Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Its Vintage, Darling!

How do you know when the Wine Conversation has started in earnest and joined the mainstream? Some tests of mine would be (in no particular order):
  • Wine is the main object in a reality TV show (check! Oz & James took care of that)
  • Wine is the key plot driver in a big movie (check! Sideways & A Good Year, plus Mondovino etc.)
  • Wine becomes the subject of a daytime TV Quiz Show
  • Wine gets mentioned on The Archers (I happened to hear them mention facebook some months back - I knew then it had "arrived")
  • Two 'blokes' in a pub 'come to blows' over a wine
  • You can discuss the wine you drank last night with your barber, and he gives you new suggestions
  • Wine becomes the focus of a pulp fiction novel (check!)
I was in the checkout queue in the supermarket the other day and as I waited I was entertained by the image of an attractive woman carrying a champagne bottle. Nothing particularly unusual about that except that it was the cover of one of those mass market novels, and it was called "Vintage".

I decided to explore further and read the back cover.

"Three women who dare to make it in a man's world. One sparkling prize."I was intrigued.

"Competing to produce the world's best sparkling wine, the three women are swept into a world of feuds, back-stabbing, sabotage and seduction. Have they got what it takes to survive?"

Ooh! They joined the wine trade. How exciting! (only joking ... no seduction around here that I know about).

Quite apart from the correct use of the term sparkling wine, I was quite taken aback that wine should be quite such a central theme of such a book. I guess I should really have bought the book to learn more, but I couldn't bring myself to put it in the basket. However, if you are intrigued, you can check out the site here and even buy it on Amazon for £1.99.

How much more "popular" can you get?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Beyond the call of duty

I just have to point you to the kind of post you never expect to see, but exemplifies the future of retailing, one built on relationships and service and not on the "fast-buck" concept.

Price check: 2005 Caronne-Ste-Gemme Haut Medoc

Can you recall seeing anything like this before? I have had such conversations, but only face to face in the old fashioned local stores that know I'll be back again and again. These are a dying breed in the 'real' world.

The difference here is that this post is up for ALL to see, not just for 'best' customers. It shows how committed Jill at domaine547 really is to her customers, current and potential.

Thank you Jill, and I hope you get the success you deserve.

Can you point me to anyone else who has done this?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Can you taste the difference?

Would you buy this wine? It costs £7.99

This price is WELL above the average of around £4 per bottle in this country. If you are willing to spend double that amount there are only 2 main reasons:
  1. You are a "wine connoisseur" and know what you are buying and regularly spend this much
  2. You are buying for a special occasion; a party, a gift, a really special treat
I found it on the shelves of a local shop. Barossa Shiraz is world famous. Whether you know about the red earth, the climate, the issues of water shortages or anything else at all about the region, you have probably heard of "Barossa Shiraz".

Now, you wouldn't expect it to be cheap - generally speaking, if you've heard of the region (Chablis, Rioja, Bordeaux, ...) the wine isn't cheap, but it is Australia after all, not ... FRANCE, that place where all good wines are really expensive. Anyway, do the French even make Shiraz?

2006? Should be good. Not too old. Time to check out some more clues.

What about this one, at the bottom?

St. Hallett? Many will not have heard about this producer, but there is actually a name on here that can be checked out. If you know anything about Barossa then the name of St. Hallett should ring bells. Old Block? Faith Shiraz? If you search for the name you'll find this is a top producer with a great track record.

£7.99 for one of the best known names in the region? Cool!

If I bring this home to my husband or wife, or bring it to that dinner party on Saturday, they'll be really impressed.

But wait! What's that? At the top?


You want me to spend twice the national average on a bottle of wine, and when I bring it to the dinner party, despite it being a well liked grape, despite the well known region and the world-class producer, it says "Sainsbury's" on the front label?

Erm ...
  • You could say that if I say I wouldn't buy it I'm being snobbish.
  • You could on the other hand, argue that if I'm spending this much money, a guarantee from a trusted brand like Sainsbury's would encourage me to try it.
  • On the other hand, with all the choices available, do I want this name on there?
  • Or, are they using their buying power to get a great deal?
There is no easy answer, but these wines run all the way up to £12.99 for an Amarone and more and I am told that they are not easy to convince customers to buy (this is from the shop floor).

I know what I think, but what do you think? Premium wines (good ones at that), at reasonable prices, but constrained by the fact that it carries a non-premium label.

Would you buy it?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Multiple Personality Issues

I'll announce the details about the actual project in due course, but I am starting a new blog elsewhere so that I can cover some of the topics that I expressly forbade myself from covering on this blog.

My intention here was always just to "talk wine", not drink it, sell it or even make money from it. There were few places to get some of these thoughts and I believed that I could have some fun putting my own point of view out there to see what happened.

I never expected it to get all that far, and really it was as much an experiment that would allow me to join the "blogging conversation" as much as it was my contribution to the "wine conversation".

Now, I feel well and truly captivate by blogging. It makes a major difference to my life, where I make plans according to the time available for blog reading and posting. It opens doors to conversations with wine professionals in the UK and around the world. It even gives me excuses to plan exciting events.

