Tuesday, October 07, 2008

wineconversation.com is moving home

Farewell Blogger! Hello Blogging!

Dear Blogger Platform

You've been a friend over the last 2 years or more, and were instrumental in getting me blogging in the first place, but I'm afraid to say we've grown apart and our relationship is no longer the same. I'm moving out!

I'm very excited to let you know, if you've stuck with me over the last few weeks of relative silence, that I have moved home and put up a new blog on my own domain wineconversation.com

If you have been kind enough to add a link to my site from your blog, PLEASE update the link to the new address (http://www.wineconversation.com). I have an exciting plan for how to reciprocate on my new wine links page.

I still intend to blog about wine marketing, wine culture and other fun wine related thoughts, but the flexibility of the new site will allow me to organise the content better and add a few more fun features over the next few weeks and months (and maybe even years!).

This original blogspot site will continue to exist as Blogger does not allow me to easily redirect my traffic to the new site (shame on them!). I will leave all the content live and I'm including this message as the final post so that if you have made your way here you can easily find the new site.

On the other hand, if you are a new visitor who has happened across this archive, you can read more about me, Robert McIntosh, and share thoughts on wine on the new site. You should also contact me through the new site as it will be the most up-to-date.

I cannot sign off without a big thank you to Ryan at Catavino Marketing (who do Internet marketing for Bodegas but are equally experts in blogs for people like me) for his blog design expertise - thanks for the hard work and support in creating the new site!

Come on over to The Wine Conversation and join in the new wine conversation.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

And the beat goes on

It has been an embarrassingly long break between posts recently for someone who helped to organise a Bloggers' Conference, but that's the price you pay for getting involved in so many exciting projects.

In fact there are so many, I'm finding it hard to focus on all the opportunities out there, so let me give you a little run down of what is afoot:

1. Tonight (18 September, 2008 for future reference) is the 3rd edition of Twitter Taste Live, the coordinated tasting of wines by wine lovers across the world. Unfortunately this month is a little less coordinated due to the sad reality that we do not all have access to the same wines as everyone else. Tonight the event celebrates the wines of Michel-Schlumberger that are unfortunately rarely exported, so those of us not in the US will merely be peeking in the window of tonight's event ...

2. Which brings me to the next project which is to create a version of this event more suited to the UK and European audience, possibly involving starting earlier and maybe even different wines. I am in talks with some very exciting potential partners, so sign up to the event site and keep an eye on this site

3. Another good reason for the delay in posting is that I'm working on the transfer (at last) of this blog to a new platform. This will inevitably mean headaches for me, broken links for you, and tumbling technorati ratings, but I hope to keep these all to a minimum with help from my friends' blog marketing expertise. However, the result will be a more exciting blog with the flexibility to put in place even more features. Did I mention you need to keep an eye on this blog?

4. I'm off to spend a few weeks in Rioja for vintage, and hope to have LOTS of information on the vintage there, and ideas from the people I meet. This time you can keep an eye on this blog AND my Rioja specific blog (sadly neglected of late too)

5. Later in the year I will be helping to run a series of wine tasting events ... with a social media twist. I have made some very interesting new friends in the last few months that have opened up my eyes to quite how many exciting things are happening online in London and around the UK (check out Qype, Unchained Guide, TrustedPlaces and more) - and things we can probably take around the world too, so my head is buzzing with ideas. Erm, ... check this blog!

6. Some older friends of mine (sorry guys, I mean I've know you longer) have just launched an exciting new site called The Wine Gang. I want to give it a proper review and share my thoughts on it, ... you know what's coming next, so I'll not bother saying it again.

I could go on, but I've probably lost you by now anyway as you know you'll just be coming back again soon anyway.

Exciting, and busy times.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

The Beer Conversation

I hope you will indulge me and allow me to change the regular subject away from wine for a short while.

The subject today is beer. To be specific, it is Stella Artois and their marketing and PR activities. THIS is what I was inspired by!

