Posts in the Category: blogging

Cattle judging gives food for thought

Auckland’s Royal Easter Show was the highlight of my Easter weekend mainly because it meant I was having a break from MW study, with the exams just six weeks away.

I now know more about alpacas than is healthy and have watched sheep racing competitively over hurdles a.k.a the sheeplechase!

And the size of the cows. I’ve never seen such big’uns except for on Victorian paintings of super-sized cattle. I’m not sure what they were feeding them (steroids?) but they would certainly provide plenty of rump and fillet.

The judging of the cattle was totally foreign to an urban girl like me. The formation of the horn on the Highland cattle, the ‘ease of movement’ and ‘kind eyes’ were all important to the judges. It was like getting a glimpse of another world and another language. Which got me thinking that maybe this is how the average consumer perceives the wine world. Come on, can we really smell cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush and, what does ripe acidity or fine grained tannins mean? I am as guilty as the next wine writer of this but it does make us sound pretty pretentious and excludes your average person in the street.

It’s important not to dumb down but making it seem less fluffy and more accessible would be a positive improvement. Perhaps we need to look at a different way of creating tasting notes that actually mean something to those who don’t spend all day everyday breathing wine (which, is certainly more appealing than breathing in that noxious cattle smell).

Posted in - Blog Posts & blogging & Master of Wine & New Zealand on April 26th 2011 0 Comments

Bordeaux & the closure’s debate: people power

Cork or screwcap? Synthetic or crown cap? While many producers decide to make the switch based on how it will affect the wine in the bottle, one Bordeaux producer is asking their customers what they want.

Strange as it may seem to some traditional producers, wine is ultimately about the consumer and Gavin Quinney at Chateau Bauduc seems to have cottoned on to that. Involve your customers in a major decision and it can only serve to make them more loyal to the brand.

I received an email from Gavin asking me to vote on corks vs screwcaps for their whites, reds and roses. On Baudoc’s blog,
they’ve put the main arguments up for and against both closure types so those who are not au fait with the geeky closures debate can make an informed decision.

I placed my vote, saying screwcaps for whites and rose and, corks for reds if they’re going to be laid down for a while. I admit it’s a little bit hypocritical to put your whites and pinks under one closure and then put your reds under another. It could look like a lack of faith in screwcaps. However, Bordeaux is such a traditional winemaking region, a red under screwcap is still poo-poohed.

It’s important for Bauduc to alter their bottling preparation if they are going to switch from corks to screwcaps to avoid problems of rotten egg/smelly drain syndrome a.k.a reduction.  Plus consumers in different markets should be considered. Screwcaps do have a high level of acceptance in the UK but head to the US or Japan and it’s another story. One size does not fit all.

Voting takes place until 24 January and there’s no complicated proportional representation voting system, it’s simply first past the post. Very British.

I’ll keep you updated on the big decision when it’s announced.



Posted in - Blog Posts & blogging & Bordeaux & closures & wine on January 16th 2011 0 Comments

Save us from wine ‘plonkers’

I hope you had a good Christmas and new year break tolerating your extended family admirably?  There was plenty of food and wine consumed over the festive period and I am now nursing a rather large belly for it.

At the out-laws’ house, I was rifling through the book selection over Christmas, and came across Grumpy Old Wit by Rosemarie Jarski. I’m sure it’s not meant to appeal to the under 30s but I loved it.

However, in the food and drink section, I came across a rather sad but true assessment of wine presenters by British satirist Victor Lewis-Smith.

He said: ‘I recently disovered the appropriate work for the modern brand of telly wine bores. You know, the ones who insist on telling us that “I can smell wet nappies in there and burned toast and newly mown grass and creosote and Sunday newspapers.” What better name for such a pretentious group of plonk experts than plonkers?’

Harsh but fair. Are we really this boring and out of touch with the common man? Er, yes. I guess the old cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush is a load of bollocks to most normal people. And tasting notes on twitter…please can you save me from them? There is one individual who shall remain nameless that tastes wine regularly for a New Zealand retailer and I have had to unfollow them for their boastful, boring tasting notes. Who wants to read them? Certainly not the consumer. And this is the problem…social media has opened great opportunities for the wine world but it has also uncovered yet more of Lewis-Smith’s plonkers.