I have always had more than one blog, having started a local interest blog right at the beginning of the adventure (now largely untouched), and also contributing to several others.

However, I will now have two personal wine blogs, both of which are important to me. The question is whether I will have to develop a full blown multiple personality trait to allow me to separate one from the other, or whether one will eventually win out over the other?

I will have to wait and see. I hope both turn out to have a role to play, however small. I trust you will forgive me if I split my attention between the two, and also stick with me while I find my feet blogging "over there" about things I have tried hard not to cover here in the time (almost 2 years) that this blog has been going.

More details soon.

Friday, April 18, 2008

List of Irish Wine Blogs

You may have noticed that among the updates to the blogroll I made a few days ago I also separated out the wine blogs that are written in Ireland.

The list is as comprehensive as I can make it (for the blogs anyway, plenty of retail sites), which is saying something as it only contains 4 entries [updated; there are now a few more; check below for the latest list]

Simon Tyrrell's blog seems to be fairly intermittent and I only started following it recently, but I do recommend you check out the others that are all in my feed reader already.

If you know of any more out there, please do let me know as Ireland does need more blogs like these to develop and nurture the Irish wine culture.

Last updated: 22/07/2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Searching for wine on this site

If you are a regular visitor to this site you may have noticed a recent change (other than the update to my list of UK wine blogs). This latest addition can be found at the top right of the page.

I have mentioned AbleGrape.com on this site before a few times, but now I must really thank them for listening to customer feedback and offering an amazing service for wine bloggers. They are now offering a free 'widget' that allows you to search their database of wine related information straight from this, or any other, blog.

I should give the site a proper review, but that will have to wait. However, if you are looking for ANY wine related information, give it a try - whether just to see where your blog or wine appears in the results, or if you are doing research and studying, I really do recommend it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

List of UK Wine Blogs

I have updated this list a lot from the time this page was published.

For the latest list of UK Wine Blogs, visit The Wine Conversation UK Wine Blog List

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Your views on Wine Experts

Andrew Jefford has issued a request for views regarding:

"whether the palates of professional wine buyers, sommeliers and wine critics are ‘too developed’."

This is for an article in Decanter, so get on down to his site and leave him some thoughts on the world of wine reviews, wine buying and even wine service.

I have left my initial thoughts on his site (still pending comment moderation at this time), and I think readers of this blog, many of you bloggers and trade professionals yourselves, will have your own views. Why not have them published in Decanter?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wine & Pork

Off to eat Pork and drink wines from Alsace - here's a taster

[UPDATE: Click here for a picture of the centrepiece of the meal. Warning, not for vegetarians!]


Rolly Gassmann Pinot Auxerrois Moenchreben de Rohrschwihr 1997
+1 of the gewurz


Trimbach Riesling CFE 1995
Leon Beyer Riesling Comtes D’Eguisheim 2000
Weinbach Riesling Schlossberg Cuvee Ste Catherine 1997
ZH Riesling Clos Hauserer 1994

Foie Gras

Schlumberger Gewurz Princes Abbes 2000
Zind Humbrecht Gewurz 1998
Hugel Gewurz Tradition 1997
ZH Gewurz Clos Windsbuhl 1989
Trimbach Gewurz SDR 1998

Suckling Pig

Trimbach TPG Reserve Personelle 1998
ZH TPG Clos Jebsal 1997.
ZH TPG, Clos St.Urbain, Rangen, 2002

Hugel Riesling VT 1964
Hugel Riesling VT 1976
Hugel TPG VT 1976

Contemplation of pudding

ZH Clos Windsbuhl TPG VT 1990
ZH Riesling Brand VT 1990


Albert Mann Pinot Gris Hengst SGN 1994
Rolly Gassman Gewurtz SGN 1997

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

An Audience With ... Me

I was invited by a friend and ex-colleague to talk to her Wine Business and Wine Production class at Plumpton College yesterday where I met a very interesting and diverse bunch of people. I wish them lots of luck with their future careers in wine.

The subject of the talk was me (jokingly referred to as "An Audience With ..."). More specifically, it was about my experience in the wine business, how I got (stumbled) into it, what I have done, and any suggestions I may have for those trying to do the same.

I will skip the vast majority of the content as it is irrelevant (and not all that interesting really), but I thought I would post a couple of the closing thoughts I had for them as they may be relevant to others, whether you are in the trade or looking to get into it.

1. Help solve a problem.

It isn't good enough to turn up to interviews with a bunch of skills but no idea what is going on in the trade. There are some key issues facing the wine trade today, what do you think they are, and what do you think your prospective employer could do (with you) to address these (profitably)?

My own, very quick, list was:
  • How do we sell better wine? (upselling)
  • How can we reach more (new) consumers?
  • How do we grow our business responsibly?
  • How do we educate consumers?
No-one expects you to answer these questions fully (and if you can, set up your own business!), but if you have thought about them and about how you can help the prospective employer put this into practice, you've got a lot more to offer than other candidates.

