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Blend your Rhone – tastelive.com in London

Tomorrow (or today when you are probably reading this) a group of intrepid wine lovers in London are joining a global event linked to the Hospice Du Rhone event that supports the varieties and wines of the Rhone region.

Like some past “Twitter Taste Live” events I’ve been involved with, such as the Hugel dinner and the Bibendum trade event, this is an online tasting of wines that allows participants from around the globe to share their experiences.

There will be 2 other major tastings on the same night in the US (With 1winedude in the East and Estate-Sonoma on the West coast) as well as 3 UK events – London, Oxford and Oxted (Surrey). While the US events will focus largely on single varietal wines, and mainly from California, we in the UK are looking at the originals – the blends from France. We want to show that blends can be even more exciting than single varietals, and Gareth Groves from Bibendum (who supplies these wines) will help us out with some expert knowledge.

As of this moment, the best place to read more information on this event is on the existing TTL site here, but tomorrow morning I hope to see the launch of the NEW & IMPROVED TasteLive.com – so I’ll add the link here when I can.

The UK tastings will take place on Friday 17th April, starting at 7pm and probably last just over an hour. We will be tasting:

Alain Jaume Cotes Du Rhone Blanc Haut de Brun 2007
Louis Bernard Cotes du Rhone Rouge Cuvee des Prelats 2007
Ventoux Rouge Les Sablons Cave Terraventoux 2007
Gigondas Tradition Domaine Font-Sane 2006
Domaine Paul Autard Chateauneuf de Pape 2006

We have chosen these wines to reflect different regions within the Rhone, and to select wines that showcase blends of the indigenous varieties of the Rhone, because this really sets many of them apart from the rest of the world.

One of the great thing about these tastings is that you can combine the face-to-face tasting with friends in a pub (as each group is doing) with the power of Social Media to bring these groups together AND share it with all those who are interested but couldn’t make it. Hopefully, some of those who don’t take part this time will be inspired to do so next time (leave me a comment here or follow me on twitter and I’ll try and keep updated).

I will be with a group of around 10 other ‘twitterers’ in The Lansdowne Pub on Gloucester Avenue in Primrose Hill, a pub with a lovely informal atmosphere and great wines (including, I must admit for full disclosure, some of mine – but we are not tasting those). There is WiFi, so we are all bringing laptops, iPhones, PDAs, etc. so you can expect a great deal of twittering, photos, and maybe even some video.

The Lansdowne is laying on a special menu to accompany these wines which I am REALLY looking forward to:

Snail vol au vent with persillade
Morels and asparagus on grilled bread
Onion tart with gruyere
Roast chicory and ham with breadcrumbs and thyme
Eggs poached in red wine

The other groups taking part are being led by @surf4wine in Oxford and @bigbluemeanie in Oxted, Surrey.

If this sounds interesting, follow the event as it unfolds in the UK from 7pm onwards. If you are already on twitter, follow me (@thirstforwine) but even if you are not, you can watch the comments as they stream in on the homepage of http://tastelive.com

* Photo: Courtesty of The Lansdowne Pub, Primrose Hill, London

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Wine is not just for wine bloggers

This post follows neatly, although it wasn’t planned that way, from the last one.

A wine region in Spain wants to invite a select group of influential bloggers to visit their region, possibly in June, to learn about the wines, about the local food it matches with, and a little about the region itself as a tourist destination.

The first port of call, in Social Media, would be wine bloggers in key markets like the UK, … but why just wine bloggers?

I’ve said before that if we want to make wine more relevant and less threatening to more people, we need to “reach beyond the wine bubble” and talk to others who also influence consumers interest in wine, such as foodies, event organisers and travel bloggers. If this group felt comfortable discussing and recommending wines, the Wine Conversation would be transformed!

So, I’ve offered to put together a list of interested UK bloggers, but also of those active in other forms of Social Media, so that this wine region might decide to invite a broader selection of them and thus have lots of different people learn more about it.

Disclaimer bit: this is nothing to do with the wines or wine regions I represent, it is on behalf of a friend who is working with the wine region in question, and who asked me to reach out to my UK followers.

Why these categories, and why bloggers in particular?

The cost of the trip will not be insignificant for the wine region (few wine regions have big budgets) and they hope to have those who come write about their experiences and share them with their audiences. This is easiest where writing about the trip will be ‘in context’ for those bloggers. For example, it might not be that easy for a tech blogger to suddenly switch to writing about great wines from Spain (although I accept that depends on the blogger).

Also, why bloggers? All can be considered, but from the region’s perspective, they’d obviously love to have the kind of content, reach and permanent record offered by blogs (and I mean written word, photography and video). Remember, this is a BIG step for a wine region only used to talking to wine journalists working with established media.

Finally, I’m afraid they cannot bring everyone. I believe the trip will be for 5 or so people, so I’m afraid quite a few of you will be disappointed, but I promise to let everyone know if more such trips arise, so it’s worth getting involved anyway. I have no idea what criteria they might use to select a group, beyond making this a fun, influential and eclectic mix to see what an investment in Social Media might deliver for them.

