Wine On The Web

Filed Under Wine Websites | Comments Off

The Wine Spectator. The Wine Advocate. Wine Enthusiast. Decanter…there is a seemingly endless array of wine magazines on the market today. To many, they are the go-to sources for information on wine and the wine world. Beyond glossy wine magazines and newsletters, there are literally thousands and thousands of wine books. You can, pretty easily, get a basic level of wine understanding by just reading a book or two. One of my favorites is Karen McNeil’s The Wine Bible.

But, over the past few years, Internet has become a premier—and free—resource for everything wine. And while the “big guys” in wine publishing—those glossy mags—all have websites (of varying quality), wine blogs are the most exciting frontier in online winedom.

A blog—short for web log is a website that is usually run by a single person (or small group) where stories are posted in a journal style and displayed in reverse chronological order. The best examples combine quality writing, passion for their subject matter and interesting commentary and/or opinion.

Things like podcasts (audio) and vlogs (video blogs) have also grown out of the blogging movement and offer unique looks at topics that range from knitting to baking to cancer to our topic today—wine. There are hundreds of wine blogs, vlogs and podcasts available online, but here are a few of my favorites.

In the video blog category, it’s hard to do it any better than Wine Library TV Tied to online wine retailer, host Gary Vaynerchuk blends down-to-earth attitude, infectious energy and a deep understanding of wine in each of his almost-daily episodes. I dare you to watch just once—it’s that addicting.

Wine blogs come in as many flavors as there are styles of wine, but for general-purpose wine information—with a healthy dose of passion that borders on obsession—visit Vinography Founded and run by San Francisco resident Alder Yarrow, Vinography represents wine blogging at its finest. There are detailed wine reviews, event information and blunt, to-the-point commentary that is always thoughtful and refreshing.

Recent winner of Best Wine Blog and Best Wine Blog Writing in the 2007 American Wine Blog Awards, Dr. Vino is published by Tyler Colman who actually is a doctor (he has a Ph D) and he definitely knows his wine. With a wide array of content, Dr. Vino is a veritable one-stop-shop if you only have time to read one wine blog. He also teaches wine classes at NYU and in Chicago.

There are also blogs that have very specialized, focused content. For instance Tom Wark’s Fermentation blog is maintained by Tom Wark, who owns and runs a PR firm in California wine country. He can always be counted on for up-to-the-minute information on various industry topics, including shipping laws, wine trends, label and branding issues and of course winery promotion and public relations. I read it every morning.

Regionally focused wine blogs are among the most interesting and useful. They cover wine regions that either go ignored—or nearly so—by larger media outlets. If you enjoy Spanish and Portuguese wines and want to learn more, check out Catavino For Italian wines, visit mondosapore, published by a former teacher in New York City. Virginia wines are gaining popularity in wine circles these days and Dezel of Virginia Vine Spot does an outstanding job bringing his local wine country to his readers.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my own blog here,, where I focus on the wines of not only Long Island but the entire state of New York. Lest you think wine blogs are yet another spot for wine snobbery, there’s even a blog for lovers of boxed wines. The Box Wine Blog, as its name suggests focuses on affordable wines that are often found in alternative packaging like boxes, cans and the like.

Again, these are just some examples of what the wine blogosphere has to offer. For a near-comprehensive list of wine blogs, visit Wine Blog Watch

By Lenn Thompson. Read more of Lenn Thompson’s posts on his blog


Alan from A Good Beer Blog sent me a link to this interesting article from the Globe and Mail entitled “Why you drink what you do (apart from the obvious reason).” The story details a research effort at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, to look into the real reasons people pick up particular wines instead of other ones.

If you find a critic whose tastes appear to align with your own, then it’s probably a safe bet that what that person recommends will also find favor with your own palate. But even then not always. It’s a pretty rare thing generally speaking, because no two people taste things in exactly the same way. We all have slightly different combinations of sensitivities and tolerances for certain smells and tastes. If you work at it, you can learn your own and adjust for them.

For example, I’m particularly sensitive to a type of oxidation that manifests itself as cattiness or simply catty. To me it stands out like cat piss — which is what I call it — and it often overwhelms a beer for me, making it hard for me to concentrate on the beer’s more positive attributes. Normally it can be detected only in levels of 55 parts per trillion, but I suspect that my own sensitivity runs higher. People I taste with regularly can even predict what I’ll say about such beers, so I constantly have to remember to play that down, if possible, because I know I’m more sensitive to that particular aroma than others often are.

But more often you’re simply drawn to certain tastes without really even knowing why. So unless and until you can identify your own peculiar preferences, it’s best to try as many different things as you can in effort to discover what you really like for yourself. The ratings can be a helpful start, but by no means should you ignore first hand suggestions or your own intuition. And to lock yourself in to only buying wine that receives a certain rating is to miss a lot of very exciting and tasty discoveries.

