Thursday, June 28, 2007

Correction: Wine Blog Watch

Derrick Schneider has corrected me and pointed out that Wine Blog Watch is not his creation but rather that of Jarrett Byrnes (whose other site can be found here).

I apologise for the error, and as one of the idea of Blogs is the permanence of the content over time, and adding to the sum of knowledge, I thought I would correct the original post.

However, for future reference you might want to check out Derrick's food site anyway.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Wine Blog Watch

According to this article in Harpers from about 18 months ago (about the start of the Stormhoek phenomenon), there were 56 WINE blogs.

This number was according to the list on the Wine Blog Watch, a useful site created by Jarrett Byrnes in the US.

As a foodie with an interest in wine he helps to bring some order to the chaos of the blogosphere by listing all those wine blogs out there (there is a sort of arbitrary "must be 75% about wine" rule, which is fine by me) and even when they were last updated. Pretty nifty!

This site has just been added (I think the list must have refreshed recently) and now can be found amongst the other 448 currently listed.

448 represents pretty substantial growth for the category, but is a tiny fraction of all blogs. In fact, according to BlogPulse, "wine" is only mentioned in an average of about 0.35% of all posts.

Must do better!


Saturday, June 23, 2007

The ultimate compliment?

From the back label of a bottle of Pizzicato Pinot Noir 2005, Coney Wines, Martinborough, New Zealand:

"Once in a while, in a blue moon they say
The weatherman smiles in a fatherly way.
Instead of capricious with night frosts pernicious
A hot sun shines bright making wines more delicious.
Two thousand and five was just such a year
Which is why Pizzicato is better than beer"


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Read more about ... women

Is it a cynical ploy by Harpers to generate more traffic? Or maybe a case of watching how you tag your articles in future? I'm guessing the latter.

On a serious note, although I do not think that the entire business ought to be split between the sexes - with "wines for blokes" and "wines for women", it would be interesting to see how two panels, male/female, would rate a similar selection of wines. Is it a case of different palates or is it a case of drinking occasions being different or "social factors" coming into play?

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Not Whiter than White

Interesting developments in varietal labelling and branding in recent days. (I have read about it in Harpers but for some reason it has not been posted to their site)

It appears that the EU authorities are finally catching up with the issue of the labelling of rose, or blush, wines labelled as "White X" - White Zinfandel, White Grenache, etc.

Once again this raises the question of clarity on labelling. From an EU perspective where NOTHING is allowed on the label unless it has been specifically approved, there is no such variety as "White Zinfandel" (interestingly enough there are mutations of otherwise black grapes called White Merlot and White Tempranillo) so it cannot be used on the label.

But in reality this is a classic example of where a phrase on a label has become a brand rather than a technical content description. Whatever you think of whether these should be sold as wine or alcopops, getting rid of the term "White Zinfandel" will only cause confusion for those for whom this is their only knowledge of wine.

White Zinfandel is a recognised brand/category of wine and useful beyond the description of the main variety of grape used to make it. It is all about simple, medium sweet, fruity, probably reasonably alcoholic, rosé wine.

What will the result be? Will consumers ignore the change and buy the same wine whatever it is called? Probably, but not all of them.

Will some move on to try and discover other wines (as some in the EU probably secretly hope)? I very much doubt it.

Will it simply confirm to many that wine labelling is too complicated and confusing and turn them off wine again? That is my worry.

Whilst I have every respect for those who need to enforce a level playing field and basic health and safety, I think this move is simply ridiculous and wrong.

Friday, June 15, 2007

More on varietal labelling (Varietals: 2)

A few posts ago I posted a question about how important the use of varietals on the label was. Andrew replied:

"Important. Various reasons but mainly as an indication to the novice (even the intermediate) on what to expect. A Pinot Grigio is different to a Chardonnay. Having said that how many could tell the difference between a New World Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon?"

Good point. I was following a specific train of thought and ignoring some other important issues.

