Archive - March, 2009

Mixing my business with your pleasure

Sarah's signed VIP pass
Image by teepoole via Flickr

I have a dilemma. As with many other twitterers and bloggers out there who write about the subject matter they also work with, I sometimes have some potential conflicts of interest. To be more precise, I face some situations that some might pick up on as conflicts in a traditional journalistic sense.

I agree that someone who promotes themselves as a journalist and wants to be seen as an objective reporter of facts and news must be very careful about what products or brands they become associated with. However, I don’t think all bloggers really are journalists. We aim to share news and facts, as we see them, but mainly we try to entertaining you, and have fun as we do it. If you like it, you can follow us, and if you don’t, you can easily stop. We bloggers soon get the message.

So, to the dilemma.

I often come across information about, or even help to organise, wine events, tastings, special offers and more. Some of these, of course, relate to the wines I represent in the UK (which I have chosen not to mention on this blog, but write about elsewhere) or at least to the retailers and restaurants that I meet with regularly.

Should I let you know about these offers through this site, or should I be very selective and avoid the potential of being seen to abuse any trust you have in me as a commentator on wine?

I’m not talking about spamming my readers with hundreds of offers and deals, but if I hear of something I consider interesting, or get the opportunity to suggest something I think readers might enjoy, should I mention it here and do this as openly as possible even if it involves my wines, or business partners’? The alternative is, as I have often done, to participate myself and report on it from the event, but it does mean others can’t get involved.

In fact, turning it around, should I actually be encouraging MORE people to create wine offers for you through Social Media? Of course, I’m not just talking about discounts, but about events that encourage the exploration of wine and support wine culture.

I’m hoping that as many of my readers are also bloggers, or wine trade professionals, you’ll understand the situation and have some advice to offer.

As more and more of the restaurants, wine retailers and wine producers that I talk to want to know more about the possibilities of Social Media, there will be more and more opportunities for this to arise, and I’d like to get a sense of whether I’m getting the balance right, or you feel I may be promoting other businesses too much.

If you want to keep it even more brief you could respond “Yes” or “No”:

  • Yes – let me know of interesting wine related offers (but don’t spam me, just the best bits)
  • No – concentrate on wine writing (and do more of it) and let other sites promote the offers

… but a bit more explanation might help :)

Yours, in some trepidation for what I might be starting, your friendly neighbourhood @thirstforwine

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A vintage experience

The recent Oyster & Champagne event at Galvin at Windows was a very interesting experience on several levels (see my previous post)

Firstly, on a personal level, I found the opportunity, and the ‘sense of occasion’, to try my first oysters extremely rewarding. I must say that I still don’t entirely see the attraction of oysters like this. Maybe I need to develop my palate for oysters (for example, one of the most popular was one of my least favourites, one I almost failed to swallow). I guess I have much still to explore. Thank you so much the the lovely people from Wright Brothers who did their best to try and educate me.

Next to the blind tasting of Champagnes, or as it turns out, a range of Sparkling Wines from France, Spain and England. Just in case it needed to be proven again, a blind tasting is a great leveller. Even the “experts” failed to spot that some of the wines were not “champagne”, so much so that these “other” wines will have surprised many of us. In fact, after tasting 8 wines, comparing notes around the tables, and adding all the results together, the top 3 “Champagnes” to match the oysters were:

  1. Gramona Vintage Cava 2000 – Spain
  2. Nyetimber Classic 2001 – England
  3. Galvin House Champagne – France

We didn’t collect the tasting notes, but I know that the Gramona was a pretty clear winner on our table and was mistaken for a top Champagne by a few. It was a nutty, biscuity, crisp and delicious. I must seek it out, but I have the feeling (like many great cavas) it is not available in the UK. Thank you so much to Bruno Murciano, Spanish Sommelier of the Year and now at Bibendum who provided this from his personal cellar I believe.

I think it was a great way to compare different styles of wine. In a way it was great to taste the wines blind so as not to bring in any prejudices (how many would have guessed a Cava would win?) but I also think it was a missed opportunity to talk about these different style to a broad audience. Maybe I’ll do that sometime.

From a Social Media perspective it was interesting to see the convergence of twitter, blogging and live streaming (courtesy of WorldTV on Ustream.com). There were a lot of things to learn and share at this event, almost too many. It was hard to move from kearning about oysters, to tasting wines blind and also sharing some of the experience of dining in a great restaurant with wonderful views. In the end we were a little rushed, but it was still a great experience and fun to meet up with lots of friends.

If you want to read more, read some of the twitter archive here, as well as some of these bloggers’ posts (updated as I find more):

Bibendum
Londonelicious
Trusted Places
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Enough is Enough: a pricing rant

I was working on how to write this properly, then realised I have yet to try to use video more effectively (and it was faster!), so I recorded some thoughts (woefully unprepared) on Seesmic instead.

