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Jacobs Creek champions wine regions

“Jacobs Creek has almost got a responsibility, as one of the major brands out of Australia, to teach the consumer about some of the great regions within Australia” – Bernard Hickin

A refreshing point of view by Bernard Hickin, Chief Winemaker at Jacobs Creek. [apologies for the background noise, but it was busy]

I was invited to take part in a dinner at 28-50 recently, to mark the (re)launch of Jacobs Creek Reserve range as region-specific wines, which coincides well with Wine Australia‘s under-fire “A+ Australian Wine” campaign, to act as a step-up from the Jacobs Creek Classics that have been around since 1976.

The wines themselves were interesting, individual and fairly priced (at an RRP of £9.99 but presumably not immune from promotions). You can read the reports of the evening from some fellow diners such as Stuart George (Creek Mythology) and Heather Dougherty (Jacob’s Creek at 28-50) and some thoughts of mine below. Overall I thought they were good, well made wines that did show something quite different from the normal ranges we expect from bigger brands, but I also felt that they showed quite a young character and might benefit from rounding out with a little extra age as, being all under screwcap, they have obviously developed slowly.

The pricing is the issue. So many of the producers who might be used by a region to showcase the uniqueness of its style are expensive, limited production wines – as was reasonably obvious at the recent Wine Australia tasting. Great wines but hefty price tags (not helped by currency issues, of course). These may be the very best examples, but being unaffordable means that the message does not get through to consumers – who then cannot be blamed for a lack of interest or knowledge of “regionality” in a country.

This is why what Bernard Hickin said struck me. You might disagree with the marketing and promotion activities associated with big wine brands (and they don’t come much bigger than Jacobs Creek) in the supermarket channels, but if the message needs to reach a mass audience, this is an effective means of achieving it. Having a big brand strongly committed to the cause, assuming it is doing a reasonable job of presenting the regional character, benefits everyone.

I’ve always thought that regional ‘brands’ were more interesting marketing tools than varietal labelling, so I look forward to seeing how this “regional” message is received by consumers, and how winemakers across the world take advantage of this.

Tasting Notes:

Jacobs Creek Reserve Riesling 2010 (Barossa, Australia): very floral, lime, lemon and elderflower nose, and tight acidity (almost underripe fruit) but a hint of tropical fruit on the finish. Very young and crisp.

Jacobs Creek Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Adelaide Hills, Australia): strong passion fruit, not grassy, and mango skin aromas. The palate was tropical, but not overly ripe. Might need to round out a little

Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2010 (Adelaide Hills, Australia): very ripe apricot and citrus nose, but on the palate there is a lot of weight and texture from the lees ageing (but not heavy oak). Well rounded and drinkable, but will it convert Chardonnay-sceptics?

Jacobs Creek Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 (Adelaide Hills, Australia): baked strawberry nose, opening to black cherry. The palate has some more herbal, almost eucalyptus notes (not expected) and high acidity. Lighter and more delicate than I might have expected, maybe trying too hard to avoid “over-ripeness” tag?

Jacobs Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Coonawara, Australia): Black fruit, but also some (green) pepper and that eucalyptus, minty notes associated with the region. Big texture. You can almost feel as well as taste the thicker skins. Pepper spice on finish masking the fruit a touch. Young but very nice.

Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz 2007 (Barossa, Australia): A (pleasant) burnt match, fruitcake nose. Some spicy, candied fruit but also a hint of spirit despite not being too alcoholic. Tons of acidity to accompany the fruit, so it never strays towards jammyness. Pleasant finish, but young.

Update: 17/2/2011 – minor updates to correct factual errors in the tasting notes

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Shock! Wine blog helps to sell wine

What is a “social media sale”? The answer is simple. A bottle, or more, of wine purchased where a post on a social media platform significantly influenced that behaviour. Measuring how much of this happens is another thing altogether.

Did this wine sell because of Social Media? YES! (see below)

Would a survey on “Does Social Media affect your wine buying habits?” have picked it up? I HIGHLY doubt it.

This is why I find critics of the potential of new channels to promote and help sell wine frustrating (as discussed on Rebecca Gibb’s interesting post here).

I happen to like wine (you may know that). I happen to enjoy Spanish wines (you may know that too). I like to explore the subject, and read others’ suggestions. I also respect certain writers more than others, so when they recommend something, I listen.

All these things came together when Jamie Goode recommended the “thrillingly good mencia” called El Cayado on his blog, so I set out to try and taste it.

Unfortunately for me, Oddbins is a pale imitation of its former self*. There are no shops in my part of London, and when I did make a trek to find an open shop, neither of the shops I found had even heard of it, never mind stocked it. I was out of luck. I gave up. One LOST “social media sale”.

Then a few weeks later I was on my way to a friend’s house for a BBQ and forgot to bring a bottle (it happens to the best of us). I knew there was an Oddbins around the corner so I popped in and asked the staff if they had “that new Mencia on their list?”.

