Tag Archive - wine conversation

There’s no future for wine

Try this exercise. Imagine the world in 50 or 100 years. Picture the innovations, the changes to everyday life, and the things that will remain the same. How will life for you or your kids be different?

There's wine Jim, just not as we know it

There’s wine Jim, just not as we know it

[Maybe have a glass of wine while you think about it, why not?]

Here’s a shortcut. Think of any number of “sci-fi” films or series set in the not-immediate future. Spaceships, robots, physical chaos and massive-overcrowding, utopian societies and post-apolcalyptic zombie-filled misery. Take your pick.

What do all these visions have in common? NO WINE!

Name ONE of these films/series set more than about 50 years from today in which wine (not alcohol in general, there’s lots of that, but the product of grapes grown in vineyards) appears in any meaningful way?

I’ll start you off, and then challenge you to add to this list with me:

1. Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek – The Next Generation
Captain Picard is supposed to have grown up in the vineyards of a future France, and occasionally drinks his family’s Chateau Picard wines. So there might still vineyards in around 400 years time.

2. ?

I personally cannot think of ANY other film that features wine, and I’ve asked several film experts for help.

Why not?

Is it because wine is the kind of ‘agricultural’ product that we believe science will replace with something ‘better’?
Will future alcoholic discoveries make wine’s variety superfluous?
Is wine just one of those traditions we are even now just barely hanging on to?

Or is it because, despite consuming more wine today than we have ever done, we still lack an understanding of its importance to our culture (past, present and future) and so just take it for granted? Is it because the types of people who write science fiction screenplays are afraid, or don’t feel qualified, to talk about wine even if they can decide the fate of the universe?

I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life. – George Burns

Does it matter?

Not really, but there are plenty of films that still feature cars with combustion engines when other energy sources exist, revolvers being used in fights against lasers, or even sex when test-tubes can apparently do the job.

We have a responsibility to make wine sexier* and more important to consumers and to writers if we want to ensure those who are imagining and building our future have a bottle of wine mentally placed on the table for us to enjoy.

Your future is whatever you make it. – Dr. Emmett Brown (Back to the Future III)

If you know of any other example of “future wine” do let me know in the comments so I can build a list for my future viewing. I love wine and I love sci-fi and I would really like to combine them

WINE IN Sci-Fi MOVIES and TV (List to date):

  • Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek TNG (The Next Generation) – Various appearances
  • Gattaca – restaurant scene with Jude Law and Ethan Hawke “This wine was only opened 5 minutes ago!”
  • The Hunger Games – Woody Harrelson in meal scene in Sector 12 ‘Penthouse’ after trials

* of course by this I really mean “more appealing” as we must not, of course link wine marketing with sexual attractiveness, that would be irresponsible.

edited 11:26: to include missing quote from Doc
edited 09/01/2013 to include list of movie & TV scenes
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Making plans for the wine fairs

There are so many things going on in the next week, it is hard to keep track of everything. Here’s a handy summary and guide of some of the fun wine stuff we at Vrazon (that’s Ryan Opaz, Gabriella Opaz and myself, Robert McIntosh) are involved in.

Why not add these to your calendar and come along to as many of these as possible?

20 May, 2012 – Sunday

First appointment is the RAW FAIR, organised and run by That Crazy French Woman, Isabelle Legeron MW. This is a wine fair for those who want to explore what Natural Wine is all about. Come along and try something different – you might like it.

If you do come, make sure you pop over to the Access Zone ‘Unfiltered’ booth where we will be helping small artisan producers learn about social media and sharing some of the fun stuff happening at the trade with the world. We’re inviting all our friends from the EWBC, the Digital Wine Communicators par-excellence, to join in the fun & advice sessions too :)

21 May, 2012 – Monday

We will be back at RAW for the trade-focused day. Gabriella will be there all day and would really appreciate any moral support while Ryan and Robert head off to ExCeL to set-up for the London Wine Fair.