The article’s author, Beppi Crosariol, goes even farther when she suggests that in her experience, “people who talk loudest and dominate conversations are also far more likely to be collectors of overpriced wine.” When she wonders aloud whether or not “we really need PhD’s in lab coats to remind us the wine world is teeming with arrogant, self-appointed dictators and irrational buying behaviour,” she ultimately concludes that we do. “If you can show me another consumer product more irrationally priced than wine, I will eat my hat and wash it down with a magnum of lukewarm Hochtaler,” she continues. “Quality and price are so often in such blatant conflict in the wine world, you would do better to choose a bottle with a blindfold on than willfully empty your wallet on something you’d never tasted.” Well said. So she believes that perhaps if scientific study can reveal such prejudices as meaningless, it might “help consumers feel more comfortable about dismissing the pretentious blather of experts,” and “it would be one giant leap forward for fun, pleasure and fairer pricing.” Hard to disagree with that, I’d say.

Unfortunately, the professor conducting these experiments, Hildegarde Heymann, has her own prejudices to overcome, and she doesn’t even appear to even notice them when she says.

The subject of wine, more than that of any other consumer product, is loaded with emotional and psychological baggage. The average woman may pay scant attention to the skirt and blouse she pulls on in the morning, she says, yet ‘people will agonize over a $10 bottle of wine. They tend to take it extraordinarily personally. There is such a need by the consumer to make the right wine choice.’

Now I don’t want to speak for all women here, but most of the ones I know will in fact agonize over what “skirt and blouse she pulls on in the morning” far more than their choice of wine. I hope I’m not revealing too much when I say that my own wife often tries on several outfits before being satisfied with what’s she wearing for the day. So has almost every woman I’ve ever dated or known well-enough to know their wardrobe choices. Now that could just be me, but I tend to doubt that I’m unique in my experience that women tend to take their appearance and what they wear “extraordinarily personally.” For that matter, so do many men. So I’m already beginning to question her firm grasp on reality, and therefore my hopes for her study, when she drops the bomb.

And, Prof. Heymann adds, that is regrettable. ‘People pick up a beer without thinking about it. They should be able to pick up wine the same way.’

Okay…. Where to begin? First, that she believes that wine is the only consumer product “loaded with emotional and psychological baggage” or is loaded with the most seems almost delusional. Has she not been watching the evolution of advertising over the past century? Every single consumer good is tied to an emotional need, that’s what advertising does. Does she think people buy expensive, inefficient cars unemotionally with cool detachment? What does she think brand loyalty is, for chrissakes, if not an emotional response? An entire industry exists for the sole purpose of selling us emotions.

But, of course, that’s small potatoes compared to that second-last sentence. Let’s look at that one more time. “People pick up a beer without thinking about it.” Well, I guess Anheuser-Busch can dismantle their gargantuan advertising and marketing budgets and concentrate on making a better tasting beer. Is the good professor smoking crack? People pick up their beer of choice because of years of relentless marketing and advertising designed to get them to do just that. Hellooooo! That she honestly doesn’t appear to think people consciously — or even unconsciously — choose what beer they buy is positively baffling.

And that takes me to the title of this screed, do labels matter? Of course they do, but not just for wine. You don’t need a PhD to know that virtually every product takes the label they put on it very, very seriously. Having designed from the bottom up, several private label beers — at least one of which is still around — gave me a window into this process. We came up with names, graphics and stories and went through more versions than I care to recall. Suffice it to say it was a long and tortuous process. So I view labels much differently now than I once did. For example, almost all labels change, even the ones you don’t think do. Most large companies are constantly tweaking and updating their labels and packaging in order to stay competitive and stand out on the shelf. If you don’t do that, people will lose interest and no longer have a reason to pick up their products.

If you look at a major label — Budweiser or Heineken is good for this — from year to year, you’ll see that minor changes occur all the time. Because they’re well-established brands, they don’t overhaul them in one go, but if you look at them in ten year increments, you’ll see that they have actually changed quite a bit over time. For less well-established brands, it’s usually a good idea to redo your packaging from top to bottom every two to three years so — okay, I hate this buzzword, too — that it remains “fresh.” It is well-known that there are many people who buy both beer and wine based on the label. It’s hardly a secret, it’s why companies put so much effort into their design. So finding out what it is about labels that makes one more palatable than another is certainly of interest, but it’s the other, less well-known factors that I think most people in the business will be interested to learn.

But in the end, I’m still not sure what to make of her last statement, that people “should be able to pick up wine the same way.” By “same way,” she means, of course, “without thinking about it.” Now why on Earth is that how people should buy anything, much less wine? I don’t know about you, or the rest of Canada, but I actually want to think about which beer, wine or whatever that I buy. I find I don’t usually make good choices if they’re mindless. I find that thinking about what I want often leads to my getting exactly that — what I want. Why shouldn’t the choices I make about what to drink, what to eat or even what to wear be personal? If not personal, what would they then be? Wouldn’t impersonal choices lead to drinking, eating and wearing exactly the same thing? That’s certainly not the world I want to live in.

