Tag Archive - wine

Wine competitions offer spark but no fire

It is that time of year when all sorts of wine competitions take place and announce their annual procession of gold, silver and bronze medal winners.

Countless self-congratulatory press releases, blog posts, status updates and adverts will blast out in a storm of activity that will effectively drown out the benefit of any one win and leave only one certain winner, the competition itself.

All spark, no fire

All spark, no fire (photo by Daniel Dionne)

Not only did the competition receive the fees, and it is the only constant in each and every message. Free branding. Well done! Have a Gold Medal for that!

Judging the ‘best spark’

I’ve been considering the vastness of the wine world and I understand the need to find a way to stand out from that crowd, but I am not at all certain that a wine competition with thousands of entries, and thousands of “winners” really helps.

Judging wines in an annual contest is a bit like judging the ‘best spark’ around a campfire. Millions are produced, some may even be brighter than others, but ultimately they all fade and leave little or nothing behind. What we should be looking for are those that can, and do, light the bloody fire and make something happen!

You’d think that after sitting in the dark, judging the intensity, duration and colour of the sparks flashing before their eyes, the judges themselves might ask themselves, “What’s the point”?

Some competitions may have stricter rules, more numerous categories, or more “qualified” judges, but fundamentally they are all doing the same thing.

What I long for personally is a competition that looks holistically at a wine – maybe at a track-record of quality production, but also at the story, the tradition or innovation, the ability to engage with consumers and more. Awards that are like achieving a masters degree not just aceing a school report.

Measuring the intensity of the fire produced, not the momentary spark.

Who can offer me that? I might then care about the results.

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Wine on TV comes to a Second Screen

Ever wondered what they were drinking on a TV show and wanted to know more? Maybe even try it yourself?

We know that product placement in TV and film is very effective if nothing else because of the amount of money that is charged for the privilege. It isn’t just films either, as the experience of Vin de Constance from South Africa attests when it was included in the second in the “50 Shades” series of books.

That Wine on TV - found

That Wine on TV – found

Last night, the BBC relaunched their Food & Drink TV brand that was instrumental to growing wine consumption in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s, but while the original series with Oz Clarke and Jilly Goolden recommended specific wines from exotic new locations such as Australia and Chile, the new programme only talks in general terms about the wine’s regional provenance and avoids showing the label.

Will that have an effect on wine? Maybe not directly, but indirectly it might:

  • help to widen the benefit of the profile to a category of wine instead of a single bottle
  • start a conversation about new regions
  • encourage exploration and a bit of fun ‘detective work’
  • allow producers to source more interesting wines from smaller regions and producers not on supermarket shelves

An appearance on TV or in a national newspaper used to guarantee sales, but this is no longer true as audiences dwindle and get fragmented.

Consumers today are not *that* interested in wine that they will suddenly jump up from their TVs and flood google’s servers with queries about wines from these new regions. Many will still want a bit more help in locating relevant wines. How do we connect interested consumers with willing suppliers?

What the world needs today is a more integrated information solution to information in the places consumers go to look for it.

The BBC is bound not to endorse any commercial brands, so there is a BIG opportunity for others to step in and provide this information alongside the TV show in what is known as “Second Screen” solutions.

Second Screen means that consumers are interacting with TV programmes on their main screen via a second device such as a computer, smartphone or tablet. They are commenting on appearances of their favourite celebrities via twitter or facebook while they watch it simultaneously. They are also searching for related information for holidays or ingredients.

What if someone were to help identify those ‘mystery’ wines, tell you where you could buy them, offer you similar alternatives that might be more attractively priced or conveniently stocked, and finally link to retailers (and monetise this through affiliate links)?

Just because the BBC can’t do this, doesn’t mean others could not.

To show what I mean, I set up That Wine on TV in a couple of hours last night (most of the time spent trying to identify the Dao red on the programme) which I will try to maintain for a while for fun.

There is a great deal of NEW opportunity in wine retail if we use social media not simply as a communication tool, but to create the sort of immediate, relevant and convenient tools that today’s wine consumers are looking for.

Deos anyone else have a good example of Second Screen solutions in action for wine?

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Winners of the Louis Roederer Wine Writing Awards 2012

Congratulations to the many winners of the Louis Roederer Wine Writing Awards presented tonight in London.

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Whilst the awards that Vrazon helped to create,the Born Digital Wine Awards, recognise the growing talent of content written specifically for online media, it is fair to say that this is not yet the mainstream of wine writing.

Tonight’s categories covered some important areas such as newspaper columnists and wine books that are terribly important ways to reach consumers and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come.