22 May, 2012 – Tuesday

Come along to the London International Wine Fair 2012 at ExCeL. I know, I know, I hear the moans about “getting out to ExCeL” already, but really it isn’t that far or hard, just make sure you avoid the main rush hour at the very start and end of the day and in fact the DLR is pretty handy and there are some good views.

11:00 – One of our first activities will be a debate on “The Birth of a Generic” on the Wines of Turkey stand (N20) with Taner Ogutoglu and guest-starring Willi Klinger from the Austrian Wine Marketing Board and a great friend of the EWBC and the digital wine communications community. We’re also tasting some great Turkish wines. SIGN UP HERE

Vrazon is running our third ‘official’ Access Zone on stand K70 with so much exciting stuff. Here is the full Tuesday schedule, but highlights of the day include:

  • 10:30 – “The internet changed my business” – a discussion with three wine trade professionals impacted by social media, but NOT producers or retailers. This affects us all
  • 13:00 – “Why do you hate your customers?” – a lively discussion with Robert Joseph about how the wine trade interacts with customers. Always fun to hear Robert speak his mind
  • 14:00 – a superb mystery wine tasting with the highly entertaining Joe Wadsack. We’ve got one wine to taste, discuss and give feedback on, and even a chance to win a prize. Be there!!
  • 16:30 onwards belongs to Grenache. First we’ve got a discussion about “Grape Days” and promoting individual grapes in social media and how that has worked for the innovative Grenache Symposium members. Then ….

The end of the day PARTY! G-Night is a party where we drink wine, we don’t study it. Lots of grenache wines to taste in relaxed surroundings a short trip from ExCeL. Drink Grenache with Pizza & Burgers .. and refresh the palate first with a beer or two. BOOK YOUR G-NIGHT TICKET NOW.

23 May, 2012 – Wednesday
Back to ExCeL for the LIWF, possibly requiring a decent coffee to get the energy up first thing. Today’s full Wednesday schedule is here, and the highlights include:

  • 11:00 – “Using Social Media to Organize a Wine Tasting” – a discussion including Gabriella (our in-house expert) and Andre from Adegga. Tips and tools you can use yourself. This session will be quickly followed by an overview of the tools we are using on the Access Zone in case you fancy doing anything like this elsewhere yourself.
  • 14:00 – Freewine tasting. Just in case there wasn’t enough wine to taste at the show, we’ve nabbed some more. It *is* technically free BUT this is special because it is an association focused on reducing SO2 in wine and building an awareness campaign around this. Good wines and interesting messages
  • 15:00 – “Natural Wine – Finding the Middle Ground” – after a weekend of RAW and Real Wine action, plus the Freewine tasting, we want to have a reasoned debate on how the “Natural” message reaches the consumer; with expert opinion from Isabelle Legeron MW, Jamie Goode and Giampiero Nadali for Freewine
  • 16:00 – BORN DIGITAL WINE AWARDS – we announce the winners of the €1000 top prize in 6 categories for best online wine content. A session not to be missed, particularly because Laithwaites (a BDWA sponsor) will be supplying some beers to refresh the throats which will be hoarse from cheering.

24 May, 2012 – Thursday

Last day of the LIWF but SO MUCH still to go, so save your energy. Full Thursday schedule here, but the main highlight session would have to be:

  • 11:30 – EWBC 2012 – we will make some exciting announcements about the schedules of the EWBC Digital Wine Communications Conference itself, and the trips before and after it. We will taste some of the fantastic Turkish Wines we will be exploring in Izmir, thanks to our sponsor and host Wines of Turkey, and meet some of the speakers.

This will be followed from 13:00 for three hours or so, by the brand new WINE-STARS competition being organised by Catherine Monahan of Clink Wines. The excitement surrounds 10 wineries competing in the finals for some listings with top on and off trade customers in the UK market, Dragon Den style. You have to see this in action, and your opinion will probably count too – so come along and support some wineries hoping to make it BIG.

