Archive - October, 2010

The Pre EWBC Post

It is the final countdown for the start of the third European Wine Bloggers Conference, the annual gathering of wine communicators of all types, and this year representing 30 countries.

There is so much about this event worth sharing but I have to be brief – I’ve a conference to put on and more than 386 wines to taste!

EWBC 2010 Venue
Image by Ryan Opaz via Flickr

First, thank you so much to my amazing partners in this venture – Ryan & Gabriella Opaz of Catavino.net. We’ve got so many ideas of great EWBC related stuff, I am SO excited about what the future will bring.

We are also so glad to have put together the kind of event that can bring together wine lovers from so many different backgrounds and locations. 180+ delegates from 30 countries is an amazing statistic for a young conference in this area. Check out the live streaming page for videos and tweets to follow the event.

We are forever grateful to the sponsors that make these events happen. Our past sponsors, Dinastia Vivanco and ViniPortugal are still involved with the EWBC – that must say something! This year we are so excited to be working with the fabulous team at Austrian Wines and I am REALLY looking forward to learning more about the fabulous wines of this country.

Finally, the full benefit of the event is hard to measure. We hope the visitors learn about, and love, the wines of the sponsors for themselves, but also on their blogs. We hope to see A LOT more content about Austrian wines, grapes, regions and foods in the coming months. But there are also all intangibles, such as the contacts made, the collaborations established and the many new opportunities created when barriers of language and distance are broken down and people find a common cause.

I look forward to sharing some thoughts on the above over the next few days and hope you enjoy reading it – and maybe consider attending next year – we’ve got more exciting things planned for then too.

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Send me a wine postcard, I’m thirsty!

On the subject of wine innovation, one thing I forgot to post was a very quick video shot of Patrick Schmitt, Editor of The Drinks Business, sampling a new form of single-pour packaging, called OneGlass at the Fine Wine Fair.

The concept is a single pour of only 100ml, which is actually less than the smallest small glass of wine in the UK (currently 125ml), in a tear-away package that requires no corkscrew, and probably no glass!

The package is meant to look like a cardboard cut-out of a bottle, and  is so thin it could probably be taken for this. I imagine it would be really easy to take on travels, picnics, or even into those places that might usually frown on alcohol being consumed.

It’s almost like getting a wine postcard!

Interestingly, although I had no idea how long it had been in this package, nor how it had been handled, the wine was not tainted, and pretty much delivered what it promised – a drinkable Italian Sangiovese.

What more can you ask of a pack?

No idea how many producers will use these, nor how consumers will adapt to the package or the serving size, but it is certainly a brave concept.

Update: there is a limited amount of further information, and a lot of marketing spin, on the producer’s website at http://www.oneglass.it/:

The materials are apparently:

Oneglass, made of paper (75%), polyethylene (20%) and aluminium (5%), is a packaging that can either be entirely recycled or used as a bio-fuel.
In the former case, it is disposed of with waste paper and then its elements are separated and re-used, in their raw material state, respectively in the paper and plastic industry. As a bio-fuel, however, the paper is burned cleanly, the polyethylene is transformed into water vapour and carbon dioxide, while the aluminium becomes aluminium oxide, a substance that is then used to produce paper.  Two different ways for 100% recyclability.

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From Chelsea to Vienna

This blog will be mainly dedicated to the upcoming European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) in Vienna over the next week or so – assuming I find a moment to write thoughts down.

However, I am also writing a bit on my Posterous blog (which is easier to write from my iPhone) which will, I hope, one day be more integrated with this site. In the meantime, here is a link to some thoughts on the Fine Wine Fair taking place this weekend in Chelsea – pop down there if you have the time for some good wines.

>> It’s a fine time for fine wine

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It is so loud in here, I can’t hear myself drink

Interesting research reported on the BBC today:

The level of background noise affects both the intensity of flavour and the perceived crunchiness of foods, researchers have found.

It also makes me wonder about wines. We’ve known for a while that wines don’t taste the same in the air, and I seem to recall it was assumed it had to do with air pressure, but noise also makes sense. If any of your senses is being overwhelmed, then the others will naturally be affected.

I happened to run a dB meter on a recent plane trip (“there’s an app for that”) and it registered over 90dB – that’s as loud as a petrol lawnmower … and you sit in it for hours!

On the other hand, the research also seems to point to positive aspects – where pleasant sounds increase the intensity of flavours, which is backed by anecdotal evidence of “great wine moments” you have on holiday or with a great dinner partner.

Also in the group’s findings there is the suggestion that the overall satisfaction with the food aligned with the degree to which diners liked what they were hearing – a finding the researchers are pursuing in further experiments.

