Tuesday, October 07, 2008

wineconversation.com is moving home

Farewell Blogger! Hello Blogging!

Dear Blogger Platform

You've been a friend over the last 2 years or more, and were instrumental in getting me blogging in the first place, but I'm afraid to say we've grown apart and our relationship is no longer the same. I'm moving out!

I'm very excited to let you know, if you've stuck with me over the last few weeks of relative silence, that I have moved home and put up a new blog on my own domain wineconversation.com

If you have been kind enough to add a link to my site from your blog, PLEASE update the link to the new address (http://www.wineconversation.com). I have an exciting plan for how to reciprocate on my new wine links page.

I still intend to blog about wine marketing, wine culture and other fun wine related thoughts, but the flexibility of the new site will allow me to organise the content better and add a few more fun features over the next few weeks and months (and maybe even years!).

This original blogspot site will continue to exist as Blogger does not allow me to easily redirect my traffic to the new site (shame on them!). I will leave all the content live and I'm including this message as the final post so that if you have made your way here you can easily find the new site.

On the other hand, if you are a new visitor who has happened across this archive, you can read more about me, Robert McIntosh, and share thoughts on wine on the new site. You should also contact me through the new site as it will be the most up-to-date.

I cannot sign off without a big thank you to Ryan at Catavino Marketing (who do Internet marketing for Bodegas but are equally experts in blogs for people like me) for his blog design expertise - thanks for the hard work and support in creating the new site!

Come on over to The Wine Conversation and join in the new wine conversation.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

And the beat goes on

It has been an embarrassingly long break between posts recently for someone who helped to organise a Bloggers' Conference, but that's the price you pay for getting involved in so many exciting projects.

In fact there are so many, I'm finding it hard to focus on all the opportunities out there, so let me give you a little run down of what is afoot:

1. Tonight (18 September, 2008 for future reference) is the 3rd edition of Twitter Taste Live, the coordinated tasting of wines by wine lovers across the world. Unfortunately this month is a little less coordinated due to the sad reality that we do not all have access to the same wines as everyone else. Tonight the event celebrates the wines of Michel-Schlumberger that are unfortunately rarely exported, so those of us not in the US will merely be peeking in the window of tonight's event ...

2. Which brings me to the next project which is to create a version of this event more suited to the UK and European audience, possibly involving starting earlier and maybe even different wines. I am in talks with some very exciting potential partners, so sign up to the event site and keep an eye on this site

3. Another good reason for the delay in posting is that I'm working on the transfer (at last) of this blog to a new platform. This will inevitably mean headaches for me, broken links for you, and tumbling technorati ratings, but I hope to keep these all to a minimum with help from my friends' blog marketing expertise. However, the result will be a more exciting blog with the flexibility to put in place even more features. Did I mention you need to keep an eye on this blog?

4. I'm off to spend a few weeks in Rioja for vintage, and hope to have LOTS of information on the vintage there, and ideas from the people I meet. This time you can keep an eye on this blog AND my Rioja specific blog (sadly neglected of late too)

5. Later in the year I will be helping to run a series of wine tasting events ... with a social media twist. I have made some very interesting new friends in the last few months that have opened up my eyes to quite how many exciting things are happening online in London and around the UK (check out Qype, Unchained Guide, TrustedPlaces and more) - and things we can probably take around the world too, so my head is buzzing with ideas. Erm, ... check this blog!

6. Some older friends of mine (sorry guys, I mean I've know you longer) have just launched an exciting new site called The Wine Gang. I want to give it a proper review and share my thoughts on it, ... you know what's coming next, so I'll not bother saying it again.

I could go on, but I've probably lost you by now anyway as you know you'll just be coming back again soon anyway.

Exciting, and busy times.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

The Beer Conversation

I hope you will indulge me and allow me to change the regular subject away from wine for a short while.

The subject today is beer. To be specific, it is Stella Artois and their marketing and PR activities. THIS is what I was inspired by!

I did not set out to think about beer marketing, but I had been trying to get along to a regular London Bloggers get-together for many months and I had failed 7 times already (that's almost a year of events) so I made a special effort for the summer party.

To help celebrate the event, Stella Artois made the brave, and far-sighted in my opinion, decision to sponsor the event. Not only did they pay for drinks, but they also offered a quite unique prize - a trip for up to 6 bloggers in their Star Over London airship (or zeppelin) as seen above. Each of these seats cost up to £360, so it was no small prize!

Stella Artois managed to tie in this prize to their sponsorship of "Love Your Local", a campaign they are supporting to highlight pubs that are at the heart of their community. To win the bloggers' prize we had to describe what we liked about our favourite local. I happen to have a great local pub (The Honor Oak), so it was no effort to write about them - and it so happens that I won one of the prizes.

[You can see my pictures here]

I also discovered that, as well as their long-standing and well regarded television commercials, they have a new interactive site with a game and other goodies (not sure about the game - it looks wonderful, but is it a game or a movie?) that includes a great collection and presentation of their adverts (I think these are the cinema-length versions).

It is a sign of a good campaign that you can conduct several different activities but still manage to tie them together, keeping the brand profile high.

Stella Artois emerges as a well recognised brand that cleverly manages to sell itself as a "premium" brand whilst still managing to compete on the mass market in pubs and supermarkets (i.e. it still discounts!). As far as wine is concerned, only champagne has managed to achieve this.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to see a similar branding concept in the wine business?

There are many reasons you won't see a wine brand pay to brand a zeppelin or shoot some of the most beautiful cinematic ads, chief of which is that none can afford it, but the impressive link up between the promotions, and the single-minded (although no longer "Reassuringly Expensive") and cleverly humorous presentation is something that would be wonderful to see.

[I ought to point out that Stella Artois is not immune from criticism either, with regard to its branding, but I don't think it negates the point that wine brands who want to succeed, as well as surviving for somewhere between 82 and 642 years, can learn from this sort of consistent branding]

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Lots of Wine Conversation at the EWBC

There is a LOT I need to think about, do and write about following the success of the European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) this weekend - so much so that I have neglected to put up a post on this blog since my return, which rather misses the point!

So, what does the EWBC mean for The Wine Conversation? Here are some very early thoughts:
  • The wine conversation needs to be less insular. We talk about wines we know and have access to, but there is so much more to learn and experience. We need to find ways to broaden our horizons, and listening to wine lovers from other countries is a great place to start
  • Wine bloggers are as diverse as wine drinkers. Very few of us are doing the same as one another (wineries, marketing, tastings and more), which gives great scope for sharing ideas for conversations and exploring our different takes on them. We should find out what readers want to know more about and explore it together and maybe get debates going
  • Let's stop being too introspective (says a great offender) and be more innovative, particularly with media. Enjoying wine is NOT all about tasting notes and points systems. We need more video, audio, imagery and other creative content
  • Honesty is not just the best policy, but essential to the trust bloggers need to build credibility. This doesn't come from Codes of Conduct or Terms & Conditions, but from action. Let's get on with doing the kinds of things that will really surprise and delight readers (like winery bloggers sharing details of the harvest and even tasting each others wines - coming soon!)
  • Wine brings people together. Naturally. We must continue to get across that drinking and enjoying wine is more than getting drunk and avoid playing into the hands of those who would kill off the wine culture
All of these topics are ripe for their separate discussions and I already have ideas of new friends to contact to explore them further.

There will be some concrete actions coming out of the conference, including some further gatherings (maybe one in the UK for bloggers & our readers over here?), but these will have to wait for another day. In the interim, check out the videos of the conference on VinusTV or on the EWBC site, and follow some of the resulting discussions on Wineblogger.info - the site for sharing tips and thoughts on wine blogging.

Finally, let me say that the conference was hard work - getting it organised and running it took a great deal of effort. I want to thank all those who took part for the fun weekend, but I particularly want to thank 2 groups of people:

First, my friends at Dinastia Vivanco (my major client) who not only encouraged my obsession with this topic, but also agreed to sponsor the event. I'm forever indebted to you - thank you Santiago and Rafael Vivanco!

And last, but not least, Ryan and Gabriella Opaz at Catavino.net for being such great people, committed bloggers and wonderful, wonderful friends.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Calm before the storm

Pouring some Excellent winesImage by Ryan Opaz via Flickr It has been a little quiet around here, and that isn't JUST because it took me a while to recover from twittering about wine until 2 am on Friday.

Firstly, I've been working on some thoughts on monetisation for wine bloggers which are being posted on the European Wine Bloggers Conference site (part 1 is live now, the next parts go up over the next day or two) as are part 2 and part 3 - part 4 is our discussion at the conference which I will report on after the event.

Secondly, the conference takes place this weekend in Rioja, in both Logroño and Briones (at the Dinastia Vivanco Museum of the Culture of Wine) from where we hope to be able to bring you some Live Blogging!

Unfortunately our internet connection will probably not support live audio/video streaming, but our friends from Vinus TV will be putting the materials recorded during the day live as soon as possible (I do hope Gema comes to the conference!)

A few of us will be trying to keep you updated through the use of Cover It Live, but as it will be my first chance to use it, I have NO IDEA how effective it will be, but head on over to the EWBC site and check it out if you can on Saturday.

I may be offline for a day or two, but hope to keep you updated here, or on the EWBC site, as to the build-up of the event, some of the wonderful wines we taste and the new friends I make.

Wish me luck!

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Ooh! I'm all a-twitter [updated]

I've finally gathered myself together enough to be able to post a round up of last night's Live Twitter Tasting & marathon food matching adventure.

It was a real experience!

First, I need to thank my key partner-in-crime; Andrew (wine_scribbler). Andrew was the one who had received the Hugel & Fils samples in the first place, and also the one to come up with the ideas for the food matching menu (below). Thanks so much!

So, the story: The second edition of the Twitter Live Tasting took place last night as planned, and as we European participants had to wait until midnight for the tasting we thought we'd do it over dinner and tweet later. So Mex helped me to put together a stellar line-up of social media savvy guests to join the fun. We all wrote our thoughts separately and compared notes later - hard work, but fun.

[click here for more photos - thanks everyone!]

So, to the matches and my thoughts:
1. Hugel Tradition Gentil (aka Les Fleurs d'Alsace) 2006
Match: Scallops pan fried with white wine, ginger, garlic and chilli
The Gentil was a "palate tingling" experience. An interesting complexity of fruit flavours and a crisp finish that partnered very well with the delicate, yet spicy dish. Excellent!

2. Hugel Tradition Pinot Blanc 2006
Match: Red Onion or Asparagus Tarts with baby leaf salad (I bought these, I must admit)
I must admit that this was my least favourite of the wines as I found the nose and the palate rather muted. However, the wine coped incredibly well with the lovely tarts despite the egg, and in fact was all the better for the food match. Not bad but there was better to come, and I think there was a consensus to this effect between all of us.

3. Hugel Tradition Gewürztraminer 2006

Match: Fois Gras Mi Cuit with toast and fig chutney
The foie gras was lovely, and worked well with the Fig chutney. However, the Gewurtztraminer, with its rich, spicy, ginger and wild honey flavours, amplified things further. This wine and match was the star of the night I think. Interesting that the Gewurtz would be selected by those who had never drunk it before as you'd expect it to be one of the most challenging as it is SO different to the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio most UK drinkers are used to. I found this very inspiring and I look forward to sharing more unusual varieties with my friends in future. 5-star excellence!

4. Hugel Riesling Jubilee 2004
Match: Pork Medallions with Mustard Mash, Apples and Cider Reduction
I'm afraid I made everyone wait for this as I had been busy eating and drinking and not preparing, but it turned out OK and I'm grateful for my patient guests. The Riesling divided the table. Those of us who are familiar with Riesling, and the uniqueness of Alsatian Riesling in particular, I think really enjoyed it's "petrol", floral and hints of something rubbery and spicy at the same time. A classic Riesling for me. However, some were not as fond of this, and found some of these aromatics a little off-putting. I can understand that, but I have hopes that over time they'll come around. The wine was very good, but maybe I should have decanted it earlier as Etienne later suggested during the Live Twitter, however it matched the dishes rich reduction and hints of sweetess well.

5. Hugel Gewürztraminer Vendage Tardive 2001
Match: Coconut Maccaroons [supposed to be accompanied with fruit salad]
By this stage the final train home loomed, so we missed the salad and jumped straight into the wine. Gorgeous wild flower honey richness and wonderful cleansing acidity and superb length. This was a great wine.


Once the others ran off to their train and get home in time to participate (what stamina!), Andrew and I logged in to join the simultaneous tasting across the world. I know I chatted with people across the US, Spain, South America (?) and even China (hi there StrongTiger).

We did attempt a live video chat too with Yahoo Live! which was an absolute disaster, although amusing at times as we attempted to communicate without audio using signs and whiteboards. I'll never do THAT again. Apologies to all those who were forced to listen to me alone as it seems I was the only one with working audio.

Lots of comments, feedback, differing views on wines and questions for Etienne which I think he handled pretty well considering the time delays and the occasional Twitter Fail Whale.

I will attempt to post some of the conversation here in a few days - I'm working with some friends on a solution.

A bit of chaotic fun and hopefully a bit of encouragement for readers out there to try some Alsatian wines with a variety of foods.

