Yeah, You Are Drinking Some F–king Merlot, Actually (Talking Merlot With IntoWine.com)

Merlot: “Stop picking on me, beeeeaaaatches!”

It’s been nearly fifteen years since a flippant diatribe that disparagingly mentions Merlot came from the mouth of Miles, the main protagonist in the film Sideways (based on the book of the same title by Rex Pickett).

That off-hand and NSFW comment had the unfortunate – and lasting – side-effect of sending U.S. Merlot sales into the toilet; so much so that I had been told over the years by many PR, marketing, and winemaking professionals that they either stopped putting the word Merlot on their labels (or at least  considered it).

But a funny thing happened roughly ten years after Sideways was released in theaters: consumers seemed to stop caring, and instead started to enjoy the fact that Merlot represented one of the best red wine bargains available. Of course, that didn’t stop the media at large from being late to the reporting party when it came to the “Sideways effect.” But whatever.

I mention this brief Merlot sales history lesson because for the past few years October has been declared the #MerlotMe month, in an attempt to bring renewed interest in the much maligned Merlot, and my friend Michael Cervin has quoted me in an article he recently penned for IntoWine.com that takes a closer look as all of the above, and whether or not f–king Merlot even needs its own f–king month. In that article, I basically state that “The Sideways effect has never been as outdated as it is at this moment.”

Look, here’s the scenario with Merlot, people: You can find better (i.e., cleaner, fault-free, varietally-correct, tasty) Merlot at every price point now, and in some cases (particularly in South America) at prices that have better quality-to-price ratios than ever before. While you have to pay larger bucks for the transcendent stuff (Michael rightly suggests La Jota Vineyard Co.’s Merlot as an example), you can still find excellent incarnations in the $30-ish range (another of Michael’s picks, L’Ecole No. 41 Estate Merlot, fits that bill, and makes a good argument for considering Merlot as Washington state’s second best red fine wine grape after Syrah). Even the last five years have seen better Merlot samples cross my critic-lips than ever before.

In other words, despite the temporary corrections afforded by the Sideways effect, Merlot is now exactly like every other f–king fine wine grape in the world.

Merlot is no longer an exception, and it’s high time we stopped acting like it is.

Cheers!

Grab The 1WineDude.com Tasting Guide and start getting more out of every glass of wine today!

Shop Wine Products at Amazon.com

Copyright © 2016. Originally at Yeah, You Are Drinking Some F–king Merlot, Actually (Talking Merlot With IntoWine.com) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine And Politics: A Clarification

image: Facebook.com

My friend, fellow wine competition judge, and colleague (sorry, bro!) Michael Cervin recently asked me to offer up a comment or two (I agreed to do so on the record) for a piece he was writing for The Tasting Panel magazine, focusing on how (or if) political leanings impacted the wine business.

Michael published a screenshot of his interesting and well-written piece, which includes quotes from other people that I know and respect in the wine industry, and so I am also including it here (above) under the assumption that it’s okay to share.

I am quoted in the article as basically saying that I don’t think about anyone’s politics when it comes to wine, and that I happen to fine wine-industry-types among the more level-headed and reasonable folk when it comes to debating politics in a civil manner. Reflecting back on it, this isn’t entirely accurate, so I felt that I should include a clarification (or two, or three, knowing me), because, well, we live in some heated times when it comes to all of this political sh*t…

While I am quite vocal about being a non-affiliated, informed U.S. voter, with fiscally conservative and socially progressive leanings, I generally keep politics out of wine reviews. I mean, if you vote for fiscally irresponsible policies, for example, and your wine is great, I am going to ignore your (in my opinion misguided) political bent, and focus on the great juice being made.

I have my limits, however.

If someone is making great wine but happens to espouse unabashedly bigoted, racist, misogynistic, fascist, and/or Nazi-esque views, I’m going to ignore your wine. And that’s because there is simply too much excellent wine being made by respectful, hardworking, good people – conservative, liberal, centrist, what-have-you – who, while they have varying political leanings, don’t ever devolve their beliefs or stances into hate. Simply put, the world can get along just fine without wine being made by people who are acting like assholes, and I think that there are, in fact, clear lines that delineate acceptable from non-acceptable behavior in that regard.

As I’ve said here previously on similar matters:

The wine business is competitive enough that no one in their right mind would buy a wine, regardless of how good it is, if it comes with a large side order of douchebagery.

Now, there is no doubt that, as of the time of this writing, the USA is in the throes of one of its greatest ever political crisis, in the form of rampant partisan posturing that has become the very definition of harum-scarum, internecine infighting, to the point that the general populace have ceased to matter much to their elected officials. The sad fact is that not enough of us are voting to outweigh the influence of lobbyists, who, coupled with a vocal, misinformed minority of constituents, are effectively forcing minority viewpoints into law.

There is, of course, a quite simple and easy remedy to this, thanks to the forethought of some rather clever individuals a couple of hundred years ago.

In the USA, our political system was founded by a group of true geniuses, who understood that the mechanisms of checks/balances, compromise, and argument would move our country forward (albeit in a zigzag) if we maintain our respect, and our beliefs in the republic and in those systems.

I retain those beliefs, and so, I would argue, should you (voting not just in the traditional sense, but also with your dollars, in a tolerant, understanding, and respectful way). NO one is coming to rescue you – that’s your job; you need to vote as if your future depends on it, because it quite literally does.

Cheers!

Grab The 1WineDude.com Tasting Guide and start getting more out of every glass of wine today!

Shop Wine Products at Amazon.com

Copyright © 2016. Originally at Wine And Politics: A Clarification from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Aces In The Hole (A Nizza DOCG Deep-dive For MyNameIsBarbera.com)

image: MyNameIsBarbera.com

The latest article in my storytelling Monferrato journey is now available over at MyNameIsBarbera.com, and in it we take a deeper dive directly into the terroir (and I mean down to the dirt level!) of the venerable Nizza DOCG.

Those of you who have been following along with my Northern Italian antics might recall that we already compared Nizza Barbera wines to James Bond, and I need to warn you that I inject that comparison with a healthy dose of prose steroids in this most recent piece. You have been warned.

What I didn’t have opportunity to dig into during the penning of this article was the specifics of my personal experience with older Nizza wines, which came via the excellent talents (and, thankfully, well-stocked wine library) of the venerable Tenuta Olim Bauda. I close with a handful of pics from my 2016 visit to that beautiful estate, ostensibly to increase whatever jealous rage I’ve already induced by mentioning the library tasting (warning, cute winery-dog-eating-grapes included)…

Aces In The Hole (A Nizza DOCG Deep-dive For MyNameIsBarbera.com) Aces In The Hole (A Nizza DOCG Deep-dive For MyNameIsBarbera.com) Aces In The Hole (A Nizza DOCG Deep-dive For MyNameIsBarbera.com) Aces In The Hole (A Nizza DOCG Deep-dive For MyNameIsBarbera.com)

Cheers!

Grab The 1WineDude.com Tasting Guide and start getting more out of every glass of wine today!

Shop Wine Products at Amazon.com

Copyright © 2016. Originally at Aces In The Hole (A Nizza DOCG Deep-dive For MyNameIsBarbera.com) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Dropping The Mic On Online Wine ROI (TMRW Engine’s 2016 Digital Wine Report)

image: TMRW Engine

So much of the material upon which 1WD was built consists, essentially, of opinion pieces (in fact, four or five years ago I sat on a panel focused specifically on opinion writing alongside Lettie Teague and Jon Bonne, about which I imagine both of whom are still scratching their heads).

But over the years, I’ve tempered (well… by my standards, anyway) the opinion-heavy pieces here in favor of conclusions that can be drawn from data. The older that I get, the more I want to see opinion bolstered by something other than the biased, fallible memories of people’s experiences (including my own).

Which is why I get royally pissed at the the wine world’s penchant for defaulting to the data-devoid opinions of entrenched personalities, particularly when it comes to denying the return on investment (ROI from here on out) of wine online (usually with the concept of social media directly in the cross-hairs).

While it seems common sense that their must be at least some ROI for wine brands in talking directly with their consumers (which is part and parcel of what social media online can catalyze), remember that data trump opinions, even when those opinions align perfectly with common sense.

Fortunately, the wine world now has some compelling data that demonstrate a plausible link between online social interactions and ROI. Yes, in terms of real people actually spending real money on wine

The data come to us via the 2016 Digital Wine Report, an effort by TMRW Engine (a sort of successor to Vintank), Vin65, Wine Direct, and W2O Group. I’ve been given access to the full report, and there’s too much great information in it to distill into a single blog post (even one as long as I’m apt to write). However, we can focus on the mic-dropping, money-shot ROI portion, which is a manageable load (see what I did there?… sorry…).

First, here’s why the results of the report matter; the volume of data analyzed is significant (when I asked Paul Mabray about the timeline of the data, he estimated that the majority of it spans five years):

Dropping The Mic On Online Wine ROI (TMRW Engine’s 2016 Digital Wine Report)

image: TMRW Engine

 

Second, the methodology employed for distilling the data looks pretty legit:

Dropping The Mic On Online Wine ROI (TMRW Engine’s 2016 Digital Wine Report)

image: TMRW Engine

Here’s the statistical breakdown from the report, for the more geekily-inclined among you:

“To understand customers and brands, we analyzed the interactions that wine customers were having with wine brands on every major social channel. Using TMRW Engine, we were able to put a dollar value against customer engagement on social. Findings were synthesized based on results observed from Pearson correlations, linear multiple regressions, and non-parametric Mann-Whitney U, and Kolmogrov-Smirnov tests”

Good so far? Ok, let’s talk about the why for a second. Ok, more like for a minute. Or three.

I’ve long said that when it comes to wine, we live in the single most competitive time in the centuries-long history of the product. The TMRW Engine report does a nice job of summarizing the particularly thorny challenge that this competition represents:

“There is NO OTHER consumable consumer good product that has wine’s level of selection. This competition will continue to grow as the US adds more wineries (we now exceed over 8500 US wineries and approximately 17K US brands) and as the industry is seen as an inviting target for foreign wineries/brands due to our continual consumption and growth.”

In other words, if you have wine to sell, it’s very, very, very difficult to get that wine noticed. And, not to throw our wine biz friends into a deeper pit of depression, it’s not going to get any easier according to TMRW:

“The top 5 wholesalers in the US (Southern, Glazers, Republic-National, Charmers, and Youngs) together have revenues of roughly $23 Billion… So to put that in context, that means that to get meaningful distribution, over 150K products are vying for meaningful mindshare from 2-5 wholesalers per state who also sell beer, liquor, and other items.”

If you want to get noticed in that level of competitive mess, you either need a billion-dollar marketing budget, or you’d better be good at guerilla marketing. Actually, one could argue (god knows that I have) that guerilla marketing is one of the only viable tactics available to small wine brands, and the use of social media is, essentially, guerilla marketing.

This is why the results of the TMRW Engine report are, for me, so compelling; their analysis of all of that online social wine-related data showed the following juicy tidbits:

Dropping The Mic On Online Wine ROI (TMRW Engine’s 2016 Digital Wine Report)

image: TMRW Engine

Put another way, if you do social right when it comes to wine, you do, in fact, sell more wine. Customers who engage with wine brands on social media even in amounts as small as ONE interaction can see that customer uptick their sales.

Now, more work would need to be done on all of these findings to get any deeper insights into causalities and the quality of the interactions, including which ones work best, etc. The report suggests as much:

“If brands seek to effectively leverage social as a marketing tool for increasing customer value, wine brands need to engage 1:1 with their customers in order to cultivate deep engagement.”

But the bottom line – and it’s an exciting one, especially for smaller brands – is that engaged online wine customers spend more money on wine.

I repeat: THEY SPEND MORE F*CKING MONEY and the spend it BUYING F*CKING WINE.

I suppose that the lesson here is that any wine brand that doesn’t want to see an uptick in spending for the general online wine-buying populace should remain dismissive when it comes to the ROI potential of social outreach.

Have fun with that, guys.

Cheers!

Grab The 1WineDude.com Tasting Guide and start getting more out of every glass of wine today!

Shop Wine Products at Amazon.com

Copyright © 2016. Originally at Dropping The Mic On Online Wine ROI (TMRW Engine’s 2016 Digital Wine Report) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Why You Should Care When The Clock Strikes Wine O’Clock (Thoughts On The Enolytics 2016 Report)

My first reaction to the recently-published study/synopsis on “Wine O’Clock” issued by the new firm Enolytics:

Well… yeah… no sh*t!

My second reaction to the recently-published study/synopsis on “Wine O’Clock” issued by the new firm Enolytics:

Wait… holy crap! This is actually important (and I am an idiot)!

At first blush, you might have the same misguided reaction to the report that I did (following the link above, you can read the free version; the full report will set you back $399). Essentially, the study suggests that wine consumers are most willing to engage in content and purchase research about wine during the time that you would most likely guess that they’re drinking the stuff. To wit, here’s a screen-print from the free version of the report:

image: enolytics.com

There you go; we ramp up on such activity from about 4-5PM to 9PM, local time. I don’t know about you, but if you asked me when Wine O’Clock was, I’d have guessed those exact times with an accuracy of about 30 minutes on either side. The report goes on to state:

“Wine consumer engagement increases sharply beginning at 4pm and declines sharply after 9pm (local time).”

So… we start engaging about wine when we imagine drinking the stuff right before dinner, and stop when we are either too drunk to care, need to put the kids to bed, or fall into a stupor of self-loathing and cry ourselves to sleep, etc.

