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Time for a Blog Diet

I didn’t mean to post this tonight, and not having planned it, I hope I can make it sound sensible.

I need to go on the blogging equivalent of a diet.

I have been feasting for far too long on all the information, developments, discussions, community-building and social networking that is going on. One appetising plate is presented after another, keeping you busy gorging without realising that the party is getting stale and you are not actually talking to anyone as you are too busy stuffing your face.

I mean that metaphorically of course.

I keep finding new and interesting discussions out there about wine. I currently subscribe to (only) 133 blogs; 48 General & International wine blogs, 27 UK wine blogs, and many more local, food, marketing, news and other topics.

It is simply too much to read and I am only scratching the surface.

I have been busy with work and my family for the last week, and I already have 230 unread items in the feed reader, plus I have hardly posted on my own blogs for weeks.

Enough!

More importantly, I should not be boring you about reading blogs, but in theory discussing wine, wine culture and wine related developments.

A friend of mine jokingly pointed out that the discussions about what wine blogging needed were fewer discussions about wine blogging, and I think he is right to an extent.

Maybe there ought to be two kinds of bloggers – posters and linkers.

I am going to have to go on a blog diet. As well as having to focus on the day job and attend the London Wine Trade Fair, I will stop reading 90% of sites I normally follow regularly – at least until I get back into my stride.

I must stop reading and start thinking and creating interesting content to make it worthwhile for you to keep reading this blog and not turn me off as I am going to have to do (temporarily) to other blogs – assuming you have not already done that.

It did make me think though. I am keen to find out what others think, and join in on their conversations, so I try and read what others I respect have to say. I try and leave my thoughts, and where relevant, post my ideas on my blog too. However, once I spend any available time reading and commenting, there is hardly any time left for any writing of my own.

Maybe there ought to be two kinds of bloggers – posters and linkers. There are always going to be those who want to write something new and original (well, they will try), but there are also those out there who like to dig, delve and find, and they are best at linking people up to relevant content and maybe even find previously unnoticed links between existing content.

If we could leverage both types, then each would benefit the other and we would have better content, and more ways to find it, but at the moment bloggers will continue to grapple with the dichotomy of being producers and consumers of information, and the complications of keeping blogs ticking over.

This week things will be quiet unless something drastic happens at the LIWF, but next week I hope to post in earnest.

Hopefully I shall return leaner and meaner, and ready for the fight.

Now, that kind waiter is heading my way with what looks like a wafer-thin mint and I really do love to finish a meal with a mint.

Meeting wine bloggers

Following on from my day meeting with the authors of food and wine blogs at Spittoon, Cooksister and Interwined, I have just come back from meeting Alastair Bathgate of Confessions of a Wino.

I mentioned in the last post that blogging, in my experience, has been the opposite of the lonely, individualistic pursuit normally associated with this medium, and here is another perfect example of how the stereotype is wrong.

Alastair himself is a high powered enterprise software business person, but his other interests include wine – so he writes about them, and restaurants, on his blog. Why not?

In fact, he is already one of the most visited UK wine blogs and is already on the “press” list of UK retailers. Very impressive for someone who professes only to write what he thinks and to do so in his spare time.

I happened to be in his area for work so I got in touch. In any other medium that would seem weird, but I feel I know something about him by reading his blog and that, never even having spoken to him, we share lots of interests and are almost “friends”.

It turns out he is almost exactly as I pictured him (only a little younger and slimmer!) and we had a great conversation about wine rating, blogging, Pinot Noir, and loads of other stuff I don’t really recall having consumed the last bottle a little too fast.

I think I will set myself the target to meet every blogger on my list of UK wine blogs as soon as possible so that we can start to work together to raise the profile of wine blogging in the UK, and also dispel the idea that we are either too amateur or unreliable to bother listening to. Everyone I have met so far is a real character with a very interesting point of view and totally committed to wine, and to encouraging others to enjoy it too.

If you are a UK wine blogger, please get in touch so we might plan getting together either in London or locally to you. If you read other blogs, check out the list here and make sure your favourites are included so I know who else is out there making a difference.

Vivat Spittoon and Cooksister

Just a quick post to tell you to look elsewhere, specifically here, on Andrew Barrow’s Spittoon site, for a review of a lovely evening of wine, food, photography and blogging (well, I think we talked about it anyway).

Andrew has very graciously used my photos from that evening on his site, a particular honour as his site is the my main reference for the best wine photography.

Nice to meet cooksister too. I have yet to get properly immersed in the world of food blogs, but I shall certainly be following her site from now on.

This, to me anyway, is a great riposte to those who look down on the ‘antisocial’ aspect of blogging – writing away on your own, usually late at night. Blogging has introduced me to lots of great people I would not have met otherwise, and for that I am very grateful, particularly to those who read this site and comment, and keep me going.

BOGJO

It used to be “bog off!” or, more correctly BOGOF, Buy One Get One Free

Now we may be moving to the post-BOGOF era, or BOGJO – Buy One, Get Just One (but maybe with a discount).

According to the news in Harpers today that in turn were quoting a report in The Grocer (who have a closed site), BOGOF deals in UK supermarkets are being scrapped because consumers are suddenly realising that a greater volume of stuff you didn’t want is not necessarily a “deal”.

It seems initially counter-intuitive to those of us in the UK who have had volume deals rammed down our throats, quite literally in the case of wine, but being convinced to pay a greater sum of money in exchange for more “stuff” is not good for our wallets or the environment.

Coincidentally, WRAP also announced today that UK consumers waste 3.6 million tons of food each year, most going untouched before ending up in landfill sites. As they say, we pay 3 times for this waste: paying extra money for the food in the shops, paying to deal with the waste and its transport, and also paying an environmental cost as waste ruins the environment.

I can see this in my own life. I have jokingly referred to the fruit bowl beside me here as my “pre-compost bin” as so much (organic) fruit I receive on a weekly basis goes off while I munch biscuits, sometimes bought in BOGOF deals, instead (for the record, I have a series of compost bins in the garden full of very happy worms).

And what about wine? BOGOF deals in wine are very common, but how many consumers really wanted that extra bottle of the £8 wine, when they could buy 1 bottle for £6, getting potentially better wine and still saving £2.

There have been many complaints that wines sold in this way were not worth the price tags they announced, and in fact their value was closer to the ‘deal’ price, so in fact there was no benefit to the consumer. In this case, consumers were losing out by having to pay for more bottles they hadn’t intended to buy.

There is some truth to this, especially if consumers feel they have been misled, but I think the pricing issue is not the key point. Who is to say whether the wine should be sold at £7.99 or £3.99? Wine pricing is not, and should not be, exclusively about COST, but I think I’ll leave the “How to Price a Wine” debate for another time.

The most important point is that ONLY those wines that could generate sufficient marketing funds to pay for BOGOF deals AND to get placed in those end-of-aisle bins (known as Gondola Ends) were getting the promotional slots in the supermarkets. Therefore only those wines backed by the deep-pockets of multinationals, or those that charged a higher price for wines when not on promotion, were reaching the consumer.

If this is now changing, more wineries that have smaller budgets might get a chance to be seen & heard. They may still have to find money to fund 30% or more discounts (we will not be weaned off deals that quickly!), but that is a very different story to a BOGOF.

As I have said before, wine ‘marketing’ in the UK has been too concerned with pricing and discounts, and not enough about the wine itself for long enough. If we can see a silver lining in the dark clouds of climate change and the global credit crunch, it should possibly be that the time really has come to drink less wine, but better wine, and for wine companies to speak up about the environment, sustainability of agriculture, and agricultural economies too, and also to help lighten the gloom.

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?

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