Is that enough to be getting on with?

If you are coming along, do get in touch or follow online at http://vrazon.com/accesszone

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A new wine conversation

Welcome to the new WineConversation, one where you will find a few new, but familiar voices.

Virtually all blogs begin as solitary endeavours driven by the author’s energy and motivation to share some message or theme. In most cases, this energy is lost over time. The world changes. Eventually the themes have been explored and the clever puns have all been made. The blog gets tired, and authors move on.

A great many bloggers have found it easier to continue their online conversations with specific groups of like-minded friends on Facebook and Twitter rather than continue to preach from the lonely soap-box of the blog, and so blogs eventually die.

However, if you driven to create content as well as sharing it, you need a platform.

I’ve long felt that the future for many bloggers was to move on from running all aspects of their sites, from being publisher, editor, author, marketer, ad sales and chief spokesperson, and to pool their knowledge and resources with others and specialise. The effect will be to create bigger, better, more interesting group blogs. These don’t have to be huge publishing enterprises such as Huffington Post or TechCrunch, but niche sites as before where content creators focus on producing quality content without the need for the filler stuff that keeps blogs ticking over.

When I started this blog in June 2006, it was only intended as a small place for me to publish a few comments about what I was thinking about wine culture in the UK. I hadn’t expected it to become a major part of my working life. I didn’t really have any other “social media” channels to participate in – Facebook was not yet available and Twitter was about to launch. However, it grew, partly because I was convinced that this was going to be important for the wine business, and largely because I was getting to know so many cool people.

Two of those amazingly cool people were Ryan & Gabriella Opaz, not only experts on Iberia writing on Catavino.net, but the experts behind Catavino Marketing.

After becoming friends via Facebook (yes, we are a product of Facebook) we eventually went on to create the European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC), the Access Zone, the Born Digital Wine Awards and more. It made sense to create a proper structure for all these projects, and so together we are launching a new business called Vrazon (and you’ll hear a LOT more on that soon).

This new focus needs a home. It needs a place where all of us can share our thoughts on how social media and new technologies can benefit the wine business. A place where we can inform you about the conferences, events and campaigns that we are participating in, so you might be able to benefit from them too. A place where you can find us easily and contact us with your comments, questions and suggestions.

The obvious solution was this site.

WineConversation was always about the convergence of wine, marketing and social media (well, in the last couple of years anyway), so this is a logical step. I will still be covering these topics, except now the site will have an even greater International focus, it will benefit from an ‘Opaz’ perspective from the US, Spain & Portugal and it will give the site greater access to Ryan’s technical expertise and Gabriella’s insight, editorial skills and management.

Welcome to the NEW Wine Conversation

We are really looking forward to getting started and hearing what you think.

And finally, special thank you to my many readers, commenters, friends and supporters over the first stage of this site’s development. I owe you so much! I will continue to have a space for more personal thoughts on wine, UK events and activities over at thirstforwine.co.uk so do drop by there from time to time too.

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Wine blogging qualifications

I see that an interview I gave on the phone recently has been published in Harpers and I thought it would be better to add a few comments before I might upset any friends in the trade or blogging world.

I was asked, by Gemma McKenna at Harpers in the UK, whether I thought that bloggers “needed the WSET qualification”. The trade in general is very positive about it, understandably, and so most of the others she spoke to were fairly uniformly welcoming. It makes my dissent stand out all the more.

This is how I was quoted (full article is linked above):

What about the blogging community? Do they need formal qualifications?
Robert McIntosh, who runs wineconversation.com and is one of the founders of the European Wine Bloggers Conference, thinks not. “It’s a question that’s being continually asked and no one can agree,” he says. “I don’t think bloggers should have a qualification. The wine trade is really small, but so standardised when it comes to wine communication. One thing that puts consumers off is descriptions of wine that don’t mean anything to them – the average tasting note doesn’t help them understand.

