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The electricity of creativity

“I’m like a great big dark cloud, floating over the land, discharging my creativity in a sudden burst, like a lightning storm. If I were on twitter, facebook, etc. I feel I would waste the energy in lots of small bursts. I do not want to do that. You won’t find me on social networks. … Of course, that’s what I feel today and it could change.” (paraphrased, from sketchy memory) – Iain Banks, 2012

Iain Banks Reads Stonemouth

Iain Banks Reads Stonemouth at Foyles, 2012

I attended a book reading & signing for Stonemouth by one of my favourite authors last week at Foyles in London. Iain Banks is the author of not only some amazing fiction, such as Wasp Factory, but also of science fiction (under the name Iain M. Banks). I particularly recall a book called Feersum Endjinn that included a very early model for Wikipedia/Internet he called The Crypt. He comes across as lots of fun, very creative, very Scottish and I happen to know he is also a wine lover (he admits to a fondness for Chateau Musar which also appears in a couple of books).

I took the opportunity to ask him if he used social media in his creative process, and I got the answer above. As an advocate of these platforms for wine, I feel it is a shame, but I totally understand what he is talking about. He says he writes his books in one, sudden, 3-month flash (after 9 months of “thinking about thinking, thinking, thinking about planning, and planning”). For authors who have to publish large creative works like a novel, I can see how the ongoing conversation might be a distraction. People would expect him to be creative, funny, innovative all the time. He admitted that if it helped him sell (a lot) more books, he’d probably do it, but I’m guessing he’s not desperate for cash after his 26 or so published works, so it is unlikely to happen.

I see, on the other hand, that for other creative types (like bloggers), the creative process is much faster, less intense in some ways, and the potential for the social conversation to spark more ideas and deliver value, more direct.

I do find myself, from time to time, involved in a discussion or reading a post, and thinking: “Hey, I wrote about that and covered it already somewhere …” then realising that it was never a fully formed thought, but just a comment or status update, and therefore seen by very few. If only I’d bothered to see it through, maybe it might have advanced the discussion a little further.

I know this is a feeling that many wine bloggers have experienced, but despite the many benefits of having channels for “micro-blogging” and reaching large audiences of followers and friends with wine content, it is fairly certain that this is diminishing the output of truly creative, fully-formed, valuable thoughts on our blogs, and that is a shame.

Is it time to change the balance and get back to longer form publishing? Save up some of that electricity for a proper show of lights?

This is a topic I know will be coming back to, including at the EWBC (and see these excellent points made by Andrew Jefford on the same subject as well).

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A re-telling of a wine fairytale

This story has been put together in a sustainable way from recycled & organic tales collected from around the world, and  its morals are entirely a product of indigenous references. Consume in moderation

Illustration from The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Illustration from The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time, there was an old man who had been a respected winemaker, but his intended bride had pricked her finger on a screwcap in her youth and fallen into a long, deep sleep. In his depression, the man had fallen on hard times. Few liked any of his wines any more and he was down to his last basket of grapes. All seemed doomed.

He went to bed that night, dejected. Unbelievably, he awoke the next day to discover that a magic elf flown in, and had been toiling all night and transformed his grapes into delicious wines using a “micro-oxygenation” spell. The man was overjoyed and with the money made selling that wine, he bought more grapes which the elf would transform, … and business boomed.

In time, the old man became so successful that he built the most fantastic winery, designed along Feng Shui principles with fermentation tanks fashioned after Dragon’s Eggs. His winery kept attracting more and more elves to make, design and package his wines, and the wines became hugely attractive, sought-after and collectable.

This posed a problem for the old man. All the wines being made now were  fantastically bejewelled, exotically styled and devilishly expensive. His regular customers could no longer afford to shop from him, so he turned to others for help.

The old man was canny. He decided to engage the services of wine merchants Rump & Stiltskin to sell the wines with the slogan “we turn your wine investments into gold”. He also hired Fay Reega, of the PR firm “Mother”, to invite the right sorts of people to a lavish annual Ball that was to be decorated and stage-managed by a couple of weavers whose incredible new material only fools could not see.

Success was guaranteed … as long as people would come.

Fortunately for them, a young piper from the Land of Mary came passing through town. He not only had a magical tasting instrument, but was also well versed in numerology. His magical instrument could turn the merest sip of wine into a charming song, and anyone who heard his number chanting would follow him wherever he went.

And so it was to pass. The date of the Ball was set for early April. The stage was (apparently) decorated. Other musicians and entertainers from all over the world came to lead the procession behind the Piper, and the old man and representatives of Rump & Stiltskin awaited, haggling over the future spoils, in their castles by the river.