Twitter was a very important ingredient in this event, but not, I guess, in the way we might have expected.

Everyone wanted to experience this sort of event using Twitter, and this alone brought people on board who might not be as interested in wine alone. It also meant we could let people know about it, reach out to get more participants, build some excitement and coordinate our events. But the actual tasting on Twitter is a little too chaotic and complicated by refresh delays and limited space.

I wonder whether in future we need a separate platform alongside Twitter to conduct the Q&A section of the tasting, using Twitter to reach out to a broader audience?

Other, more personal 'learnings':
1. I need to plan the food more in advance so I can join in the conversations and not keep running away
2. We need to organise a separate UK/European edition at a more convenient time so more of our followers who cannot taste the wines themselves can follow the event
3. Mex knows EVERYONE! If in doubt, ask her for advice
4. Get more Moo cards! They are such a conversation topic of nothing else

Thank you ever so much to:
Andrew [Review 1], [Review 2]
Niamh [Review]
Lea [Review]
Kai [Review]
Annie [Review]
Sandrine [Review]
Jeremy [Review]
Lolly [Review]
James [Review]

And of course, a BIG thank you to Bin Ends Wine and Hugel & Fils for putting this event on.

See you all again soon I hope

Update 24/08/2008: I've added links above so you can read lots of other reaction from those present as well. Thanks everyone

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Twitter Live Wine Tasting - UPDATE

This is becoming very interesting!

First of all, Springwise has selected this event to be featured on its site for trend spotters and entrepreneurs everywhere.

Second, the little dinner alongside the tasting that Andrew and I were going to hold, is turning into a 5 course banquet of delicacies for a group of 5 or 6 "movers and shakers" in London's digital world. Identities are currently being protected to stop the groupies, other than mine, mobbing my front door :)

Lastly, I have found a few more sites that you might want to check out if you are thinking of joining in at all:

http://twittertastelive.com: set up by binendswine as the home of the events, presumably

Twitzu Event page: register your twitter ID here so we all know you will be taking part

1 Wine Dude's Yahoo Live! Broadcast: unlike my event, Joe Roberts will be broadcasting his dinner party and tasting live (assuming all this twittering activity does not crash the whole internet)!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hugel Wines and Twitter

I'm a sucker for wines from Alsace. I love the variety of styles, the rich flavours and the amazing expression that can come from just one small (albeit beautiful) region of France.

When I discovered that wines from Alsace would be featuring in an upcoming rather unusual live wine tasting, I thought I'd do my best to be part of it - and I'm glad to say I succeeded because this should be quite an experience!

These will all come from Hugel & Fils (www.hugel.com):
What makes this tasting different from 99.99% of all other wine tastings happening in the world right now is that it will take place live, in Europe and the US, using Twitter and also, because it can happen simultaneously anywhere in the world, we are going to be able to be joined by Etienne Hugel himself.

[If you are not familiar with Twitter, it is a web application that basically is a cross between blogging, sending an SMS and instant messaging/chat. Very addictive! It should make the comments, and tasting notes, a bit of an entertaining challenge.]

The tasting will start at 00:00 UK time on the 22nd of August (that's midnight folks!) because we are joining in with our US friends who start at 19:00 Eastern on the 21st).

I will be trying to stay awake and post my thoughts on the wine (and the food we will match them to) along with Andrew from Spittoon (see below) both on twitter and on this blog.

If you want to follow the tasting live you'll need to sign up and 'follow' me (add me as a contact) and some of those below. My username is thirstforwine

Other that will be participating include (and there will be plenty more I'm sure):
binendswine (USA) http://www.binendswine.com
(the coordinator of the event)
wine_scribbler (UK) http://www.spittoon.biz
catavino (Spain) http://www.catavino.net
gabriellaopaz (Spain) http://www.catavino.net
1winedude (USA) http://1winedude.blogspot.com
dalecruse (USA) http://drinksareonme.net
winecast (USA) http://winecast.net
richardpf (USA) http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com

If you are a fan of Alsatian wines, or maybe you want to learn more about them, you can join us live, or look out for the report of the event. It promises to be a fun experience and a new way to share the fun of a wine tasting without the pressure

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Airship Photos

I'm working on a post with some thoughts about beer marketing (you won't be surprised it stems from my recent brush with Stella Artois marketing efforts) but in the interim, I thought I'd post a link to my photos so I can share them with those of you who have been following my attempts to get airborne, and those I met on the way that I promised this to.

Click here for the full set (click on the slideshow button for the full effect)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

When good things come from bad

Well, another aborted attempt to soar like an eagle through the skies of London (well, more like a weather balloon than an eagle I suppose) on the Star Over London, but more on that when I've finally managed it - hopefully tomorrow.

As I had to come back through London, I stopped off in Spitalfields market as suggested by Eating Leeds and tikichris, to taste Sherry and Tapas. I admit, I love sherry, so I don't need to be convinced. However, younger consumers in general are yet to be fully convinced, and words alone will not change their minds. So what will?

Well, like the recent Tapas Fantasticas event, the Sherry Institute has decided to get glasses into consumers' hands and set up a bar in the middle of the City, in Spitalfields market.

Not only are they making it accessible, but they've been able to get Heston Blumenthal (yes, that chef!) involved to develop the menus.

Now, food is much trendier in many ways than wine. There are a hundred times more column inches and TV minutes dedicated to food rather than wine, and there are plenty of TV chefs, but very few TV winemakers, tasters or critics. Shame!

So, great food, good endorsement, easy to get hold of, it must be a winner, right?

Well, I must admit that although I didn't mind having to pay to get a sample, I think that £6 is quite an investment for someone unsure about the wine in the first place. However, for my £6 I did get three samples of sherry AND 3 interesting little 'tapas' (not a portion most Spaniards would be accustomed to however!). There was a £3 option for a full glass of sherry as well if you wanted, and that was pretty good value compared to a local winebar.

Since the menu had to be limited (this is a tent in a middle of a square after all) and the sherry was matched to the food, the choice of sherries was limited.

The fino, I must admit was nothing special although reasonably pleasant, and I can't say I'm a fan of Cream sherry (however good quality). Being a fan, I KNOW what I want, and that's an aged, dry Amontillado or Oloroso, or my personal favourite, a Palo Cortado. However, the sweeter style of Oloroso that they served was very nice and I shall be looking out for this bottle again.

I congratulate the Sherry Institute for organising this event, and I wish them well. We need more people trying sherry and realising that despite the common misconceptions about sherry, and the appalling way it is often served (warm, oxidised and in tiny glasses) that it is a fabulous drink worth exploring.

It is rather last minute, but if you are around the City on Friday 15th August, check out the Sherry Bar outside Patisserie Valerie.

