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 Gew├╝rztraminer 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 Gew├╝rztraminer 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


lolly said...

Hey Robert - thank you some much for organising this! I loved your excellent review of the wines! Nicely chosen words

In terms of the strategy, Plurk would have been better than Twitter because of its linear layout, making easier to see what people are saying and ask Q&As. In the future it would be good to know who the participants are so we can add them onto our Twitter / Plurk accounts prior to the event.

If Yahoo live does work properly, we could perhaps use Skype (with a webcam) or Skycasts (although I have been told they might be closing down...)

Thanks again for hospitality last night!

See you soon

Joe Roberts, CSW said...

Great write-up!

I too, am really frustrated (and sorry about) the Yahoo! Live mini-ordeal. What's worse for me was that I tested it 4 times over the preceding 2 weeks and it worked every time then. And it did NOT work at 'showtime'. Grrrrr!!!!!

Also - is it wrong to hate you for having foie gras? :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your hospitality - very pleasant last night. Even if it was south of the river. Shudder. South?! I don't go south!!

Really interesting use of Twitter; will write it up over the weekend and get my photographs sorted.

binendswine said...

Thanks again to everyone in the UK, it looks like a great time was had by all.

We're continuing to fine tune how this thing will evolve, and are looking at loads of options on how to remain tightly tied to Twitter, but also better integration of video, audio and a cleaner auto refresh interface.

For a quick recap from our side of the sea, go here:

Thanks again and looking forward to the next!

Robert McIntosh said...


of course you may hate me - but it won't stop me eating it :)

video was fun - but you realise how important audio is (in fact more important)

I left you a comment on this too

Annie Mole said...

Hi Robert - it was a fantastic evening and thanks so much for hospitality and a much clearer review of the wines than mine.

I agree that was quite hard to co-oridnate the live twittering mainly cos of the huge time differences.

@binendswine looks like you had a good turn out too and we look forward to seeing the events develop.

BTW Mex doesn't know everyone - she knows me and that's enough ;-)

Lar said...

would love to join in the next one, keep me posted

Etienne Hugel said...

Great to have been part of this excited event.
I have posted a summary on our Blog here
Thanks for your active contribution. EH

Andrew said...

A fun evening indeed; thanks for hosting.

I must say that I found the video 'extras' rather distracting from the main event. Maybe if I was at home with my multiple monitor setup it would have been beeter - twitter on one screen, video on the other...

sandrine said...

Hey Robert,

Thanks a lot again for this amazing experience. The wine was fab, the diner was really amazing (well done to you & Andrew !).

I guess you're right, we should organise a European event next time to ensure everyone is in the same timezone ;-)

Thanks again - I'm just finishing my blog post about it ;-)

Denise said...

A "twitter tasting" what a great idea ... I just began using it about a month ago ...

Would love to follow along with your next one.