Of course it was also a pleasure to attend the event to catch up with many good friends, listen to the entertaining Mr Charles Metcalfe, Chair of the Judges, and to enjoy the many Roederer champagnes including a small taste of Cristal 2004.

Here are the winners that were announced tonight:

1. Artistry of Wine – Colin Hampden-White

2. Emerging Wine Writer of the Year – Erika Szymanski (Palate Press)

3. International Online Wine Columnist / Blogger of the Year -  Andrew Jefford

4. International Wine Website of the Year – Peter Liem (www.champagneguide.net)

5. International Wine Publication of the Year – The World of Fine Wine

6. Regional Wine Writer of the Year – Tom Bruce-Gardner (Glasgow Herald)

7. International Wine Book of the Year – Summer in a Glass, Evan Dawson

8. International Wine Columnist of the Year – Michael Fridjohn

9. International Wine Feature Writer of the Year – John Stimpfig

Congratulations to all the winners and the equally worthy shortlisted candidates, particularly to our successful online friends at Palate Press including David Hoenig and Evan Dawson, as well as Peter Liem, flying the flag for online writers.

For full details and shortlists, head over to www.theroedererawards.com

Wine Bloggers’ Wines from Oddbins

Oddbins Wine Bloggers

So, do wine bloggers have any idea what wines others should drink, or are they just good at telling us about the stuff they like?

I have to admit to being very afraid of the idea of being responsible for choosing wines for other people I do not know. The idea of being a “Wine Buyer” would mean I would never sleep again. I love wine. I love drinking it, sharing it, talking about it and learning about it. I enjoy how it impacts on the world, and generally changes it for the better. But I do not know whether YOU will like any particular wine or not. Building a business that requires such certainty seems hard to me.

Blogger Initiative

I was very impressed and intrigued, therefore, to see that 6 of my fellow UK wine bloggers got together with Oddbins to create a selection of wines for the rest of us to enjoy so I just had to buy a case.

The basic story is on the Oddbins Wine Bloggers Case page, but you should also read any of the bloggers’ own articles linked below.

In summary, the six bloggers had access to an entire Oddbins shop for the task of selecting 12 bottles, one red, one white, each, for a case that would cost no more than £100 (including delivery). A tough but enjoyable challenge.

So, I had two simple questions:

1. Is this a “good idea”?

2. Are the choices any good?

What a Good Idea!

To answer the first, I have to say that I admire bloggers who do innovative things and who are prepared to push boundaries.

Consumers would benefit from buying “taster” cases that helped them discover new wines and, bought in some volume, would also make them slightly more affordable. This may be the excuse they were waiting for.

Too often, the wines recommended on blogs and articles are hard to then find & buy, so making them immediately available (and deliverable) is a great encouragement for consumers to buy. This is one of the strongest points of online wine content.

The marketing has also been well done – Integrated Communications, at last!

  • There is a dedicated page on the Oddbins online site.
  • They’ve created memorable cartoons and images to bring the “online” personas to life
  • They’ve included the bloggers’ own wine reviews, including food matching ideas
  • The case came with the full information sheet
  • The bloggers themselves have kept the profile of the promotion high

Finally, I also think it is important that bloggers (of all industries) find ways to make money from their online activity because I know very well how much work it involves and how hard it is to make money from this without resorting to dubious internet marketing practices.

We ALL benefit

If wine bloggers could prove that they can identify great wines, and help to get them into the hands of consumers, we ALL benefit – producers, bloggers, retailers and consumers. If bloggers are adding benefit, then they do deserve a share of the “value” created, and they can start to make some money from what they do, creating great wine stories. There is nothing wrong with making a living.

There’s only one slight criticism. In the interests of transparency, considering this is a “showcase” (pun intended), I was surprised not to read more about whether the bloggers were actually benefitting financially from this. For the reasons listed above, I think it would be great if trusted bloggers could work with retailers and wineries. I also do not want to see hard work, and great ideas like this, benefit only some and not others, and I am sure those involved actually had costs to make this happen.

Two bloggers did make some reference to this which is great, though it is still a touchy subject, but sometimes openness is the best policy. I do not believe that any readers would object, but we do need to take the ammunition away from critics.

“Since picking the case, we have agreed with Oddbins that they would contribute to our expenses, on a tiny amount for each case sold. While I hope the case flies off the shelves, I won’t be giving up the day job any time soon. Then again, that’s not why I got involved.” - SipSwooshSpit

“So all that remains is for people to buy it and let us know what they think – I say this not for the pocket-money commission levels, but because this is an opportunity for us to engage in a conversation about these wines and I would love to know what people think about them.” – The Cambridge Wine Blogger

I am CERTAIN that if they are making anything it is not substantial, and it will not have influenced their choices of wines. However, from a disclosure point of view, this one would be useful for them all to have done. Having said that, it is a minor quibble form someone keen to make sure this goes well and helps more bloggers and wine businesses.

