Tag Archive - Blog

Wine Bloggers’ Wines from Oddbins

Oddbins Wine Bloggers

So, do wine bloggers have any idea what wines others should drink, or are they just good at telling us about the stuff they like?

I have to admit to being very afraid of the idea of being responsible for choosing wines for other people I do not know. The idea of being a “Wine Buyer” would mean I would never sleep again. I love wine. I love drinking it, sharing it, talking about it and learning about it. I enjoy how it impacts on the world, and generally changes it for the better. But I do not know whether YOU will like any particular wine or not. Building a business that requires such certainty seems hard to me.

Blogger Initiative

I was very impressed and intrigued, therefore, to see that 6 of my fellow UK wine bloggers got together with Oddbins to create a selection of wines for the rest of us to enjoy so I just had to buy a case.

The basic story is on the Oddbins Wine Bloggers Case page, but you should also read any of the bloggers’ own articles linked below.

In summary, the six bloggers had access to an entire Oddbins shop for the task of selecting 12 bottles, one red, one white, each, for a case that would cost no more than £100 (including delivery). A tough but enjoyable challenge.

So, I had two simple questions:

1. Is this a “good idea”?

2. Are the choices any good?

What a Good Idea!

To answer the first, I have to say that I admire bloggers who do innovative things and who are prepared to push boundaries.

Consumers would benefit from buying “taster” cases that helped them discover new wines and, bought in some volume, would also make them slightly more affordable. This may be the excuse they were waiting for.

Too often, the wines recommended on blogs and articles are hard to then find & buy, so making them immediately available (and deliverable) is a great encouragement for consumers to buy. This is one of the strongest points of online wine content.

The marketing has also been well done – Integrated Communications, at last!

  • There is a dedicated page on the Oddbins online site.
  • They’ve created memorable cartoons and images to bring the “online” personas to life
  • They’ve included the bloggers’ own wine reviews, including food matching ideas
  • The case came with the full information sheet
  • The bloggers themselves have kept the profile of the promotion high

Finally, I also think it is important that bloggers (of all industries) find ways to make money from their online activity because I know very well how much work it involves and how hard it is to make money from this without resorting to dubious internet marketing practices.

We ALL benefit

If wine bloggers could prove that they can identify great wines, and help to get them into the hands of consumers, we ALL benefit – producers, bloggers, retailers and consumers. If bloggers are adding benefit, then they do deserve a share of the “value” created, and they can start to make some money from what they do, creating great wine stories. There is nothing wrong with making a living.

There’s only one slight criticism. In the interests of transparency, considering this is a “showcase” (pun intended), I was surprised not to read more about whether the bloggers were actually benefitting financially from this. For the reasons listed above, I think it would be great if trusted bloggers could work with retailers and wineries. I also do not want to see hard work, and great ideas like this, benefit only some and not others, and I am sure those involved actually had costs to make this happen.

Two bloggers did make some reference to this which is great, though it is still a touchy subject, but sometimes openness is the best policy. I do not believe that any readers would object, but we do need to take the ammunition away from critics.

“Since picking the case, we have agreed with Oddbins that they would contribute to our expenses, on a tiny amount for each case sold. While I hope the case flies off the shelves, I won’t be giving up the day job any time soon. Then again, that’s not why I got involved.” - SipSwooshSpit

“So all that remains is for people to buy it and let us know what they think – I say this not for the pocket-money commission levels, but because this is an opportunity for us to engage in a conversation about these wines and I would love to know what people think about them.” – The Cambridge Wine Blogger

I am CERTAIN that if they are making anything it is not substantial, and it will not have influenced their choices of wines. However, from a disclosure point of view, this one would be useful for them all to have done. Having said that, it is a minor quibble form someone keen to make sure this goes well and helps more bloggers and wine businesses.

I hope it DOES fly off the shelves and that they do start to make some money! So of course I did my bit and bought my case.

Wine Reviews:

The REAL test. Were the wines they chose interesting and likely to get consumers to come back and buy more?

Well, since I have decided not to use this site to share tasting notes, I will have to leave you guessing a little longer. However, I will be adding my tasting notes to my personal site (where I do review wines from time to time) as I go through the case. You can follow along here:

Tasting the Bloggers’ Wine Selection from Oddbins on thirstforwine.co.uk

At first glance the prospects are good. I already know, and like, a couple of the wines. The selection is varied and covers many styles, prices and countries. Here is the list (as provided by Spittoon.biz:

The Oddbins Bloggers Case White Wine Selection

  1. Casa Lluch Verdil 2010, Valencia, Spain
  2. Raimat Abadia White 2010, Costers del Segre, Spain
  3. Sal’mon Groovey Grüner Veltliner 2010, Kremstal, Austria
  4. Domaine la Condamine L’Evêque Viognier 2010, Côtes de Thongue, France
  5. Stone Rock Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Bordeaux, France
  6. Porter Mill Station Chenin Blanc 2011, Svartland, South Africa

