Tag Archive - wine culture

The benefits of being a wine blogger

… if you work in the wine trade

There are already a lot of benefits to working in the the wine business, and I probably do not need to list the main ones (if you work the business you know the truth, and if you don’t, keep dreaming!)

However, one downside is that a traditional “brand marketing” mindset would seem to imply that you cannot be seen to drink, promote or even mention other wines. “If my wine is the best ever, why should I drink anything else?”

The truth is, of course, that we all do. We love wine, we are consumers as well as producers and suppliers. Traditional marketers might recoil in horror, but Social Media aware communicators know that honesty, openness and frankness help to create trust, and that is the most important currency in building any brand. The more I discuss other brands, the more you can put my brand and my point of view, in context.

Winery Cellar for Bottle AgeingSo with this in mind, imagine how sensitive it is to visit another winery.

If I visit a winery, I’m being let into the soul of a ‘competitor’ winery. This is the place the product is made, where the decisions are taken and is the brand’s home. Should I be treated as a competitor and infiltrator? Of course not, after all I’m a consumer too, and just as much a target for the winery’s marketing as anyone else. However, how is that business (with its own commercial realities) to know that I am there honestly?

Well, because I blog and give the whole world the chance to decide. The benefit of being a blogger is that I can prove that I will review the wine/brand in a certain way, and tell others what I think. A winery is investing in these visits specifically to get their story across and to encourage loyalty and to get visitors to spread the word. It used to be said that a happy customer would tell 3 or so friends about their experience, an unhappy customer would tell 10 or more. Now, bloggers tell hundreds, if not thousands, about their personal experiences.

I’d be happy to agree that I’m not as influential as bona-fide members of the wine press, such as Tim Atkin and Oz Clarke (who happen to be visiting this region at the same time as me), but a blogger is still a worthwhile person to attract – so long as they are ‘honest, open and frank’. As a blogger, I owe my readers entertaining, useful and original content, not propaganda. The most enlightened bloggers and producers understand that, and as such bloggers should be welcomed with open arms.

To their great credit, all the wineries I have visited (where I mentioned I wrote a wine blog) have gone out of their way to showcase their wines and wineries, and to offer me any information I may need.

If you are a winery (or in fact any other business that offers visits and tours), one of the first questions you should ask is: “Do you have a blog?”

If you are in the wine business, you should consider sharing your thoughts and experiences on a blog, after all you are wine consumer too. You probably have access to wines, or parts of the wine business, that most others who like wine do not. You will probably have a different perspective to a consumer and to a member of the Press. Not only will other wineries thank you for it, but your own wine brand will benefit too.

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Reaching out from the wine bubble

In the beginning there’s an idea. That idea creates a comment. That comment spawns a reaction, and eventually a conversation emerges. All is well with the world, and the idea spreads.

Bubble fun

After a while, the subjects have all been agreed, the channels of communication established, and the terms of reference accepted. The conversation gains lots of participants, but the range of the discussion doesn’t evolve.

Welcome to the bubble!

The wine bubble is already here! Fruit laden wine reviews. Points scoring. Winery histories, with “passionate” winemakers, “carefully selected” grapes, vineyards in “unique terroirs” and their “hand made” wines. There is a lot yet to be documented and recorded, and yet how much of it is new, and how much of it means anything to those who are on the sidelines of the conversation, or outside the bubble?

The wine conversation inside the bubble is necessary. We need enthusiastic analysis of the hundreds of thousands of wineries and literally millions of individual wines. However, we musn’t kid ourselves that any of this is really relevant to the ‘real’ world – the average wine consumer, or further still, the non-consumer.

I’d like to try and reach out, dedicate a part of the effort on my reinvigorated blog, The Wine Conversation, to exploring wine BEYOND the bubble.

What does wine mean to those who inhabit very different bubbles (after all, we all belong to various bubbles of some sort)? Film buffs. Knitters. History experts. Music fans. Photographers. Sports fans.
Gardeners. Travel writers. In short, to most of our friends who do not quite (yet) understand our fascination with all things vinous?

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but saved it for the new blog (good excuse!). I hope to go out and speak to these non-wine bloggers about wine, and see what it REALLY means to them. Should be fun!

The majority will be my thoughts on wine, in particular wine marketing and wine innovations. I’ll try and find new and interesting places where the wine conversation may have reached. I will also rant and rave against mindless legislation and bureaucratic idiocies, but I hope you’ll indulge me in this.

If there are things you think ought to be explored here, do leave me a comment or send me an email – I will do my utmost to respond.

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Cooking with left-overs – with a difference

I don’t know about you, but I think there is a lot of wisdom in the motto of the late Len Evans:

People who say “You can’t drink the good stuff all of the time” are talking rubbish. You must drink good stuff all the time. Every time you drink a bottle of inferior wine, it’s like smashing a superior bottle against the wall. The pleasure is lost forever – you can’t get that bottle back.

Whilst I can’t afford to follow it to the letter, I do believe that in my life I can only consume a limited number of alcohol units. I do enjoy myself, but not to excess.

In this case, I consider that most non-wine alcohol units that I consume are like smashing that proverbial bottle against the wall – I could have used them to drink more wine instead.

I do enjoy a whisky from time to time, and the very occasional G&T, but I almost never have anything else.