I already have a pretty good list of foodies and some events people, as well as a few unusual requests that could be very interesting too, but if you want to throw your hat in the ring, you can do it publicly by leaving me a comment here, sending me a Direct Message on twitter, or an email at: thirstforwine AT gmail DOT com – and if you were to say WHY they should choose you, that might help :)

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Mixing my business with your pleasure

Sarah's signed VIP pass
Image by teepoole via Flickr

I have a dilemma. As with many other twitterers and bloggers out there who write about the subject matter they also work with, I sometimes have some potential conflicts of interest. To be more precise, I face some situations that some might pick up on as conflicts in a traditional journalistic sense.

I agree that someone who promotes themselves as a journalist and wants to be seen as an objective reporter of facts and news must be very careful about what products or brands they become associated with. However, I don’t think all bloggers really are journalists. We aim to share news and facts, as we see them, but mainly we try to entertaining you, and have fun as we do it. If you like it, you can follow us, and if you don’t, you can easily stop. We bloggers soon get the message.

So, to the dilemma.

I often come across information about, or even help to organise, wine events, tastings, special offers and more. Some of these, of course, relate to the wines I represent in the UK (which I have chosen not to mention on this blog, but write about elsewhere) or at least to the retailers and restaurants that I meet with regularly.

Should I let you know about these offers through this site, or should I be very selective and avoid the potential of being seen to abuse any trust you have in me as a commentator on wine?

I’m not talking about spamming my readers with hundreds of offers and deals, but if I hear of something I consider interesting, or get the opportunity to suggest something I think readers might enjoy, should I mention it here and do this as openly as possible even if it involves my wines, or business partners’? The alternative is, as I have often done, to participate myself and report on it from the event, but it does mean others can’t get involved.

In fact, turning it around, should I actually be encouraging MORE people to create wine offers for you through Social Media? Of course, I’m not just talking about discounts, but about events that encourage the exploration of wine and support wine culture.

I’m hoping that as many of my readers are also bloggers, or wine trade professionals, you’ll understand the situation and have some advice to offer.

As more and more of the restaurants, wine retailers and wine producers that I talk to want to know more about the possibilities of Social Media, there will be more and more opportunities for this to arise, and I’d like to get a sense of whether I’m getting the balance right, or you feel I may be promoting other businesses too much.

If you want to keep it even more brief you could respond “Yes” or “No”:

  • Yes – let me know of interesting wine related offers (but don’t spam me, just the best bits)
  • No – concentrate on wine writing (and do more of it) and let other sites promote the offers

… but a bit more explanation might help :)

Yours, in some trepidation for what I might be starting, your friendly neighbourhood @thirstforwine

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A vintage experience

The recent Oyster & Champagne event at Galvin at Windows was a very interesting experience on several levels (see my previous post)

Firstly, on a personal level, I found the opportunity, and the ‘sense of occasion’, to try my first oysters extremely rewarding. I must say that I still don’t entirely see the attraction of oysters like this. Maybe I need to develop my palate for oysters (for example, one of the most popular was one of my least favourites, one I almost failed to swallow). I guess I have much still to explore. Thank you so much the the lovely people from Wright Brothers who did their best to try and educate me.

Next to the blind tasting of Champagnes, or as it turns out, a range of Sparkling Wines from France, Spain and England. Just in case it needed to be proven again, a blind tasting is a great leveller. Even the “experts” failed to spot that some of the wines were not “champagne”, so much so that these “other” wines will have surprised many of us. In fact, after tasting 8 wines, comparing notes around the tables, and adding all the results together, the top 3 “Champagnes” to match the oysters were:

  1. Gramona Vintage Cava 2000 – Spain
  2. Nyetimber Classic 2001 – England
  3. Galvin House Champagne – France

We didn’t collect the tasting notes, but I know that the Gramona was a pretty clear winner on our table and was mistaken for a top Champagne by a few. It was a nutty, biscuity, crisp and delicious. I must seek it out, but I have the feeling (like many great cavas) it is not available in the UK. Thank you so much to Bruno Murciano, Spanish Sommelier of the Year and now at Bibendum who provided this from his personal cellar I believe.

I think it was a great way to compare different styles of wine. In a way it was great to taste the wines blind so as not to bring in any prejudices (how many would have guessed a Cava would win?) but I also think it was a missed opportunity to talk about these different style to a broad audience. Maybe I’ll do that sometime.

From a Social Media perspective it was interesting to see the convergence of twitter, blogging and live streaming (courtesy of WorldTV on Ustream.com). There were a lot of things to learn and share at this event, almost too many. It was hard to move from kearning about oysters, to tasting wines blind and also sharing some of the experience of dining in a great restaurant with wonderful views. In the end we were a little rushed, but it was still a great experience and fun to meet up with lots of friends.

If you want to read more, read some of the twitter archive here, as well as some of these bloggers’ posts (updated as I find more):

Bibendum
Londonelicious
Trusted Places
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Enough is Enough: a pricing rant

I was working on how to write this properly, then realised I have yet to try to use video more effectively (and it was faster!), so I recorded some thoughts (woefully unprepared) on Seesmic instead.

Here is the video. I think you need to register to leave a video comment (please do, I’d love to get some) but you can also leave me your written thoughts on this post.

If you want to join the OLN “Enough is Enough” campaign, text ‘Enough’ to 82055 (in the UK)

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