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Postcard From Germany: A Bike Without Wheels?

Vinted on May 22, 2009 binned in commentary, german wine, on the road

Personally speaking, I don’t believe in a Hell.  But if there is a hell, I imagine that it would strongly resemble US Airways Flight 703 from Frankfurt Germany to Philadelphia on May 21, 2009, sharing the back of the plane with about fifteen of the most obnoxious German airline passengers ever to assemble in one place for eight and half consecutive hours. 

And by “one place,” I mean directly over seat 36C, where they poured brandy into each other’s plastic cups of Coke-a-Cola and showered the passenger in between them (that’s me) with spittle as they discussed their lives at an ever-increasing volume, all the while leaning heavily on the back of my seat to ensure that I achieved as little sleep as possible.

And so that’s how my press junket to Germany, compliments of Destination Riesling, ended – in stark contrast to the wonderful people that I’d met (both winemakers, hosts, and fellow travelers) the four days prior to my return flight (which I’ve dubbed “Operation Belästigen die Amerikanischen” or “Bother the tiny American”) during which I traveled through Germany’s Rheinhessen, Pfalz, and Mosel winegrowing regions with four members of the press and a guide from the German Wine Institute.

My return trip aside (and even that was so comically bad that I started laughing about it already), I’ve returned Stateside much richer for the experience, in the level of knowledge I’ve gained about the state of German winemaking (much more to come on that in the next few days), the people I’ve met, and the intimate deep-dive tasting I’ve had with Riesling wines (some readers might recall that I picked a Rheinhessen sparkling Riesling Sekt as the #1 most interesting wine I’d tasted in 2008, and which convinced me beyond a doubt that Riesling is the most noble white wine grape variety, period)…

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The Last Word on Wine Media Ethics

Vinted on May 19, 2009 binned in commentary

Hey, wanna talk about ethics in wine media?

Chances are, if you’re in wine media, the answer is “Yes!  Please!”

If you’re not in wine media, I’m willing to bet the answer is “Huh?  Who gives a sh*t?!??”  I suspect that the population breakdown looks something like this:

So, when I title this “Last Word…,” I don’t mean it’s the final statement to end all navel-gazing debates when it comes to the ethics of covering the wine world.  I just mean that it’s the last time I’m going to touch the topic.

I do have a vested interest in all of this ethics-debating, mind you.  I was myself the target of an ethical stone or two thrown last year, and there’s been some damn fine writing lately on what constitutes ethical behavior in the world of wine coverage.  Also, in case you haven’t noticed, I do write about wine.  Sometimes.  When I’m not drinking it, I mean.

I’ve long been an advocate of moving the wine writing ethics discussions off of wine blogs and onto other forums.  Of course, in order to make that argument, I need to dredge up the topic here on my own wine blog.  The irony

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Chicks Dig Expensive Wine! (Do Women Have a Price Bias?)

Vinted on May 14, 2009 binned in commentary, wine publications

You really like my limousine

You like the way the wheels roll.

You like my seven inch leather heels

and coming to all of the shows.

But…

Do you love me?

- KISS, Do You Love Me (from Destroyer, 1976)

The American Association of Wine Economists has released another working paper, which often is great fodder for wine-related discussion, unless of course you want to talk about the wine itself.  And it might piss some women wine lovers off…

This particular working paper, No. 25, is titled “WHEN DOES THE PRICE AFFECT THE TASTE? RESULTS FROM A WINE EXPERIMENT” and details an experiment performed on approximately 130 people (average age: 29) to measure how knowledge of a price of a bottle of wine impacts people’s perception of that wine (good or bad).  The experiment gave three different scenarios to the subjects:

  1. Taste then Rate the wine with no price info. given (control).
  2. Give the Price, taste, then rate the wines.
  3. Taste the wine, give the price, then rate the wine.

There were some interesting findings from this little study, including a reinforcement of the subjective nature of tasting wine:

“Objective measures of wine quality are not easily defined, and consumer tastes with regard to wine are highly heterogeneous…”

as well as what seems like the AAWE’s obligatory dig at professional wine tasters and judges (they love to do this, I think):

“Tasters are only marginally better than a random guess at distinguishing vintage years from non-vintage years from the same vineyard, or reserve bottlings from regular bottlings from the same vineyard and year, despite very large differences in price.”

and an underscoring of a not-so-revolutionary finding that seems to have been proven for nearly any kind of marketed consumer good:

“…extrinsic information provided prior to first-hand experience with the good in question has a significant effect of how the good is experienced, whereas extrinsic information provided after the experience does not.”

