Tag Archive - wine tasting

It is so loud in here, I can’t hear myself drink

Interesting research reported on the BBC today:

The level of background noise affects both the intensity of flavour and the perceived crunchiness of foods, researchers have found.

It also makes me wonder about wines. We’ve known for a while that wines don’t taste the same in the air, and I seem to recall it was assumed it had to do with air pressure, but noise also makes sense. If any of your senses is being overwhelmed, then the others will naturally be affected.

I happened to run a dB meter on a recent plane trip (“there’s an app for that”) and it registered over 90dB – that’s as loud as a petrol lawnmower … and you sit in it for hours!

On the other hand, the research also seems to point to positive aspects – where pleasant sounds increase the intensity of flavours, which is backed by anecdotal evidence of “great wine moments” you have on holiday or with a great dinner partner.

Also in the group’s findings there is the suggestion that the overall satisfaction with the food aligned with the degree to which diners liked what they were hearing – a finding the researchers are pursuing in further experiments.

It seems that we have, at least partially, now got evidence that wine drinking is a pleasure that requires all your senses, not just taste!

Certainly, airplanes are not ideal wine tasting locations for many reasons, but there’s always a good reason to keep testing!

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International Grenache Day

Today, in case you had not already been deluged by tweets about it as I have, is International Grenache Day. Today we celebrate the Grenache grape, which has been called an “unsung hero” of the wine world.

Grenache remains mostly under-acknowledged in the world of wine – a “supporting cast member” or “the girl next door.” However, the potential for Grenache’s popularity is huge, with its juicy, luscious fruit, warm spice, balanced acidity and supple tannins. An aim of IGD is to create a wave of familiarity and interest so that one day people will walk into their favourite bar or restaurant and ask for a ‘Glass of Grenache’ as they do currently with Pinot Grigio or Merlot.

(from: Grenache Symposium announcement)

Does it mean anything “official”? No! There is no UN list mentioning this day or this campaign, but it IS an excuse to taste some new wines with friends and share the experience – something social media is very good for.

The idea actually came out of the first International Grenache Symposium held earlier this year in France, and attended by an elite group of winemakers, journalists and other wine experts (yes, I was invited I’ll have you know, but I couldn’t go, so there!). To their credit they talked a lot, and probably drank a lot, but they also thought it would be worth starting a little ACTION campaign we could all join in on … so I believe that Chester Osborn, respected for both his wine making vision at d’Arenberg in Australia but also for his quirky fashion sense, first suggested that the 24th of September 2010 should be International Grenache Day.

Today, we are encouraged to try a Grenache based wine, learn about it, share it with friends, wear loud, funky clothes, and record the event in photos, words or video and share it with the world.

GRENACHE LOVERS UNITE – for the First Annual International Grenache Day!!

A global movement is afoot, to put Grenache in its rightful place on the wine map and we hope you will join us!

On September 24th, 2010, events celebrating the Great Grenache Grape will take place around the world. We’re asking all of you Grenache fans to approach your neighbourhood restaurant and/or favourite wine retailer (or use your own business, if applicable) to feature a special Grenache-centred activity. Maybe a sales promotion, a wine-tasting, or a special restaurant dish/menu designed for Grenache pairings… anything goes, for the greater good of Grenache!

I will choose a wine later (I have quite a few options in my wine rack) and I hope to encourage a few more to join the fun on twitter and facebook – and if you do join in, let me know.

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Bibendum Annual Tasting 2010 – the Bibendum Times

Today I will spend the entire day in the company of around 2000+ wine professionals, 1000 different wines, 200 producers and, for the first time at such an event, maybe even hundreds of twitterers?!

I will do my best to bring you video, photos and tweets from the tasting, but Bibendum have created a very interesting site for Bibendum Times which will probably be the best place to see all the aggregate content being produced on the day.

Wish me luck and keep an eye on @thirstforwine on twitter!

Find Wine with Style

findwineAt the recent The Wine Gang Christmas Fair I had the chance to taste lots of wines and meet importers and wineries from around the world. One of the ones that stood out for me was a small online retailer looking to sell wines in a novel way: FindWine.co.uk

Most wines in this country, whether in the supermarkets or independent merchants, are sold mainly by country. They might then be divided by region, price or even style, but the first arrangement is almost ALWAYS by country. Most (surviving) online merchants have therefore taken this format as well, and although you can usually filter by many different criteria, country still dominates the thinking.

The other thing most retailers have in common is that they generally list a larger range of wines that may then be categorised or tagged with tasting or buying information to help consumers decide between them. The thinking is, if you give consumers a broader range of choices, they’ll find something they’ll like … and buy.

