Archive - January, 2011

Facebook Deals with Wine

Another week, another bit of our world is touched by Facebook, as Facebook Deals launches in the UK as well as in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

kid in a candy shop.
Image by rhoadeecha via Flickr

Facebook launched Facebook Places in the UK a few months ago but if you’ve never heard of it, I’m not TOO surprised. It followed the path of two much more focused players in the location-game – Foursquare and Gowalla. These two, particularly Foursquare, have been very successful social networks for users of smartphones with GPS, such as iPhones and Android devices, that allowed people not only to chat to friends, but also let them know WHERE they were.


If you are not already involved, it sounds creepy. It can be! But then remind yourself that so did blogging, Twitter and Facebook itself until you became involved (as I guess you will have by now). Negative, pleaserobme games aside, these location based services offered several benefits:

  • USERS could add SPECIFIC location information to their messages to friends. When you “check-in” you are not just broadcasting a location, you are adding location information to a message. Subtle, but important difference
  • FANS could share their favourite locations, or those that they discovered, with more people in order to promote the location – doing a free marketing ‘favour’ for the location
  • BUSINESSES could reward fans by offering them discounts for their loyalty and for sharing the information with their friends
  • BUSINESSES could also gather information on who was visiting and when, what they liked/disliked and what they were interested in, in order to improve their services

Remember, you can check in and NOT broadcast every single one to the world on twitter – only do so if it adds value to the conversation!

My favourite places to check in are local shops (I want to promote local business), the better restaurants and bars I go to that have good food and wine (because that’s what a lot of my followers are interested in) and unusual locations I end up around the world. I also like to check in (and not broadcast it though twitter) in places where I might have the time to meet up with other friends also checking in – airports, events, hotels, etc.


When Facebook arrived, it seemed natural to add these activities to the list of things you share on Facebook, but there is so much there already it got rather lost (and was never as engaging). So why would users it on Facebook instead, … and why bother trying to use more than one network?

Gowalla offers regular users virtual “items”, “pins” and “stamps” to collect. Foursquare trumped this with “Mayorships” and then moved into location- & mayorship-based special offers.

Facebook needed to do something to incentivise users to switch, and instead of building something “better” they’ve decided to appeal to our love of free stuff.

The new service, Facebook Deals adds offers to this “check in” service, and they’ve negotiated deals with Starbucks, Yo Sushi and others for the launch.


I encourage businesses involved in wine to take part.

  • It helps your regular customers, who obviously appreciate you, to share information about you with their friends
  • You can reward them in some way, even if it is just a personal “thank you” for this word of mouth marketing
  • You can learn more about your customers to improve your own range of wine, your events and especially your communication
  • Producers can become engaged and learn where their wines are being sold & consumed

So what will be the first wine based offer in the UK? I’m guessing it will either be a big brand that is aware enough of these opportunities and has the deep pockets and distribution in place to do something worthwhile OR it will be a small deal by a small group of locations that can move a lot faster, such as a small chain of restaurants (any takers?). I look forward to seeing who gets in there first.

Wine offers and discounts have been the supermarket’s bait for so long that consumers are already used to thinking of wine as something to look out for only when discounted, so I would not be surprised to see it.


What I find worrying is that if Facebook Deals succeeds it will probably kill off the early movers which will also end the altruistic value exchange which was, for some of us at least, the best bit of these services. “Why bother checking in if they’re not offering me a deal?”

It’s the UK supermarket muscle game all over again.

They tell us “it what the consumer wants”, but when they kill off all the alternatives, we don’t really have a choice.

I think I shall hold off taking part, personally, until I see how they develop it. How about you?

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Writing under the influence of twitter

I’m currently working on a project looking at the measurement of online influence. Or is it influence online? Or is that influence of online measurement? The whole concept is hard to grasp. What value do these values and lists have?

First question, what do you measure and what does it mean or imply?

'how to win friends and influence people'
Image by bubbo-tubbo via Flickr

For example, do I have “influence” because I have almost 8700 followers as @thirstforwine on twitter, or do I have 8700 followers because I have influence?

In fact, I only have followers because a few people thought I was interesting and friendly enough that they kindly recommended me to their friends, and then these people did the same. In that case THEY have influence. I now have *some* by extension.

Some influence measurement sites/scores

If you want to look into this area, here are some sites to check out and sign up to, including my current ratings for reference and to demonstrate the variability of scores and their scales:

  • PeerIndex: I have a PeerIndex score of 55 (and an ‘Authority’ score of 45)
  • Klout: My Klout score is 66 and I’m a “Thought Leader”
  • Twitalyzer: I have an impact score of 4.3% (which puts me in the 88.8th percentile) and I’m a “Reporter”
  • PostRank: Not even sure what figures to quote, but I have 411 “Engagement Points” so far for January. Good?