Oh, and if you are there in the late afternoon (after 5pm) look up in the air and I will try to wave from the Airship/Zeppelin as I fly over.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crowdsourcing Wine

Ever heard the term "crowdsourcing"? If you haven't check it out! It is a great idea, perfect for the "social networker" in all of us - either as a producer looking to create new products, or a consumer eager to get involved in shaping new solutions.

From Wikipedia:
Crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call. For example, the public may be invited to develop a new technology, carry out a design task, refine an algorithm or help capture, systematize or analyze large amounts of data (see also citizen science).

The term has become popular with business authors and journalists as shorthand for the trend of leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals. However, both the term and its underlying business models have attracted controversy and criticism.

There are loads of examples of crowdsourcing happening around the world, taking full advantage of the benefits of social networks to get the word out, and involve lots of individuals all over the world.

I came across this example of a crowdsourced cafe today, called Elements.

Members share ideas of what to call the project, choose its logo, what to serve, why, how to communicate its values - even what those values are. All the while, this group is creating a loyal community that will hopefully turn into loyal customers in future.

So, who is doing this in wine?

You could argue that the clever chaps over at Crushpad have started this sort of thing, allowing groups of virtual winemakers to create their own wines, from choice of grapes and how to 'make' the wines, all the way through to packaging design.

These wines are, therefore, available only in limited quantities and are expensive. I should admit I'm involved in one Crushpad group being run by Tim Elliott but, in an example of the limitations of taking these virtual projects into the 'real world' it may be legally impossible, and financially impractical, for me to ever actually drink this wine!

But, are any of the big brands in the wine world working on something like this? It would seem ideal territory. Who knows, maybe we'll hear something exciting in the not too distant future.

With thanks to Springwise for the tip about Elements

Site changes

I thought I should warn you that over the next few weeks you may see a few changes around here.

I've used the Blogger platform since the beginning, and I would recommend it for anyone starting out in the world of blogging, but if you want to develop your own ideas further, there are other alternatives that are more flexible.

I am working on the second generation of The Wine Conversation (with the help of some friends) and hope this will roll out in the near future.

In the interim, I may test out some ideas and features. Today's change was the addition of Google AdSense. My intention is not to turn this blog into an advertising vehicle, but as I'm writing an article on how wine bloggers might become more professional and earn a living from this craft, I thought I'd get some first hand experience of the features and management of this now, fairly ubiquitous, solution.

Hopefully the new ideas we are working on will be of use and interest to you, so if you mainly follow me in your feed readers, do keep an eye on the site from time to time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wine, Sport and the Olympic Ideal

This weekend I was watching a great deal of the Olympics, as were around a billion other people. I wonder how many people were considering the link between the Olympics and Wine?

At first it seems a strange thing to compare, but on Saturday morning I turned on the television to watch the excellent BBC coverage with my daughter.

She is just over 3 and therefore this is her first Olympics. How exciting is that? Your first chance to see all these sports; these wonderful sights of humans achieving such heights of physical strength, skill and sportsmanship. What better education and model for an impressionable mind?

So what does it have to do with wine?

Well, after a bit of rowing, and her wonderment at the gymnastics, coverage turned to ... boxing.

Who would want a 3 year old to watch boxing? Two men in a ring doing exactly what we tell kids not to do. "No fighting!" "No punching!" "Play nicely together!"

I almost turned the channel to watch one of the dozen channels dedicated to MORE cartoons. Then I stopped. First, I wanted to watch it (there are a couple of very good British boxers). Secondly, it is an Olympic sport too, so why should I shield my daughter from it more than any other?

It occurred to me that allowing her to watch boxing is similar to be being prepared to allow her to see me drink wine (I should point out that I am only talking of AMATEUR boxing).

Both alcohol and violence are "wrong" in a general sense, but we are talking here about a controlled, ritualised performance. Amateur boxing is not ABOUT the violence, and wine is not ABOUT the alcohol, but they are part of the package.

The boxers have spent years developing themselves physically and their skills, and the judges are not there to decide how much they hurt the other contestant, but how skillful they were at landing a punch. Of course, people do get hurt, and it does still involve pain and physical damage (no question about that), but all those involved are aware of this and have chosen to take part.

Alcohol is a damaging substance, and winemakers are "alcohol pushers" - but they are not doing this to hurt drinkers. Wine is an expression of the skill of grape growers and wine makers, and a way of experiencing this personally for those of us not directly involved in the production process.

My daughter didn't like the boxing (naturally) and after I explained why they were doing what they were doing, she was still worried about them, but at least understood that this was friendly competition. However, so far it is one of the few sports she has seen that she doesn't want to grow up to do (she does want to row, become a gymnast, dive, lift weights and sail).

There are those who would ban boxing just as there are those who would ban wine, or at least tax it out of existence.

Banning or hiding wine is not going to stop some people abusing much stronger and damaging alcohol any more than banning or hiding boxing will halt street violence (or worse, the horrible kinds of atrocities in Georgia/Russia/South Ossetia that I also had to explain to my daughter).

In fact, I believe that a certain amount of escapism or "letting off steam" is important to humans everywhere. Cultures that manage to find positive ways to do this through responsible consumption of alcohol, or responsible attitudes to sports are more at ease with themselves. This is one of the best things we can learn from the Olympics, as the ultimate expression of this in sport.

On that note, I was very affected by seeing two competitors sharing a hug and a kiss on the podium. One was Russian, another a Georgian. There was something very symbolic about the fact that they had been competing in a shooting discipline. There was also something symbolic about the fact that those who could take this positive, conciliatory attitude were women.

I'm glad my daughter is learning valuable lessons like that!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Making money by blogging about wine

Well, that's a headline guaranteed to bring in the masses!

In fact it is just a tease. I'm working on an article on this topic as part of the UNconference over at the European Wine Bloggers Conference.

I have a few ideas of HOW it could happen, but I wondered if anyone had any ideas of IF this has happened?

If anyone has any concrete examples of promotions going on out there (past, present or future), I'd love to hear about them as I hope the article will act as a major discussion point for a good while.

If anyone has a blog out there who has made money, or a service they want them to know about, get in touch.

I recently came across this example from Berocca which I thought was pretty cool, even if it doesn't pay the rent, and of course there are networks like FoodBuzz and VinoClic.

But are any wine brands, of food brands, spending their marketing budgets and arranging media placement on wine blogs?

Please let me know in the comments or by email: thirstforwine@gmail.com

(oh, and I'm trying to keep this a Stormhoek-free discussion - we've all read about that one already)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Terroir: Idiots, Elvis & Sex

I'd love to give you a summary of this article, but I can't. The BEST thing, by far, that I can do is three short quotes. If these don't make you want to read the rest, and make you want to explore the concept of "terroir", then I'll drink a bottle of Gallo!

