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No one wants to watch wine movies

Ok, so I got your attention. I’m sure some of you came racing over here to tell me I’m wrong. Sideways, Mondovino, A Good Year, French Kiss, and more … so many good, and not so good, films that speak of wine. I’m not here to debate the quality and accuracy of the films, but these films have something in common – story lines, emotions and entertainment.

I love wine movies. One of my favorite ways to enjoy them is curled up with my wife, sharing a bottle of good wine. By the end of the film, if the match works, the wine is often wedded with the film in such a way that when I think of one, the other is not far behind.

I say this because I don’t believe anyone, and I include myself, has EVER sat down with a bottle of wine or bowl of popcorn to watch your winery’s website video intro, the one that pops up annoyingly when I want to find something specific on your website. Your website is a tool to transfer information, not a place to hangout and watch movies. And it never will be. Your “wine movie” is not primarily about entertainment, it will not engage consumers emotionally. Let’s face it, it is not going to win an oscar or do anything to sell more of your wine. No one wants to watch these wine movies.

However, a winery can still benefit from the movies. The wine I open for a movie is often selected based on the mood of the movie, or the emotion of the evening. Romantic dramas might suggest a more elegant wine, or you might prefer a muscular Cabernet for the raw-meat of a classic Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

I want wineries to take the “think different” challenge. Don’t plan the film that you want to make about yourself and your wines, think instead of the movies that have already been made. This weekend, for example, try those that are up for an Academy Award (Oscar). Why not tell us which of the films is the best match for your wine – then cheerlead for it? Do some wine and movie pairings, then challenge your mailing lists to offer up better suggestions then link to a place to buy films or rent them online. Maybe even offer an “Oscar pack” of wines for the winning movies. Why not?

And to all you bloggers and engaged consumers, why not challenge yourselves to a movie and wine pairing event? You can match wine and films based on mood, labels, names, styles, even by the names of the winemaker. How would YOU  go about doing this?

It’s been a while since my last movie marathon with friends, but this could be a great way to do it again. Dim the lights, make some snacks and pair some movies!

Here’s a couple to get you started from all of us at Vrazon:

  • The Iron Lady” and Blue Nun – because the once great, popular lady in blue is now a bit frayed and confused. (Robert)
  • The Crying Game”  and any good Blanc de Noir – Not everything is what it seems to be, and yet it can still stir your emotions. (Ryan)

and of course what list would be complete without…

  • Silence of the Lambs” and a Good Chianti (or Amarone, if you read the book) – No explanation needed…though choose your accompaniments carefully!

If you have any ideas, especially if you are a winery and think there is a film that expresses your wine’s personality, tell us about it in the comments below.

Cheers, Ryan

Note: The Academy Awards take place this Sunday, February 26th 2012 at 19:00 Eastern US time (02:00 Central European Time)

Here’s a list of the main category finalists to get you started:

Best Picture: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse
Actor in a Leading Role: Demián Bichir, George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt
Actress in a Leading Role: Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Rooney Mara, Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams
Directing: The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life

 

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Born Digital for the best online wine content

What was the best wine article or video that you read in 2010? For many people, the answer is probably something the rest of us have never heard about. It might have escaped our attention, it might have been by someone who doesn’t publish that regularly, or more likely, it was written in a language we do not speak.

Some writers or creators of video, audio, photography and other media, are consistently good. They might get noticed for their overall contribution – such as blog awards that take into account an entire blog’s output over a year. They deserve these awards for their great efforts, but few of us are sufficiently dedicated to compete with them, and even these awards are often limited to single languages or countries.

Unfortunately that means that some of the best content is lost or ignored.

So Gabriella, Ryan and I decided to do something about it, and it took quite a while to work out how we would do it.

If you follow the various projects I am involved in, you may have heard of the Born Digital Wine Awards (or #bdwa). These awards recognise individual pieces of work about wine (initially for articles or videos but we are looking to expand into audio and photography next year) in ANY language, that were specifically created for online publication. We want to showcase the best stuff, wherever it was published, on its own merits (i.e not only if you happened to publish 51 other posts that year), and promote those who are doing something that benefits lots of wine lovers around the world by being available online, hopefully, but not exclusively, free to all.

As well as getting a broader audience for this material, there are great prizes which will include a substantial cash prize for the winners in each category and valuable runner-up prizes too.