What does influence mean?

I think I can encourage a certain number of people to follow links, but who are they and what are they doing? Is it just robots? Are they curious? Or am I really answering questions they have, and therefore delivering some value?

In the case of wine, should it only be measured by an ability to get bottles into consumers hands?

Influence ought to mean “creates action or change”, but how can we measure that, even just online? What many tools really look at are just a proxy for that – followers, retweets, mentions, etc.

Worst of all, are these ‘influential’ lists just self-referential? For example, the lists of ‘top blogs’ add weightings to links from other ‘top blogs’ that mean that once you are ‘in the club’ you are more likely to stay there until you make the mistake of linking to newer blogs and giving them a boost up the ladder (note; this is intended to be ironic – seems we need to be sure to qualify things these days). Once you are listed as influential, it is more likely you will be followed, retweeted, quoted, measured and interviewed and so you become more influential.

What use is it?

Once I’ve had a look at the actual rankings I will also post some thoughts on how, if at all, these measurements might be useful for anything other than stroking a few egos.

The Plan

I will be working with one of the services listed above to put together a view of Wine Influencers on Twitter, providing them with a reasonably comprehensive list of wine twitterers to review. It should be fun to plug in some names to the algorithms and see what list/order emerges and then get your feedback.

Who would you say is “most influential” in wine (online, on twitter)? How do you even define it? Leave me a note to link me to you favourite list of wine twitterers and I will do my best to get them included.

UPDATE 25 January: In writing this post I realised I had not properly signed up for PostRank analysis. I have now done so and update the line above. Firstly, it is VERY confusing. I have no idea what stats mean, what is public, what is about me, versus the blog, and how it is calculated. However, it SEEMS to be extremely powerful and FREE, so I will keep looking into it. Any recommendations or help? Do you use it?

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Smoky Pinots and spicy Cabernets

Yesterday will be one of the more memorable days among the many tasting occasions taking place this January.

First, the BIVB event. I went to hear how the BIVB presented itself, the diversity of offerings from Burgundy (at Village level) and maybe try a few of the seemingly popular 2009 Burgundies. The presentation was simultaneously familiar, yet surprising, but more on that soon. The 2007 & 2008 wines they showed were really good, but I can’t help feeling that if they lost that chip off their shoulder about their superiority, consumers might be more forthcoming.

However, the most memorable aspect (above and beyond the very few 2009′s that I tasted, which to be honest were not as impressive as I had expected) was the fact that a light in the Old Billingsgate gantry decided to overheat and burst into flame. Not sure if people were more concerned for their safety and that of the building, or the impact it was having on their ability to smell the wines. However, I left as we were being (temporarily) evacuated. Here are a few snaps I took of the offending light.

I moved on to the Oregon & Washington tasting instead, and arriving earlier than planned, was lucky to take part in a comparative tasting of some TOP Washington Cabernet Sauvignon wines from 2007 and 1997. Here are my tweets:

  • Ch. St. Michelle Cold Creek 07: chalky, soft tannins but a big sweet, dark ripe fruit body. Slightly reductive nose. Years to go
  • Ch. St. Michelle Cold Creek 97: lots of tertiary character on nose, tannins nicely integrated. Sweet spice. Elegant, almost floral, wine
  • Seven Hills, Klipsun Vineyard, 07: v. Young, plum & White pepper nose, sweet, dark fruit and liquorice root
  • Seven Hills, Klipsun Vinyrd, 97: smells of Campari (bitter edge, spirity), sweet fruit masked by acidity & tannin, maybe falling away? [I decided later it was actually Averna it smelled of - a herbal digestive drink]
  • L’Ecole No41 Pepper Bridge 07: Pepper (yes), blackcurrant nose and christmas spice, chalky, rounded taste. V. Nice
  • L’Ecole No41 Pepper Bridge 97: very nicely integrated, juicy, tasty wine. Well developed. My fave I think
  • Woodward Canyon Old Vines 07: mocha, vanilla nose. V soft, opulent tannins. BIG! needs age
  • Woodward Canyon Old Vines 97: herbal, all spice nose and hint of damp. Real herbal edge to taste. A little overpowering
  • Overall impression of Washington Cabs: REALLY benefit from age, they’re full flavoured, not full bodied, wines. Know your AVAs

As you might expect really, the extra time has been very positive for these wines. The shame is that as you drink the 1997s you really notice how young and un-ready even the 2007′s are, but that is how they are being experienced by the consumer. Wineries … hold on to your stocks a little longer! Your importers and retailers cannot do it, and it is your wines and your eventual customer that will benefit.

A memorable day in lots of ways.

