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No charge

Here’s an idea for wine brands – it’s free, or should I say “there is no charge attached”

As the BBC pointed out yesterday, people in Britain consider Broadband at home “essential”, like water or electricity. I agree. I’d also add, that the next move will be to demand it outside the home too, so they can continue their daily business – work, shopping and conversations, on their mobile devices.

There are more and more hotels, bars and restaurants are offering Wi-Fi (although hotels try to charge for it which is just wrong!) which is a great idea – although few are using this properly to their advantage (I’ll post on that as well soon). But as this becomes more common, it will lose its power to impress. Once it is expected, it will only be an issue if it is NOT available.

What no-one has yet done in the restaurant trade (to my knowledge) is address a major shortcoming of all this mobile interaction – access to POWER. CHARGE. ELECTRICITY.

A customer could easily walk into a bar with any combination of laptop, iPod, mobile phone, camera or games console. Want to be their friend for ever? Offer them access to power points (or should I say sockets). The clever bar manager will also have a set of chargers for the most common tools & brands (iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia, PSP, etc.) available which customers can borrow FREE.

There have been many times I could have been sharing my experiences of the food, wine, and the location but I couldn’t for fear of running out of battery (in my vocabulary for obvious reasons this is now called “twitter juice“). You should have seen the look I got when I asked recently if they happened to have a charger.

If you are a wine brand with ANY form of online presence, why not brand these tools and make them available instead of just sending out more ice-buckets or menu covers?

I’ve even got a name for the branding campaign – “No Charge”

Just a thought. If you do something like this, let me know!

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Buy me a glass of wine?

Shiny enomatic dispensers at The Wine Theatre

Shiny enomatic dispensers at The Wine Theatre

I tried a very brief experiment today.

I was off to The Wine Theatre in Southwark for lunch to meet a fellow blogger, Oliver Thring of Thring for your Supper. As I had not tried the restaurant before, but it billed itself as a wine destination, I was hopeful that there would be interesting wines to try. They have their food and wine menu available online (I can’t believe all restaurants do not do this automatically), so it was easier to prepare.

Rather than choosing the wine myself, I opened up the choice to my followers on twitter and “crowdsourced” the choice – hoping they would be inventive, creative … and kind (and not force me to choose the most expensive wines). I’m a little busy with other tasks at the moment so I wasn’t able to encourage lots of participation, but one follower (@philippav) did respond with some excellent suggestions, and mostly ones I would not have made myself.

The result was that we ended up sharing a bottle (I know, it was supposed to be a glass, but we did have starters AND mains) of a Barbera d’Asti 2007 called Teis from Ca’Bianca – a lovely, light bodied and fruity wine (though with great Italian acidity) that matched the mood and conversation perfectly (though you’ll need to read Oliver’s review to see how it matched the food).

image_481I wonder whether this is an interesting challenge for future outings; to allow certain choices in my vinous exploration to be dictated by a group of like-minded individuals and thus encourage greater experimentation – a little like “Yes Man” (but with wine, and more style – not that I’ve seen the film, but I somehow doubt I need to bother based on the cast and the trailer)

Based on today’s results, it is at least worth repeating, but maybe with a little trepidation

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London Wine Fair Gets Social

LIWF 2008
Image by RobWinton via Flickr

I think this must be my third, or possibly fourth, London Wine Trade Fair (LIWF) since I started writing this blog. As a “Trade Only” show, it might not be of interest to many of you, so I don’t talk about it much unless I come across an interesting story or two. This year might be a little different.

The main reason is that the European Wine Bloggers Conference for 2009 has been announced, and the interest in it is such that Ryan and Gabriella Opaz from Catavino.net (my fellow organisers) and I have been invited to talk about the intersection of the wine business and Social Media. We will be speaking in one of the London Wine Trade Fair’s official ‘Briefing’ slots, on Wednesday the 13th of May at 13:00. Our topic is: “Wine and the Web: the Business of Getting Social“. I look forward to sharing a platform with Ryan Opaz and Dan Coward from Bibendum who are sponsoring this talk.

If you are in the wine trade and you can make it on Wednesday, come along to the talk (RSVP here) – we already have lots of wineries, agents, importers, PR and journalists coming along but there is still space left. We want to keep a good proportion of the time for questions, so come prepared, we’ll try to do the same!

The other exciting news from the London Wine Trade Fair this year is that they have begun to recognise wine bloggers as “Press” just as they do for journalists from traditional media. You get a Press badge, access to the Press Centre, WiFi, and a seat! You do have to have some track record of writing about wine on your blog to qualify, which I think that’s fair (I can imagine there are a lot of people who’d like to be able to come along to the biggest wine tasting in the UK), but otherwise, they are keen to give bloggers access to the world’s top wines. If you are not already on the list and you want to know more, leave me a comment here or email me (thirstforwine AT gmail DOT com) and I’ll pass on the details.

If you read this blog you will find me either on Bibendum’s stand (D30) or on the EWBC booth which has been generously organised by ViniPortugal on their stand (B20).

