Tag Archive - wine culture

Coffee and wine

A Starbucks coffee shop in Leeds, United Kingdom
Image via Wikipedia

It seems that Starbucks is about to start selling wine and beer alongside its coffee in New York Seattle.

Is this a victory for common sense and the treatment of the public as responsible adults, or something else? Sadly, it is probably 99% something else: financial self-interest.

Starbucks are in a whole heap of financial trouble and looking for ways to turn around the business. Their coffee brand has lost much of its lustre and now they have too many outlets selling too little coffee to keep shareholders happy (never mind all the jobs they provide). So, a new model is to be found.

Is the idea of alcohol served in a coffee led retail space revolutionary? Not at all if you have ever visited France, Italy, Spain and pretty much all of Continental Europe. Unfortunately it says a lot that this is not the norm in the US, or in the UK.

It worries me though, not because of what they are doing, but because of why they are doing it.

This will be one of the first experiments on liberalising the straightjacket of alcohol licensing in the UK and US, and as such it will be watched carefully and treated as a case study. If it were to be done properly, the staff in the local area would select suitable drinks for their clientelle, one they had a relationship with, to ensure they were selecting the mix that would be right. In practice it will be treated as an auction with the biggest brands bidding to be listed and ‘marketed’, and there is every chance the customers will not be interested.

Will that do anything for Starbucks?

Maybe in the short term, but if it is a failure in the medium to long term, it will not only be bad for Starbucks, it will make it that much harder for any well intentioned cafe owner doing it properly.

I must say I am very pessimistic about it working in the UK if all else stays the same.

If you like good coffee, like me, you will realise that the very robotic uniformity and ‘global solution’ approach to serving coffee that is killing Starbucks’ coffee brand is total anathema to the real world of wine and beer.

Dear Starbucks, don’t you realise we are laughing and crying when you say:

“We’ll be equally as proud of our beer and wine as we are of our coffee,”

PLEASE do this properly, or not at all!

Oh, and by the way, I’m available at reasonable rates to advise on implementing this in the UK, and while you are at it, I have an idea that will REALLY change the business – feel free to ask :)

Update: if you are interested in these two subjects you might also want to check out: http://coffeelikewine.blogspot.com/

Further Update (23:34): In case you didn’t decide to follow the link in the first paragraph, and have not read this story elsewhere, Starbucks is trialling this coffee + wine + beer concept in only 1 store in Seattle to be called “15th Ave. Coffee and Tea inspired by Starbucks” (except missing the inspiration bit in the name). This is not (yet) an announcement that they will do the same in the main Starbucks branded outlets.

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Enough is Enough: a pricing rant

I was working on how to write this properly, then realised I have yet to try to use video more effectively (and it was faster!), so I recorded some thoughts (woefully unprepared) on Seesmic instead.

Here is the video. I think you need to register to leave a video comment (please do, I’d love to get some) but you can also leave me your written thoughts on this post.

If you want to join the OLN “Enough is Enough” campaign, text ‘Enough’ to 82055 (in the UK)

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Open minds for troubled times

Chair
Come on in for an interview!
Image by tommy forbes via Flickr

I’ve reported, commented and complained before on this blog about how the UK government treats consumers and business when it comes to alcohol.

My position has usually been one of incredulity, cynicism and anger at the decisions being taken by politicians, in particular when it comes to taxation of alcohol.

I’d like to extend an offer to a politician or civil servant to explain to me, in person, what this country’s government is doing, and why.

I was prompted to write this post by the announcement that a UK parliamentary committee was to be set up to examine:

… alcohol-related health problems and the consequences of these for the NHS, plus the role of the alcohol industry, police and government departments in addressing alcohol-related harm. [as well as] … examine “whether the drinking culture in England should change, and, if so, how”. (from just-drinks)

Just my sort of question!

Governments and politicians like to be SEEN to be doing something, no matter how ineffective in practice. In general, I do believe that politicians are scared of talking sense about alcohol (or many matters of real personal choice for that matter) and governments are quite happy to continue to be able raise lots of money from a ‘sin tax‘.

