Until a little over a week ago, I’d never had a one hundred and eleven year old wine before.
And when heading out to dinner in downtown Chicago, I hadn’t expected to run into a wine that was celebrating it’s eleventy-first birthday; I mean, does anyone ever expect to run into anything celebrating 111 years on planet Earth, apart from Bilbo Baggins when you’re cracking open The Fellowship of the Ring for, like, the eightieth time? (C’mon closet LoTR geeks… you know you’ve done it…)
The scene of the crime (those words have probably started a lot of stories about Chicago…) was the new (by downtown Windy City standards) steak joint Benny’s Chop House, whose wine list is both extensive and, one could argue, extensively marked-up. My dinner-mates were not in the wine biz, but – luckily for me – had generosity and money to spare. Because I’d noticed, in Benny’s bar’s bountiful body of wines by the glass, a Madeira from 1900.
I’ve had Bordeaux of just about all stripes dating back to the `60s and even a classic from the `20s, and had the good fortune to taste German wines that pre-date my appearance on planet Earth from celebrated producers in celebrated vintages. But over 100 years old? That’s like the vinous equivalent of surfers chasing the 100-foot wave.
In what will come as absolutely no surprise whatsoever to wine geeks anywhere, much cajoling, begging and pleading to try the wine then ensued. Successfully, I should add!
While my past encounters with more storied wines of yore have never resulted in a formal review, my brush with this turn-of-the-century greatness – the 1900 D’Oliveiras Reserva Moscatel Madeira – is an experience available to you, since the wine can be found on the market without too much difficulty (though not for too little cash!), and so marks the first time I’m giving a formal review of a very, very old vinous soul…
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Although the conclusion implied in the title of today’s post probably seems obvious to many (i.e., a company/brand has to eventually court younger customers because older customers will not be able to buy their products forever), it’s worth providing some background (and a pertinent example), because otherwise this post would be really, really short (and god knows I’m not a fan of that – pithy, yes, but succinct, no).
Aaaaaand… I’ve got Millennial wine interaction on my mind, given the topic of this weekend’s panel discussion at the upcoming 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference…
Below is an embed of a podcast created and originally posted by the guys over at (the excellent) Wine Biz Radio, which in part covers the Nomacorc-sponsored “Marketing to the Next Generation of Wine Consumers” conference held at the CIA in Napa (here’s some of my vid from the same event – and yes, this is probably the last time I’m gonna talk about it, okay?). Listening to the WBR episode reminded me that some (probably most) wine producers and/or their PR folks still aren’t talking to Millennials in a serious way, and if they are, they likely aren’t doing it in the way that Millennials themselves would prefer.
I’m not a Millennial, so don’t take my word for it – listen to the podcast: at about the 56-minute mark, WBR host Randy and I talk to Kayla Koroush, a twenty-something Millennial who more-or-less told the entire audience during my panel at the event that she was age-profiled when visiting a winery tasting room in California. I.e., no one wanted to talk to her, take her seriously, or treat her as an educated consumer (and, therefore, a likely potential customer).
The trouble with that approach, aside from it being economically stupid prima facie, is that this particular young woman was actually a very educated consumer – she works at a winery. And she was willing to stand up and talk about her experience at an industry event attended by a few hundred people, who in turn went on to tweet, facebook-post and write about it…
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This week marks the kick-off of the 4th annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference, held (for the first time in its history) on the Right Coast (Charlottesville, VA, to be exact). And I’m excited to be attending for the fourth time.
I’m excited to see old friends. I’m excited by the fact that this year’s conference is on the East Coast. I’m excited to be moderating one of the breakout session panels. I’m excited to see who takes away the 2011 Wine Blog Awards (even though I’m a finalist for Best Overall Wine Blog, my money in that category is on Tom Wark – like Japan in the recent Women’s World Cup, he’s the sentimental fave, after all). I’m excited to see the keynote speakers and get a chance to talk to them again in person, because I can tell you from personal experience that they’re as gracious, talented and delightful a duo of wine communicators as ever walked the planet. I’m excited that every year I personally know a smaller and smaller percentage of the conference attendees. I’m excited about the whole f*cking thing.
Ok, I’m not that excited about the drive down I-95, actually. But other than that, I’m looking forward to all of it. Even the wine speed-dating stuff, if just to see which producers pull it off successfully, and which ones stumble and do the on-line equivalent of a vinous face-plant (dear wine producer participants: sorry in advance for the schadenfreude). If you’re attending, then I’m excited to meet you – even if you’re that PR guy who keeps emailing me about when I’ll try your clients’ wines (your answer, by the way: I don’t know). I’m excited to see people walking around in colonial reenactment garb… and teasing them with offers to sip whatever wine I have in my glass at the time (okay, I wouldn’t stoop that low… I think…).
I’m excited because I’m a geek, I’m in love with wine the way that I’m in love with music and almost as much as I love my daughter – and I’m about to go hang out with a supportive community of like-minded geeks for the better part of three days, in a beautiful part of the country, in an area where an historic-and-now-budding wine industry is trying to secure its footing in the national wine market.
I’m not sure it gets much better than that. Actually, I’m quite sure it doesn’t get better than that. Unless vintage port will also be poured… by lingerie models in swimwear…
But what I’m most excited about?
My past forays with VA wine have had mixed results, and there have been no shortage of people offering me but-onlys and what-ifs about those experiences. So, I’m most excited to see if those people are right – I’m most excited to see if the VA wine industry brings its A-game to this conference.
More to come from Virginia, where the proof will be in the anti-Federalist pudding…
When I agreed with South American PR firm Brandabout to join them on a wine-touring excursion to Chile and Argentina, I never expected to come back with enough material to fill a novella. But that’s more or less what happened – and that’s after shelving the idea for about five more articles from the trip.
Over the last six months or so, I’ve featured the good, the bad, the ugly, and the stunning from my South American jaunt, all with the intention of trying to provide coverage that is more personal, in-depth, and human that you might otherwise find when it comes to on-location wine coverage. While helpful in introducing you to a wine region, the tourist-angle stuff rarely gets into the nitty-gritty of what the wines – and the people – are really like, on their own turf and their own terms.
Hopefully, the stories from my travels brought you close to those kinds of insights, or taught you something new, or engendered an idea to try a wine that maybe you’ve never heard of before. Or at the very least kept your mind of your mortgage/rent payment for a few minutes and kept you from surfing porn…
Below, after the jump, are links to the entire wrap-up of coverage from that trip, along with some images that didn’t make it to full-blown articles but that I wanted to share. As always, I welcome your feedback (comments, emails, tweets, fb messages, carrier pigeon…) on what you liked/loathed/loved about the coverage!
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