The truth is, many consumers are not looking for anything too specific, and in fact are often put off by too much choice. They want a good deal, and a recommendation of a ‘good’ wine, so may well leave without buying anything.

FindWine decided, instead, to create a list with only 54 ‘slots’ that represent 6 different price categories across 9 different ‘styles’, and find just 1 wine that is a good example for each. The prices vary from under £5 to £15+ and the list of categories includes “zippy” whites as well as “soft-isticated” reds, so should appeal to lots of consumers.

I think what these guys are up to is very interesting, especially as their model allows them to buy good quality wines in small parcels so they can keep things fresh and change regularly. All we need now is a bit more interaction and visibility from the faces behind the business to demonstrate their passion for the wines and give us confidence they are choosing interesting wines for these ‘slots’.

On that note, watch this short interview I recorded at the show with John Critchley, one of the guys behind FindWine:

If you have used them, or tried their wines, do let me know what you think of their model and their wines. Is anyone else doing something similar?

(Update: I apologise to Mike Howes as this is in fact John Critchley, Mike’s partner at FindWine who I identified incorrectly in the video)

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The value of a tasting note

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Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time, I even drafted a post, but recent events have prompted me to complete it.

What is a single tasting note worth?

Ryan Opaz of Catavino recently asked this question on twitter after a discussion we had, and it still has me thinking.

I suppose one could argue that tasting notes are worth exactly what you pay for them. In most cases, such as blogs, wine social networks and twitter, the answer is NOTHING. They are free! They are given away as they are shared by those tasting wines mainly for their own enjoyment.

But this is only part of the story. There are those sites that do charge to give you access to information such as tasting notes. In addition, even if consumers are not paying for tasting notes, that is not to say they are not “worth” something to someone.

Subscription Sites

There are sites where some of the key ‘value’ are the tasting notes on offer – not because they are tasting notes as such, but because they are buying advice (e.g. The Wine Gang) or “insider information” on the potential future value of premium wines (e.g. JancisRobinson.com on En Primeur)

There will always be a small number of people willing to pay for these sites to get this information rather than searching through multiple sites or waiting to personally taste wines they mean to buy – which may not even be possible. The question is whether there are enough of them to make a site profitable.

Social Networks

On the other hand, there are many social networks out there (e.g. Snooth, Adegga, etc.) where the tasting notes themselves are free content. They still represent value for people, but this is exchanged for attracting more friends & followers or becoming known as a reliable expert. The value is in social recognition, something some might call Whuffie or ‘Social Capital

And then there is the law …

What prompted me to write this today was the Decanter story that a journalist, Martin Isark, is suing Majestic for using his tasting note to promote a wine called “Cuvée de Richard Vin de Pays de l’Aude”. He wrote a note which apparently included the words “incredible value” in a newspaper in 2001 – and apparently Majestic have been using those words, attached to his name, ever since to promote subsequent vintages. So now, he is claiming £50,000 in damages for “‘false endorsements’ and ‘infringement of copyright’” to get them to stop according to the story (NB. I’m no lawyer, I’m only reporting information available on other sites).

Whilst I agree that the note is [arguably] false endorsement if they do not clearly show it was for a (much) older vintage, it makes you wonder how much Martin Isark thinks that endorsement is worth if the “damage” is £50,000 (as far as I know the UK law does not allow for punitive damages). I’m sure that Majestic will have sold some additional bottles of the back of the note, but that would be a LOT of bottles. And what about the benefits to Mr Isark (who, I must admit, I had not heard of before this incident)? He has had his name promoted to thousands of Majestic customers over the years – could he not have made something positive of this, offering to review (accurately and honestly) future vintages or more wines?

So, the question remains, how much is a tasting note worth?

Like any content, tasting notes have value and with the right ‘context’ there are ways to make them generate money for someone – let’s just hope it isn’t all for the lawyers, but for wine writers and drinkers instead!

[full disclosure: I am married to a lawyer, and benefit greatly from the good work that lawyers do :) ]

[UPDATE 20/11/09 14:23: On closer examination, Martin Isark answers the question on his website. The answer, at least for Martin Isark is: £15,000 PLUS 2% of sales as a royalty payment. This is astronomically high, and also makes one wonder about the potential ethical issues of journalists receiving royalties on related sales. Of course, he can name whatever price he wants, but I wonder whether anyone would really accept this value as realistic? If so, I need to start writing more tasting notes ;) ]

[UPDATE 20/11/09 14:27: inserted the word "arguably" in para 9 erroneously missed off original post!]

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