SUBMIT YOUR BEST STUFF

This is NOT a popularity contest with votes and canvassing that favours established bloggers. This is a contest for the content creators and so it needs the authors to submit up to 3 of their own articles. If this is YOU, then submit your articles STRAIGHT AWAY as the deadline is 28 February 2011. You cannot nominate others, but we strongly encourage you to dig out your favourites from 2010 and leave them comments, or send them emails, to tell them to participate.

Visit the awards site to read all about the award categories, and the illustrious judging panel (that does not include us), and PLEASE enter your favourite materials. We have already received a great many entries in at least half a dozen different languages, but we’d love to see as many as we can in this launch year.

We hope that by this time next year we will have helped wine lovers to find a treasure trove of new wine content, and be building a way to incentivise, and reward, those who are building and sharing the online wine culture.

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Smoky Pinots and spicy Cabernets

Yesterday will be one of the more memorable days among the many tasting occasions taking place this January.

First, the BIVB event. I went to hear how the BIVB presented itself, the diversity of offerings from Burgundy (at Village level) and maybe try a few of the seemingly popular 2009 Burgundies. The presentation was simultaneously familiar, yet surprising, but more on that soon. The 2007 & 2008 wines they showed were really good, but I can’t help feeling that if they lost that chip off their shoulder about their superiority, consumers might be more forthcoming.

However, the most memorable aspect (above and beyond the very few 2009′s that I tasted, which to be honest were not as impressive as I had expected) was the fact that a light in the Old Billingsgate gantry decided to overheat and burst into flame. Not sure if people were more concerned for their safety and that of the building, or the impact it was having on their ability to smell the wines. However, I left as we were being (temporarily) evacuated. Here are a few snaps I took of the offending light.

I moved on to the Oregon & Washington tasting instead, and arriving earlier than planned, was lucky to take part in a comparative tasting of some TOP Washington Cabernet Sauvignon wines from 2007 and 1997. Here are my tweets:

  • Ch. St. Michelle Cold Creek 07: chalky, soft tannins but a big sweet, dark ripe fruit body. Slightly reductive nose. Years to go
  • Ch. St. Michelle Cold Creek 97: lots of tertiary character on nose, tannins nicely integrated. Sweet spice. Elegant, almost floral, wine
  • Seven Hills, Klipsun Vineyard, 07: v. Young, plum & White pepper nose, sweet, dark fruit and liquorice root
  • Seven Hills, Klipsun Vinyrd, 97: smells of Campari (bitter edge, spirity), sweet fruit masked by acidity & tannin, maybe falling away? [I decided later it was actually Averna it smelled of - a herbal digestive drink]
  • L’Ecole No41 Pepper Bridge 07: Pepper (yes), blackcurrant nose and christmas spice, chalky, rounded taste. V. Nice
  • L’Ecole No41 Pepper Bridge 97: very nicely integrated, juicy, tasty wine. Well developed. My fave I think
  • Woodward Canyon Old Vines 07: mocha, vanilla nose. V soft, opulent tannins. BIG! needs age
  • Woodward Canyon Old Vines 97: herbal, all spice nose and hint of damp. Real herbal edge to taste. A little overpowering
  • Overall impression of Washington Cabs: REALLY benefit from age, they’re full flavoured, not full bodied, wines. Know your AVAs

As you might expect really, the extra time has been very positive for these wines. The shame is that as you drink the 1997s you really notice how young and un-ready even the 2007′s are, but that is how they are being experienced by the consumer. Wineries … hold on to your stocks a little longer! Your importers and retailers cannot do it, and it is your wines and your eventual customer that will benefit.

A memorable day in lots of ways.

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Afros Wine – a sensory experience

What helps a winemaker make a really interesting wine?

Is it the tools, technology and modern training received from experts at the best wine colleges? Or might it be the fact that when they walk through a grove, crunching the remains of Autumn leaves underfoot, to the sounds of the local church bell down the hill, they know the fact that the trees are exactly 107 years old because their grandparents planted them to celebrate their wedding?

Vasco Croft at Afros

Does a biodynamic vintner make better wine because (s)he follows this particular regime, … or does the biodynamic respect for nature stem from a connection to that land that the vintner already has?

This was my second meeting with Vasco Croft of Afros Wine, the first being a Vinho Verde tasting in London where I was rather taken by his wines. This time we met at his estate on a visit during the Wines of Portugal International Conference (#WoPIC) in 2010.