Posted in - Blog Posts & blogging & twitter & wine on January 5th 2011 0 Comments

Festive Unfiltered with Mt Riley

John Buchanan, who founded Mt Riley in 1992, has some great stories of his life in the wine industry, many of which I have promised not to put into print.  In his early days, he worked at London wine merchant Rutherford, Osborne, Perkins before it was sold to Martini Rossi in the 1960’s. At that time Serena Sutcliffe MW, the head of Sotheby’s wine department was the company’s typist.  How she has climbed up the ranks…

At that time Louis Roederer was the company’s house wine and cost £3 a bottle on account. “It was an everyday plonk,” he says.

Since his days of drinking cheap Roederer, he has held a number of roles in the industry including CFO at Corbans.

Now 18 years-old, Mt Riley has 103 hectares under vine and exports 70% of its production. Buchanan’s mother was a Marlborough girl so he does have family connections to the region unlike many newcomers. However, this has its drawbacks. She was one of nine and ‘all of the relatives came out of the woodwork’ when they heard there was wine up for grabs.

His daughter, Amy, heads up marketing and her now-husband, Matt Murphy, is the winemaker. And he’s foolishly agreed to do a Christmas Unfiltered. Thanks for being a good sport, Matt…

Posted in - Blog Posts & blogging & Marlborough & New Zealand & Pinot Noir & Sauvignon Blanc & wine on December 21st 2010 0 Comments

Will Winefuture 2011 sink or swim?

Winefuture moves to Hong Kong in November 2011

I sincerely hope the second edition of this conference is better than the first, as I would have been seriously pissed off if I had spent more than 700 euro on a ticket to Winefuture in Rioja.

I also hope that the conference addresses the future rather than having allowing speakers to unabashedly promote their company – Xavier Pages, CEO at Codorniu told us about his grandfather and the history of the company for the first ten minutes before he actually got to something interesting. And while I like Stephen Spurrier his speech on the future of wine writing was a Decanter advertorial. Nevertheless he has been invited to speak again.

Similarly Mel Dick of Southern Wine and Spirits stood up and told us about a wine event in Florida experiencing great weather. Strike me down, he’s been invited back to speak too.

If Winefuture is to be a success this time, it must run on time, those speaking should have their speeches checked before they start doing a personal PR campaign, there should be some speakers who represent the future of the wine industry, and wi-fi access must be available. It’s not much to ask. Let’s hope they can get it right second time around.

Posted in - Blog Posts & blogging & Hong Kong & Rioja & Spain on November 30th 2010 0 Comments

Pink proletariat unite!

Drinker of the world unite! We are on the eve of a rosé revolution. As you can see, I have started early.

Ok, it just so happens I’m writing a piece for this week’s Herald on Sunday on rosé but I’m all for becoming a member of the pink proletariat, rising up against the red classes.

The rosé effort has been half-hearted for far too long. Many producers only started making pink as a by-product in a bid to make their reds more concentrated. By ‘bleeding off’ a proportion of the juice from the tank, this leaves a greater proportion of skins to juice. As skins are responsible for the colour and tannin, this meant great tannin and colour of the juice remaining in tank. The stuff that is bled off, ends up fermenting without any skins and thus remains pale.

Producers in Provence are a little more passionate about their pink growing grapes and vinifying them specifically for rosé. In fact, 80% of production in Provence is rosé and their pinks are the envy of the world.

There are already more than 800 people signed up to the revolution’s facebook page. There are ‘meet-ups’ planned from Adelaide to Santiago. The live tweet up takes place tomorrow at 1900 AEST – so if you’re in the UK it’ll be an early start on the bottle. If you want to join in the pink uprising, go to the Rose Wine Revolution site

I’m still not sure about these tweet-ups: people drinking wine and then discussing their tasting on the live-feed doesn’t excite me, perhaps because I find reading tasting notes as interesting as watching paint dry. However, getting people to think about rosé, attend a rosé event and view it as a category in its own right can only be a good thing. Producers should also take full opportunity to use it to raise the profile of their rosés, particularly with summer coming. So well done to Leanne de Bortoli and Steve Webber of De Bortoli wines for standing up for the pink proletariat. We have nothing to lose but our chains…or should that be livers?

