A sommelier on your bedside table

I’ve let a lot of things hanging, in the last, hectic few weeks. Like writing on this blog – which will now pick up its usual pace again. Or renewing my subscription to Sommelier Journal, a very interesting and distinctive magazine aimed at a knowledgeable and/or professional readership.

I’ve found a lot of great content in the magazine, since I subscribed last October. Solid portraits of various colorful winemakers (like Gary Pisoni or Merry Edwards), interesting pieces on wine service and wine pricing in restaurants (this is a sommelier journal, isn’t it), good overviews of wine regions like Alsace and Sicily, and a very good series on wine flaws, like volatile acidity and high alcohol. The simple fact that high alcohol would be adressed as a wine flaw is, to me, reason enough to subscribe.

Of course, this is not a magazine for beginners. Even though the writing is clear and generally avoids jargon and overspecialized discussions, it does require a bit of knowledge about wine to be fully enjoyed. Which makes it an excellent read for someone like me, who’s bean reading and writing and learning about wine for years and years, or for anyone trying to push their wine-thinking skills a little further.

You can check out a selection of free access articles on the web site, by browsing through the archive. Reading back through them, I’m wondering more and more about why I let my subscription lapse. I’ll take care of that right away.

Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 8:26 am  Comments (2)  
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When Robert Parker can’t get his facts (or his ethical guidelines) straight

I was appalled and incensed, Friday evening, when I read a post by Robert Parker himself on the eRobertParker forum. I don’t often agree with Mr Parker’s taste, but I do have respect for what he’s accomplished and for the energy he’s put into advocating wine.

I’ve lost a lot of that respect, now, after an attack he has made on wine bloggers and on the Wine Bloggers Conference and those who organized it. And it’s not a question of opinion. Even as he accuses wine bloggers of spreading falsehoods, Mr Parker has evidently not even bothered to check any facts on what he states in his forum post.

Let me quote him. (more…)

Blog rankings: what a Wine Blogging Wednesday can do for your blog.

I got contacted, last week, by the folks at information portal Wikio, asking me if I wanted to have a chance to post an exclusive preview of the new rankings for top food and wine blogs compiled at the end of March. I’d come up over 30 spots since the previous rankings, they said, so they figured I would probably be happy to toot my horn a bit.

Sure, I said, why not, all the while keeping in mind the limitations in blog rankings that others have previously pointed to. Now, technical issues kept me from getting the rankings in time to write my “exclusive” post on time, and now the new rankings are out for March, and I’ve gone up from 111th rank in January to 61st in February to a smashing 27th place in late March.

Woohoo, right? Weeeeellll…

The key things you have to keep in mind about this ranking are that, first, it works on an opt-in basis (The Pour, Vinography, Fermentation and many other popular blogs are not in the list because they haven’t linked up to Wikio) and that, second, it works on the basis of links, rather than traffic per se. “The position of a blog in the Wikio ranking depends on the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs.”, it says at the bottom of the page, adding that how recent these links are is also a factor.

Now, what did I do in February and March? I hosted the 55th Wine Blogging Wednesday, on a theme called North vs South. This collective wine tasting event is very popular, meaning that several wine bloggers always relay what the new theme is, and that the dozens who actually take part then link to your blog as they post their contribution on the theme in question. So that makes for a lot of links over these last two months, for me.

Same kind of thing happened to David McDuff, who hosted WBW 54, about Piedmont, and whose blog climbed all the way up to 12th place before falling back a bit to 19th place last month. I expect to start slipping back down next month. No regrets or surprises: it’s perfectly normal that less people will link to my blog next month, compared to the central blogging event that is Wine Blogging Wednesday. WBW brought me a lot of traffic, and I’ll only keep part of it on a recurring basis, as is always the case when something makes your traffic stats spike suddenly.

So what does that do for me? Well, judging from my stats, it has brought me some extra traffic. So thanks, Wikio. But am I the 27th most read and most important blog on the Internet? No way. I just had a really good couple of months, thanks to the WBW.

A Dash of Economics With Your Wine?

Just a quick word to share a site I’ve been reading with great interest over the last couple of weeks. It’s called The Wine Economist, and it’s written by Michael Veseth, a professor of International Political Economy at the University of Puget Sound – which is obviously near one of the West Coast’s most interesting wine regions.

The blog is full of interesting articles about how the various roads that wine takes from the vine to your glass. Recently, he’s talked about the effects of the exchange rate on the price of wine in the United States and on the domestic market for American wines, and about a series of trades, buyouts and acquisitions by wine giants such as Constellation, The Wine Group, Ascentia and Fosters.