I’ll certainly be sending some thoughts and pictures from the show floor on twitter. If you want to check it out, make sure you follow me on twitter (I’m @thirstforwine)

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Wikio Gastronomy Rankings for May – Sneak Preview

So, this month it was my turn to give (and receive?) some link love to Wikio and Gastronomic Blogging Friends.

Somehow, and I honestly cannot say how, or why, I’ve managed to enter the rankings of the Food & Blogging world in the UK according to Wikio. All these rankings and their algorithms are a bit of a black box and who knows what affects the results, but they are out there and fun to track.

I have been given the chance to give a slightly early view of the latest update of the top rankings of UK wine, beer, food and related blogs, and you can read the top 20 below. The most interesting points of note, well, those that jump out at me (in the time available) are:

  • Pete Brown’s beer blog jumps from 54th to 7th. I’ve no idea where this blog might have been in the rankings before but this is a pretty impressive jump and a blog I shall be checking out.
  • A return to the top 10 for A Slice of Cherry Pie (an impressive jump from 13 to 5) – a place I’m sure Julia has occupied before
  • Bordeaux-Undiscovered adds to the list of top wine blogs and builds on last month’s impressive rise with another, entering the top 20

As usual, I’m a little disappointed there are not more wine blogs featuring here (to add to Spittoon, Wine Conversation, Jamie Goode’s Wine Anorak, Sour Grapes and now Bordeaux Undiscovered) but it is good to see more beer blogs joining the list. However, it is interesting to see that most of the top 20 are reasonably unchanged, so I guess we are either doing something right (or as I suspect, the system rewards those who are already succesful).

If anyone else spots any trends, or has any thoughts on the development or nature of the list, please do drop me a note.

1 The Guardian – Word of Mouth
2 Hollow Legs
3 eat like a girl
4 Food Stories
5 A Slice of Cherry Pie
6 Spittoon
7 Pete Brown’s Blog
8 The Wine Conversation
9 Cheese and Biscuits
10 World Foodie Guide
11 Tandleman’s Beer Blog
12 Stonch’s Beer Blog
13 spittoonextra
14 DOS HERMANOS
15 Domestic Goddess in Training
16 jamie goode’s wine blog
17 Ice Cream Ireland
18 Sour Grapes
19 Joanna’s Food
20 Bordeaux-Undiscovered

Ranking by Wikio.

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Not everything that sparkles is a luxury good

Vinho VerdeA couple of days ago I attended a tasting of Vinho Verde wines in the rather posh setting of The Royal Exchange by the Bank of England.

The Royal Exchange has a long history of being a trading floor, one where, presumably, merchants found great deals, did their business and went forth to make their fortunes. Today, the building is home to the exclusive shops of the world’s most famous luxury brands, established names with astronomic price tags that help customers demonstrate their wealth to others.

It occurred to me that, in some way, the current setting was rather incongruous for Vinho Verde wines. These are wonderful wines, full of amazing freshness, drunk young and preferably with fresh seafood to match. They have been famous within Portugal, and with visitors to that country, for many years, but they have not established a major export market in the UK. They are are about as far from famous luxury brands as possible.

In fact, they are more like the raw materials for those luxury brands – the diamonds without settings or the uncut designer cloth, the stuff that would have been traded here in eras past. Someone, somewhere will be able to turn these great materials into something special, and more profitable.

Red wine with some spritzVinho Verde (Green Wines) are wines from the far north of Portugal, wines of great acidity and freshness, and made from an unusual range of grapes (which is what you’d expect from Portugal, home to hundreds of different, and hard-to-pronounce grape varieties). The majority of the wines I have come across are white, but you also get some rose, a smattering of reds, and I have now discovered, also some amazing sparkling wines.

The key characteristic of these wines is their acidity, but the younger wines also have a certain spritz – not sparkling as such, but some light effervescence that really freshens the mouth. They are not anything like the big, juicy, fruit bombs we get from all sorts of countries of the world in UK supermarkets, but they are an experience that wine lovers should try.

There weren’t that many exhibitors at the tasting, but I still didn’t manage to taste all of them, but I did try several different ranges. The ones that stuck in my mind were:

  • Quinta de Lourosa – the traditional white Vinho Verde was very good, but I was particularly taken by the 2005 Sparkling White Vinho Verde made from Arinto (another unusual grape) which was very good indeed. [This Quinta also does some wine tourism and offers accommodation and tours, so worth checking them out if you plan on visiting the area.]
  • Afros – a white and red pair from a brave winemaker Vasco Croft, who is making Biodynamic Vinho Verde and achieving a truly stunning level of concentration on his wines. The 2008 red, made from Vinhao, is inky dark and particularly splendid.

As with many wines from Portugal, the quality of the wines is not in doubt, but getting more people to try them and understand them is difficult because the competition is so fierce. They certainly have the potential to be recognised as a unique style of wines, unlike anything else in the world that are worth exploring, a little like their northern neighbours in Rias Baixas have done with AlbariƱo, and then justify their luxury brand surroundings.

If you are looking for something a little different, especially if you are planning to match some wines to seafood of some form, try selecting a YOUNG Vinho Verde and enjoy!

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