“No, sorry sir” came the answer. Then I turned around and I happened to see a whole shelf of these wines. Oh dear! Almost ANOTHER lost “social media sale”.

I did pick up a bottle and gave it as a gift to my friends, along with the disclaimer that I had not tried it myself, but that it came highly recommended by someone I trust. Finally, 1 GAINED “social media sale”.

1 week later I received an email from my friend saying;

Hope you don’t mind me asking but over the weekend we opened the red wine you very kindly gave us the other week – and I have to say it was amazing. Hit all the right notes. … (we) both loved this one, wondered … where I could get a case from?”

BINGO! [Robert does a little "social media wine sales rock!" dance]

Now, if you ask my friend … “Do you use the internet to source wines?”, guess what her answer will be? No!

You tell me, can you imagine any other ways that blogs, twitter, facebook et al might also influence people directly or indirectly to buy wine? Of course you can.

Saying that it is hard to measure what effect blogs and twitter have on wine sales is one thing, saying that they don’t influence behaviour because you can’t measure it is another.

Have you got any stories of how you, or your friends, have bought (or sold) wine as a direct result of online content? Do let me know so we can help to correct this perception.

* This is true of the stock in the shops, the motivation of most of the staff I have met, and … what the hell is going on with their website? Note, for example, that this MENCIA wine is categorised as 100% Monastrell.

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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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Biodynamic tasting with BB&R

Tonight we taste three biodynamic wines from the Berry Bros & Rudd stable:

2007 Mâcon, Les Héretieres du Comte Lafon, Burgundy
2006 Vacqueyras, Garrigues, Domaine Montirius, Rhône
2006 L’As, Coteaux du Languedoc, Mas Conscience

I will be tasting these wines, led by @winematters, with a group in BB&R’s cellars in London and groups around the country. Check below for all the twitter details I know, and leave yours if I’ve missed you out.

We are using the platform at tastelive.com (put together by Bin Ends Wine and still developing all the cool features we need for interactive online tastings) so check it out and register there.

For a bit more information, check this video (apologies it got cut off, but twitvid failed me)

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BB&R Cellars



Isle of Wight

Around the country

Excuse me while I go exploring

So what do a top-class restaurant, a wine bar and a designer/bespoke tailor have in common with wine? Well, for the first two it is obvious, but the answer is not quite that simple.

If you follow me on twitter you will have seen me in conversation with @galvinatwindows, @vinoteca and @simonblaqua a fair bit recently, and you might even be forgiven for assuming I was running their PR in some way. I thought it fair, therefore, in the interests of full disclosure which I am so very keen on, to tell you a little bit more about why.

Having ‘evangelised’ about blogs, facebook and now twitter in the wine trade for several years now, it is very exciting to see so many businesses I deal with in my “day job” really beginning to listen to what Social Media can do for them. Now, instead of blank stares or laughs (or worse) when I mention what I do online, people are starting to ask my advice.

I don’t “consult” professionally about these things (although you never know what tomorrow brings) so generally speaking I’m happy to sit down with them and share my thoughts on what they could do. In most cases it is a bit of harmless chat, but in some cases these new friends jump headlong into social media and start to do really exciting things.

@galvinatwindows is the GM of a great restaurant, chic, well regarded and frequented by all sorts of celebrities, rich hotel guests and adventurous London foodies with a head for heights. He doesn’t “need” social media to make a splash, but he has embraced it wholeheartedly and is organising special tours, dinners, cocktail competitions, tastings and menus and promoting them through twitter in particular. Wow!

@vinoteca was recently voted “Wine Bar of the Year 2009″ – they too don’t need more publicity as such, but they too are embracing social media as a way to have better conversations with the kind of people who love their wine concept – which includes me.

@simonblaqua is a clothing designer who works with performers like Alabama 3 and has also designed things for rock royalty (I’m sworn to secrecy, so you’ll have to ask him). I was simply a customer, until I used his bespoke tailoring skills to create my Moocket shirt. Now he too is excited about starting a bespoke tailoring conversation with customers and those with interests in bespoke design. I will be supporting this by helping to host an evening of wine & design on 13 March (more soon) – but mainly because I’m getting excited about the idea as a consumer, not for “business” reasons.

There is a blurred line here, I admit. Some of these people I meet because I work in the wine business, and they might even be current or future customers, but I write about them now because I think that what they are doing is very brave, very exciting, and hopefully interesting – and tangentially related to wine culture for a variety of reasons specific to each one.

I hope to keep bringing you stories like these as I explore what is happening with the people and businesses I come across, and I trust you’ll find these interesting enough to bear with me here and on twitter.

If you have any interesting stories of bars, restaurants or designers using social media (bonus points for making it relevant to wine culture), please leave me a comment.

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