The Oddbins Bloggers Case Red Wine Choices

  1. Domaine de l’ Arnesque 2009, Côtes du Rhône, France
  2. Alma de Tinto Mencia 2010, Galacia, Spain
  3. Henry Fessy Morgon 2009, Cru du Beaujolais, France
  4. Chateau Haute Galine 2009, Minervois, France
  5. Terre di Sava, 10 Nero Salice Salentino 2010, Puglia, Italy
  6. Fully Loaded Grenache-Shiraz 2008, McClaren Vale, Australia

I congratulate Oddbins on the coup, and Tara, David, Paola, Tom, Belinda and Andrew for making it happen. I wonder if we will see similar things happen in the UK and beyond?

Related Articles:

Tom Lewis “The Cambridge Wine Blogger”: The Oddbins Bloggers’ Case

David Lowe “BigPinots”: The Merry Band of Bloggers

Belinda Stone “Miss Bouquet”: We’re on the case with Oddbins Literally

Andrew Barrow “Spittoon”: Oddbins Bloggers Case

Paola Tich “SipSwooshSpit”: Six Go Mad in Oddbins

Tara Devon O’Leary “Wine Passionista”: The Oddbins Wine Bloggers’ Case is Here

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Blogging can’t die

Blogging can’t die. Take the original meaning of the word blog; it comes from the contraction of “web” as in the world wide web, and “log” as in to log ideas, or journaling. Today, and forever, there will be people logging what they think about all manner of subjects that they are passionate about.

I recently saw the statement on Twitter that blogging is dead. Sorry, you cannot kill an idea (journaling) that has persisted since man first took quill to parchment.

Seeing that we work in wine and discuss wine blogs as part of our job, we should talk about what a wine blog really is.

If you understand the idea of blogging as an online journal and nothing more, you will see that the idea of there being A “best wine blog” is just silly. As is, frankly, any system claiming to rate “best wine blogs”. Who is the best “runner”? Usain Bolt, Haile Gebrselassie or maybe Fauja Singh?

People often accuse wine bloggers of not being professional. You’re right, sometimes they aren’t. We need our industry to understand that there are a variety of types of communicators who write about wine. A wine blogger who writes to tell the story of their personal journey in wine is not the same as someone who writes about wine futures. And they should not be held to the same standards.

Just because you have a degree, MW, WSET diploma, have written a book, or have been awarded every prize for wine literature that has ever existed, you are not a “better blogger” than anyone else. You can’t, by definition, be better. You can, on the other hand, be: More persistent, Better at Wine Rating, Better at Wine Science, Better at Wine Educating, Better at anything you wish to communicate about. But you are not better than another person who wants to discover wine and share that discovery with an audience, large or small, online.

The blog part is only the tool, or the physical means, used to log your content. I do believe Robert Parker would have been the first blogger if the software had existed at the time. He wouldn’t be the best wine blogger though. He might be an influential wine blogger in certain circles, maybe even indispensable to the industry. That said, I could argue that he is the worst wine blogger when it comes to recommending a wine to my parents. He uses language that they don’t understand and talks about wines that my parents are never realistically going to taste.

I happen to be the best wine blogger for my parents. I won an award for it. Really! Ok, so not really, but I hope to one day when my parents finally get around to handing out awards for meaningless family skills.

So, to all you people who think your wine blog is more important than another person’s: Get over it! You’re one of many. You may be the best in your niche, or for your audience, and for that I applaud you. The truth is that a blog is publishing tool. Go find a cool way to use it. Quit worrying about what other people are doing. There are plenty of audiences out there, find your own. Or if you have it, remember to give them what they want, which I assume is wine content. Publish it however you want, wherever you want, whenever you want. Have fun. Or don’t, I don’t care.

 

Update: I was remiss in not crediting the image. Tombstone image courtesy of the Tombstone Generator [Robert]

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For blogging success, phone a friend

A couple of years ago Hardy Wallace and I got into a debate about editing blog posts. His take was that a blog should be raw, from the heart, without the refining that happens when an editor gets hold of a bloated piece of wine writing. I, on the other hand, suggested that you can still show passion, but that an editor helps to make sure your “raw passion” is intelligible. I was speaking from experience. I am not, as I’m sure many of you readers know (and my laughing wife Gabriella is thinking right now as she edits this piece), the best writer.

Words for me are confusing. The rules of language are confounding. While I know some of the common errors, I do not always spot them when I re-read my own writing. I know there, their, and they’re all have different meanings, but when I read them quickly in an article, I understand what the author is saying so I don’t worry about which one is used. I really don’t care. Maybe I should. I know I should care enough to make sure my dear reader does not have to suffer my errors, so I try to get better every day.

