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Off to Lisbon for #EWBC

Yes, you will see that ‘code’ a lot over the next few days.

#EWBC is the twitter tag for all content related to the European Wine Bloggers Conference which takes place this weekend in Lisbon. If you need to know more about it at this stage, head over to the European Wine Bloggers site.

I will be up at 4am, in a tax before 5am and flying at around 7am, so I doubt I’ll be fully functioning tomorrow, but hope to be better rested for the event kicking off on Friday. However, you can still reach me on twitter (@thirstforwine) and via email (thirstforwine AT Google’s Mail Service)

I am really looking forward to catching up with the wonderful friends I made during the first event last year, and meeting a whole range of new people this year. Our ultimate goal is to create a strong network of friends around Europe, and the rest of the world, so we can do even better, more useful and creative things to do with wine. If you want to help, then join in!

There are almost 120 people coming to the European edition, and some 250 made it to the US version. The enthusiasm for meeting face-to-face is increased and facilitated by social media, despite our critics. Let’s show them some of what they are missing out on by not joining in enthusiastically!

See you in Lisbon!

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The Wine Show Merry-go-round

It is a really busy time, and a great time to taste wine.

Today, and for this weekend, I will be at The Wine Show in the Business Design Centre in London showing off some of the wines I represent in the UK on the Wines from Spain stand (come over to say hello), but also speaking to other exhibitors about what they are doing to reach wine consumers, and about their innovations.

Then it is the turn of the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference taking place in Lisbon from the 30th of October to the 1st of November 2009. There are already 117 confirmed participant bloggers from across Europe but also further afield. I am particularly excited to know that we have so many friends from the US and Canada coming too as I have yet to attend the US version of this event. Plenty of great wine and food will be consumed alongside the more serious conference discussion programme.

Then it is back to the UK to take part in The Wine Gang Christmas Fair on November 7th, 2009. There will be literally hundreds of wines there for you to taste PLUS I’ll be helping to showcase some great food and wine bloggers, recording what we get up to on the day and the impressions of the wines.

After that I skip off to Rioja a few times for the Wine Future conference and then a further couple of trips with wine lovers later in November and December.

Somewhere in there I hope to bring you updates on some of the exciting wine developments I’ve been learning about in packaging, research and even games! (more soon)

This blog is not updated every day, but if you want to stay up-to-date (and until I manage to bring it all back into one place) you can follow me on twitter and on the various sites linked above. I hope that somewhere along the way I can taste some of these wines with you in person.

Stay in touch! I may need your help to remind me where I am at any moment.

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Honest about being Craggy

I was lucky enough to be invited to a tasting of prestige wines held at the marvellous Corrigans restaurant (I was too busy enjoying the food to remember to take any photos, sorry).

Craggy Range Tasting

Craggy Range Tasting

The occasion was a tasting of recent vintages of Craggy Range, one of the exponents of really top class wines from unique terroirs from the new world, in this case New Zealand. Whilst many wine drinkers might think that the concept of single vineyard, terroir-driven wines might be the preserve of the ‘old’ world, this is really not the case. I am seeing more and more of this style of wines reach the UK consumer from places like New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and, of course, California which might finally be starting to make people notice – but will they believe it, and more importantly, pay the difference?

I have not been a great fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc recently (I feel that many have lost subtlety and have become hard to drink and enjoy rather than taste) so it was really refreshing to taste some absolutely wonderful crisp, mineral Chardonnays from single vineyards such as Gimblett Gravel, and earthy, dark fruit and herbal Pinot Noirs, such as that from the Calvert vineyards along the famous Felton Road.

What stuck with me was the straight-talking (sometimes achingly frank) style of the winemaker Rod Eastman which was captivating, particularly since it was clearly combined with great wine knowledge. This is exactly the kind of voice I would love to follow online on a blog, or vlog, to educate me about his wines, about this quality of wine, and about his country. Rod was able to give his wines context, which included some critical assessments of particular vintages, grapes and closure decisions (he happens to really hate cork).

You rarely hear brand spokespeople making any such admissions, and it reminds us that as well as being the winemaker, he is still a wine drinker himself, and therefore “one of us” – and someone we can trust. In fact many of those whose views I trust most have managed to combine a professional view with an honest, personal opinion too.

At this time Craggy Range are not active in social media, but I know it is on their agenda (is it not on everyone’s yet?) and I look forward to learning a lot more about the unique terroirs and regions of New Zealand from them one day soon, and I hope the winemakers’ views feature clearly on whatever they do.

Thank you to Warren Adamson for arranging for me to attend.

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A wine buying social experiment

Money coins
Image by CascadeAndSTAN via Flickr

A month ago I mentioned that I have been impressed by the potential of the wine newsletter sent by The Wine Gang. I am excited to say that I have done a deal with them for the Wine Conversation to give away 5 free subscriptions to their newsletter, worth £20 per year.

However, being an inquisitive and social chap, I thought I’d do it in my own way and seeing what we can learn from it.

My contention is that the best wine sites (& newsletters) need to balance learning with buying advice.

I believe that this newsletter, arranging its reviews not by style or region, but by retailer, makes it much easier to use it to buy better wines, and thus encourage subscribers to try new wines and even trade up with confidence. Most importantly, it can be used without making you change where you currently buy your wines (but you can).

So, here’s what I’m thinking (for stage 1): …

At £20 per year, the cost of the subscription works out to £1.67 per month

I’m looking for 5 people who would like to receive the newsletter (and browse the archives) of The Wine Gang (FREE), and all I ask is that you commit to answering this question: “how have you saved £1.67 (or more)“?

  • It could be that you know you spend £6.99 on a decent bottle of wine, but you find two worth £5.99 you really enjoyed drinking
  • It could be that you discover a wine you might have considered buying rated poorly, so you bought something else & saved that money?
  • It could be that you found a wine worthy of giving as a gift that cost less than you expected
  • Maybe it saved you buying another wine book (I hope not too many, they need love too)?
  • Or maybe it is something else … there must be other things worth £1.67
  • Or maybe you didn’t – and I’d like to know that too

I’d like to hear your thoughts (especially as this month they rated the wines of Majestic who just reduced their minimum purchase to 6 bottles). I’d love to know if YOU, wine drinkers, found value in this product. I’d like to share those experiences on this blog and on twitter.

Stage 2 will involve drinking some of your favourites together, maybe sharing the moment online, but I’ll save that for another day – but The Wine Gang are organising a Christmas Wine Tasting event so watch this space

So, who wants to test this out?

Leave me a comment below and I’ll see how many volunteers I get and the decide how to apportion the subscriptions.

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Talking Wine Lists

Not literally. I mean talking about wine lists with someone who knows a lot about them, Willie Lebus from Bibendum Wine Ltd.

One of the things that got me most excited about the tasting and event at L’Anima was the fact that it would give people on twitter who are not in the wine or restaurant business a chance to see some of what goes on behind the scenes. Wines for a list are carefully selected, potential places on the wine list are considered (in terms of style, price, choice) and then samples are tasted. There is a lot of complex planning and selection that goes on behind the scenes to create even a simple 12 wine list, never mind a 200 bin monster.

While I was attending the tasting, I asked Willie for his views on wine lists, and here are the, very animated, results. Thank you Willie!


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