Archive - May, 2012

Thoughts from the AccessZone

How the Internet Changed my Business” is a great introduction for some thoughts on the excitement of the Access Zone at the London Wine Fair last week.
Access Zone Logo
Not only is this something that we at Vrazon talk about a lot, but it was also the first session and one that we got some great feedback on. In some ways, the whole point of the Access Zone programme and ethos is to showcase the ideas and opportunities of social media for the wine trade, and kicking off with the stories of three people who are not the usual suspects, talking from a perspective beyond the usual winemaking or retailing one, helped to set the scene.

We are so grateful to our MANY friends who came by to say hello, to contribute to the programme and also to contribute to the informal networking and advice that happened on the AccessZone. It was wonderful to see so many great wine content creators from around the world stopping by in London from bases in France, Italy, USA, Portugal, The Netherlands, Spain and Canada (did I miss someone?). If you’ve created some content on the fair or the access zone, let us know so we can share it.

Over the next few days and weeks we will be publishing and commenting on the sessions that were all recorded & produced so professionally by our friends at Mad Cat Media (HIRE THEM NOW!). We will also start to publish the series of interviews that were conducted on the stand with many influential figures in the wine business for our “Unfiltered” series. These are being edited and made ready as we speak and will be a great resource for anyone interested in the future of wine. Keep an eye on this site.

We also have to congratulate Catherine Monahan and Robert Joseph for the success of Wine-Stars which took place on the Access Zone on the Thursday (visit their site to learn more about this event). Vrazon was very happy to have been able to support the activity and help to bring the event to life and record the proceedings for the world to experience. Good luck to all those involved, especially the fantastic wineries who took part.

If you missed any of the key sessions, such as the announcement of the Born Digital Wine Awards 2012 winners, or the presentation about the EWBC Digital Wine Communications Conference in Turkey, all these are available now.

Thank you so much to the partners who helped us make the Access Zone happen including the London Wine Fair, Laithwaites, Wines of Turkey, the Circle of Wine Writers, p+f wineries, freewine and others.

In the meantime, do watch and enjoy this:

Some related Access Zone posts we’ve come across:

Le “Social Media” fait le plein a la LIWF

Who are the RAW Wine Fair’s Natural Consumers?

Our first day at the RAW Fair in London, the artisan wine fair focused on organic, biodynamic and natural wines, was eye-opening in many ways.

Setting up the RAW Fair

Setting up the RAW Fair

First, the space at the Truman Brewery at the top of Brick Lane, and its incongruous industrial past, seemed vast and empty when we arrived to see row upon row of tables, each stretching almost 100 metres. How on earth was this place going to be filled with consumers interested in this subject?

Then, the wines themselves, not just the funky, challenging and, for some commentators, faulty “terroir wines”, but many juicy, fresh, tasty and … simply lovely wines with attractive packaging and good stories.

Attractive Labels at RAW Fair

Attractive Labels at RAW Fair

But the most exciting, really, was that the space DID fill up for hours with happy people, tasting wines without a single sign of excessive alcohol consumption. The debate over wine ingredients, processes and manipulation gets quite heated within the trade, and we often assume consumers are either not interested, put off, or simply confused by the idea, yet here they were in the hundreds or even thousand or more.

The crowds enjoying the wine tasting at RAW Fair

If 'natural wine' is a niche market, someone forgot to tell the crowd #rawfair

The industry challenge, as voiced by Dan Jago from Tesco via twitter, was how many visitors were ‘trade’ and not ‘consumers’ .

 

The vast majority, in my estimation, were regular consumers attracted by the profile generated by Isabelle Legeron MW on the BBC, and the effective marketing of RAW. I spoke to a number of “human beings not directly employed by businesses involved in making or selling fermented grape juice” (aka ‘consumers’) who were all excited by the wines and the buzz of the fair. They did not experience any confusion, just the broad choice of wines.

On the other hand, if the trade were here at all, on a Sunday, it was not because they were doing it for business, but because they love wine. Many of the trade are in the wine trade because they enjoy the product themselves, and although wine communications try to separate “trade” from “consumer”, this definition is really artificial because the trade are some of the biggest consumers, and the consumers increasingly influence business decisions.

