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Wine Rating and Dating

I have touched on this once before in The Conversation Starter, but wine and dating are a good match (excuse the pun).

At the time Nicolla Greaves was organising occasional evenings on behalf of the WSET and they certainly caught some people’s attention.

Nicolla is still with the WSET but has obviously decided that there is a future in matching wine tastings & education with the proper business of finding a soul mate (at least one who will hopefully understand your obsessional wine buying habits in years to come).

She and Nigel Littlewood, with a background in running bars, have set up an events company dedicated to this new aspect of the wine business (or is it a new aspect of the love business?).

I must say that the idea of a speed dating event terrifies me, but then being happily married (and maybe even above the usual age profile) I am not the target market. However I may have 1 or 2 young, single readers out there looking to put their hard won knowledge of wine to good use [and if it works out, do let me know in the comments]. I think the idea of having a topic of conversation like wine to kick off your first meeting is a good idea. Wine is a topic that says something about a person, whether they consider themselves a ‘wine geek’ (not that I expect ANYONE to use that term on the night) or ‘novice’, you can still have a view.

So, if you fancy it (!), why not check out their site and go along to one of their events (first one is on the 7th of April).

Oh, and if you’ve bought one of those wine notebooks it could easily double up for taking down his/her number or email address!

Good luck! After all, as they say, “it is all a matter of taste”

Portable Wine Tasting Device (no batteries required)

Sometimes, wine bloggers have been known to lack inspiration, wondering what to talk about next and hoping that an idea might just walk up to them, tap them on the shoulder and say, “Hi! I bet people would like to read about me”.

Unfortunately, most of the time that doesn’t happen.

But, like that dodgy chat-up line that fails 99% of the time, you can always dream that this time will be the 1% “pay-off”.

Thank goodness for Steve De Long!

I was casually getting on with my day job recently when all of a sudden a rather charming man walks up to me and says “Hi!” (he forgot to mention the bit about the “I bet people would like to read about me”, but I think he can be forgiven this time.)

It so happens that Steve is one of those virtual friends I mentioned recently, someone I met through the OpenWine Consortium.

Having mentioned I would be attending the Wines from Spain tasting in London in a comment, Steve, who happened to be visiting the same event, came round to introduce himself. We chatted about various things, he showed me an exciting project he is working on (which may be secret so I will not mention it) and left me a parting gift.

Now, it being a day job sort of day I was rather distracted, so I waited until I got home to investigate the gift.

To my surprise it was a very useful booklet which he has put together (with his wife I believe) that any aspiring wine enthusiast ought to have. The booklet is a 60-page wine tasting note archive where each page has all the reminders and key terms you might need to start the habit of taking tasting notes on the wines you drink.

It allows you to easily keep names and key details of the wines and highlight characteristics of colour, aroma and taste (using your own words or easily circling the pre-printed options).

Anyone starting out in wine will tell you that keeping track of what you taste can be daunting, and remembering all the different things you are supposed to judge can be tricky, so it is great to see it in a handy booklet that is also easy to keep on you for ‘emergencies”.

Best of all, there is even a cheat sheet in the back with lists of possible smells (aromas), useful terms and even faults.

I know I shall be buying a few for my relatives (sorry for spoiling the surprise if you are reading this) and in terms of the Wine Conversation, I applaud the goal of making it easy for anyone starting out on a wine tasting journey to track their progress.

One of the drawbacks of such a fragmented market for wines, where supermarkets can carry 600+ wines each and every restaurant has a different list, is that it is hard to remember what you have tried, and liked, before. This I imagine could be great tool (if used regularly – but isn’t that the same for any tool?) for those of us with dodgy memories.

So, thanks Steve! I appreciate the gift and if anyone feels they too might be interested in tracking the wines they drink I recommend you check out

More thinking about drinking

There have already been some great comments on my previous post, and as my answers were getting quite long I thought I’d post a response here for all to see.

This seems to be the controversial statement:

“I believe that the average person’s ability to consciously understand and process information is limited, …”

I think I will need to restate this as I don’t believe Richard, Gabriella and I disagree. I probably should have said “willingness” rather than “ability”.

In reality we have to accept that the vast majority of people will not be interested in wine’s messages and will simply keep going with their daily routines.

This isn’t to say they cannot understand, only that they do not see the reason for bothering.

This is the point I have been grappling with since I began to explore the Wine Conversation. You have to care in order to learn something, and if you know nothing, you don’t care. Catch 22.

I don’t think that dumbing down works, as Gabriella says, because it removes the need to care or think.