I certainly like the idea of looking into the reasons people choose what they do. It’s a fascinating topic, to me. But I’m befuddled by the concluding idea that the goal of the research is to remove the thinking from choosing. Having personal choices and emotional ones at that, is one of the things that makes us human. If they were all the same, we’d all be the same. Think Globally, Drink Locally, but whatever you do, keep thinking. Vive la Différences.

By Jay Brooks, Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Enjoy The Show!

Filed Under Wine Label Design | Comments Off

A few years ago I got a project to design a wine label. When I went to my local high-end wine shop I was surprised at the lack of creativity being displayed on wine labels. In a market so saturated I would have thought that entrepreneurs would want to stand out. Instead they all wanted to look like one another.

In the last few years, companies have definitely been branching out and exploring their own styles. An excellent example of out-of-the-box thinking are winemakers The Three Thieves who have partnered with American icon, Nashville’s Hatch Show Print for the brand’s new release: The Show. Hatch posters and colourful designs have been a staple of the American entertainment landscape for more than 125 years. If you wanted to fill seats, Hatch got the job done.

I love how they incorporate the whole label into the design and bleed the of funky blue design in the background - it really draws you in. The Show adds yet another dimension to the sometimes stuffy world of wine. Go take a look at the three thieves video. Here’s one show that will grab your attention!

Source: design muse

According to founders Jean J. Evrard and Brigitte Evrard, Pentawards is the first and only worldwide competition exclusively devoted to packaging design in all its forms. It is open to everybody in all countries who are associated with the creation and marketing of packaging. The winners will receive bronze, silver, gold, platinum or diamond Pentawards according to the creative quality of their work.

Creations from the world over will be jugged by a jury, itself international, who will select the winners in accordance with the creative quality of the work submitted.

Pentawards is beginning its first year of existence with packaging created or produced in 2006, but intends to do all that is necessary to achieve rapid success and ensure a bright future.

Apart from prize-giving, Pentawards’ mission is the promotion of packaging design with companies, the press, the economic and political authorities and the public in general, throughout the world.

By participating in Pentawards, you will have the opportunity of comparing your creations with others from all over the world, and you will have the possibility of winning a prestigious award which will allow you to demonstrate your creativity and expertise.

Furthermore, you will be helping to enhance the reputation of your profession.

An international survey of wine e-commerce websites conducted by Bordeaux Business School has named its top three best performing sites, with the US site coming out on top.

The study, compiled from the views of 2,800 internet users from seven countries, looked at a broad range of factors to reach its conclusions, including the usability, design and content of the site, and the range of wines offered. The results were announced at Vinexpo in Bordeaux last Wednesday. came in first, with the French site in second place. Third prize went to the UK site

Grégory Bressolles, Professor of Marketing at the Bordeaux Business School, and the organiser of the survey, said: “In a sector where market information remains highly confidential, this study sheds new light on the internet wine market, and the key factors that bring success in this means of distribution.”

Bressolles says that in e-commerce, those involved are hungry for figures, but the main players remain tight-lipped about the profitability of their activities. He says it’s clear that there are key factors that bring success to e-commerce sites, and these are jealously guarded by professionals. Simply building a website is no guarantee of success.

Bressolles was able to help with some figures, explaining that the sale of wine online is growing at about 30% per annum. Although it may only account for about 5% of total wine sales, wine e-commerce is now worth 100 million euros in France each year, and just under 2 billion euros worldwide.

In France, there are three companies, according to the Bordeaux Business School, which have a turnover of more than 5 million euros: (14.7 million euros), (9.4 million euros), and (5.5 million euros).

As a result of the study, the organisers have put together a list of key elements that bring a successful wine e-commerce site, and the profile of the average internet wine buyer.

Typical buyer

A man aged over 35, with a fairly high level of education, and a higher than average income. He is reasonably knowledgeable about wine, and his main motivation for buying is to enjoy a good wine over a meal with friends.

Key website elements

Information: detailed and clear information on each wine offered, with tasting notes, descriptions of regions and terroir, and food matching suggestions.

Wine Range: Keep updating and refreshing the list of wines, and offer a broad price range of wines and wines with differing characteristics. Allow sales of single bottles.

Design: Use modern multimedia tools like video and animation to convey information clearly and logically.

Usability: Make their visit easy, and offer a friendly face. Offer plenty of different means of searching (by colour, price, region, variety, etc.)

Security: Offer different means of payment and reassure the buyer with bank logos, etc. Make your policy clear about the use of customers’ personal information.

Interactivity: Make it easy for visitors to ask questions about wine. Allow people to track the delivery of their wine. Provide tailored newsletters, and offer extra services to loyal customers.

Building trust: Publish stock levels in real time. Offer different means of delivering the wine. Offer a proactive customer service policy in the case of breakages or late arrival.

Source: Drinks International

By: Richard Ross.

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