By the way, Vasco, as a fellow visitor remarked, has more than a passing resemblance to a young Richard Gere and certainly seems to embody the ‘vitality’ that biodynamic followers like to discuss. He looks like he could move seamlessly from the winery to leading a local yoga masterclass.

I was taken by the sounds of his place. I’ve been to many wineries recently, from the large and clinical to the small and haphazard. This place was more ‘natural’, more suited to the translation of ‘Adegga’ as ‘farm’ rather than the grander wine term ‘estate’.

There may have been 30 people there, but you could still FEEL the calm, seeing the mountain horses and sheep allowed to roam freely in the vineyards and hearing the specially designed fountain sculpture ‘dynamising’ the water used in the winery and vineyard.

After a brief outdoor tour, past the edges of the vineyards, through the special room for biodynamic preparations, past the fountain and into the grove, we finally entered the recently completed tasting room. Here we matched the rather individual Afros wines to a menu specially designed by the kitchen team at Ferrugem (a well respected local restaurant) that, like the wines, take traditional materials and delivered them in an exciting way.

Our first experience was to match the delicate mouse and fragrantly biscuity Afros Espumante Reserva Loureiro 2007 (sparkling wine) with a spoon of “sarrabulho* sweet, Reineta apple puree and caviar of cherry tomatoes”. Arguably the food flavours were a little strong for the wine, but both were excellent.

sarrabulho sweet, Reineta apple puree and caviar of cherry tomatoes

Sarrabulho sweet and caviar of cherry tomatoes

Next was a superb take on a classic: Pastel de (Bacalhau com) Nata – a light pastry which instead of the traditional sweet cream, was filled with creamy, savoury cod in order to match the floral, crisp Afros white made from the Loureiro grape, Afros Loureiro 2009. A stunning combination, not just of the salty food and crisp wine, but also the creamy softness of the food accentuated the structure of the white wine. Wow!

We followed this with a surprising combination of  red Vinho Verde, made from a grape no-one thought could make ‘proper’ wine, the 2010 Afros Vinhao, with Caldo Verde soup (based on potato and cabbage I think). Lovely! The wine was intense, with that ‘purple’, inky, sharp character I associate with teinturier grapes (with red flesh) but also fresh, with a fruity character of crisp blueberries, red currants and pepper.

Next was the surprising Afros Espumante Reserva Vinhão 2006 sparkling red, made from the same Vinhao grapes, but further enhanced by the second fermentation that rounded out the palate with some yeasty character but also had the bubbles to bring out the fruity aromatics. We matched this to chef’s local equivalent of a ‘surf and turf’ dish of octopus, chestnut and red pepper sauce. So many flavours but well complemented by the wine.

polvo com tinta(o)

It is heartening to see a small business balancing a very modern outlook with a natural approach in a traditional context. Biodynamics, from a traditional ‘estate’ but made with an eye on an international consumer.

This is a small estate, and one of the very few registered biodynamic producers in the whole of the country, but I hope it represents a new wave of ‘artisan’ winemakers that will gain international and national recognition for their dedication, and will raise the profile and standing of their region and country.

Well done Vasco, and well done Portugal

p.s. lots more food and vineyard photos if you see the full set above or click through to my Afros photos on flickr

*as far as I can tell this is a dish made in the style of black pudding, but I have been unable to find out much more – it essentially was a blood-pudding meatball

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Wine, drugs and an unhealthy debate

For an audio version of this post, click here:

I should warn you now, I am a dedicated proponent of a non-communicable disease.

There is only ALCOHOL!

The debate has been stirred by a report by Professor David Nutt, the former UK chief drugs advisor, published in The Lancet called “Drug harms in the UK“. However, it continues a debate we had at the recent European Wine Bloggers Conference as well, on “Freedoms, Rights and Responsibilities”.

What I discovered in that very interesting session in Vienna, with presentations by Adam Watson-Brown (Information Society & Media Department, EU Commission), George Sandeman (representing Wine In Moderation) and Ken Payton (blogger at Reign of Terroir), was exactly how governments and official bodies think of alcohol – and it makes a BIG difference in understanding their approach to the debate.

In this debate, there is no “Wine”. There are no “Spirits”. There are no “Alcopops”, “RTDs“, “artisanal cordials” or even “record-breaking alcoholic beverages”. There is no ‘good alcohol’ or ‘bad alcohol’. There is only ALCOHOL!