What I want to say to all you bloggers, wineries thinking of starting a blog, or journalists who are leaving the edited newsroom and moving to the wild west of blogging: get an editor. Someone to read your piece before you publish it. Someone to look for the silly mistakes that you gloss over because of your emotional attachment to it. If it were not for an editor, this piece your reading write [sic] now would be unintelligible. You’re [sic] understanding of it impossible. Not to mention 3 times the length, with half the logic. :)

I remember getting an email a few years ago from a wine journalist whose books I have enjoyed over the years. That person has written books, news columns, and has spoken at wine events for longer than I have been legally able to drink wine. They were telling me they finally took my advice and started a blog. So I rushed over and quickly checked it out. What I found was proof positive that this person had benefited greatly from years of editors trimming down their ramblings. Editors help.

I’m not saying you need to hire a team of proof readers and have each article polished to perfection. A few minor slips are not going to hurt you, but you can ask a friend to read a piece first before you hit publish to avoid the bigger ones. Or, if you lack a friend with time on their hands to help you out, try simply reading it out loud to yourself as the act of pronouncing the words one by one can often show strange logic and awkward phrasing. Also, don’t be afraid to play with language. Some of us are better than others, but there is something to be said for freedom of expression, but if your writing style leaves the reader confused, you are doing something wrong. What we need in the end is legibility, and more communication.

If bloggers, journalists, tweeters and others hope to have their content published and taken seriously, then the first step is to make sure we know what you’re saying. I would also make a prediction and say that the future of wine writing online will be teams, and not just the ‘lone voice’ online we think of today.

I look forward to seeing how this plays out as time goes on.

Ryan

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Better Wine Blogging 101 – Using links effectively

How to link betterContinuing on with our goal to help improve your wine blogging, we want to tackle an important strategy that is often avoided, typically because many people are under the false pretense that it will hurt them, but it’s quite the contrary. This simple strategy can not only bring more traffic to your site, but will also build your rankings in Google or Bing.

Text Links are words that are “hyperlinked” to another webpage, either on your own site or on someone else’s. Here’s what a hyperlink to Wine and Food Pairing looks like. The words Wine and Food Pairing are “clickable” and link to relevant content which can help the reader learn more about this subject – in this case, my site, Catavino. These invaluable links are why the internet exists. Called the “web” because of these connections, it mimics a spiderweb where the connections build and define the structure. Unfortunately, when sites do not link to others sites, they are virtually cutting themselves off from the rest of the web and isolating their content in a bubble that becomes harder and harder for people to find and explore.

Now for all the geeks crying out that I’m over simplifying the matter, you’re absolutely correct, I am. My goal is to show the wine bloggers who never link to anyone (and that list of blogs in your sidebar does not count, they are for all practical purposes useless) that by adding strategic links within their blog posts they can actually help themselves. So please bear with me, and we can all geek out a bit in the comments section below.

For the rest of you, let’s follow a few simple rules. We’ll call it the “5 Link Rule”, which ensures that you have at least 5 hyperlinks in any post you write under 500 words, where 2 of those links point to your website and 3 point to other content on the web. The links that send people away from your site must, however, go to relevant, quality content that will help the reader, not just something random because I told you to.

But wait, you say, linking to other sites doesn’t help me! Wrong. Linking to other sites is very helpful to you. Without getting too technical, when you link to another site you’re alerting them of your connection. In turn, they can choose to link back to you or visit your site. Beyond that too, it places your site in context with other similar sites.

So how do you do it? Simple. Most web editors have a button that looks like a little bit of chain link, or something that says “link”. After you highlight the appropriate text (more on this in a bit) click this link image and you will get a dialog that looks something like this: How to add a text linkWhen filling out the dialogue box, be descriptive. First, place the actual link in the first box you see above with the preceding “http://” . Without this, you will be linking to an error page and not helping your site. Second, make sure to title your link. Tell us what it links to in order to help both search engines and your readers who are on devices that need this information. Finally, do not click the “open in a new window/tab”. I know we think if people stay on our site it’s better, but this is not always the case. I don’t want new pages opening up if I don’t ask for them, and if you provide great information, I’ll make sure to come back to you. Let your readers make their own decisions!

Ok, now back to that text you highlighted to create a link. Remember my food and wine pairing link above? In that case I created a link with the words “Wine and Food Pairing”, which is descriptive and useful, but it is also very helpful to Google. Essentially, I told Google that if people want to know about Wine and Food Pairing they should look at the site I linked to because it has quality information on the subject. In addition, I’m also saying, “Hey Google, I know where to find the best content on this subject, so come to me to learn about Wine and Food Pairing too”. Now, repeat this a few hundred times, and naturally, over the lifetime of your site you’ll be considered a resource for this type of information. What you do not want to highlight and a create a link from are things that are not useful like the words “click here”.