The procession wound its way slowly around the castles of the region, picking up more and more of the rich and powerful as it went, heading towards the main event, whilst spectators, too poor to afford the gowns and the wines, and not in possession of the golden tickets, watched on, bemused from the sidelines.

At the stroke of 12, more specifically 2012, things started to go wrong.

The famous Piper decided he’d had enough and threatened to stop and rest. The other musicians from around the world tried to keep the procession moving, but it had only been the Piper’s magic number chant that had enthralled the crowds. The stage, it turned out, had not been decorated after all, Fay Reega’s magic golden tickets changed back into mere RyanAir vouchers, and people woke up and starting demanding the names behind Rump & Stiltskin in order to get their money back.

The fantastically expensive wines were locked in a vault, untouched, undrunk, unloved.

And while everyone was distracted, a handsome young writer appeared from behind a computer and kissed the sleeping beauty, who awoke from her long slumber and decided that she too wanted to make great wines, … but this time, with no elves.

Someone, somewhere, lived happily ever after.

The End?

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A golden opportunity for all wine

You may have heard us talking about some exciting projects on the horizon, so we are very excited to announce Vrazon‘s latest project which will be officially launched at the 2012 London Wine Fair Access Zone, Wine Gold 2012. As we will be recruiting for ambassadors for the launch we thought we might give our friends and followers an early “heads up” so that you can get involved.

Willi Klinger promotes Austria in Portugal

Willi Klinger promotes Austria in Portugal

The European Wine Bloggers Conference is very grateful for having received the support of sponsors such as ViniPortugal in 2009, Austrian Wine in 2010, Franciacorta in 2011 and of course Wines of Turkey in 2012. The conference hosts have gone a LONG way to helping wine bloggers and wine lovers to learn about their wonderful wines and broaden their drinking horizons.

However, we became very excited when two of these sponsors, having met at the EWBC 2010 in Vienna, decided to cooperate.  The result was that the incomparable Willi Klinger was invited to give a keynote presentation to Portuguese wineries and the international Press at the Wines of Portugal International Conference (WoPIC) by their Portuguese counterparts.

Two regional generic bodies cooperating to promote great wines. A dream come true!

We are excited to be able to announce that Vrazon will be taking this to the next level with the support of generic wine bodies from all over the world in the Wine Gold 2012 action plan.

In the spirit of the 2012 London Olympics, UK based wine promotion bodies will team up on a ‘sporting’ agreement to promote ALL wine and not just their own narrow interests for the year.

Instead of campaigns to get already confused wine consumers to switch from one region to another, the objective of Wine Gold 2012 will be to promote the enjoyment and appreciation of all good wine. We hope to convince more drinkers that by taking more interest in wine, they can discover amazing expressions from places they’ve probably never even considered or heard about.

Just as the Olympics introduce us to new sports with unique attractions, such as beach volleyball and kayaking, without detracting from the ‘classic’ track, field and pool events, wine consumers can also look forward to a more varied wine experience.

Details of participating generic bodies are still under wraps while UK market managers negotiate the pooling of limited individual budgets to create the first truly effective wine promotion resource.

Planned activities include:

  • sponsoring national wine columns in newspapers and magazines that are actually entertaining to read
  • buying-up supermarket promotion shelf space so only UNdiscounted wines at real prices can be shown
  • sending UK pub owners on courses to learn how to select, store and serve wine so punters actually get wine worth drinking; the courses will involve them having to actually taste the stuff they are currently selling
  • funding an energetic campaign to improve the quality and variety of suggested food matches on back labels, taught by film industry sciptwriters. No more “goes with chicken but drinks well on it’s own
  • a seminar by the Dragons’ Den team for website and app developers to stop them wasting money on creating wine tasting note sharing services, and instead focus on something worthwhile
  • funding bloggers who are reaching new consumers by paying them to republish their best content in traditional media around the world
  • creating a ‘wine pioneer’ campaign that randomly rewards consumers for talking about their favourite wines online without making any reference to drunkenness, “shit-faced”, “getting bladdered”, etc. or discussing hangovers and hangover cures
  • establishing a “Castaway” style TV programme where supermarket buyers would have to spend a year working at a vineyard and winery to make wines they then have to sell to UK supermarkets for a profit

We look forward to working with our friends at bodies such as Wines of Chile, Wine Australia, Wines of South AfricaWines from Spain, Sopexa and others to make this happen and to help sell a better range of great wines from all over the world.

If you can think of any further projects that should be funded to promote “Wine” we look forward to hearing your views in the comments, and if you are interested in leading the charge in any of these areas, please let us know.