ALCOHOL is not a feature of a beverage, a natural by-product of age-old techniques, nor even an industrial process. Alcohol is a drug, and its consumption is a ”non-communicable disease”.

“The World Health Report 2002: Reducing risks, promoting healthy life, identifies five important risk factors for non-communicable disease in the top ten leading risks to health. These are raised blood pressure, raised cholesterol, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and overweight.” WHO fact sheet No. 273

In other words alcohol is seen as a disease to be eradicated.

It is like banning bridges because they can be used to jump off

Before I go further, let me state that I agree that alcohol abuse is a problem is many societies, and a factor in many problems, but I believe alcohol is also very different from most of the other drugs listed in Prof. Nutt’s study and so this debate is very ‘unhealthy’. Let me explain how.

The chart we have all seen today is this:

Most harmful drugs - The Lancet

This illustrates that, according to a long list of criteria relating to the harm to the individual and also harm to society, and its widespread consumption, alcohol comes top of the list, delivering to the world’s media the nicely controversial headline: “Alcohol is more harmful than heroine“.

What this chart, and this way of thinking completely misses, in my opinion, is that this is only half of the story. It is like banning bridges because they can be used to jump off.

Take a look again at the list, but from a different perspective. Which of these items listed CONTRIBUTE to individuals and society, if any? Where are the BENEFITS? I think most of us would be very hard pressed to say that Crack, Methylamphetamine and Heroine contribute to society in any meaningful way. [Heroine is interesting. Unlike 'Alcohol', this chart doesn't list 'Opiates' where Heroine = BAD but medically administered Morphine = GOOD]. However, the two ‘legal’ drugs on the list, Tobacco and Alcohol do.

Another look at Nutt Report on drugs and alcohol

Another look at Nutt Report on drugs and alcohol

[note: this is my crude attempt at modifying the graph, sourced from The Lancet, for illustration only]

(I’m not going to make the case for Tobacco, others can do that, but even here there are some benefits to society from taxation, even if they are outweighed by the costs.)

But alcohol IS different.

Let’s take wine, but you could argue a similar case for beer and some spirits too. The benefits include:

  • Huge revenue streams from Duty & VAT receipts to the Treasury
  • Vast numbers of people employed in production, supply, retail, marketing and distribution (not just winemakers, but bar and pub owners & staff, importers, wine shop assistants, glass manufacturers, cork companies, shipping companies, label printers, designers, journalists, educators, etc.)
  • Sustainable environmental benefits from land cultivated, often where little else would be viable, and people making a living in rural areas instead of moving to cities
  • Developing tourism infrastructure around regions dependent on wine production
  • Thousands of years of historic and cultural legacies in production and consumption

I’m not even going to touch on the contentious issue of potential individual health benefits from moderate drinking.

I am not in a position to quantify these benefits, but others such as the WSTA might. However, it is obvious that these benefits do exist.

One of the main reasons this needs to be taken into account is because the blunt weapons of punitive taxation and medical warnings can disproportionately reduce the BENEFITS instead of reducing the harm. Raising taxes on alcohol might cut consumption rates, but it also costs jobs and tax revenue. It reduces the margin and incentive to increase quality for retailers and producers because their products are less affordable. This benefits large brands less connected to any local, cultural investments and driven by sales volume growth (which is the opposite of the policy’s aim).

It won’t be just those who are abusing alcohol the most that are affected, but everyone else as well. The approach is backfiring. We already have some of the highest taxes in the world, yet their own evidence shows that things are still not improving.

We have to change the rules of the debate they have set

I went to the EWBC hoping to make the point that wine blogging can have a positive impact on society, through education and reconnecting consumers with the cultural roots of wine enjoyment so that alcohol may be consumed responsibly. I realised, sadly, that the anti-alcohol lobby wasn’t just ignoring us, we weren’t even speaking the same language.

So, how do we engage with the discussion? We have to change the rules of the debate they have set. It is a time for much more concerted efforts by wine lovers and wine businesses.

Unfortunately, printing messages on labels and adverts about “drinking responsibly” are not the answer.

We need clearer data on the benefits of the alcohol trade to individuals, governments, countries and regions. We need to broaden out the debate about dealing with alcohol abuse from the purely medical, to the cultural and economic areas too. And we need informed politicians willing to have a sensible debate about these points without fear of being pilloried by the media.

[UPDATE: 03/11/2010 An interesting follow-up on this debate from an NHS site is here]

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