Here is the video. I think you need to register to leave a video comment (please do, I’d love to get some) but you can also leave me your written thoughts on this post.

If you want to join the OLN “Enough is Enough” campaign, text ‘Enough’ to 82055 (in the UK)

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Oysters and Champagne: Sharing the experience

Oyster from Marennes-Oléron
Image via Wikipedia

On Friday March 6th, I shall be putting myself through a challenge – and thanks to the wonders of social media, I am fully expecting this to be recorded, broadcast live and commented upon for some time to come.

If you still need an additional reason to watch, I have had to admit that I have not ever really eaten oysters… Watch me live – you never know what might happen.

Galvin at Windows has decided to put on a “showcase event”, the kind that happens all the time in restaurants for those lucky enough to be considered “influential” enough to be invited – and by this I usually mean the traditional restaurant review Press and also key clients. However, for one of the first times in my experience, this will be done for the benefit of bloggers and other Social Media users AND shared with everyone via video streams and live blogging/tweeting.

Once again, I take my hat off to Fred at Galvin (@galvinatwindows) for his confidence in this medium.

I will be amongst a select group of wine & food bloggers, along with representatives from TrustedPlaces, to meet the suppliers of Galvin at Windows Oysters (Wright Brothers) and their Champagnes (Bibendum). The idea is to have a fun event, matching and rating different oysters, champagnes and the best combination of these, and do so in a way that lets others learn more about the subjects as well as about the restaurant.

Inspired PR! Even if I hadn’t been invited to take part I probably would have watched.

For those interested in the experience that, to be honest, most of us cannot afford, this type of event is a great way to learn about both both oysters and champagne, and matching them, through a medium that is so much more interactive and relevant than television. Hopefully we will ALL learn a lot from this event.

This will all take place between 16:00 and 18:00 (London time) via Twitter (follow #galvinw), via live blogging (although I’m not sure on what blogs yet) and also on the World TV channel Ustream.tv – to watch, click here.

If you still need an additional reason to watch, I have had to admit that I have not ever really eaten oysters. I believe I may have tried them as a child, but not since. I think that making this event my first proper experience is both wonderful (might as well start with the best), and terrifying. Watch me live – you never know what might happen.

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Excuse me while I go exploring

So what do a top-class restaurant, a wine bar and a designer/bespoke tailor have in common with wine? Well, for the first two it is obvious, but the answer is not quite that simple.

If you follow me on twitter you will have seen me in conversation with @galvinatwindows, @vinoteca and @simonblaqua a fair bit recently, and you might even be forgiven for assuming I was running their PR in some way. I thought it fair, therefore, in the interests of full disclosure which I am so very keen on, to tell you a little bit more about why.

Having ‘evangelised’ about blogs, facebook and now twitter in the wine trade for several years now, it is very exciting to see so many businesses I deal with in my “day job” really beginning to listen to what Social Media can do for them. Now, instead of blank stares or laughs (or worse) when I mention what I do online, people are starting to ask my advice.

I don’t “consult” professionally about these things (although you never know what tomorrow brings) so generally speaking I’m happy to sit down with them and share my thoughts on what they could do. In most cases it is a bit of harmless chat, but in some cases these new friends jump headlong into social media and start to do really exciting things.

@galvinatwindows is the GM of a great restaurant, chic, well regarded and frequented by all sorts of celebrities, rich hotel guests and adventurous London foodies with a head for heights. He doesn’t “need” social media to make a splash, but he has embraced it wholeheartedly and is organising special tours, dinners, cocktail competitions, tastings and menus and promoting them through twitter in particular. Wow!

@vinoteca was recently voted “Wine Bar of the Year 2009″ – they too don’t need more publicity as such, but they too are embracing social media as a way to have better conversations with the kind of people who love their wine concept – which includes me.

@simonblaqua is a clothing designer who works with performers like Alabama 3 and has also designed things for rock royalty (I’m sworn to secrecy, so you’ll have to ask him). I was simply a customer, until I used his bespoke tailoring skills to create my Moocket shirt. Now he too is excited about starting a bespoke tailoring conversation with customers and those with interests in bespoke design. I will be supporting this by helping to host an evening of wine & design on 13 March (more soon) – but mainly because I’m getting excited about the idea as a consumer, not for “business” reasons.

There is a blurred line here, I admit. Some of these people I meet because I work in the wine business, and they might even be current or future customers, but I write about them now because I think that what they are doing is very brave, very exciting, and hopefully interesting – and tangentially related to wine culture for a variety of reasons specific to each one.

I hope to keep bringing you stories like these as I explore what is happening with the people and businesses I come across, and I trust you’ll find these interesting enough to bear with me here and on twitter.

If you have any interesting stories of bars, restaurants or designers using social media (bonus points for making it relevant to wine culture), please leave me a comment.

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