If a particular producer has several different wines, made from different grapes in the same region, then of course it makes sense to label them as such if only to differentiate one from another. If I happen to want to buy something from "Montana", it matters whether I pick up a Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling.

However, my "beef" (argument / issue / hang-up) is with the "tyranny" of varietal labelling in principle not simply as a differentiator, but as the main sales cue.

Producers from well established regions in France and other parts of Europe, are being told that one of the reasons they cannot sell their wines is that they don't list the constituent varietals on their label.

The issue is, for example, would the label "Chenin Blanc" be any useful indicator for a novice consumer of Savennieres? Would the blend of Carignan, Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache really enlighten a potential consumer of St. Chinian? In either case the consumers might get a shock.

What I wanted to get at is that if we restrict the entry level wine education to learning the "basic" grape varieties it is very difficult to broaden people's horizons beyond the usual suspects. It also makes selling blends more difficult (when these might actually be more approachable for beginners).

Most importantly, it perpetuates the dominance of "New World" brands that can market whatever varieties they want or are popular. If they can extend their range to include anything the consumer might recognise, why should the consumer look to a lowly regional European producer whose local laws and limited access to vineyards only allow him or her to plant one or two?

This question is almost too broad for a blog, so I apologise for the length and the ranting tone. However, I think that if we could address this issue we would see a way for a re-energising of quality wine sales that would benefit producers and consumers alike. Wouldn't that be worth it?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


How is a consumer expected to care about Bio-dynamic or Organic wine?

According to a study, consumers are confused. I wonder why?! With regard to why they purchase:

Biodynamic is less important than Organic
Organic is less important than the vintage
Vintage is less important than the winemaker
Winemaker is less important than the region
Region is less important than the country
Country is less important than the Varietal
Varietal is less important than the price
and finally,
Price is less important than the "deal" or "offer"

How is the average wine buyer to even start to consider whether the wine is either organic (which they at least have heard of) or bio-dynamic (which they certainly haven't)? They aren't even quite sure if the varietal name they have heard before is red or white.

The problem with marketing in the wine trade to some extent is explained by the fact that the differences, if any, between any wines are all at the top of that list, and therefore far beyond the interest levels of the consumer.

Therefore we have the following options:

Give them a(nother) deal
Join the me-too brigade focused solely on the varietals
Spend millions in the hope to increase wine "education & understanding" amongst consumers
Give them another, very different, reason to buy YOUR wine

Stormhoek are doing this last one. Magners have done it in cider. Levis did it for jeans.

As Hugh says, "go after the magic".

Unfortunately, in the commercial arena, bio-dynamics are still just hocus-pocus, not magic.

Friday, June 08, 2007

How do you ask for Banyuls in Spanish?

Currently sitting in an internet cafe in Logroño, the capital of Rioja. I am here for a friend´s wedding tomorrow night which inconveniently sits on the same day as my Aunt´s celebration in Edinburgh and 2 days before my next wine test.

It is rather frustrating to be in this beautiful part of the world but have nothing but fortified wines on my mind so I can´t even properly enjoy the Rioja. My current worry is that I really ought to be trying to taste some Vin Doux Naturel, particularly a red like Banyuls, in case it comes up in the exam on Monday. Unfortunately I am not even likely to find any Sherry here, never mind Banyuls, so I think I will have to simply drink through the guilt barrier.

... oh, and before you ask, no I will not be seeking out any Moscatel de Valencia! I don´t care if it is on the syllabus.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

all quiet on the blogging front

Sorry! Back on my WSET course, including two exams this week, so not much time to post, but will be back next week to answer Andrew's point and follow up on this story too.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Love at the bottom of a bottle

Seems like my ideas on love and wine were simply not daring enough for some.

There have been several stories (see here, and here) about a new French initiative called Soif du Coeur (Thirsty Heart) to use wine to get you a date.

I particularly like Alder's take on it.

Coming to a wine shop near you if you live in France, USA, Canada or Russia - which could make the "can I walk you home" offer a dangerously extended affair!