I did not set out to think about beer marketing, but I had been trying to get along to a regular London Bloggers get-together for many months and I had failed 7 times already (that's almost a year of events) so I made a special effort for the summer party.

To help celebrate the event, Stella Artois made the brave, and far-sighted in my opinion, decision to sponsor the event. Not only did they pay for drinks, but they also offered a quite unique prize - a trip for up to 6 bloggers in their Star Over London airship (or zeppelin) as seen above. Each of these seats cost up to £360, so it was no small prize!

Stella Artois managed to tie in this prize to their sponsorship of "Love Your Local", a campaign they are supporting to highlight pubs that are at the heart of their community. To win the bloggers' prize we had to describe what we liked about our favourite local. I happen to have a great local pub (The Honor Oak), so it was no effort to write about them - and it so happens that I won one of the prizes.

[You can see my pictures here]

I also discovered that, as well as their long-standing and well regarded television commercials, they have a new interactive site with a game and other goodies (not sure about the game - it looks wonderful, but is it a game or a movie?) that includes a great collection and presentation of their adverts (I think these are the cinema-length versions).

It is a sign of a good campaign that you can conduct several different activities but still manage to tie them together, keeping the brand profile high.

Stella Artois emerges as a well recognised brand that cleverly manages to sell itself as a "premium" brand whilst still managing to compete on the mass market in pubs and supermarkets (i.e. it still discounts!). As far as wine is concerned, only champagne has managed to achieve this.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to see a similar branding concept in the wine business?

There are many reasons you won't see a wine brand pay to brand a zeppelin or shoot some of the most beautiful cinematic ads, chief of which is that none can afford it, but the impressive link up between the promotions, and the single-minded (although no longer "Reassuringly Expensive") and cleverly humorous presentation is something that would be wonderful to see.

[I ought to point out that Stella Artois is not immune from criticism either, with regard to its branding, but I don't think it negates the point that wine brands who want to succeed, as well as surviving for somewhere between 82 and 642 years, can learn from this sort of consistent branding]

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Lots of Wine Conversation at the EWBC

There is a LOT I need to think about, do and write about following the success of the European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) this weekend - so much so that I have neglected to put up a post on this blog since my return, which rather misses the point!

So, what does the EWBC mean for The Wine Conversation? Here are some very early thoughts:
  • The wine conversation needs to be less insular. We talk about wines we know and have access to, but there is so much more to learn and experience. We need to find ways to broaden our horizons, and listening to wine lovers from other countries is a great place to start
  • Wine bloggers are as diverse as wine drinkers. Very few of us are doing the same as one another (wineries, marketing, tastings and more), which gives great scope for sharing ideas for conversations and exploring our different takes on them. We should find out what readers want to know more about and explore it together and maybe get debates going
  • Let's stop being too introspective (says a great offender) and be more innovative, particularly with media. Enjoying wine is NOT all about tasting notes and points systems. We need more video, audio, imagery and other creative content
  • Honesty is not just the best policy, but essential to the trust bloggers need to build credibility. This doesn't come from Codes of Conduct or Terms & Conditions, but from action. Let's get on with doing the kinds of things that will really surprise and delight readers (like winery bloggers sharing details of the harvest and even tasting each others wines - coming soon!)
  • Wine brings people together. Naturally. We must continue to get across that drinking and enjoying wine is more than getting drunk and avoid playing into the hands of those who would kill off the wine culture
All of these topics are ripe for their separate discussions and I already have ideas of new friends to contact to explore them further.

There will be some concrete actions coming out of the conference, including some further gatherings (maybe one in the UK for bloggers & our readers over here?), but these will have to wait for another day. In the interim, check out the videos of the conference on VinusTV or on the EWBC site, and follow some of the resulting discussions on Wineblogger.info - the site for sharing tips and thoughts on wine blogging.