The problem is that the government has become dependent on the money raised from Duty on alcohol. They couch their revenue generation as a “strategy” to combat alcohol abuse whilst damaging businesses that could help to change people’s attitudes to alcohol and still, in my opinion, not doing nearly enough to address the underlying causes of that abusive behaviour.

I think many in the wine business in particular would probably agree.

HOWEVER, I will also admit that my experience is limited. I work with great wines, wines made by people who care about their product and which is sold mainly to those who appreciate them. I don’t have much day to day experience of the front line of a binge-drinking culture that I admit does exist in places in this country.

So I’d like to extend an offer to a politician or civil servant to explain to me, in person, what this country’s government is doing, and why. I don’t want a press release, I want a discussion. I’m prepared to post the results on here, either as a new post or in the comments. I would even consider filming a meeting and putting it on the blog for others to view.

Is that you? Or maybe, you know someone who could come along to chat? Let them know!

I am not a campaigner with an agenda as such. I’m not promising those who agree with me to be the best prepared, most vocal champion of the alcohol business (there are people like the WSTA for that). I am not a politician, nor expert debater. However, the government needs to convince me, and people like me, if we are to support their current approach, and if they can’t, then listen to us about finding another way forward.

I’ll even give you an idea of the questions:

  1. What evidence is there that high duty rates stop young people from drinking too much?
  2. What meaningful dialogue can you point to that shows you admit that alcohol consumption is a perfectly acceptable part of our society & culture in moderation? Have  you ever done anything other than preach?
  3. By focusing on the price/cost mechanic, are you not damaging small, independent importers/retailers who might engender a respect/appreciation for alcohol, and instead driven people to the multiple grocers, with their massive purchasing power to offset that duty cost, where no such education takes place?
  4. Is the excess consumption of alcohol not more closely related to opportunity IN GENERAL, rather than opportunity to buy alcohol? Would fewer kids get blind drunk if you inspired them with alternatives for their time & effort, rather than chastising them?
  5. What about the law-abiding middle classes of moderate consumers who are being criticised for their alcohol consumption? Where is the data to back your 21 units safe limit campaign?

These are just some of the questions off the top of my head. If you have any others you’d like to ask, let me know.

So, then, who’s willing to try and convince me? There’s a chair waiting!

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London Bloggers Prize Winners

Thank you so much to all those who came to the recent London Bloggers Christmas gathering at Ember, and who took the time to write their thoughts about the wines and link back to the wineries who generously provided the wines to taste.

Here is a list of all the reactions to the event that I could locate (including those who didn’t link to the wineries) that also linked back to this site – who knows what else happened out there (let me know!)?

Miss Geeky – Not too late! keep up the efforts, and great to chat to you
>Re:Photo – thanks for the photos and the comments on the videos.
Wadds’ tech pr blog – thanks for the review, hope you liked the presentation
Timinator – glad you like the Vivanco white rioja
Caroline’s Miscellany – thank you so much for your thoughts on wine and particularly for the wine facts of London
A Yankee in London – thanks for the kind words on the presentation, great to see you again
Chris Gilmour’s Diary Vol. 14 – greetings from the short chap on the stool :)
Fake Plastic Noodles – shame you didn’t get to try more of the wines, but thanks for the nice comments, and for your support
Jazamatazz – thanks for tasting your first sherry!
Tony Scott – looking forward to our wine/beer/cider tasting in the near future
Chris Reed – ginger and proud – glad you are hooked on the events, and hope you enjoyed your bottle of CVP
Londonist – always great to get a mention on this site, and thanks for the photos Chris!

The process was to award a “virtual ticket” for each link to a winery blog involved in the tasting, and many were generous enough include links to all the wineries as well as some specific links of their favourites. We are all very thankful for your support.

