Contributing to the Wine Rambler has changed my view of the digital world as a whole. I remain a pre-digital person in some ways, I do try to get more and more deliberate offline time for books and good old-fashioned CDs (the kind you listen to from first to last song, and read song credits in a little printed booklet). But by being part of a blog, I learned first-hand how satisfying it is to have got a text in the right shape after hours of editing, how - in those rare instances where it has worked - to get it so that it is well-rounded, but not too staid, how little or how much you need to make a point convincingly, to criticise fairly, to discuss with a civil tongue. I owe all this to my co-rambler Torsten, but also to the digital world. Now, when people talk with ignorance and derision about the internet and the foolish things young people get up to in it, I defend the digital world as the commons and the public square adequate to a democratic society: Everybody can speak their mind and be their own journalist, publisher and editor. What's greater than that?

Submitted by Muzuhashi Thursday, 19/05/2011

I am now genuinely disappointed that you chose 'The Wine Rambler' instead of 'The Wine Intelligencer, communicating the affayres of those parts; and particularly, the agitations of Julian and Torsten, in two severall counties'...

Submitted by torsten Friday, 20/05/2011

Thank you all for your good wishes. Much could be said about the aspect of the democratisation effect the social web may or may not have, but personally I can say I treasure the many contacts the world of wine blogging has opened up for me. The great thing about doing this in London is that there is a chance to meet also meet some of the people we have found through the blog as London is so full of wine activities and people. And to meet the rest of you, well, it seems we will have to travel some more...