“I personally never finished my WSET Diploma, but I don’t think that’s made a big difference to my life, other than missing out on contacts.

“The WSET tells you there is no right tasting note for a wine, but when you’re examined on a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, if you don’t tick the box “gooseberry” and instead write “it’s like being slapped in the face with a bunch of grass”, you won’t get the marks.

“I’m not trying to do down the WSET, I’d definitely recommend it to people. But if a blogger asks me if they need to do it before they start blogging I’d say no, do it your own way first. If they want to get into some more technical stuff later, then by all means.”

Consumers are telling us all the time that they don’t “get” wine writing, particularly professional tasting notes. What we need to find are new ways to engage consumers and make wine relevant to them. However, if we ALL take the SAME qualifications, we all use the same basis for reviewing wines, we create a uniformity of thinking that hampers our search for something new.

I think that much of what the WSET does, to standardise a general knowledge about the wines of the world and also bring a commercial element to wine learning that makes the trade more “professional”, is positive. It is useful to have a benchmark set for wine knowledge, especially if someone wants to work in the wine “business”.

But the question was, “do bloggers need the WSET”?. This is about wine communication, not wine knowledge.

Bloggers might ALSO be wine buyers, wine sales people and wine marketers. If in those roles they need wine qualifications, then that is a different point. But they could also be lawyers, computer programmers, retired pilots, teachers and much, much more.

I am concerned about their role as ‘people who express their opinions, experiences and knowledge via the means of a blog’. Passionate wine lovers who take the time to share that with others via a blog will generally also try and learn more about the wines, regions and people behind them, but do they all need to study the same curriculum?

I feel very strongly that the world of wine communication would be a poorer place if anyone who wanted to express their opinions about wine had to take a qualification, never mind the same one. If we really want creativity we need to welcome and support alternative points of view, and different ways to express that experience.

Of course, you are entitled to a different point of view.

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Wine and Tech: Picturing a thousand words

Wine and Tech will be (I hope) a series of short posts on using some new technology to support the wine conversation

I have recently come across a number of innovations that are not directly related to wine, but which got me thinking about how they might be used to do fun, useful and social stuff with wine. I thought I would share some of these with you and see if they sparked ideas for you like the have done for me.


How good is your memory? Mine is awful. I’m pretty good with faces, but names are “gone in 60 seconds” (or less). In fact it is the same with wine. Some people can remember what a wine tasted like in previous vintages and minutely compare them from memory. Not me. So I was very excited to learn about EverNote.

EverNote bills itself as the way to “remember everything”. Essentially what it does it take your photos, documents, audio messages and more and not only store them, but index them so you can search and find them later. That isn’t revolutionary on its own, but you need to know that EverNote actually “reads” all the text in the pictures (yes, even the photos) and so you can search for the word in the picture, not just the name of the photo. How cool is that?

What does this have to do with wine? Well, it has always been difficult to capture all the necessary information from a label when you are tasting, especially if in fact you are in a restaurant or bar and not a formal wine event. It is so easy to taste something wonderful and promise yourself that you’ll remember it when you get home … and invariably you don’t. Now, a quick, subtle photo will suffice AND it will be easy to search for again even if you don’t remember much about it in future.

Again, this is quite useful for wine lovers who want to catalogue the causes of their inebriation, but how is this relevant to the wider consumer and the wine conversation?

What I love about the idea is that it allows the average consumer with a mobile phone & camera (and a data plan that allows upload to the web), to record their wine experiences and share them in a useful, searchable and standardised way WITHOUT having to join wine social networks. There are no tasting notes, unless they want to include them, and there is no need to even understand how to read the wine label. A photo, plus a tag such as “buy again” or “hated this” is enough.

Of course the system is much more powerful than I’ve described it, adding GPS codes, matching images etc, but you can explore that if you are keen.

I’m already playing with this and wondering how it might be useful to wine drinkers, so if you have any thoughts, or you use EverNote too, please let me know.

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