The Shakespeare of Terroir - Alder Yarrow at Vinography quoting Terry Theise

There are two types of people out there. There are those who understand that the soil makes the wine, and then there are those who are idiots.

Saying weather acts upon terroir is like saying some years Elvis was skinny, some years Elvis was fat. Elvis was still Elvis.

I like to say that Grand Cru vineyards are the earth's erogenous zones. They are special places that tingle when sunlight hits them.

I particularly like the last one - full of potential for elaboration!


Oddbins chain sold to ex cellar

Oddbins put up the "SOLD" sign yesterday (see here, and here). Really, for those who have been following this (including me), it was not a surprise. What might be a surprise was who bought it. Ex Cellar.


Well, I can't claim to be clued up about all the businesses out there, but this one is pretty small, with only 2 outlets BUT ... it has a particularly powerful motivator, the kind of thing that might be needed to turn around the performance of a business like Oddbins. The family name.

Ex cellar is run by the son of the founder of Oddbins, Simon Baille.

I come across a phenomenon regularly both in my professional life and my personal experiences. The businesses that impress me most are those where everyone I come into contact with are motivated to make the 'relationship' with me (the customer, or supplier) a success because it is good for the business, and for them personally.

I'm sure that seems like common sense, but how many times are you served in a restaurant by someone who obviously is there only for the money and really is only doing the bare minimum? Instead, think how you feel when you walk into a small business and are served by the owner who does everything to please you and make you feel important - because you are.

The best larger businesses manage to engender that feeling even when you are being served by an employee, not the owner, but that employee is fully committed to the business and to the relationship.

Oddbins USED to have this. There was a camaraderie, a pioneering spirit and a sense of fun that was shared amongst all stores. Even though they were not running a small, independent local store, you still felt like it was, but still got the benefit of great buyers sourcing interesting stuff from all around the world.

When it lost that sense of fun, that commitment, it lost its USP and it became just another retailer. Even the mightiest can fall at this hurdle (Starbucks is on the retreat, and McDonalds has been for some years too).

I hope that the new owners can use the family link to recreate that personal commitment from the staff to the business that will make Oddbins a great source of wine again. It is not going to be easy, but all of a sudden, there is at least the potential for this to happen.

If I could make a suggestion though, I would suggest that the developers of the ex cellar website do not get the job of redesigning the Oddbins site! If you need contacts, let me know!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Cooking with left-overs - with a difference

I don't know about you, but I think there is a lot of wisdom in the motto of the late Len Evans:
People who say “You can’t drink the good stuff all of the time” are talking rubbish. You must drink good stuff all the time. Every time you drink a bottle of inferior wine, it’s like smashing a superior bottle against the wall. The pleasure is lost forever - you can’t get that bottle back.

Whilst I can't afford to follow it to the letter, I do believe that in my life I can only consume a limited number of alcohol units. I do enjoy myself, but not to excess.

In this case, I consider that most non-wine alcohol units that I consume are like smashing that proverbial bottle against the wall - I could have used them to drink more wine instead.

I do enjoy a whisky from time to time, and the very occasional G&T, but I almost never have anything else.

However, as a good host I keep a stock of other drinks for when others are visiting, or bottles that have been gifted. These sit, in silent slumber, in a drinks cupboard in the kitchen. Unloved.

When I first heard about "Cooking with Booze" I thought it was a spankingly good idea for a cookbook, but now it occurs to me it is even better than that. It is a way to use my "left-overs" in a creative way.

One additional reason for liking this book is that the author has "done the web 2.0 thing" and actually made the whole content available free on the internet on the site in recognition of the fact that there are a percentage of us willing to pay for the convenience of having the book at home, and that making the content free will hopefully attract loads of different people, increasing sales. I hope it works!

(It does for me)

So, if you happen to be invited over chez moi in the near future, look out!

(p.s. In case you were wondering, I shall probably skip the chapter on cooking with wine and drink it while I cook with everything else)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Blogging Matters to Harpers

I had a piece published on the Harpers, or should I say Talking Drinks, web page yesterday.

I had been talking to their web editor for some months as I knew they were looking at this area, and we had similar views. He invited me to write a short piece about the state of blogging and introducing the concept of blogs to their (probably sceptical) readers.

Hopefully I did the latter, but there wasn't room enough to explore all the sorts of conversations that are going on in the space available. That's what I do more of here.

If you are interested, please take a read and let me know your thoughts on "Why does wine blogging matter?" and pass on the link to others as well.

The wine business has always sought ways to reach out to consumers and communicate the personality and individuality of their wines, and now blogging - whether it be by the winemaker, the consumer with first-hand experience, or the trade professional offering a trusted review, makes this possible.

Lots of fun stuff to discuss at the upcoming European Wine Bloggers Conference

See you there?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A very social media

It seems I am spending more of my time socialising than writing about social media at the moment.

Last week I was off to Windsor to meet Joe Roberts and Andrew Barrow, then on Friday I met up with the "Lewisham Bloggers" (a local grouping of bloggers on a whole range of topics, living in this part of London), and last night it was the London Bloggers.

Wow! What a night for someone who spends so much of their day involved in social media sites like me ("My name is Robert, and I'm a SocialMediaChat-a-Holic")

One of the great things about blogging, as I have mentioned before, is that you meet all sorts of different people around the world who share your interests and passions. But one of the other aspects is that, as bloggers, we are in the business of building communities, and we are therefore, it seems to me, interested in all sorts of other communities as well.

Last night I had great conversations about wine (amongst other things), but none of them with other wine bloggers. There was the digital marketing consultant, the Food & Drink Editor, the Digital PR strategist, the Underground blogger (I was particularly excited to meet Annie Mole, I must admit), the Digital Brand & Marketing Commentator, and many more.

One of the things I learned is that if you want to be taken seriously in these circles there is one "must-have" item.

Not a 3G iPhone.

It is a Moo Card.

I started picking up a few of these last night, and by the third or fourth, I felt like apologising for only having my "boring, traditional" cards to give in return. So my Moo cards are on order right now!

It was interesting to meet all sorts of people, and all levels of bloggers - from the A-listers to those starting out, and generally just have fun without having to explain (again) why I spend so much time on these sites.

A particularly big thank you to Stella Artois for sponsoring the evening, not only with some drinks for everyone, but also offering a prize in their airship.

Oh, I should mention THAT I WON A TRIP IN THE AIRSHIP!!!!!

I'll be posting photos here after the trip, currently scheduled for this Friday.

[I wish I had an airship to use for promotions!]

Thanks to everyone for the evening, and I'll update this post with links to other round-ups as I come across them.

