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When online friends get real

We’ve been here before, about 6 months ago, when Facebook rather exploded onto the scene (for me) and there seemed to be a collective & feverish drive to make new friends and contacts, discuss big ideas and make grand plans. It got so busy I spent ages on Facebook joining groups for Wine Bloggers, Wine 2.0, Sherry Lovers, Beards of the World United (that was just for me) and more.

The result was that I got to know a lot of new people and link up with some really interesting friends. We talked and talked and emailed and posted and … nothing really came of it.

Photo courtesy of Richard.HThe problem with Facebook is that it is a virtual “freshers fair”. It is like that first week at school/college/university, where all new arrivals feel equal and can shake off the social shackles accumulated over years at their previous school. These fresh faces desperately try to make a new circle of friends and create a new persona, meeting as many others as possible and “becoming friends”. Unfortunately it never stays that way, and by week 2 you will probably never see half those people again and you discover that the creepy guy who seemed seemed so mysterious is actually just creepy.

Facebook is good for showing your face (!) and getting snippets of information, even gathering into groups, but it does not offer the tools for in-depth discussions and planning. The serious business of making proper friendships doesn’t happen at the Freshers Fair, it happens later.

And that is what is happening right now.

At one time is seemed that all that time & effort seemed destined to be wasted, but thankfully I continued to have email conversations with Ryan and Gabriella Opaz at Catavino.net, and through them also began discussions with Joel Vincent of Wine Life Today.

This group is much more driven, and instead of just talking, we’ve started projects on the European Wine Bloggers Conference, the Open Wine Consortium and a few more things in the pipeline too exciting and confidential to mention just yet. These are some great tools for exploring and developing the Wine Conversation.

I have also met or am planning to meet up with several of these virtual friends, including Steve De Long, Emilio Saez, Jacob Gaffney as well as Ryan and Gabriella.

So, thanks Facebook for the party, I’ll be back again, but the place to hang out with friends is elsewhere.

* Photo Courtesy of Richard.H

Shopping for wine in supermarkets

Imagine the scene:

Tesco. Saturday morning. Shopping trolley already half-full. Bored kids. Lots more things to get done today but … you want to get a bottle of wine as a treat for yourself at dinner.

You turn into the wine aisle having resisted the siren call of the latest 2-for-1 deals everywhere else in the store – and all you can see is a wall of 600+ different wines never mind spirits, fortified wines, beers and ciders.

“Hell! OK, 2-for-1 it is. Maybe next time I’ll get something nice.”

Well, at last I have found someone working on a solution! I’ve always thought that something like this ought to have been done before now, but I had not yet found it.

Supermarket Wine is a site dedicated to bringing together EXPERT reviews of wines that can be found in the UK supermarkets so that you can improve your shopping there.

Strangely (for me) this site seems to have been around since 2006, but I must admit I had not heard about it. However, I saw it on a list of must-see wine sites (on a US blog) and thought I’d give it a go.

As I have mentioned before on this site, there are others looking at this area; including Love That Wine and Quaffers Offers (amongst others). The issue was that one had the consumer input, the other the expert view. The ideal, of course, was to combine them. This is what the new site strives to do.

The key has always been finding how to communicate the value of a wine relative to its price. A low priced wine might be great value if the wine is good enough, but how much better is a more expensive bottle? The risk of getting it wrong increases greatly as the cost of the bottle goes up, so consumers are naturally wary.

The solution for supermarketwine.com is to republish the ‘expert’ reviews of the wine columnists of the various British newspapers, already trusted sources of reviews, and link them to the wines with each retailer. Easy!

If you see a review you like, go to this site and link through to any of the retailers who stock it. In addition, once on the site you can read, and contribute, to the ratings from other consumers. You can filter reviews by retailer, price, grape variety, taste characteristic and even reviewer. How many more options would you like?

In practice, the site seems rather short of consumer input (I have yet to find one to be honest) but in true Wine 2.0 fashion the option is there.

Maybe if we give it a go we could build up the kind of traffic that would make this site a worthy reference site for consumers, the developer has certainly put lots of time and effort into building it.

And there is one last thing. I don’t like sites that give me no information on who is behind the business. This site is totally anonymous. No contact details, no name, nothing personal at all. I’m sure the person, or persons, will have the best of reasons for this, but one of the best ways sites can generate customer loyalty is to create a relationship with consumers. Anonymous sites do not do this.

So, Mr/Ms SupermarketWine.com, who are you? Fancy a relationship?

Meditations on wine

I must say, there is a lot of truth in this:

20 Things About Life I’ve Learned From Drinking Wine

Thanks 1WineDude

Blog Awards

You may already be already aware of this, but Tom Wark at Fermentation established the American Wine Blog Awards in 2007, and nominations are now open for the 2008 awards. I think this is an excellent initiative that we should all support.

This is not a post to canvas for votes or nominations, I am pretty sure my interests are far too esoteric to appeal to appeal to a broad range of readers, but rather it is an appeal to broaden the reach of the awards themselves.

The categories are:
Best Wine Blog
Best Single Subject Wine Blog
Best Wine Review Blog
Best Wine Business Blogging
Best Winery Blog
Best Wine Podcast or Video Blog
Best Wine Blog Graphics

These awards are already very popular and generate a lot of nominations and votes, but the vast majority of these are from reades and bloggers in the USA. If you are reading my blog I assume you have at least a passing interest in wine and I know from my trusty Google Analytics account that a large percentage of you are from outside the US. If so, head on down to the awards pages and nominate your own favourite blogs from all over the world. The only provisos are that they are blogs about wine, written in English and updated regularly.

As Tom will know, I think that the term “American” in the title is misleading, but more on that another day (it seems surly to go into that now).

Let’s spread the word and make this competition, including the nominations, votes and awards, even more representative of wine blog readers around the world.

Thanks Tom!

Stormhoek Origin and End

As was revealed today in Harpers, it seems that Origin Wine Pty, another producer from South Africa with existing international brands and strengths, will be taking over the assets of Orbital.

I can’t say I know much about Origin beyond what I have read elsewhere today, so I can only hope it works out for them and for the brands, including Stormhoek (why is it that neither of these companies seems to have any web presence of their own?).

What is interesting, and sad, is that as Origin already has UK offices it will not be taking on any of the Orbital staff, so I suspect there will be some pretty big changes in the marketing of the brand. I’m pretty sure, for a start, that it means the end of Hugh MacLeod‘s involvement.

It is probably a sensible result for those involved, but I guess there are those of us who will be disappointed that the result was not more … dramatic, and befitting the brand.

Let’s see what Origin can do for the wine. Good luck!

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