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BKWine celebrates 20 years of wine on the internet, since 1996

Sweden’s first website on wine?

20 years ago we started writing about wine online. “Wine on the internet since 1996”, as it says on our banner. We were – probably – Sweden’s first “home page” of wine. It was not called BKWine Magazine at the time, and a lot has happened since then. So this year we celebrate our 20th anniversary of wine on the internet!

1996 was not the start of our activity though. We had started well before that date, so that is more than 20 years ago.

1996 was a very good year for Bordeaux, one of the best vintages in many years!

So, twenty years ago we were probably Sweden’s first website about wine. Or “home page” as many said then, and many oddly enough still say. It’s a little difficult to know for sure whether we really were the first, but we have not found anyone that has been around longer and we looked hard and close for other wine sites the time. So that’s probably how it was. BKWine was Sweden’s first website about wine, and still in full swing.

We were not the first in the world of course, but there were not really that many web sites about wine in 1996. I know there were a few but they had not been around for long when we started.

Chateau Palmer, Margaux, Bordeaux

Chateau Palmer, Margaux, Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography

The beginning of the Internet for ordinary people

Technically, one might say that the Internet began in 1966 with Arpanet, ie 30 years earlier. But in practice, it was in the early 1990s that the Internet made its first tentative steps as something that was accessible to ordinary people. (Related question: When did you get your first personal email? Interesting to think about!)

“The World Wide Web” appeared in 1991. It was with the WWW and “hypertext” (text with links, one might say today) that the Internet began to become consumer friendly. Initially you surfed the web with the Mosaic browser (1993) and then came Netscape Navigator (1994). Both have now disappeared in favour of Firefox, Chrome and Opera (surely you don’t Internet Explorer or Edge today, do you?). And shortly thereafter, we started writing about wine on the Internet. In 1996.

When we started everything looked very different.

We wrote static pages manually coded in HTML (hypertext mark-up language), with the help of a program called Hotdog.

We published an article once in a while in part to advertise our print newsletter called VinNytt (WineNews in Swedish), partly to share our enthusiasm for wine, food and travel. VinNytt was somewhat inspired by The Wine Advocate (although that is a rather overly ambitious comparison), simple design, no advertising, manually distributed by post. VinNytt no longer exists (except for a site online with that name thanks to someone pinching our name for a very different activity). But our wine site is still there!

At that time we published our site through something called “Compuserve”. Anyone who remembers Compuserve? It was a part of the Internet that tried to create its own, private standards, a closed network you might say, but that also made it possible to publish the “home pages” that could be read on the “real” Internet. Compuserve no longer exists as it were then (though it still exists in a different form).

One of the wines served for lunch

One of the wines served for lunch, copyright BKWine Photography

Our own address and an electronic newsletter

We soon grew out of the Compuserve suit. Around 2002 we acquired our own internet address, bkwine.com. (With Compuserve you did not have your own address.) You can still see how bkwine.com looked like at the time, approximately, on The Wayback Machine, the Internet Archive.

2002 was an outstanding vintage in Burgundy, a year in which both red and white wines were top class.

Wine Tastings Britt Karlsson logo

In May 2003 we started an electronic newsletter that came to replace the printed VinNytt. (We forgot to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2013…). Since we already had decided to work in both Swedish and in English so we looked for a name that worked in both languages. Thus it became the BKWine Brief, and this electronic newsletter continues and thrives still today. In the first issue we wrote for example, that Chateau Margaux had been sold, that Domaine Huet in the Loire Valley had been sold, and about a vertical of Chateau Malescot Saint Exupery 1972-1990.

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2003 has gone down in history as the year of the heat wave in France, la canicule. They had rarely harvested so sweet grapes in Champagne. There were concerns that the wines would not survive long, with its low acidity. But the champagnes from 2003  that we have tasted recently have disproved it, and underlined that simple rules in the wine world don’t work. They have been outstanding champagnes.

BKWine Brief is now in its 160th edition and has 25,000 subscribers. Subscribe here to the BKWine Brief.

Champagne bottles in pupitres

Champagne bottles in pupitres, copyright BKWine Photography

At about the same time there appeared something called web log or in the shorter version, the blog. It was something that was only used to write an on-line diary or to put down one’s thoughts. The revolutionary thing with the web log was that it was so easy to use, so simple to publish content, as opposed to coding it in html. This allowed virtually anyone to publish their texts on the Internet.

Of course we wanted to try this this new tool too. On February 19, 2005, we wrote the first post on the BKWine Brief Blog. It was about how the US wine producer Bronco Wine Co produced wines with Napa on the label, but wines that did not at all contain wine from Napa. It worked well so we started three other blogs, two on wine tours (English and Swedish) and one on photography.

In 2005 summer was hot and dry in the Douro Valley, the port wine district. But a little bit of rain just before harvest saved it and made it into a very good vintage.

BKWine old banner

Maybe we were also the first Swedish wine blog, I do not know really. But we were in any case one of the first and for long one of very few Swedish wine blogs.