I hope it DOES fly off the shelves and that they do start to make some money! So of course I did my bit and bought my case.

Wine Reviews:

The REAL test. Were the wines they chose interesting and likely to get consumers to come back and buy more?

Well, since I have decided not to use this site to share tasting notes, I will have to leave you guessing a little longer. However, I will be adding my tasting notes to my personal site (where I do review wines from time to time) as I go through the case. You can follow along here:

Tasting the Bloggers’ Wine Selection from Oddbins on thirstforwine.co.uk

At first glance the prospects are good. I already know, and like, a couple of the wines. The selection is varied and covers many styles, prices and countries. Here is the list (as provided by Spittoon.biz:

The Oddbins Bloggers Case White Wine Selection

  1. Casa Lluch Verdil 2010, Valencia, Spain
  2. Raimat Abadia White 2010, Costers del Segre, Spain
  3. Sal’mon Groovey Grüner Veltliner 2010, Kremstal, Austria
  4. Domaine la Condamine L’Evêque Viognier 2010, Côtes de Thongue, France
  5. Stone Rock Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Bordeaux, France
  6. Porter Mill Station Chenin Blanc 2011, Svartland, South Africa

The Oddbins Bloggers Case Red Wine Choices

  1. Domaine de l’ Arnesque 2009, Côtes du Rhône, France
  2. Alma de Tinto Mencia 2010, Galacia, Spain
  3. Henry Fessy Morgon 2009, Cru du Beaujolais, France
  4. Chateau Haute Galine 2009, Minervois, France
  5. Terre di Sava, 10 Nero Salice Salentino 2010, Puglia, Italy
  6. Fully Loaded Grenache-Shiraz 2008, McClaren Vale, Australia

I congratulate Oddbins on the coup, and Tara, David, Paola, Tom, Belinda and Andrew for making it happen. I wonder if we will see similar things happen in the UK and beyond?

Related Articles:

Tom Lewis “The Cambridge Wine Blogger”: The Oddbins Bloggers’ Case

David Lowe “BigPinots”: The Merry Band of Bloggers

Belinda Stone “Miss Bouquet”: We’re on the case with Oddbins Literally

Andrew Barrow “Spittoon”: Oddbins Bloggers Case

Paola Tich “SipSwooshSpit”: Six Go Mad in Oddbins

Tara Devon O’Leary “Wine Passionista”: The Oddbins Wine Bloggers’ Case is Here

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Sustainability by the wine trade

Everyone uses the term ‘sustainability’ these days, but what it means to everyone can vary enormously.

From simple carbon reducing measures, such as using lighter glass bottles and renewable energy, through changes to vineyard practice including organics, and even wholesale regional programmes, the term covers many issues and different levels of commitment.

Joao Portugal Ramos on Sustainability

Joao Portugal Ramos on Sustainability

When the issue of “Sustainability in the wine trade” was raised with a cross-section of the world’s wine trade on Vrazon’s AccessZone at the London Wine Trade Fair, what was noticeable was the ambition and commitment of producers from Australia and New Zealand and their assumption that this was a collective task. There were also interesting stories from Europe, but they tended to be from individual producers taking unilateral steps, often at a cost and risk to themselves.

Many of the answers revolved around what needed to change in the vineyard and the winery, and interestingly, how ‘sustainability’ is not synonymous with ‘organics’ (or is that the other way around?). There were a lot of laudable changes proposed to how we treat vines and how we protect water resources for example. There were also allusions to alternative packaging for wine and to philosophical approaches such as Natural Wine (more videos on this will be published soon). It made me wonder whether the driving force for these changes came from a concern for the planet, as a reaction to a consumer demand for action, or simply because they made business sense to those businesses with an eye on the future?

The answer, of course, was “all of them”, but I am not convinced that there is sufficient consumer awareness of the issue as it affects wine for ‘sustainability’ to be a positive differentiator for a wine or winery, and so any sustainability projects needed to be either required of all businesses (by governments, regional authorities or even retailers, to avoid some producers taking all the risks) or carefully tested for commercial returns on investment.

What do you think the future of ‘sustainability’ is for the wine business, and how might this topic be made more relevant to the wider wine trade?

This was only one of several topics raised for WineConversation Unfiltered. For this and related topics, visit: wineconversation.com/unfiltered

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