It seems that we have, at least partially, now got evidence that wine drinking is a pleasure that requires all your senses, not just taste!

Certainly, airplanes are not ideal wine tasting locations for many reasons, but there’s always a good reason to keep testing!

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Making the most of wine fairs

Do you like wine? How often do you get to taste it? I don’t mean drinking it, but tasting small amounts of many different wines, either to find out what you might like or to know what to buy?

Those of us who work in the wine business are lucky to get invited to tastings a lot – for our own education, information and ultimately to help bring the customer new wines in our shops, restaurants and wine columns.

But the wine buying public doesn’t get this opportunity often enough (but see below for a list of some fairs VERY SOON).

One of the BEST ways to get to do this is to go to a wine ‘fair’ (exhibition) where there will be many different wines present in one place. The entry fee hopefully guarantees that there will be a range of quality wines available, and also acts as deterrent to those who want to take (dis)advantage of ‘free’ alcohol to over-indulge.

Unfortunately these events can easily be a little overwhelming and confusing, and all that alcohol might make remembering what you ‘learned’ a little difficult. So here are a few pointers to make the most of these events, and below are a list of upcoming events I suggest you check out:

  1. Have a plan: Don’t just “go to taste”. The best way for wine lovers, amateur and professional alike, to get something out of a tasting is to have a specific objective in mind. There will ALWAYS be too many wines to try them all, so how do you focus? It doesn’t matter whether it is “Wines for Christmas dinner”, “Wines under £10″, “Pinot Noirs”, “Favourite wines I cannot pronounce” … as long as you have a mission, you can easily decide whether to stop & sip … or move on.
  2. Set a wine limit: Most of us struggle to differentiate between wines after a while. Professional wine judges might taste 200 wines in a session, most of us struggle after 20. If you set yourself a limit, you can politely refuse to taste through an enthusiastic producer’s entire range but dedicate your attention to a specific wine.
  3. Set a price limit: If you are buying wines, there is a temptation to try lots of lovely, expensive and unusual wines – but if you are not going to buy them, does it help? Remember your plan, and your limit. You can always taste a few ‘extra’ wines before you leave if you have the stamina and time!
  4. Prepare your visit (but be flexible): Most fairs will print a list of exhibitors and wines in advance. If you get a chance, make yourself a little map and plan of which stands are likely to be most interesting … but keep your eyes open as you go from one to the other. Don’t stick to it too rigidly, but it is better than wandering aimlessly and potentially missing something interesting.
  5. Go with a friend (or three): There will always be a time you need  second opinion, or simply someone to help you get out of a hard-sell pitch. But more than anything else, wine is social. Even wine tastings are more fun in the company of friends.
  6. Make notes: We’ve all done it. Found a great wine, been absolutely certain we’d remember it, then promptly forgotten its name. When you taste something, make a note – positive AND negative. It’ll help you when you are next looking for what wines to buy.
  7. Bring a camera: Notes are great, but our minds LOVE pictures. If you like something take a picture of the label. It saves a lot of unnecessary writing and will also help you share your favourites with friends.
  8. Be relaxed: The wine ‘experts’ (producers, importers, journalists, etc.) are there BECAUSE OF YOU! They need to impress YOU, not the other way around. Wine is meant to be fun.

UPCOMING WINE FAIRS (London)

So, with this plan in mind, where can you taste lots of wines in London in the next few weeks?

15-17 October Fine Wine Fair, Chelsea Old Town Hall – @finewinefair

A whole weekend of great quality wines. Well known producers will be showing their wines that are a cut above what we normally buy, but are still “affordable”. A great way to taste wines that will impress friends and family at Christmas, but don’t require a second mortgage. There will also be ‘personal shoppers’ to help you navigate the room, PLUS Spanish food delicacies .. and CHOCOLATE. What are you waiting for?

I’ll be going to this one and tickets only cost £20

6 November The Wine Gang Xmas Fair, Vinopolis – @winegang

The second edition of this fun event. The Wine Gang taste wines all year for their monthly newsletter and their top scorers are invited to show their wines at the tasting. Lots of masterclasses and wine tours. One day only, and you need to book a specific session, so book early.

Yup! I’ll be at this one too

13-14 November Decanter Fine Wine Encounter, The Landmark Hotel – @decanter

Decanter Magazine puts on several of these events a year and a re a chance to taste wines from the world’s top producers. Lots of high end wines, with prices to match, but the chance to meet some names that will impress even the most dedicated wine snobs!

Oh, and while we are at it, check out one of my favourite wine fair videos – with Olly Smith as the Pied Piper of wine: