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New location, same conversation

Well, here it is! I’ve been meaning to do something to refresh the look and feel, and to implement a few new ideas for my blog for some time. Somehow, life, work and sleep always seemed to get in the way (not to mention wine), so it never happened.

Rioja Autumn Sun

Then I decided to let the experts (Catavino Marketing, whose internet marketing for bodegas, not to mention their expertise and love of Spanish and Portuguese wines have made them well known to all in the vinous blogosphere) take over and do the hard work for me! Result!

I hope you like the technical results – now I must make it worthwhile with some renewed vigour on the content front. If you have any thoughts, comments, suggestions or congratulations, please do let me know in the comments – you’ll see we’ve implemented the Disqus plugin and have even more ideas we are working on for this for a future release.

At the moment, those who follow me as thirstforwine on Twitter will know that I am travelling in Rioja, so chances to blog in general about wine are few and far between. I should, however, be able to write a few more posts for my other blog at about Rioja wine and travel (at some stage).

One thing I will definitely be posting about is a UK/European event for Twitter Taste Live to take place in November. I have some great ideas and lots of people interested in helping out, so I will post about that here very soon.

In the meantime, you could do a lot worse tonight than to open a bottle of Rioja (any bottle) and consider the answer to the question I was asked by a visitor only two days ago:

“So, what makes Rioja different from other wines?”

I know my view, but considering how much we drink of the stuff in the UK and around the world, there must be a general sense out there about why we like it so much. What’s your take? Leave me a brief comment.

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Wine Biz Radio

Oooh! I’m a radio star!

Well, in truth I was allowed to babble on well beyond my due 15 minutes of fame on Wine Biz Radio – a great radio show emanating from California

For anyone involved in the wine blogging community, Wine Biz Radio, and its hosts Randy & Kaz, will already be well known.

This is Randy in the photo – a perfect face for radio, wouldn’t you say? :)

For everyone else, this is a two-guy radio show that airs every week on live radio around California where Kaz (winemaker, sound effects maestro and all-round entertainer) and Randy (resident geek [sorry Randy!], lion tamer [sorry Kaz!] and winemaking student) look at stories of interest to wine folk.

Mostly this is US & California specific, but as Randy in particular is linked in to all the online communities on twitter, Open Wine Consortium, Wine Blogging Wednesday, and more, then it touches on wider issues as well (Kaz gets dragged kicking and screaming into these too from time to time).

This week, in an (unusually) pre-recorded show, I called in and got a chance to share my thoughts on UK wine drinking, Dinastia Vivanco, Garnacha, the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference and even babies and growing up in Italy. Yes, pretty random!

If you get a chance (and have a little time spare – you can always forward to my eventual arrival at around 25 minutes in), check it out!

Wine Biz Radio – A new Paradigm

Thanks Randy & Kaz

Rosé? Why compromise?

I am back online (well I never left totally, this is an online addiction after all, but it has been hard to concentrate on projects).

I’ve got a few irons in the fire, but I thought I would make a quick comment on an interesting headline I read yesterday:

Rosé passes white wine as France’s favourite from The Telegraph

Wow! That is a LOT of rosé wine. I have not seen the underlying data to prove to myself that the French really are buying more rosé wine than white (this is the land of wonderful Chardonnay from Burgundy, Sauvignon Blanc & Chenin Blanc from the Loire and all sorts of wonderful and exotic Rousanne, Marsanne, Viognier and more from the Rhone).

Surely these are not being displaced by rosé?

Well, of course, there is the issue is of price & availability. The white wines I mention are the ones all wine lovers know, but how often do we drink them? We can all list them as “great wines”, but in practice we drink more lowly wines on a daily basis, and the French are no different. So instead, we look for interesting, new and ‘trendy’ wines, and the rosé trend is spreading around the world.

Even so, that is a lot of pink wine. In the UK, the last figures I saw had rosé sales still below 10% of all wine sales, so even with a big increase since then, they’d struggle to compete with white wine.

Another interesting comparison would be to see what types of rosé wines they are drinking. The much touted growth in UK sales are heavily biased towards the fruitier “blush” wines from California (White Zinfandel and White Grenache) whilst I imagine that even the ‘new’ young consumers in France, those who are ditching their parents’ conventions, would still blush to be seen drinking these wines.

But I must admit that the comment that really annoyed me, of all of this, was Evan Davis on the Today programme (where I first heard the news). He said:

“Sometimes, when you can’t decide between red & white, rosé seems the perfect compromise”

Compromise? What a shame to dismiss wines like that. Unfortunately, this is from one of the most educated men in the country working on one of the most influential programmes. OK, so it was a throw-away comment, but it shows that the Wine Conversation still has a long way to go to displace entrenched views.

Comedy, Love and Wine

If I may step down from my soapbox for a moment (I can hear your sighs of relief), I came across an interesting marketing concept only very recently.

[I tried to post about this yesterday, but their site was down, a technological hiccup that happens even to the largest companies as well as us little bloggers]

How to get younger people to learn about wine? One way is to combine it with theatre and comedy. I wish I had been able to do this when I was first learning about wine.

Hardy’s (they of the mega-corporation) have launched a campaign called One Love Since 1853. Part of the campaign is a series of events around the UK being run by Chris Scott of ThirtyFifty (an innovative wine retailer/educator in his own right) which they are calling “sip-along theatrical productions”.

The brief says:

Hardys, known for its straight talking, no nonsense approach to wine, has teamed up with ThirtyFifty to devise a world first in ‘educational entertainment’ – a series of interactive comedy shows to teach people everything they need to know about wine in just 30 minutes!

One of the jokes is that it takes 2 hours (according to the site) to learn “everything they need to know .. in 30 minutes”, so I hope the other hour and a half is spent putting that knowledge into practice!

It is too late in the day to join in as the audience had to request tickets in advance, but one show is happening tonight (19 June 2008) in Manchester and there is a final event in Bristol (26th of June).

There could be tickets left, you never know, so head over to their sites and find out, or if you did attend one of the shows, please let us know how it was and what you learned.

[Update: Click here to read Eating Leeds' review of this event]

Social Drunking

My last post despaired against law-makers for their approach to problem drinking.

I called upon them to think bigger thoughts and help shape a new common goal that might divert attention from day to day angst leading to binge drinking (oh, and help to save the planet in the process).

A couple of things have occurred to me since that post.

1. It will never happen. Such a movement will have to come from ‘me’/'us’, not ‘them’. [thanks to my lovely wife for reminding me of my previous thoughts about this topic. In my 'red mist' I got rather carried away with utopian dreams]

2. I’ve fallen, once again, into the trap of thinking others are “like me” – “I thinking” in Mark Earls’ excellent Herd Thinking work

I assume that others could/should think like me about alcohol (or anything) simply because I hold it to be true. But they don’t. However much I try and explain the error of their ways.

Are we the same? After all, I drink alcohol. Binge drinking kids and young adults drink alcohol.

No, the actual similarity is that we drink to socialise.

I drink to learn and explore, in the main. I like to share that knowledge gained with others who like wine in particular (I posted on this some months ago)

Those that are the target for this sort of legislation drink to socialise too, but alcohol, drinking to the point of drunkenness, is the objective of socialising, not as a subject to be explored. I have now seen this called “Social Drunking” – a great term for a sad state of affairs.

I found this presentation, courtesy of my friend Andrew (who knows a fair amount about this subject and helps to bring solid research to this debate, not just my ramblings), to be very enlightening. It is worth reading through it just to see how these 18-25 year-olds think about alcohol.

It would probably be unfair of me to point out that wine plays no part in their drinking (except for the one woman who mentions it in relation to ‘sensible’ drinking at home). All of those involved in alcohol have a shared responsibility to do something about this problem, but it could be that there is something about wine, or how it is perceived, that differentiates it and that could help us improve drinking habits.

I would point out, however, that price of alcohol, or availability from off licences did not figure at all.

I still think that learning about CONSEQUENCES, whether for our planet, through our wasteful consumption, or short-termist commercial thinking impacting on the sustainability of jobs and culture, would also have an effect on people’s attitudes to alcohol.

Certainly, one consequence of my own drinking is that I feel a responsibility to do something, however small, to try and encourage a sensible approach to alcohol – by young drinkers and legislators alike.

You never know!

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