 

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Social Connections are still about people not stats

Small world story; as I walked towards my local coffee and sandwich shop, St. Davids in Forest Hill, I got an email to say my Foursquare mayorship had been lost to another user.

image

I didn’t know this lady, but I have to admit I felt slightly affronted than I should lose this title, despite it meaning absolutely nothing, to someone else. This is my ‘hood!

My step quickened and I duly checked in as I crossed the threshold, to discover I’m still two days away from regaining the title.

I brought up her details as I scanned the room. Not only had she taken my title, but she was from Pamplona – either a tourist or temporary resident. Oh, the shame of it! The indignity.

As I waited for my coffee, I replied on twitter, jokingly, that I would soon take my title back.

I heard get phone ping next to me, then decided it would probably be better if I introduced myself now rather than have her discover later I’d been tweeting from 1 metre away.

It turns out she’s here for a short stay to improve her English, and really enjoying London. As we talk, comparing the use of social media in the UK and Spain, she mentions she happens to hang out with a very “social” crowd. I ask, as an aside, if she happens to know another person I had met via twitter and Facebook from her region, not really expecting anything. Surprisingly, it turns out they know reach other extremely well …

… and we had made a strong personal connection despite this being a city of 10 million people.

I’ve been seeing some discussion lately about whether Pinterest was “better” than Twitter, or whether Google+ will replace Facebook. This is not the point. It’s not about likes, links, RTs, etc. it is about motivating interaction with a community.

This is not about foursquare, its not about twitter or any other communication tool. It is about individuals having the means to discover common links and connections, leading to real life interactions.

It is about how you, as an individual, business or brand, decide to use them. If you don’t bother engaging with people on them, it doesn’t matter what you use, you will lose.

If you still happen to believe these offer your business no value, you may be missing out on very real benefits, but don’t just chase the “next best thing”.

(posted from my mobile, so will have to add more links later).

UPDATE (18:06 added a few links for reference)

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The tools for wine tasting success

Circuit board of a computerIn a MASSIVE oversimplification, animated largely by its dichotomous elegance, I suggest that there are two different approaches to wine tasting & sharing the experience.

It isn’t really about palate as I believe that pretty much anyone can taste wines. It isn’t background and upbringing, although experience over time does help. In fact, I believe that there is a difference in how people’s brains work that affects how they approach wine tasting.

First, there are the those who remember things. They catalogue, analyse, store, compare, measure and digest. I like to think of this group as the “Hard Disks” of the wine trade. If you’ve been to wine events you will know the type. They taste a wine, analyse it, then are able to compare it to previous vintages (at several stages of their development), tell you how that particular year’s weather may have affected the taste profile, or how a change in the winery’s staff or processes since then might have changed the wine.

These are the type of people who believe they can objectively assess a wine on a rating scale, be it 5, 10, 20 or 100 points.

The other approach, in my black & white universe, are the “Processors“. These people do not store much information, but learn how things work, they look for connections, patterns and relationships. These people are, frankly, fairly useless when it comes to wine recommendations, assessing wine qualities and generally doing the stuff wine people do. This group are more easily swayed by interesting stories, new trends, personal interests and “entertainment”.

The wine business was built by the Hard Disks. Knowing the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ of all  the wines that mattered was not only important, but possible.

However, the massive recent rise in quality of production and international trade has made the all-knowing expert a rarity indeed. The fact that “good” wines can now come from anywhere, and that more consumers are determining what they consider “good”, means that what differentiates wines is not so much the composition of their patch of dirt, but the story around it.

What might make someone a successful wine taster today is not the ability to rate and compare a wine, but to communicate a uniqueness in a wine in a way that matters to a group of consumers. Social Media is all about that communication and interaction, and a place where “Processors” might be at an advantage.

Of course, life is not beautifully, elegantly black & white, but a swirling maelstrom of patterned greyness, where no-one is really one or the other exclusively and we all need a bit of both. I suspect that even those who reached the pinnacle of wine trade achievement, as a Master of Wine, are not one or other (but they are not necessarily both). There are not too many social goldfish or data-crunching automatons walking the aisles of wine fairs, but hopefully you will recognise a grain of truth in these caricatures.

I am definitely a Processor, in fact I suspect my own Hard Disk may actually be faulty. I fail miserably if anyone asks me for a specific wine recommendation, but I LOVE to sit with them to explore what they like, where they shop and what excites them about wine in order to give them some general buying tips that will help them in the longer run. As the old saying (sort of) goes:

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink (wine) all day.

Which are you, Hard Disk or Processor? If you are a wine business, what are you doing to make the  most of this change? Is your communication all about the “what”, or is it about the WHYconsumers should care?

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