WARNING: Some women may want to stop reading at this point.

The most interesting finding was the gender bias that the AAWE claims resulted during the study.

…an expensive wine gets considerably higher ratings when tasters are informed about the high price before tasting, relative to tasting “blind” – but only from female tasters. By contrast, women that taste the wine before being told the price do not assign significantly higher ratings, suggesting that once they form a first-hand opinion the attribute information has little effect.”

It seems that some women at least think that they prefer expensive wine, even if the wine they’re given is not really expensive.  In other words, Chicks dig pricey wine (even if it’s not really pricey)!

The finding is interesting but I’m guessing it would hardly prove a revelation to any guy who has ever lied to a date about the price of wine and dinner.

Now, I know what some of you guys are probably thinking.

Egads!  Does she really love me, or just my expensive wine?!??

Take heart, guys – the wine doesn’t have to really be expensive, she just needs to think that it’s expensive!

But seriously, before any wineries out there up their prices, put a picture of a shirtless hot guy on the label, and contact their marketing department to start running commercials during Desperate Housewives – you all need to know a few things about this AAWE study.

As far as I’m concerned, the study isn’t scientifically reliable, and supports no real conclusions, until such time as it’s repeated (possibly with larger & larger subject groups). Otherwise, it’s just guessing based on a very small sample size.

So – guys with deep pockets and deep cellars, don’t dump your better halves just yet.  Because chances are they are really just that – your better halves!

Cheers!

(images: hollywood-elsewhere, wine-economics.org)

Of Millennial Mistakes and Wine Blogging Blunders

Vinted on May 12, 2009 binned in best of, commentary

The latest issue of Wine Enthusiast has some advice for wineries and wine wine marketers on how to handle the next generation of wine consumers – and it’s probably wrong.

Well, it’s at least incomplete.

In the May 2009 issue of Wine Enthusiast, which I received as a sample from the recent TasteCamp East in Long Island, has an interesting article by Kathleen Buckley titled “The Millennial Effect.”  I’m not a Millennial myself, but I can appreciate the challenge that PR in general will have to overcome to engage that target market.  After all, they don’t respond to the mindless, unidirectional marketing tactics that have been the staple of the “traditional” marketing machine.

Apparently, according to the WE article, Millennials think about wine first and foremost as fun, don’t drink to get drunk, want a story and a compelling value proposition if they are to be a marketing target, and they love sparkling wine.

In my book, all of that simply means that the Millennials aren’t morons.

The advice from WE?

“Get into Social Networking.  Think Facebook… Flikr a label or Twitter a wine recommendation… If your phone does tricks, use them.”

In my book, that simply sounds like a recipe for disaster.

At least, it’s not a complete recipe for engaging Millennials about wine.

In fact, it doesn’t say anything about actually engaging wine consumers.  Twitter, Facebook, Flikr, even blogs… last time I checked, these are just tools.  If you want to engage Millennials – hell, any wine consumers for that matter – here’s some advice that you can take to the bank: actually engage us about your wine / clients / products / etc.

Yeah, it’s that simple.

In fact, if you’re in the wine world and you were serious about how to get your message across to the Millennial generation, you’d already know how to do it, because Millennials regularly give this advice away for free nearly every day. Don’t believe me?  Check out millennier.wordpress.com.

Sure, use the tools that everyone is using to engage each other, but don’t use the tools without having the desire to engage in a two-way conversation.  Otherwise, that marketing-savvy next generation of wine consumers will eat you for lunch on Twitter.

The WE article doesn’t mention much about wine blogs, but there’s plenty to talk about on that front now that Vintank, the wine and technology think-tank firm headed by Inertia Beverage founder Paul Mabray, has released their new report, titled The state of Wine Industry Social Media.

The latest Vintank report is one of the few available that has any meaningful statistics on the influence of wine blogging, and it shows that if you’re in wine PR and you’re ignoring wine blogs, you’re probably making a big blunder.

Some highlights of the Vintank report findings:

    • Every blogger that has an audience over 20 people has influence that is relevant.
    • Wine bloggers in aggregate may be more powerful than traditional online outlets.
    • According to data from Compete, the top 20 wine bloggers in aggregate have a larger audience than the Wine Spectator online.

That last one is my personal fave.

Vintank has confirmed what many have suspected for a long time, and it’s something that sponsors of events like the Wine Bloggers Conference and TasteCamp “get,” which is that wine bloggers may have small reaches individually, but collectively have a potentially enormous reach.  Ignore us at your marketing peril.

Cheers!

(images: babble.com, winemag.com, vinfolio.com)

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