It’s insightful, well-researched and original in that it offers a point of view too rarely seen as we discuss the aromas of green pepper and grapefruit in sauvignon blancs or which bottle of 2005 Bordeaux we’re getting en primeur.

Why do wines tend to taste one way or the other? It may, in part, have to do with what The Wine Economist is discussing. It’s a worthwhile read, in any case.

Wine Bloggers, getting (it) together

There are a lot of conversations going on on the internet, a lot of communities coming together through blogs and Web 2.0 sites, a lot of people talking and learning about subjects of common interests through social media. But in the end, there is nothing yet that can truly replace face to face meetings and live conversation.

This is why, in August and October, there will be not one but two Wine Blogger Conferences that will allow wine bloggers from around Europe and the Americas to come together and discuss issues that matter to them and to the wine world. Oh yeah. And to taste wines and have great meals together – something that still can’t really be done over the Internet.

The first one, (more…)

Wine on the air: time for the barbecue

Last week, I got an invitation from Sharman Yarnell, host of Showtime, a Saturday morning show on Montreal station CJAD, to talk about summer wines and, more specifically good wines for the barbecue. Sharman was charming and fun to work with, and I certainly hope to do it again some time. I have to say it’s always nice, when you’re blogging, to reach towards other media. And I’ve always loved doing radio.

I put together a list of accessible wines that could come in handy for the grilling season (more…)

A glimpse at the WineCreators

Little has filtered, as of yet, about what went on at the incredibly ambitious WineCreator meeting that was held in Ronda, in Jérez country, last weekend. Yet a lot of people are surely curious about knowing what the “greatest” minds in winemaking and wine journalism came to discuss during this ” tribute to creativity in a world where the signs of globalisation are becoming increasingly evident”.

Jancis Robinson, a key participant in the meeting, (more…)

Oh, I almost forgot. The awards are in.

Though they generated a fair bit of discussion, about whether or not they were representative and valid, the American Wine Blogging Awards were announced this week by Fermentation blog’s Tom Wark. I have to congratulate Alder Yarrow for the two awards won for his blog Vinography, well-deserved indeed. I’m also glad about Tablas Creek’s Winery blog Award for… best winery blog: I started getting interested in Jason Haas’ blog after a really great post about the great cork debate, and have been a fan since (the wines are pretty great too).

No award process is perfect, but after reading Tom Wark’s discussion of the whole thing, I have to say the AWBA seem about as good as it can get, for a world as fluid as wine blogging. Points were awarded both for public vote and for judge’s votes, nominations were open to the public, while the finalists were selected from this open list by the judges. Could the Awards be improved upon? Probably. Should they be back next year? Tom Wark seems to be hesitating (perhaps from all the criticism), but I certainly think it would be worth it.

Published in: on April 4, 2008 at 11:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Are you open? I’m open

Through discussions with Doug Cook, the creator of AbleGrape, the only search engine devoted to the world of wine (more on that great project later), I’ve come to know a fast-growing community of wine people called the OpenWine Consortium. It’s at the junction between industry forums, wine blogs and something like Facebook, with friends and groups and all.

Lots of good information rolling around the site, from links to the European Wine Blogger Conference 2008, to very interesting discussions of wine issues and wine terms, like “rustic“, an adjective that can be read as positive or negative, and which was very interestingly commented on by a number of OWC members. Me, I’ve always read it as a positive, and associated it to sangiovese wines, especially chianti.

Where is the consortium heading? Hard to tell, as the membership is growing so fast. The way it balances out between wineries, bloggers, wine-related companies and, well, everything else, has not reached maturity yet. Only time will tell if it’s like a good wine, and will get better with age.

Published in: on March 27, 2008 at 1:04 am  Comments (2)  
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Got your nose insurance?

Château de la Garde owner Ilja Gort won’t take any chances with his wines and the nose that helps him put them together. He just got his nose insured for 5 million euros (about 8 million dollars, US or CDN). He says he got worried after reading a story about a man who had lost his sense of smell after a car accident.

If you ask me, I think he also saw how much media attention the story about the smell-less man got, and figured he could get a lot of visibility from that move. Which can probably help him pay his premiums.

Needless to say, the story quickly made the rounds of just about every newspaper from Albany, NY to India,  every wine blog and media web site.

The one who must be feeling bad about all this is Robert Paker, whose nose is insured for a paltry one million dollars. I’m just wondering if he’ll be calling  his insurance company to have the policy reviewed… I’m also wondering what Château de la Garde’s Parker scores are. I mean, for eight million, you should be making 90s at least, right?