Is it time to move beyond this differentiation? Is it time to embrace the idea that there are lots of wine fans out there looking for new experiences, even if we don’t all have to embrace it all ourselves?

Whether you agree with the tenets of ‘Natural wine’ or not, this has been an exciting time for wine in London – and we have not even had a chance to visit the ‘Real Wine Fair’ happening at the same time.

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Making plans for the wine fairs

There are so many things going on in the next week, it is hard to keep track of everything. Here’s a handy summary and guide of some of the fun wine stuff we at Vrazon (that’s Ryan Opaz, Gabriella Opaz and myself, Robert McIntosh) are involved in.

Why not add these to your calendar and come along to as many of these as possible?

20 May, 2012 – Sunday

First appointment is the RAW FAIR, organised and run by That Crazy French Woman, Isabelle Legeron MW. This is a wine fair for those who want to explore what Natural Wine is all about. Come along and try something different – you might like it.

If you do come, make sure you pop over to the Access Zone ‘Unfiltered’ booth where we will be helping small artisan producers learn about social media and sharing some of the fun stuff happening at the trade with the world. We’re inviting all our friends from the EWBC, the Digital Wine Communicators par-excellence, to join in the fun & advice sessions too :)

21 May, 2012 – Monday

We will be back at RAW for the trade-focused day. Gabriella will be there all day and would really appreciate any moral support while Ryan and Robert head off to ExCeL to set-up for the London Wine Fair.

22 May, 2012 – Tuesday

Come along to the London International Wine Fair 2012 at ExCeL. I know, I know, I hear the moans about “getting out to ExCeL” already, but really it isn’t that far or hard, just make sure you avoid the main rush hour at the very start and end of the day and in fact the DLR is pretty handy and there are some good views.

11:00 – One of our first activities will be a debate on “The Birth of a Generic” on the Wines of Turkey stand (N20) with Taner Ogutoglu and guest-starring Willi Klinger from the Austrian Wine Marketing Board and a great friend of the EWBC and the digital wine communications community. We’re also tasting some great Turkish wines. SIGN UP HERE

Vrazon is running our third ‘official’ Access Zone on stand K70 with so much exciting stuff. Here is the full Tuesday schedule, but highlights of the day include:

  • 10:30 – “The internet changed my business” – a discussion with three wine trade professionals impacted by social media, but NOT producers or retailers. This affects us all
  • 13:00 – “Why do you hate your customers?” – a lively discussion with Robert Joseph about how the wine trade interacts with customers. Always fun to hear Robert speak his mind
  • 14:00 – a superb mystery wine tasting with the highly entertaining Joe Wadsack. We’ve got one wine to taste, discuss and give feedback on, and even a chance to win a prize. Be there!!
  • 16:30 onwards belongs to Grenache. First we’ve got a discussion about “Grape Days” and promoting individual grapes in social media and how that has worked for the innovative Grenache Symposium members. Then ….

The end of the day PARTY! G-Night is a party where we drink wine, we don’t study it. Lots of grenache wines to taste in relaxed surroundings a short trip from ExCeL. Drink Grenache with Pizza & Burgers .. and refresh the palate first with a beer or two. BOOK YOUR G-NIGHT TICKET NOW.

23 May, 2012 – Wednesday
Back to ExCeL for the LIWF, possibly requiring a decent coffee to get the energy up first thing. Today’s full Wednesday schedule is here, and the highlights include:

  • 11:00 – “Using Social Media to Organize a Wine Tasting” – a discussion including Gabriella (our in-house expert) and Andre from Adegga. Tips and tools you can use yourself. This session will be quickly followed by an overview of the tools we are using on the Access Zone in case you fancy doing anything like this elsewhere yourself.
  • 14:00 – Freewine tasting. Just in case there wasn’t enough wine to taste at the show, we’ve nabbed some more. It *is* technically free BUT this is special because it is an association focused on reducing SO2 in wine and building an awareness campaign around this. Good wines and interesting messages
  • 15:00 – “Natural Wine – Finding the Middle Ground” – after a weekend of RAW and Real Wine action, plus the Freewine tasting, we want to have a reasoned debate on how the “Natural” message reaches the consumer; with expert opinion from Isabelle Legeron MW, Jamie Goode and Giampiero Nadali for Freewine
  • 16:00 – BORN DIGITAL WINE AWARDS – we announce the winners of the €1000 top prize in 6 categories for best online wine content. A session not to be missed, particularly because Laithwaites (a BDWA sponsor) will be supplying some beers to refresh the throats which will be hoarse from cheering.