Some other round-ups:
London Underground Blog

Social PRobiotic

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wine Investments

I would NEVER suggest anyone invests in anything, let alone wine, without a THOROUGH knowledge of what they are getting into. Despite my reasonable levels of knowledge about wine in general, one area I really do not feel I know at all well, is Fine Wine. But there are plenty who (think they) do.

It used to be the kinds of wines that most people simply couldn't afford, and the rich bought, stored in their country houses' cellars to drink after their retirement. However, Fine Wine, and in particular Bordeaux, has become a 'market' - a commodity to be bought and sold purely for investment purposes.

In these difficult financial times, is it a better, or worse time, to get involved in this?

I have no idea.

However, someone thinks they do, and he has a radio programme dedicated to Wine tomorrow, so if you are interested, check out Alvin Hall's World of Money: Wine tomorrow, 26 July, 2008 at 12:04 on BBC Radio 4 (or Monday, 28th July at 15:02 for a longer version, apparently).

For those not in the UK, this is during a programme called MoneyBox which is available after the fact as a podcast.

[UPDATE: The BBC have added some further interesting content related to the show here. Not an answer to the question, but further background and interesting quotes]

You can't share a bottle online

I really enjoy building online relationships and keeping in touch with a great range of people through blogs, comments, facebook, twitter, Open Wine Consortium, etc., but the ultimate goal, really, is to make 'real' friends.

So when I saw a 'tweet' by @1WineDude, otherwise known as Joe Roberts who blogs at 1winedude.blogspot.com out of Philadephia, mentioning that he would be in the UK, I jumped at the chance to meet up with him and share a glass, or two, of wine.

Andrew Barrow from Spittoon joined the party and we met up at The Two Brewers in Windsor.

We talked about wine, blogging, US vs. UK, music, food and all the sorts of stuff people who have known each other for a long time would talk about, yet we'd only met an hour beforehand.

It was fun, and if any other wine blogger out there is planning on passing through London, or its environs, do get in touch so we might arrange a get together of our own.

Two of the topics we discussed which are worth bringing up here, were:

The serving temperature of wine, particularly reds. The Two Brewers is a great place to go for wine as it has a limited, but adventurous wine list. However, the UK is not built to deal with heatwaves, and our bottle of Chateau Musar 2000 arrived too warm (as did the later bottle of Astrolabe Pinot Noir 2006). No problem! Drop them in the icebucket left over from the Rose (from Provence, but label had washed off). We did get a reputation from the staff for "liking chilled red wine", so I had to point out we were only lowering it to where it ought to be, around 18 degrees. The idea that serving at 'room temperature' does not mean "whatever temperature your room happens to be" has yet to filter down properly. This is Confessions of Wino's personal crusade, and I'm happy to support it.

Bloggers need to work together more. This one was more controversial, and I must admit it is my own agenda. I do believe that we need to find ways of doing things together that go beyond links and comments if we are to have real impact. This is the subject for what is going to be discussed at the European Wine Bloggers Conference, as well as the North American one, so expect to see more on this.

My thanks Joe and Andrew for a great evening. Let's do it again soon.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wine Biz Radio

Oooh! I'm a radio star!

Well, in truth I was allowed to babble on well beyond my due 15 minutes of fame on Wine Biz Radio - a great radio show emanating from California

For anyone involved in the wine blogging community, Wine Biz Radio, and its hosts Randy & Kaz, will already be well known.

This is Randy in the photo - a perfect face for radio, wouldn't you say? :)

For everyone else, this is a two-guy radio show that airs every week on live radio around California where Kaz (winemaker, sound effects maestro and all-round entertainer) and Randy (resident geek [sorry Randy!], lion tamer [sorry Kaz!] and winemaking student) look at stories of interest to wine folk.

Mostly this is US & California specific, but as Randy in particular is linked in to all the online communities on twitter, Open Wine Consortium, Wine Blogging Wednesday, and more, then it touches on wider issues as well (Kaz gets dragged kicking and screaming into these too from time to time).

This week, in an (unusually) pre-recorded show, I called in and got a chance to share my thoughts on UK wine drinking, Dinastia Vivanco, Garnacha, the European Wine Bloggers' Conference and even babies and growing up in Italy. Yes, pretty random!

If you get a chance (and have a little time spare - you can always forward to my eventual arrival at around 25 minutes in), check it out!

Wine Biz Radio - A new Paradigm

Thanks Randy & Kaz

Interactive Wine Sites

Over the next few days, thanks to their well established brand and their PR muscle, you'll probably see several headlines like this one:

Roederer champagne launches new interactive website

I don't know about you, but the interaction I want with my wine involves drinking it!

I don't understand these Flash-based websites (you might want to go off and start the page loading, then return to read the article while you wait - but remember to turn the sound off).

The vast majority of people browsing the internet for wine are looking for:
  1. background details
  2. stockist information
  3. a 'deal'
  4. fun
(check out Able Grape's take on this too)

Using Flash to promote your wine brand is like hiring a stand-up comedian with ADHD to be your spokesperson - however amusing he may be, he is getting in the way of the message.

Sure, with Flash you get bells and whistles. In fact, the Louis Roederer site is like a unicycling bear that is playing La Marseillaise on his bells and whistles, but what are they doing to address the needs of the customers? What is the goal of the 'interactivity' on this site?

(oh, and by the way, that unicycling bear keeps falling off and his bells are out of tune - the sound on the site is awful and I keep getting stuck, unable to go back)

Joel Vincent made an interesting observation on a recent post on his blog Wine Life Today:
My bottom line points are simple. I’ve written about and preached on the “Wine Life Value Chain” where I talk about how the strength of a relationship basically has direct correlation to influencing a wine buyer. The closer you are, sociallogically, to the source of a wine recommendation the faster and more likely you are to buy it. So with that theorum guiding my thoughts we look at social media.

Flash CAN be a great tool to aid this relationship, but all too often it seems to be used to create a barrier between the people behind a wine and its consumers - something akin to a prestidigitator's distraction technique.

One might argue that this is exactly how Champagne has managed to create a strong stylish brand, separating itself from its plain and homely still wine cousins - we're missing that 'magic' ingredient. Maybe that is why it was used and I'm the one who is missing the point.

In any case, my preference is for sites that engage me in a meaningful relationship, that have answers to my questions and encourage me to commit myself in some way to the brand in the way they are doing with me.

The interactivity I seek is knowing that the winery, or winemaker, cares what I think, and helps me to both taste and understand their wines. Here are a couple I have come across recently that make me feel this way.
Neither of these sites has spent anything like the amount of money Louis Roederer must have done, but I get so much more out of them because I feel I know the wine, the people and the reasons for their existence so much better and on a more personal level.