Posted in - Australia & Blog Posts & blogging & New Zealand & Pinot Noir & tourism & twitter on November 28th 2010 0 Comments

Cristal ball

I have a fuzzy head. It’s no surprise – an evening with Louis Roederer and Cristal flowing will inevitably end in feeling jaded the next day. Happily, I woke up to the pleasant reality that I was now the Louis Roederer Emerging Wine Writer of the Year, which alleviated the headache – as did a couple of ibuprofen.

It was my last night in the UK before I head back to New Zealand, and the top floor of the Gherkin (or the Artichoke as my sister called it) is an amazing place to sup Champagne with 360 degree views of London town.

It was made even better when I won the Emerging Award. You work your ass off as a young freelancer to gain credibility – and make a living – and it’s great to gain acknowledgement from the industry. The £1500 prize is also helpful. I have already spent it twice over in my head.

Fellow northerners had a good night. Simon Woods walked away with the International Online Columnist of the Year and Tom Bruce-Gardyne from bonnie Scotland won the Regional title.

Other winners were…the FT’s John Stimpfig for International Wine Feature Writer of the Year, taking International Wine Website of the Year and The World of Fine Wine taking International Wine Publication of the year.

Back to NZ now with a day in Hong Kong to check out what’s happening in the Asian wine world.

Posted in - awards & Blog Posts & blogging & Champagne on September 15th 2010 0 Comments

Wine blogs: does anybody read them?

We’re all busy blogging away about wine, tweeting and recommending our wines of the week, but are consumers taking any notice?

The answer appears to be no, according to new research published by Wine Intelligence

Its research has revealed that consumers find most of their information from the supermarket shelf. It is a sad day when Tesco shelf barker has more influence on what we drink than the likes of Oz Clarke. But, probably true.

While social networking is most popular among younger wine drinkers (those between 18 and 35), Wine Intelligence has found that their interaction on Facebook, and twitter et. al. is unlikely to be about anything to do with wine. In fact, just 1 in 10 UK regular wine drinkers use social networking sites for their wine guidance two times a week or more, and only 3 in 10 UK regular wine drinkers state that they have ever used social networking sites for this purpose.

This is a disappointing figure considering the popularity of social networking, and the vast number of wine blogs.

Social media is being touted as the new way to communicate with UK wine consumers but the evidence suggests there is still some way to go. Does the UK need a Gary Vaynerchuk to set the world alight? Perhaps.

Posted in - Blog Posts & blogging & wine on July 14th 2010 0 Comments

NZ needs to be realistic about US push

The New Zealand government has finally approved funding for a New Zealand high-end initiative in the US, almost two months after I first broke the plans on– that’s politics for you.

There was a lot of back slapping on twitter yesterday, with all the Kiwis congratulating each other on the initiative, particularly the 21 wineries involved.  Indeed, government-funding of NZ$1.2 million is a welcome boost to the industry and not to be sniffed at. However, this thing isn’t even up and running and everyone’s already heralding it as the best thing since sliced bread.

The government’s target is to add NZ$50 million of additional sales in the US by 2015. Last year, New Zealand wine exports amounted to $214m, so it’s about a 20% increase in five years. That seems achievable.

However, I don’t think it’s time to get carried away. A fellow wine journalist in the US acknowledged that it was a good campaign, but every other country had a similar project – and France alone has a plethora of initiatives. Why is New Zealand’s going to be any different from the rest?

Steve Smith MW, chair of the initiative explained there was a rigorous process for getting into this ‘ultra-premium’ wine selection, of which half are Pinot Noir – not Sauvignon Blanc. “We are going to lead with Pinot Noir,” he said. “It’s a wine style that’s fashionable in the US and can compete with the best from Oregon and California.” In fact, there will only be a “few high-end Sauvignon Blancs” with the remainder coming from the aromatics, Bordeaux blends and Syrah.

The 21 wineries include Nautilus, Craggy Range, Seresin and Mt Difficulty. However, there are a number of wineries that didn’t wish to be part of the initiative, citing prohibitive costs – the wineries involved must raise $400,000 between them. Smith responded, “I would argue that for every dollar put in you get three dollars from the Government. It works out less than $5000 a wine a year so I would not say that was a valid argument.”

I hope this initiative works and it’s effective but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Posted in - Blog Posts & blogging & New Zealand & Pinot Noir & Sauvignon Blanc on June 3rd 2010 0 Comments