But 99.9% of the world’s wine businesses cannot afford to change this. As I said to Richard, look how much effort has gone into raising awareness of Climate Change. Think how much it would have cost businesses to get that level of press coverage and yet, despite all this, how little our habits have changed.

We must first capitalise on ‘accidental’ opportunities, such as Sideways, Bottle Shock, rappers interested in Champagne, etc.

The most exciting opportunities, however, would be if we could invent new contexts for wine information that would allow people to ‘get into wine’ from within environments they already understand and are comfortable with.

This is one reason I object to ideas for standardising the way we present wine – that merely entrenches existing differences. If we could come up with such a new way of thinking (the way Reebok & Nike did for trainers, or Apple did for portable music devices) then we might make a difference.

Of course, if I had a ready-made solution I’d stop blogging and start making my fortune! Having said that, I have an idea which I am developing and will hopefully see the light of day. Stay tuned!

ABC1 Women – Look Out for Monty!

No, this is not about educated women suddenly taking an interest in golf and a certain Scottish exponent, but rather a Mr Monty Waldin – wine writer and organic (and biodynamic) cheerleader.

Channel 4 Sales (presumably their sponsorship and ad sales arm) says:

ABC1 Women [presumably this is the target audience]

“Top wine critic and author Monty Waldin has decided to put his money where his mouth is and pack it all in to make wine bio-dynamically in rural south west France. He has just over a year to achieve his dream to turn a few hectares into top selling organic wine. Once ensconced, his only company will be a donkey, visiting friends from the UK, incredulous local peasantry and occasionally, Monty’s high maintenance girlfriend, Silvana who jets in from Italy.”

Other than the gratuitous insertion of the term “high maintenance” (is that really necessary?) this sounds interesting. It does raise a few questions … like who did all the hard work to actually grow the vines in the first place as you cannot simply say “Oh, I think I’ll make this wine biodynamically this year”.

Also, if he only has a few hectares, what does “top selling” mean? He sells more than a few bottles to his mates? Wouldn’t the continued presence of C4 cameras & crew rather help that, irrespective of the quality of the wine?

Anyway, this is one I shall be on the look out for. It will be interesting to see how well they can explain the concept of biodynamic wine to the general public considering how little understood it is even by wine enthusiasts. It will hopefully make France a more attractive wine buying destination for people as well.

I have met Monty in passing and I know he will have the right sort of charm for such a series (and I think those ABC1 women will agree), so I expect this will be a fun addition to the Wine Conversation.

Thanks to Decanter for alerting me to this programme

Support your local winemaker

I read an interesting post on this topic over on (unfortunately it is in Italian so not all of you may be able to read it) written by the entertaining & knowledgeable Franco Ziliani. The gist was to pick up on a campaign in the US to “support your local winemaker“.

Although the initial campaign was probably intended to be about supporting local business by spending your money there, to promote ‘artisan’ production, and to minimise transport costs and its effects, Franco took it off into a new area – Local Collaboration.

His point, which I thought was very valid, is that winemakers should spend more time supporting each other within a region so as to establish local best practice and encourage the development (and preservation) of their own regional/local style. If everyone (and in this case he was pointing the finger at Italian winemakers, but could equally apply elsewhere) employs the same ‘consultants’ and ‘flying winemakers’ then rather than improving wine, this is just one step further towards the standardisation of styles across the regions, and the world. This is particularly important in a country like Italy with its hundreds of defined (and thousands of undefined) regions jostling for recognition, differentiation and survival, but is also common to all winemakers.

How might they do this? Well, by a strange coincidence (or not) I read a post on such a topic by the folks at La Gramiere in France. These are ‘flying winemakers’ only in the sense that they are Americans who have flown to France to start a new life as winemakers. Their blog is a very open and honest view of the trouble they are going through to get established (good luck, by the way!).

[While you are at it, click here to see the heartbreaking reason for the scored out name on this image]

They have just visited Chateau Rayas, a very well known producer in their general area, not just for fun but also to exchange ideas (or should I say, learn from those who have been doing it for a while longer). I’m not sure how much of this goes on on a daily basis in this or other regions, but it is the kind of activity that should be encouraged. Plus, of course, we too can learn from it through the wonderful world of blogging winemakers.

I’m sure there are plenty of winemakers willing to tell others how to run their wineries, but how many of them want to take that advice?

Thank goodness for people like Matt & Amy at la Gramiere, and also Josh at Pinotblogger who give us a glimpse of life as a winemaker, and for their willingness to share information as well as listen to others.

Support local winemakers!

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