In all 62 tickets were placed in the draw which offers a pretty good chance of winning, but the ultimate and sole winner* of a case of 6 bottles of Dinastia Vivanco Crianza (offered by me, but through my Rioja winery blog at thirstforrioja.co.uk) is …

Caroline’s Miscellany

Caroline, if you would drop me a line with your address at [email protected] (or through a comment on this site), I’ll arrange for the wines to be delivered to you asap for you to enjoy. Congratulations!

Thank you again to all the wonderful London Bloggers who participated, to Andy Bargery who allowed me to sponsor this event, to the wineries who provided their wines, my mum & dad (etc.), and finally to those who read this blog and make it fun to write about wine and help to share the love of wine.

* in case you were wondering, I gave everyone an entry in a spreadsheet for each link (up to 8, one for each winery), then assigned each “ticket” a random value from 1-100, sorted on this basis & numbering each entry, then picked a number between 1 & 62. The winning ticket was #16

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Celebrating diversity

Thank you so much to the London Bloggers for the enthusiastic response to last night’s experience and experiment. Presenting wine from wineries that have a blog to fellow bloggers must qualify as some sort of world first, shouldn’t it? [some photos here]

In any case, I want to thank all those who came along, and especially those winery bloggers that sent us the wines to taste and videos to watch. One of my key objectives was to get my fellow London Bloggers to look at wine in a slightly different way, and I think we succeeded.

I will try to upload the video of my brief talk from last night along with a summary of the main points to accompany the slides I’ve already posted at a later date (YouTube rejected my upload this morning!).

I will also give you a link later today to the videos from each of the participating winery bloggers.

However, I did want to post a few thoughts on your reactions to the wines and to wine blogging today and remind you of the competition (see details below).

By far the most controversial must have been the sherry, but sherry is used to it! Some of you bravely tried sherry for the first time which is wonderful. There were a handful who loved it (including me I admit) but 20 year old dry oloroso sherry might be a little like jumping in a the deep end when learning to swim – it is an overwhelming experience!

With the whites, there was an interesting split between those who liked the drier style of the Riesling Kabinett and Vivanco Viura/Malvasia (predominantly the men) and those who liked the richer, fruitier Auslese Riesling (many more of the women).

When it comes to the reds we had clear differences in people’s palates. A number of you came up to tell me that they found the lighter, “peppery” style of the Higueruela wine, made from the unusual all-red Garnacha Tintorera, amazing, whilst others found it wasn’t full-bodied enough for them. What more demonstration do we need that we all like different wines and catch-all recommendations are useless?

I found several fans of Italian wines who were surprised to find a Morellino di Scansano on the list as it is a rare sight still in the UK, but the wine (as well as the bottle and lovely label) was tasting really good.

To be honest, the votes on “favourite red” were quite evenly spilt between the Casa de las Vides CVP (and its unusual bottle), the Dinastia Vivanco Crianza and the Cortes de Cima Syrah. It seems that the cold weather has converted many of us to “red season” and the richer styles were very popular.

Finally, I only had a small taste of the Quevedo Reserva Tawny Port – at one stage I turned around and found a couple struggling to taste the last drops whilst trying to avoid the sediment. Draining a bottle is always a good sign!!

Basically there wasn’t a wine there that did not have a big fan which is great, and a great testament to the diversity of wine and of everyone’s palates.

I have a long list of cards of people I will be in touch with, but please do leave me a comment with your views on your favourite wines as I’m sure the wineries would love to hear it from you directly.

Finally, don’t forget to get in touch so we can chat about wine and your own experiences. I’d love to interview and reach out of the wine bubble to make what we write about more relevant to more of you.

Now, for the competition for those who made it to the tasting last night. There are 6 bottles of Dinastia Vivanco Crianza (delivered to you) available for a lucky blogger who posts thoughts about one or more of the wines we tasted. For every mention of a wine, and link to the winery blog, I’ll allocate you a virtual draw ticket (don’t forget to ping me on this blog so I know you have done it). I’ll make the draw on 21st December so you have a few days to get something up and have a chance of winning.

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