2. Blog!

The wine trade (in the UK) may not believe it at the moment, but I am convinced that blogging / self-publishing / consumer driven content / whatever you want to call it, will become a major influence in wine purchasing in the very near future. If nothing else, as wine retail develops online and more consumers purchase a greater range of products online, the need for recommendations and suggestions will increase. Blogging, and Wine 2.0 in general, also has the opportunity to change how we source information on wine wherever the consumer decides to buy it.

If you want to be in wine marketing in the next few years you really have to be familiar with this new trend. All it takes is to sign up to a few blogs, read them, contribute comments and share the conversation.

[I am particularly intrigued to know what they make of Wine Library TV (if anyone of you drops by, please leave me a comment) which I pointed them to as only 1 had heard of it before]

Even better, get involved and start your own. Blogging encourages you to put your own thoughts in order and encourages you to do a little more research (well, I did say a little). If you want to communicate about wine in the future day job, why not start now?

Also, the more there are of us providing interesting content, the better the general knowledge archive will be. Blog posts are permanent records, however well or badly they are written, and a well-meaning post, properly researched, might turn out to be invaluable to others


A Final Thought

We need more people to join the wine trade not just because they love wine, but because they have something to offer to improve the business. If you can find a way to tap into consumers needs and ways of thinking, then there will be lots of people willing to give you that dream job you are looking for!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Refreshing the idea gene pool

Any group can become insular and cliquey without outside ideas and influences.

I have seen it in all sorts of parts of my life, particularly in small businesses growing rapidly. At first the "entrepreneurs" just get on with the many tasks in hand, ploughing their own furrow. Eventually there is a social bond between the founders that keeps the business really successful, ... but it also difficult for newcomers to join the inner circle.

It isn't planned that way, but those who have been involved from the start have a shared history, language and experience (and in-jokes) that newcomers don't 'get', and so feel/are excluded.

With all the 'cooperation' activity going on, is it possible that wine blogging is heading the same way at the moment?

I really don't think so, but it is easy to fall into the trap of talking too much to each other and not to the average wine consumer/reader out there. It is certainly a charge levelled at us by some in the traditional Press, so we must address this in some way.

One problem is that it is in the nature of wine bloggers in particular to be cooperative, after all we are not competing for business, we are actually, really and willingly working together to "float all boats". Our readers can easily subscribe to a number of blogs as they only need to read one article per visit and then move away to the others, following links or some other RSS feeds.

We must remember that bloggers are as much consumers of information as producers. Most importantly, we don't need to keep readers trapped and clicking all around the place like certain sites.

Wine/Web 2.0 is supposed to be about interaction, two-way communication and conversations between publishers and readers, but, to coin a phrase, not all readers are created equal.

Bloggers read and link to each other a lot. It means we are very familiar with the personalities on these other blogs and also with the software, the etiquette and the writer's need for interaction, so it is actually bloggers that are the most frequent commenters on other blogs.

Once you add in social networking on facebook, Open Wine Consortium, Twitter, etc. we end up spending a great deal of time talking to each other. We even have shared activities such as Wine Blog Awards, Wine Blogging Wednesday and, dare I say it, Wine Conferences (and even wine blogging lampoons)

In themselves these are not bad things as there are lots of benefits to us cooperating and sharing best practice, technical and moral support and also growing the awareness of blogging. But wine bloggers need to ensure that the key audience, the blog reading consumer looking for information on what wines to buy, why and where, does not feel excluded.

Ryan at Catavino (see, I did it again!) recently pointed out that even well educated, well informed readers are uneasy and uncomfortable joining the conversation. We need to ask ourselves why?!

This blog is a major offender, but then my subject is to blog about things like blogging in wine after all rather than provide information on specific wines. I'd guess that the vast majority of my regular readers are bloggers themselves. I'd be glad to be proven wrong - if so, leave me a comment and let me know what brings you here.

So I have a suggestion and a request:

Bloggers, we must do more to incorporate comments into our posts. Many blog templates (including this one) relegate comments to secondary pages making a conversation very hard. Can anyone suggest a better way to do this?*

Readers; leave a comment! Anything will do. Any extra information you can provide is likely to be very gratefully received, but even a simple "thanks" or "that's not right" will do. Not only that, but suggestions and questions are the germs of ideas for future posts and discussions. If these are on things that matter to you the site will be even more interesting and valuable, and the gene pool of ideas will be that much more varied and healthy.

* I will be making changes to this blog very soon to try and put some of this into practice myself.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Are you serious?

I'm almost afraid to post something today in case it is taken to be a joke, being April Fools Day and all, so I'll risk making a few statements today about some ongoing discussions about wine. I will go on to explore them in more detail when, hopefully, I might be taken more seriously (but I doubt it):

1. The results of the American Wine Blog Awards have been announced

2. Kids should be allowed to explore alcohol at home with the family

3. We need to keep refreshing the wine blogging gene pool with more readers' comments

4. Bloggers need to refocus on the consumer or risk being distracted by the cool toys

5. And while we are at it, how is Gary like Oz & James?