And talking of interactivity, I'd love to hear your comments on these sites as well. Have I missed the point on the Champagne site, or am I too committed to blogs? Let me know.

(Photo Let it Float, courtesy of hashmil)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Who can? The Wine Can can!

Who can make drinking wine from a can actually look cool and an attractive proposition?

Until today, I thought nobody could. But now, thanks to TheDieline.com I believe I may have found the answer:

The Wine Can

(photo borrowed from TheDieLine.com - please visit their site for more photos and other cool designs)

Not ANY old can, but a gloriously modern looking package with matt colours, nice graphics, and it is easily recyclable (I believe).

Of course, this is only at the prototype stage, but apparently the designers are looking for investors (and presumably wineries) to get involved and get this to market.

Of course, the issue will be cost. As with all innovations, this will probably be expensive, at least at first, on a per unit basis. The effect will be either to make the wine in this can appear more expensive than it is (limiting sales), or will require the marketing/distribution company to fill it with cheaper wine to offset this.

That would be a shame. What would be interesting would be to see an innovative, premium priced brand take the plunge and provide good quality wine in this package to attract early adopters to buy it AND enjoy the wine inside.

I'm always on the look out for packaging that is interesting, so if you know of any other such developments, please do let me know.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wine for 3 year olds

{An imaginary, although by no means unexpected or far-fetched, conversation about wine with my daughter}

Daddy, why do you drink wine?

Well, darling, I like how it tastes and it is a nice thing for adults to drink with their dinner.

Well, wine is made in a special way so that it has all sorts of flavours. Some of them are really good to have with this meat, some of them are better with your pasta, but almost every bottle tastes different. I like to taste lots of different ones to see what they are like and which ones are most interesting.

Good question! We can drink all sorts of drinks, like milk, water, lime & soda, beer or even fruit juices, and wine is like them. But wine is different because it changes depending on how it is made, where it comes from, and who makes it. It means that I can learn a lot about different places in the world and about different ways of making wine that I never knew before. It is like you being at pre-school, every day I learn something new and exciting.
I like things that are new and exciting! Can I have some wine?

No, sorry darling. Wine is for adults.

(wait for it ....)


Well, because it has something in it that is not good for little girls and boys, but adults can have a little of, just like we discussed about salt. It's called alcohol and it can make you feel unwell if you have too much. My body is bigger and more used to it, so I can have a little.

You can have a smell if you want?

What do you smell?
Mmmm! Nice! ... Fruit?

That right, dear! Wines smell of fruit and other thngs, and they are even made from fruit. Wine is actually made from grapes.

Well, grapes can be used to make wines that taste nice to adults, or they can be eaten by everyone just like you are having. But this wine didn't smell of grapes did it? It had smells of strawberries and cherries, didn't it?

Well, when you make wines, it changes their smell and the way they taste. You can even put it in wooden barrels to make it older and taste better, a bit like when we made that bread and we had to wait before we could eat it. It rested.

There are so many wines around the world that different wine makers find new ways to make their wines taste different and better, a bit like recipes. So they try new things and then we can see whether we like it or not.

One day, shall we go and see someone making wine?
Yes! And can I eat grapes?

Well, we'll see! We can ask.
Daddy, one day, when I'm older, maybe when I'm a adult, I'm going to drink wine just like you and Mummy.

That's great dear! But not too much, OK?
No! I don't want to be like Silly Sammy Slick*

Excellent! Now, eat your grapes up!


This is all a fantasy, of course, but I know my daughter, and this is exactly how the conversation would go.

There are those who would hide their drinking from their kids, fearing they might somehow accidentally turn their little darlings into binge drinking pre-teens, but I'm of the totally opposite point of view. It does much more harm to hide your drinking than sharing your reasons for it. If you are not capable of moderate, responsible drinking, then of course you need to deal with that so your kids do not learn bad habits, but if you can, then share the enjoyment.

Wine, and other recreational drugs, may be an emotive subject for adults, but for kids it is just another part of life that they need to learn about. Not educating them is unfair on them, and stores up trouble for them, and for society, once they are more independent.

I fully expect to have difficult conversations with my daughter about alcohol in future, but it will not be because she has not had a chance to learn about it from me.

I wonder how this conversation would sound like when she is 10, or 15? If I'm still blogging, I'll let you know.

(check out another recent dad's take on this at 1WineDude)

* you need to be up on your Dr. Seuss for that line, but Silly Sammy Slick Sipped Six Sodas and was Sick, Sick, Sick!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rosé? Why compromise?

I am back online (well I never left totally, this is an online addiction after all, but it has been hard to concentrate on projects).

I've got a few irons in the fire, but I thought I would make a quick comment on an interesting headline I read yesterday:

Rosé passes white wine as France's favourite from The Telegraph

Wow! That is a LOT of rosé wine. I have not seen the underlying data to prove to myself that the French really are buying more rosé wine than white (this is the land of wonderful Chardonnay from Burgundy, Sauvignon Blanc & Chenin Blanc from the Loire and all sorts of wonderful and exotic Rousanne, Marsanne, Viognier and more from the Rhone).

Surely these are not being displaced by rosé?

Well, of course, there is the issue is of price & availability. The white wines I mention are the ones all wine lovers know, but how often do we drink them? We can all list them as "great wines", but in practice we drink more lowly wines on a daily basis, and the French are no different. So instead, we look for interesting, new and 'trendy' wines, and the rosé trend is spreading around the world.

Even so, that is a lot of pink wine. In the UK, the last figures I saw had rosé sales still below 10% of all wine sales, so even with a big increase since then, they'd struggle to compete with white wine.

Another interesting comparison would be to see what types of rosé wines they are drinking. The much touted growth in UK sales are heavily biased towards the fruitier "blush" wines from California (White Zinfandel and White Grenache) whilst I imagine that even the 'new' young consumers in France, those who are ditching their parents' conventions, would still blush to be seen drinking these wines.

But I must admit that the comment that really annoyed me, of all of this, was Evan Davis on the Today programme (where I first heard the news). He said:

"Sometimes, when you can't decide between red & white, rosé seems the perfect compromise"

Compromise? What a shame to dismiss wines like that. Unfortunately, this is from one of the most educated men in the country working on one of the most influential programmes. OK, so it was a throw-away comment, but it shows that the Wine Conversation still has a long way to go to displace entrenched views.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Service interrupted

Readers will experience a slight interruption to their services over the next few days due to events beyond our control

Duncan John Grant McIntosh, d.o.b. 1st July, 2008

Normal services will resume shortly.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wine, Food and The Muse

You may have experienced a different tone from the posts on this site recently. I have certainly felt the difference when trying to write posts. The main reason, I believe, is that I have not been drinking any wine (with one or two extremely minor exceptions) for the last few weeks because I may need to dash off to the local maternity ward at any moment, so need to be alert.