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Two wine apps – a brief review

I don’t spend long enough looking at apps for the iPhone and other smart phones, largely because so many of them are based around storing tasting notes and collecting wine information – and I think that too boring for words.

However, sometimes some off-the-wall stuff comes along that captures my imagination, at least for a bit. Neither of these two apps will necessarily divert you for long, but they are both free … and so are worth every penny!

UK Wine Tax Calculator

Screen capture of UK Wine Tax Calculator app

50.6% Tax - tastes funny

(App by APPetise)

A simple app. No tasting notes, no recommendations, no points.

Plug in the retail price you are paying for your wine, plus the alcohol level, and this handy little app will tell you what (MASSIVE) percentage is going DIRECTLY to the government in both VAT and Duty. Then you can sit back, enjoy your wine, and when you hear politicians say “We are all in this together”, you can toast them with your glass of tax-revenue-in-a-glass. You’ve done your bit!

An interesting development would be to add estimated values for certain other items, such as the packaging and supermarket retail margins, so you can get an idea of what percentage of that final price might actually be the cost of the wine itself! You’d be surprised!

Wine Tonight?

Screen capture of Wine Tonight App

Wine Tonight App - yes dear

(App by Whitespace)

Know anything about biodynamic wines? What about the theory’s application to a wine tasting calendar? No?

I’ve been monitoring the idea that as well as the wines being MADE following certain lunar and natural cycles, the wines taste different on a similar schedule. I bought a little booklet called “When Wine Tastes Best” for 2010 and always thought it should really be an app. And in 2011 they’ve obliged, sort of.

In theory, the days of the year fall into 4 categories; GOOD -Fruit & Flower and BAD – Leaf & Root. Don’t ask me how they decide, but if you look up a date it should tell you whether your wine will be showing itself at its best, or be having the vinous equivalent of a bad hair day.

I had hoped the app would allow you to link up to a calendar, maybe help you plan your wine dinners and tastings in advance. It doesn’t. It only tells you the status of TODAY. Click on “Wine Tomorrow?” and you get an ad for the printed booklet.

They’re REALLY missing a trick here. The physical booklet only costs £3.99 (or less) but there are printing costs, and delivery costs to factor in. SURELY they’d make a lot more money selling it on iTunes for £0.79 and encouraging a lot more immediate, impulse buys?

For the record, the calendar is hit-and-miss. I’ve not wholly bought into the concept, … but there are days where otherwise perfectly good wines just don’t taste right, so …

Have you spotted any other wine apps worth reviewing that are NOT tasting note stores or cellar management tools?

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Lebanon and a truly inspiring wine story from the BBC

Today the BBC Radio 4 broadcast a special programme on the wines of Lebanon, presented by Jeremy Bowen, called ‘Vines on the Front Line‘. The result was actually a very interesting human story, not one of grapes, and I was impressed.

Jeremy Bowen, BBC

Jeremy Bowen, BBC

To listen to the report, click on the link below:

(at least if you are in UK, not sure if it works elsewhere. If I find a permanent download file, I will add this in here later too.)

Vines on the Front Line, BBC Radio 4

My view:

Jeremy is best known, at least in this household, as an international correspondent for the BBC, reporting from the Middle East on conflicts, power struggles and diplomatic wrangling. He is definitely not a name I would have associated with wine reports, but, as he said himself,

“Grapes have been part of my life as a correspondent”

… and I can well imagine!

There are many directions a programme about wine in Lebanon could have gone. It could have been an excuse to treat the people involved as freaks in the context of a war – bombs and suffering sell news better than wine stories after all. It could have been another ‘introduction to wine’ programme rehashing basic wine knowledge with a bit of politics thrown in to make it a bit different.

Instead, Jeremy Bowen’s people skills, and his ability to sniff out real, personal stories, were well matched to his political and historical knowledge, and used to make us understand that what people are doing is neither odd, nor crazy, but actually part of a culture that is older and more enduring than the political, religious divisions that dominate our news of this region. There’s a lesson in there!

I like the fact that he doesn’t actually spend time giving us any detailed tasting impressions, or discussing wine making practices other than a few references. Wine doesn’t have to be about that. What makes Lebanese wine different is the combination of ancient & modern history, the attitudes to wine culture and the imported technology, the recent struggles to keep these traditions alive, and by people whose passion is simply demonstrated by the fact that they continue to do it despite the political, and violent personal, setbacks.

I’ve listened to the programme 3 times. I want to go out and drink some Lebanese wine and learn more about it. That’s the mark of a good programme. Well done Jeremy. Well done BBC.

Can we have a few more like this please?

By the way, if you are inspired to try some Lebanese wines too, here’s a list of key wineries and their UK importers who might be able to help locate a local stockist to you (list courtesy of @LebanonWines)

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