Finally, let me say that the conference was hard work - getting it organised and running it took a great deal of effort. I want to thank all those who took part for the fun weekend, but I particularly want to thank 2 groups of people:

First, my friends at Dinastia Vivanco (my major client) who not only encouraged my obsession with this topic, but also agreed to sponsor the event. I'm forever indebted to you - thank you Santiago and Rafael Vivanco!

And last, but not least, Ryan and Gabriella Opaz at Catavino.net for being such great people, committed bloggers and wonderful, wonderful friends.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Calm before the storm

Pouring some Excellent winesImage by Ryan Opaz via Flickr It has been a little quiet around here, and that isn't JUST because it took me a while to recover from twittering about wine until 2 am on Friday.

Firstly, I've been working on some thoughts on monetisation for wine bloggers which are being posted on the European Wine Bloggers Conference site (part 1 is live now, the next parts go up over the next day or two) as are part 2 and part 3 - part 4 is our discussion at the conference which I will report on after the event.

Secondly, the conference takes place this weekend in Rioja, in both Logroño and Briones (at the Dinastia Vivanco Museum of the Culture of Wine) from where we hope to be able to bring you some Live Blogging!

Unfortunately our internet connection will probably not support live audio/video streaming, but our friends from Vinus TV will be putting the materials recorded during the day live as soon as possible (I do hope Gema comes to the conference!)

A few of us will be trying to keep you updated through the use of Cover It Live, but as it will be my first chance to use it, I have NO IDEA how effective it will be, but head on over to the EWBC site and check it out if you can on Saturday.

I may be offline for a day or two, but hope to keep you updated here, or on the EWBC site, as to the build-up of the event, some of the wonderful wines we taste and the new friends I make.

Wish me luck!

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Ooh! I'm all a-twitter [updated]

I've finally gathered myself together enough to be able to post a round up of last night's Live Twitter Tasting & marathon food matching adventure.

It was a real experience!

First, I need to thank my key partner-in-crime; Andrew (wine_scribbler). Andrew was the one who had received the Hugel & Fils samples in the first place, and also the one to come up with the ideas for the food matching menu (below). Thanks so much!

So, the story: The second edition of the Twitter Live Tasting took place last night as planned, and as we European participants had to wait until midnight for the tasting we thought we'd do it over dinner and tweet later. So Mex helped me to put together a stellar line-up of social media savvy guests to join the fun. We all wrote our thoughts separately and compared notes later - hard work, but fun.

[click here for more photos - thanks everyone!]

So, to the matches and my thoughts:
1. Hugel Tradition Gentil (aka Les Fleurs d'Alsace) 2006
Match: Scallops pan fried with white wine, ginger, garlic and chilli
The Gentil was a "palate tingling" experience. An interesting complexity of fruit flavours and a crisp finish that partnered very well with the delicate, yet spicy dish. Excellent!

2. Hugel Tradition Pinot Blanc 2006
Match: Red Onion or Asparagus Tarts with baby leaf salad (I bought these, I must admit)
I must admit that this was my least favourite of the wines as I found the nose and the palate rather muted. However, the wine coped incredibly well with the lovely tarts despite the egg, and in fact was all the better for the food match. Not bad but there was better to come, and I think there was a consensus to this effect between all of us.

3. Hugel Tradition Gewürztraminer 2006

Match: Fois Gras Mi Cuit with toast and fig chutney
The foie gras was lovely, and worked well with the Fig chutney. However, the Gewurtztraminer, with its rich, spicy, ginger and wild honey flavours, amplified things further. This wine and match was the star of the night I think. Interesting that the Gewurtz would be selected by those who had never drunk it before as you'd expect it to be one of the most challenging as it is SO different to the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio most UK drinkers are used to. I found this very inspiring and I look forward to sharing more unusual varieties with my friends in future. 5-star excellence!