Today many tend to call almost all sites that are regularly updated “a blog”. I find this a bit strange, a bit in the same way as people sometimes say “home page” for a web site (it really sounds DIY, doesn’t it?). Maybe this is a bit ironic, given that today it seems that blogging has lost a bit of its popularity, compared to a few (only very few) years ago. Maybe that’s because of what happened next.

Then came the Social Media

The Internet World continued to develop and “social media” appeared. Around 2008, we started to experiment with Facebook and with Twitter. BKWine Magazine has its own Facebook page today. The other sites also have their own Facebook pages.

However, we are not on Pinterest and not on Instagram. Partly because you cannot do everything, but mainly because they have terms of use that are not good, from a photographer’s point of view.

BKWine magazine is created

Until 2011 our blog(s) and the bkwine.com site lived separate lives. Then it was time for a radical reorganization. We moved from a, by then, antique model with static HTML pages to a new publishing platform. We built an entirely new site using WordPress in the first half of 2011. It is in fact largely this site that you can still see today. We called it the BKWine Magazine, still with the address BKWine.com.

2011 was an excellent year in Rioja. It was hot, very hot, and the wines are powerful and concentrated, good to drink now.

Landscape with vineyards in Rioja

Landscape with vineyards in Rioja, copyright BKWine Photography

We choose the name BKWine Magazine because we wanted to highlight that the ambition was greater than just being a personal blog. The idea was, and is, to act as an on-line magazine, on the internet. Not just a personal blog. Once again the first; the first really ambitious Swedish site with information and journalism about wine, to share information, knowledge and enthusiasm about wine, gastronomy and travel.

It was long before the Swedish wine magazines (and even some of the international) had begun to think (and act) seriously about the Internet.

BKWine Magazine banner logo

We merged our BKWine blog with the old site and put an end to the blog as a separate phenomenon. All things editorial ended up on BKWine Magazine. Things that were about tours were moved to BKWineTours.com (or BKWineVinresor.com). And photography stuff became BKWinePhotography.com.

This coincided with our old site, before WordPress era, reaching 2 million “unique visitors”. Today bkwine.com and the other sites have reached around 8 million “uniques”.

Magazine BKWine today

So we have arrived at present times. This is where we stand now. We are one of the most widely read Swedish editorial wine sites, and even with a respectable number of international readers for the English version. Maybe we are the most read website with wine journalism in Sweden. It is not easy to know, because Internet statistics are not public and a lot of the readership numbers that you hear about web sites are not credible. Today we have a readership that would compare without blushing with some printed wine magazines.

Besides us, Per (who writes this) and Britt, we have a number of people, reporters and guest writers, who contribute content to the site.

Our fabulous Systembolaget reporter:

He is the one who tirelessly writes each month about all new releases at Systembolaget. Thanks Jack, we have one of Sweden’s most complete news coverage of Systembolaget’s launches. (But only published in Swedish.)

Our Swedish reporters who write about the wine world:

Thank you to all of you!

Thank you also to those who were previously BKWine reporters but now have other priorities!

We also have a number of guest contributors where I especially want to mention:

Thank you!

What happens now? The future?

So what will the next few years look like? Maybe not the next 20, but in any case the nearer future?

Yes, who knows…?

One thing is certain. If we technically, for the most part, have been early starters and been good on internet technology, I must admit that today we are a little bit behind. Technically, that is. One of the main priorities today is to ensure that the BKWine Magazine, with its sister sites are mobile friendly. More and more people read what we write on a tablet or on a smart phone. We need to adapt BKWine Magazine to this new environment. It’s a big project, but a necessary project. But since we do not have a IT department that we can hand over the responsibility to it maybe take some time. (Well, actually, we do have an IT department. It’s me.)

A modern wine filter

A modern wine filter

Probably we also need to find some kind of “solution” the editing and publishing function in some way. The editorial department, that it is the same as the IT department. With all that we publish today, almost one article or shorter post each day, it’s a lot of work. We’re probably the only Swedish wine site where all texts – all – are editorially inspected, read and if necessary edited by an editor.

The texts are then translated. Almost everything we publish is in both languages, English and Swedish. (Try the language option button!) And images are added. Which is a pleasant (but time consuming) exercise, since we have a huge image library with wine pictures. It takes me far more time than I would wish… Maybe we need to find some kind of solution to it. (For example, I should devote more time to producing photography, which is a unique resource that BKWine has.)

Yet another issue is advertising. We have no ads today, not on the BKWine Magazine site, nor in the newsletter, the BKWine Brief, nor in separate mail-shots. It is also something that is rather unique among similar wine sites. If it is a strength or weakness I do not know. Maybe both. But it means that BKWine Magazine today is completely unfunded. No ads, no subscription fees. Zero budget.

So a serious question is whether we should start with the ads. (Or a subscription model?) Would it be disturbing or distracting to you as a reader? Or might it be a plus? It could in any case possibly provide a budget to continue to run the site and develop it further. On the other hand, having ads would also require more work and administration, so is it worth it?

There are many other questions about the future that would be exciting to discuss!

Do write a comment or send us an email.

This was the story of BKWine’s twenty years of wine on the internet!

This post is also available in: Swedish

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