For the same reasons above, you also want to link to your own site with keywords that are important to you. So in our case, if I want to show that posting photos on wine blogs is something I know a lot about, I’ll make sure to link those words to older posts on the subject! Now, while Google knows you’re promoting yourself, it also recognizes that you know your content better than anywhere else. And if you provide good information through these links, rather than spammy promotions, Google will begin to  value your site higher on these specific topics, which is great!

These are very quick tips, not guaranteed tips to get you listed on page 1 of Google, that will make your site a stronger resource for wine information. Also this is presented to show you some simple best practices to make sure your website fits into the wine web more effectively. Nothing here is a trick or a solution that will trump good consistent content. You need to have good material if you hope that anything I say here is going to help you!

So, before I bore you any further, I’m opening it up to questions in the comments. Remember let’s keep this general as there are better places to talk SEO techniques, but this is a good place to get the basics of how to link out of the way, and taking the first steps to being a pro-wine-blogger! :)

Cheers,

Ryan Opaz

Let me know what other blogging 101 topics you want me to cover on Wine Conversation email me: [email protected]

Better Wine Blogging 101 – Using Photos Correctly

Night time Montjuic, BarcelonaRecently, a newbie wine blogger contacted me through Twitter to evaluate their post for general effectiveness. I promptly agreed, generally trying my best to help the community whenever possible, especially with someone new to the field. Quickly clicking on the link, I encountered 2 of the largest mistakes I typically see with new blogs, not to mention, 2 of the easiest things to fix. But when trying to explain how to remedy the situation, I also learned that they weren’t obvious to your everyday blogger. So for the sake of helping a larger audience, I thought I would post some best practices here.

Basically what I’m offering is some standard SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Nothing advanced and nothing tricky, just some best practices to make sure you are optimizing your site to get the most traffic possible. With a few simple steps, your wine blog, or website, can be more effective. The irony is that these simple steps are DEAD simple and can give you big results. So let’s start! Today, I’ll focus on images and tomorrow I’ll focus on links.

Images: Images are great for explaining ideas and giving context. That said, if you don’t optimize your image, Google and the web in general, won’t see it. The robots Google uses to read content on your site are basically blind. They are great at reading content but not at looking at images. Therefore, we need to help them out. All modern web tools let you add images easily, and most will also let you add some key elements to those images that help your site.

For the sake of explanation, I’m going to use the WordPress blogging platforms tool as an example. See the image below? When you upload an image to wordpress, it allows you to add a Title,  Alternate Text, Caption, Description and URL. They key pieces you should be fill out and be descriptive are the Title, Alt Text and URL.

  1. Title: use a simple description. If you have a wine bottle photo, the title might be the name of the wine. If it’s a picture of a vineyard, name the vineyard and be descriptive. Just titling it “Vineyard” doesn’t help anyone. Better to go specific “Merlot Vines – Chateau Bleu”.
  2. Alt text: This is the text that will show up on a person’s computer screen if their computer can’t load the photo, allowing the reader to understand what the photo is supposed to be. So building on ”Merlot Vines – Chateau No-Se-Que”, you might add here a description of the time of year: Fall, Spring, or maybe even the activity if any in the photo: harvest, pruning, veraison under way. In short, be descriptive.
  3. URL: make sure to link to the photos source or to the photo itself. This way you can credit the photographer, or you can link to a larger version which might help the reader to see the image better. I’ll explain more about why links are so important soon, but the truth is that the web does not exist without links. Make sure you use them!

How to insert an image into facebook

All that said, pictures make your posts look pretty! Thus, use photos that illustrate and help guide the story. A picture of a bottle is one thing, but a picture of the place the wine was made can be even better. Also remember that people’s faces can be very helpful. If you are talking about a person try your best to get an image of them.

Finally where do you get photos? Well you don’t steal them. Make sure if you post a photo you have permission first. It’s illegal to use photos that are copyrighted without permission from the photographer. A great tool you can use to find fabulous photos is Creative Commons. It’s a legally enforceable copyright that allows the artist/photographer to have their photos used in certain situations. I, personally, license all my photos this way, allowing you to use my photos as long as you do so non-commercially, and you give me credit.

Where do you find these? Well you can browse my photos here: Ryan Opaz’s Wine Photos on Flickr and you can search for other photos that are licensed this way here: Flickr’s Creative Commons Galleries.

Mind you, this is the short version of how to use photos in your posts. I could go on and on, but would rather you ask some questions in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them for you!

Cheers,
Ryan Opaz

Coming soon, linking for wine for wine bloggers…

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