4. Hugel Riesling Jubilee 2004
Match: Pork Medallions with Mustard Mash, Apples and Cider Reduction
I'm afraid I made everyone wait for this as I had been busy eating and drinking and not preparing, but it turned out OK and I'm grateful for my patient guests. The Riesling divided the table. Those of us who are familiar with Riesling, and the uniqueness of Alsatian Riesling in particular, I think really enjoyed it's "petrol", floral and hints of something rubbery and spicy at the same time. A classic Riesling for me. However, some were not as fond of this, and found some of these aromatics a little off-putting. I can understand that, but I have hopes that over time they'll come around. The wine was very good, but maybe I should have decanted it earlier as Etienne later suggested during the Live Twitter, however it matched the dishes rich reduction and hints of sweetess well.

5. Hugel Gewürztraminer Vendage Tardive 2001
Match: Coconut Maccaroons [supposed to be accompanied with fruit salad]
By this stage the final train home loomed, so we missed the salad and jumped straight into the wine. Gorgeous wild flower honey richness and wonderful cleansing acidity and superb length. This was a great wine.


Once the others ran off to their train and get home in time to participate (what stamina!), Andrew and I logged in to join the simultaneous tasting across the world. I know I chatted with people across the US, Spain, South America (?) and even China (hi there StrongTiger).

We did attempt a live video chat too with Yahoo Live! which was an absolute disaster, although amusing at times as we attempted to communicate without audio using signs and whiteboards. I'll never do THAT again. Apologies to all those who were forced to listen to me alone as it seems I was the only one with working audio.

Lots of comments, feedback, differing views on wines and questions for Etienne which I think he handled pretty well considering the time delays and the occasional Twitter Fail Whale.

I will attempt to post some of the conversation here in a few days - I'm working with some friends on a solution.

A bit of chaotic fun and hopefully a bit of encouragement for readers out there to try some Alsatian wines with a variety of foods.

Twitter was a very important ingredient in this event, but not, I guess, in the way we might have expected.

Everyone wanted to experience this sort of event using Twitter, and this alone brought people on board who might not be as interested in wine alone. It also meant we could let people know about it, reach out to get more participants, build some excitement and coordinate our events. But the actual tasting on Twitter is a little too chaotic and complicated by refresh delays and limited space.

I wonder whether in future we need a separate platform alongside Twitter to conduct the Q&A section of the tasting, using Twitter to reach out to a broader audience?

Other, more personal 'learnings':
1. I need to plan the food more in advance so I can join in the conversations and not keep running away
2. We need to organise a separate UK/European edition at a more convenient time so more of our followers who cannot taste the wines themselves can follow the event
3. Mex knows EVERYONE! If in doubt, ask her for advice
4. Get more Moo cards! They are such a conversation topic of nothing else

Thank you ever so much to:
Andrew [Review 1], [Review 2]
Niamh [Review]
Lea [Review]
Kai [Review]
Annie [Review]
Sandrine [Review]
Jeremy [Review]
Lolly [Review]
James [Review]

And of course, a BIG thank you to Bin Ends Wine and Hugel & Fils for putting this event on.

See you all again soon I hope

Update 24/08/2008: I've added links above so you can read lots of other reaction from those present as well. Thanks everyone

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Twitter Live Wine Tasting - UPDATE

This is becoming very interesting!

First of all, Springwise has selected this event to be featured on its site for trend spotters and entrepreneurs everywhere.

Second, the little dinner alongside the tasting that Andrew and I were going to hold, is turning into a 5 course banquet of delicacies for a group of 5 or 6 "movers and shakers" in London's digital world. Identities are currently being protected to stop the groupies, other than mine, mobbing my front door :)

Lastly, I have found a few more sites that you might want to check out if you are thinking of joining in at all:

http://twittertastelive.com: set up by binendswine as the home of the events, presumably

Twitzu Event page: register your twitter ID here so we all know you will be taking part

1 Wine Dude's Yahoo Live! Broadcast: unlike my event, Joe Roberts will be broadcasting his dinner party and tasting live (assuming all this twittering activity does not crash the whole internet)!