The excitement and stressful expectation of babies aside, I find that my Vinous Muse has decided to pack her bags and head off on a brief seaside holiday in the interim, and thus my motivation for passionate discourse has abated somewhat.

I'm considering setting myself, and anyone who cares to join in, a challenge: to spend a week eating and drinking ONLY (dinner) dishes & wine matches to be found on UK blogs

Even though I do not post tasting notes on the wines I drink, these wines do inspire me with questions, to do some research or elicit some sort of reaction, and without them I feel like I am missing out on something.

Not drinking, when I normally drink a glass or two most nights, is difficult enough, but not drinking and trying to write engaging content to inspire others to do so, is even more of a torture.

All will be resolved in the next few days (I hope) and normal service resumed.

I've been thinking about the kinds of wine drinkers again. I wondered whether it was just me that was really not interested in food & wine matching and tasting notes, or whether there were more of us? I totally understand why one would be interested in combining food & wine writing, but I have yet to be bitten by that bug.

I'm considering setting myself, and anyone who cares to join in, a challenge: to spend a week eating and drinking ONLY (dinner) dishes & wine matches to be found on UK blogs (it must be a blog!). It will require a lot more pre-planning and shopping than I'm used to, but it could be fun and I might learn to appreciate the art more.

Any suggestions on sites to use as sources gratefully appreciated. I already have my friends as Spittoon and Cooksister as inspiration. Any others?

(pictured: my attempt at food & wine matching)


"The Wine Conversation a proud supporter of both the 2008 American Wine Bloggers Conference and European Wine Bloggers Conference"

Thoughts on a European community

Gabriella asked me an interesting question regarding the European Wine Bloggers' Conference yesterday. We have focused a lot on getting bloggers excited about the opportunity of the conference, but what do our READERS think about it? Why should THEY care?

Admittedly we have not clarified that point very much, although it has always been part of our thinking.

Ryan and Gabriella were kind enough to post my response on their site, which you probably already read, but just in case, check it out here:

Why Should Readers Care About the European Wine Blogger Conference?

"In my view, the most important goal of the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference is to start a conversation between the European voices at this party. Readers in Europe, and indeed the rest of the world, want to hear a familiar perspective on wine and one that is relevant to them."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Blogger Profiles

In between posts on this site and my new Rioja blog at thirstforrioja.co.uk, I am also working hard with Ryan and Gabriella behind the scenes for the European Wine Bloggers' Conference.

One of the great things we have managed to do already is get all sorts of different bloggers, 80% of which you have probably never heard about despite them having around 100,000 monthly unique readers between them, to write a short biography on the site.

If you read nothing else, check out some of the biographies here and get to know a little more about the kinds of people that create wine blogs.

There are plenty more to come between now and the event, and hopefully we will have everyone covered before the big day so we all have a chance to recognise each other at the event.

You can read the latest post here, which happens to be about me (including a nice photo taken by my wife yesterday of yours truly having ignored the razor - again).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Comedy, Love and Wine

If I may step down from my soapbox for a moment (I can hear your sighs of relief), I came across an interesting marketing concept only very recently.

[I tried to post about this yesterday, but their site was down, a technological hiccup that happens even to the largest companies as well as us little bloggers]

How to get younger people to learn about wine? One way is to combine it with theatre and comedy. I wish I had been able to do this when I was first learning about wine.

Hardy's (they of the mega-corporation) have launched a campaign called One Love Since 1853. Part of the campaign is a series of events around the UK being run by Chris Scott of ThirtyFifty (an innovative wine retailer/educator in his own right) which they are calling "sip-along theatrical productions".

The brief says:
Hardys, known for its straight talking, no nonsense approach to wine, has teamed up with ThirtyFifty to devise a world first in ‘educational entertainment’ - a series of interactive comedy shows to teach people everything they need to know about wine in just 30 minutes!

One of the jokes is that it takes 2 hours (according to the site) to learn "everything they need to know .. in 30 minutes", so I hope the other hour and a half is spent putting that knowledge into practice!

It is too late in the day to join in as the audience had to request tickets in advance, but one show is happening tonight (19 June 2008) in Manchester and there is a final event in Bristol (26th of June).

There could be tickets left, you never know, so head over to their sites and find out, or if you did attend one of the shows, please let us know how it was and what you learned.

[Update: Click here to read Eating Leeds' review of this event]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Social Drunking

My last post despaired against law-makers for their approach to problem drinking.

I called upon them to think bigger thoughts and help shape a new common goal that might divert attention from day to day angst leading to binge drinking (oh, and help to save the planet in the process).

A couple of things have occurred to me since that post.

1. It will never happen. Such a movement will have to come from 'me'/'us', not 'them'. [thanks to my lovely wife for reminding me of my previous thoughts about this topic. In my 'red mist' I got rather carried away with utopian dreams]

2. I've fallen, once again, into the trap of thinking others are "like me" - "I thinking" in Mark Earls' excellent Herd Thinking work

I assume that others could/should think like me about alcohol (or anything) simply because I hold it to be true. But they don't. However much I try and explain the error of their ways.

Are we the same? After all, I drink alcohol. Binge drinking kids and young adults drink alcohol.

No, the actual similarity is that we drink to socialise.

I drink to learn and explore, in the main. I like to share that knowledge gained with others who like wine in particular (I posted on this some months ago)

Those that are the target for this sort of legislation drink to socialise too, but alcohol, drinking to the point of drunkenness, is the objective of socialising, not as a subject to be explored. I have now seen this called "Social Drunking" - a great term for a sad state of affairs.

I found this presentation, courtesy of my friend Andrew (who knows a fair amount about this subject and helps to bring solid research to this debate, not just my ramblings), to be very enlightening. It is worth reading through it just to see how these 18-25 year-olds think about alcohol.

It would probably be unfair of me to point out that wine plays no part in their drinking (except for the one woman who mentions it in relation to 'sensible' drinking at home). All of those involved in alcohol have a shared responsibility to do something about this problem, but it could be that there is something about wine, or how it is perceived, that differentiates it and that could help us improve drinking habits.

I would point out, however, that price of alcohol, or availability from off licences did not figure at all.

I still think that learning about CONSEQUENCES, whether for our planet, through our wasteful consumption, or short-termist commercial thinking impacting on the sustainability of jobs and culture, would also have an effect on people's attitudes to alcohol.

Certainly, one consequence of my own drinking is that I feel a responsibility to do something, however small, to try and encourage a sensible approach to alcohol - by young drinkers and legislators alike.

You never know!