24 May, 2012 – Thursday

Last day of the LIWF but SO MUCH still to go, so save your energy. Full Thursday schedule here, but the main highlight session would have to be:

  • 11:30 – EWBC 2012 – we will make some exciting announcements about the schedules of the EWBC Digital Wine Communications Conference itself, and the trips before and after it. We will taste some of the fantastic Turkish Wines we will be exploring in Izmir, thanks to our sponsor and host Wines of Turkey, and meet some of the speakers.

This will be followed from 13:00 for three hours or so, by the brand new WINE-STARS competition being organised by Catherine Monahan of Clink Wines. The excitement surrounds 10 wineries competing in the finals for some listings with top on and off trade customers in the UK market, Dragon Den style. You have to see this in action, and your opinion will probably count too – so come along and support some wineries hoping to make it BIG.

Is that enough to be getting on with?

If you are coming along, do get in touch or follow online at http://vrazon.com/accesszone

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As my Riesling gently weeps

Wine glass and guitar

Ready for musical accompaniment

Riesling. It’s like the wine world in microcosm.

Wine experts love it but cannot understand why consumers don’t go gaga over it, but ultimately this is our fault.

Consumers have heard about it, and when it is poured in their glasses really do enjoy it, but feel confused by its many styles, provenances and the ways it is presented. However, it ends up with a depressingly familiar tale, with an elegantly circular argument:

1. Wine experts wax lyrical over the amazing complexities and variety (of Riesling) …

2. Consumers hear too many conflicting messages, get confused about the overall concept and cannot internalise the information, so ignore it …

3. Wine experts decide that their favourite grape is underappreciated and decide to promote it, so … [Go To 1.]

The BIG problem is that saying “Riesling is great” is that it is a bit like saying “Guitar music is great”. Of course there is great guitar music, no-one would disagree, but if I pick some at random am I going to get Rock, Classical, Jazz, Blues, Rock & Roll, Folk, Heavy Metal, …

When complexity in wine is bad

The wine industry ignores this complication because they have lived in the world of wine for so long that they (we) see the myriad of styles as a positive feature, but for regular consumers it is a complication, a confusion, and ultimately a negative feature.

It means that the wine world sees the success of Australian Rieslings as a sign that consumers are rediscovering the grape, but they are left wondering why Germany and Alsace are still not benefitting.

The point is that the buyers of “Rock Guitar” Aussie, lime-citrus, steely, dry, crisp Riesling are not at all interested in the “Jazz Guitar” Alsatian honey-and-nuts Riesling, nor the “Classical Guitar” of German floral, citrus, mineral and high acid Riesling.

They buy Australian Riesling because Australia Rocks! and “Australia” in many cases trumps “Riesling”.

I obviously exaggerate and oversimplify, there are many styles of wine in each of these regions, but consumers don’t know this detail, so most work from limited experience and “common knowledge” models.

Common knowledge tells you that Riesling is sweet, cloying and stuff that is best left to the 1970′s.

Common knowledge may very well be wrong.

Common knowledge is VERY hard to change.

Let’s face it, for Riesling (and Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and many more, if not most, varieties) “varietal labelling” is a misleading simplification anyway. It doesn’t say anything really useful, or relevant, about what the consumer will experience from this bottle.

You cannot convince an audience that is not listening. Until the message we send resonates with the ultimate consumer, it will continue to be ignored. Wine writers need to find a way to write about Jazz Guitar for Jazz lovers, not sell the instrument to all. It means we have to understand the consumer much better, and speak to them directly, not shout and hope to be heard.

Some varieties are guitars, let’s play accordingly.

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