However, as a good host I keep a stock of other drinks for when others are visiting, or bottles that have been gifted. These sit, in silent slumber, in a drinks cupboard in the kitchen. Unloved.

When I first heard about “Cooking with Booze” I thought it was a spankingly good idea for a cookbook, but now it occurs to me it is even better than that. It is a way to use my “left-overs” in a creative way.

One additional reason for liking this book is that the author has “done the web 2.0 thing” and actually made the whole content available free on the internet on the site in recognition of the fact that there are a percentage of us willing to pay for the convenience of having the book at home, and that making the content free will hopefully attract loads of different people, increasing sales. I hope it works!

(It does for me)

So, if you happen to be invited over chez moi in the near future, look out!

(p.s. In case you were wondering, I shall probably skip the chapter on cooking with wine and drink it while I cook with everything else)

You can’t share a bottle online

I really enjoy building online relationships and keeping in touch with a great range of people through blogs, comments, facebook, twitter, Open Wine Consortium, etc., but the ultimate goal, really, is to make ‘real’ friends.

So when I saw a ‘tweet’ by @1WineDude, otherwise known as Joe Roberts who blogs at 1winedude.blogspot.com out of Philadephia, mentioning that he would be in the UK, I jumped at the chance to meet up with him and share a glass, or two, of wine.

Andrew Barrow from Spittoon joined the party and we met up at The Two Brewers in Windsor.

We talked about wine, blogging, US vs. UK, music, food and all the sorts of stuff people who have known each other for a long time would talk about, yet we’d only met an hour beforehand.

It was fun, and if any other wine blogger out there is planning on passing through London, or its environs, do get in touch so we might arrange a get together of our own.

Two of the topics we discussed which are worth bringing up here, were:

The serving temperature of wine, particularly reds. The Two Brewers is a great place to go for wine as it has a limited, but adventurous wine list. However, the UK is not built to deal with heatwaves, and our bottle of Chateau Musar 2000 arrived too warm (as did the later bottle of Astrolabe Pinot Noir 2006). No problem! Drop them in the icebucket left over from the Rose (from Provence, but label had washed off). We did get a reputation from the staff for “liking chilled red wine”, so I had to point out we were only lowering it to where it ought to be, around 18 degrees. The idea that serving at ‘room temperature’ does not mean “whatever temperature your room happens to be” has yet to filter down properly. This is Confessions of Wino‘s personal crusade, and I’m happy to support it.

Bloggers need to work together more. This one was more controversial, and I must admit it is my own agenda. I do believe that we need to find ways of doing things together that go beyond links and comments if we are to have real impact. This is the subject for what is going to be discussed at the European Wine Bloggers Conference, as well as the North American one, so expect to see more on this.

My thanks Joe and Andrew for a great evening. Let’s do it again soon.

Interactive Wine Sites

Over the next few days, thanks to their well established brand and their PR muscle, you’ll probably see several headlines like this one:

Roederer champagne launches new interactive website

I don’t know about you, but the interaction I want with my wine involves drinking it!

I don’t understand these Flash-based websites (you might want to go off and start the page loading, then return to read the article while you wait – but remember to turn the sound off).

The vast majority of people browsing the internet for wine are looking for:

  1. background details
  2. stockist information
  3. a ‘deal’
  4. fun

(check out Able Grape’s take on this too)

Using Flash to promote your wine brand is like hiring a stand-up comedian with ADHD to be your spokesperson – however amusing he may be, he is getting in the way of the message.

Sure, with Flash you get bells and whistles. In fact, the Louis Roederer site is like a unicycling bear that is playing La Marseillaise on his bells and whistles, but what are they doing to address the needs of the customers? What is the goal of the ‘interactivity’ on this site?

(oh, and by the way, that unicycling bear keeps falling off and his bells are out of tune – the sound on the site is awful and I keep getting stuck, unable to go back)

Joel Vincent made an interesting observation on a recent post on his blog Wine Life Today:

My bottom line points are simple. I’ve written about and preached on the “Wine Life Value Chain” where I talk about how the strength of a relationship basically has direct correlation to influencing a wine buyer. The closer you are, sociallogically, to the source of a wine recommendation the faster and more likely you are to buy it. So with that theorum guiding my thoughts we look at social media.

Flash CAN be a great tool to aid this relationship, but all too often it seems to be used to create a barrier between the people behind a wine and its consumers – something akin to a prestidigitator’s distraction technique.

One might argue that this is exactly how Champagne has managed to create a strong stylish brand, separating itself from its plain and homely still wine cousins – we’re missing that ‘magic’ ingredient. Maybe that is why it was used and I’m the one who is missing the point.

In any case, my preference is for sites that engage me in a meaningful relationship, that have answers to my questions and encourage me to commit myself in some way to the brand in the way they are doing with me.

The interactivity I seek is knowing that the winery, or winemaker, cares what I think, and helps me to both taste and understand their wines. Here are a couple I have come across recently that make me feel this way.

Neither of these sites has spent anything like the amount of money Louis Roederer must have done, but I get so much more out of them because I feel I know the wine, the people and the reasons for their existence so much better and on a more personal level.

And talking of interactivity, I’d love to hear your comments on these sites as well. Have I missed the point on the Champagne site, or am I too committed to blogs? Let me know.

(Photo Let it Float, courtesy of hashmil)

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