Tag Archive - tasting

The tools for wine tasting success

Circuit board of a computerIn a MASSIVE oversimplification, animated largely by its dichotomous elegance, I suggest that there are two different approaches to wine tasting & sharing the experience.

It isn’t really about palate as I believe that pretty much anyone can taste wines. It isn’t background and upbringing, although experience over time does help. In fact, I believe that there is a difference in how people’s brains work that affects how they approach wine tasting.

First, there are the those who remember things. They catalogue, analyse, store, compare, measure and digest. I like to think of this group as the “Hard Disks” of the wine trade. If you’ve been to wine events you will know the type. They taste a wine, analyse it, then are able to compare it to previous vintages (at several stages of their development), tell you how that particular year’s weather may have affected the taste profile, or how a change in the winery’s staff or processes since then might have changed the wine.

These are the type of people who believe they can objectively assess a wine on a rating scale, be it 5, 10, 20 or 100 points.

The other approach, in my black & white universe, are the “Processors“. These people do not store much information, but learn how things work, they look for connections, patterns and relationships. These people are, frankly, fairly useless when it comes to wine recommendations, assessing wine qualities and generally doing the stuff wine people do. This group are more easily swayed by interesting stories, new trends, personal interests and “entertainment”.

The wine business was built by the Hard Disks. Knowing the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ of all  the wines that mattered was not only important, but possible.

However, the massive recent rise in quality of production and international trade has made the all-knowing expert a rarity indeed. The fact that “good” wines can now come from anywhere, and that more consumers are determining what they consider “good”, means that what differentiates wines is not so much the composition of their patch of dirt, but the story around it.

What might make someone a successful wine taster today is not the ability to rate and compare a wine, but to communicate a uniqueness in a wine in a way that matters to a group of consumers. Social Media is all about that communication and interaction, and a place where “Processors” might be at an advantage.

Of course, life is not beautifully, elegantly black & white, but a swirling maelstrom of patterned greyness, where no-one is really one or the other exclusively and we all need a bit of both. I suspect that even those who reached the pinnacle of wine trade achievement, as a Master of Wine, are not one or other (but they are not necessarily both). There are not too many social goldfish or data-crunching automatons walking the aisles of wine fairs, but hopefully you will recognise a grain of truth in these caricatures.

I am definitely a Processor, in fact I suspect my own Hard Disk may actually be faulty. I fail miserably if anyone asks me for a specific wine recommendation, but I LOVE to sit with them to explore what they like, where they shop and what excites them about wine in order to give them some general buying tips that will help them in the longer run. As the old saying (sort of) goes:

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink (wine) all day.

Which are you, Hard Disk or Processor? If you are a wine business, what are you doing to make the  most of this change? Is your communication all about the “what”, or is it about the WHYconsumers should care?

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A rum experience at 6 am

When anyone says “I just don’t have the palate for wine” or “I can’t taste all those ‘things’ other people talk about in wine” I try to point out that we pretty much all have exactly the same ability to taste, but we all have different experiences, vocabulary and confidence.

vanilla pod in milk
Image by VannaGocaraRupa via Flickr

It isn’t that they CAN’T taste wines, they simply are not used to analysing what they are experiencing, often because they haven’t really bothered before.

It is a matter of education, not in the sense of classes and diplomas, but just taking the time to taste, and most importantly, SMELL things.

The importance of smell to the enjoyment of wine starts early.

I was reminded of this only yesterday morning. On our arrival at the airport (at 6 am after an overnight flight), a fellow passenger managed to smash a 1.5 litre bottle of dark rum he had bought Duty Free (probably for the best!).

I barely paid attention, though noticed ‘a’ smell.

My wife complained about the “smell of alcohol”

But my daughter (only 5, and rather hyper after the flight) said, “What was that Daddy? I think it was a bottle of vanilla. I used some with grandma and that’s what it smelled like. Why did he have a bottle of vanilla, Daddy”

She’s absolutely right. It DID smell of vanilla more than anything else (that she’s used to smelling).

When was the last time you took a second to ‘smell’ vanilla? I’m off to do it right now!

Let’s encourage kids to smell and discuss food, ingredients …  even wine … then hopefully we will all enjoy experiencing things more, even alcohol spillages at airports.

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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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Coffee & Wine

Expect to see a fair bit about coffee and wine over the next few weeks as I’ve “discovered” that there are a lot of similarities between the two and maybe learning about coffee will give me a different perspective on wine.

Rather than a post this time, here is an AudioBoo I posted earlier.

Listen!

If you are interested in some of the things I’m planning (even if I have not told you what these might be), leave me a comment here.

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Interactive wine tasting

TwitCam Wine Tasting

TwitCam Wine Tasting

I was playing with a new service on twitter call TwitCam that allows you to create a video broadcast and then let people know, and chat, via Twitter.

It was fun broadcasting a wine tasting LIVE.

My first video was meant only as a response to a question, but it encouraged some feedback from others who tried to interact, so I thought I would do another and ask for interaction. I decided to run a wine tasting, not as a “presentation” (as most wine videos are), but as an interactive event, getting guesses on the wine from participants – a double blind tasting*.

The results can now be seen on the archived video here (or click on the image). I am not embedding it here as it starts playing automatically, which can get annoying.

We are only just starting to explore the possibilities of  bringing together different services such as twitter, blogging, video and audio. This is what can make communication and learning fun. Not just for wine, but in many fields. It is not a lecture, but a way to reach out to a lot more people around the globe and make friends.

If you participated or left comments later, thank you so much! I had great fun. So much so I’m planning on doing it again next week.

See you Thursday, 6th of August at 16:00 UK time (please check what that would be for you).

* a tasting where one person has to guess the wine based only from another person’s notes – who themselves doesn’t know what the wine is. Except I did. Hard to hide it from yourself really.

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