Now, before you succumb to the temptation to declare “no shit!” and pour yourself a glass (assuming it’s around 4PM local time), there’s more to this story that you need to see. Take a quick peek under the kimono of the Wine O’Clock report, and (assuming it’s closer to 4PM local time for you than 9PM, and you’re still sober enough), you’ll see why it’s actually pretty important info. for the wine world…

  • Let’s start with what makes the study scientifically legit: it has statistics on its side. 2.06 million first-party data points from the Hello Vino app’s 2.1 million wine consumer user-base. While that isn’t perfect, no data set is, and so it makes sense statistically to go with what is technically the most-downloaded wine app if you want a wide U.S. data set.
  • Next, the data set itself is based on what wine consumers are doing organically, utilizing “data records generated by consumers using the Hello Vino app to research and catalog wine purchases.” So, this is studying the natives in their natural habitat, so-to-speak, without the potential influence of an obvious study.
  • Finally, the importance of the Wine O’Clock report for wine-biz types is best explained by the self-stated goal of the study by Enolytics (emphasis is mine): “Wine O’Clock identifies the specific daily and hourly time-frames of consumers’ peak engagement with wine-related content and purchase research activity.”

So… you’ve got a native data set that is geographically broad and deep in terms of volume (so, it’s statistically relevant in terms of drawing conclusions from it), and you’ve got a window into when consumers are naturally engaging in activities that could lead them to purchases. If you’re a researcher of consumer behavior, that’s a pretty damned good starting point.

I see three useful implications from this study:

  1. Anyone trying to market to wine consumers organically (and hey, wine-biz folks, you are trying to do this, right?!??) now has an inexpensive window into some of the best times to potentially influence individual wine research and purchase decisions,
  2. Wine consumers can expect wine marketing types to start to ruin their Wine O’Clock with ill-suited, boorish attempts at applying outdated/inappropriate marketing schemes online and in-app,
  3. Those who are already seeing positive results from consumer outreach in social media and wine app communities have an opportunity to totally kill it (in a good way, I mean) by applying those same approaches in targeted local time-frames during “Wine O’Clock.”

I seriously hope that we see more of #3 than of #2, but… well… sadly, we have the entire history of all marketing in all disciplines to prove us wrong, don’t we?

Cheers!

Grab The 1WineDude.com Tasting Guide and start getting more out of every glass of wine today!

Shop Wine Products at Amazon.com

Copyright © 2016. Originally at Why You Should Care When The Clock Strikes Wine O’Clock (Thoughts On The Enolytics 2016 Report) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

You’re Welcome (Hangover Prevention At Fix.com)

image: fix.com

You’re welcome.

No, seriously, you’re going to thank me later. Because my latest for Fix.com, titled How to Avoid a Hangover, is now live, and reading it just might save you some future pain.

What I found most fascinating in researching our collective attempts at trying to both prevent and stem the effects of hangovers is that, despite some heroic scientific efforts, we have moved the bar very little distance on the matter over the last one hundred years or so.

That apparent lack of progress isn’t attributable to poor science so much as it is the work of evil spirits bent on causing us pain and suffering. Er, actually, it’s a reflection of the complex chemical processes involved when our bodies imbibe (and imbibe, and imbibe, and imbibe…) and process alcohol. If, as Socrates supposedly said, true knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing, then we are inching closer to True Knowledge when it comes to hangovers.

Anyway, Fix.com’s excellent visual take on the results of my research are available below after the jump. Just in time for the weekend…

You’re Welcome (Hangover Prevention At Fix.com)
Source: Fix.com

Cheers!

Grab The 1WineDude.com Tasting Guide and start getting more out of every glass of wine today!

Shop Wine Products at Amazon.com

Copyright © 2015. Originally at You’re Welcome (Hangover Prevention At Fix.com) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine Blogging Is Dead! Again! Long Live Wine Blogging!

Tom Wark recently asked me to chime in for an article he was considering for his blog, on the topic of whether or not interest in wine blogs was waning. I offered my views, some of which are quoted in his thoughtfully-considered piece.

Alive, though maybe not totally well (image: Grape Collective)

As to whether or not I agree with Tom that wine blogging has “died without a funeral,” I think we first have to ask ourselves if wine blogging is inherently different from other niche blogging topics. If we accept that it isn’t (in the same way that, say, DVRs aren’t inherently different from one another – they all basically do the same thing at the core, which is record broadcast video media), then Tom is also asking if niche blogging is dead.

To which I would say, No, it’s not dead.

This is the kind of question that gets posed periodically (go ahead, search it) when we see dynamic informal institutions, like online communities, do what they do, which is change (wait, you really expected this stuff to stay static forever? duuuuuude…. wtf?!??).

We shouldn’t mistake community maturation and the movement of engagement discussions from blog comments to Facebook, Instagram, etc., as a lack of interest in the sharing amateur content about wine (which is what blogs inherently are about – sharing info and opinions). Just because one outlet (longer form blog posts) isn’t as popular as another (image-centric, short updates on larger social media platforms) doesn’t mean that people no longer care about the core thing: sharing wine online.

They do care. A lot. There is no lack of interest in sharing content about wine (to wit: see just about any recent stat from Vintank on online wine mentions). And where that content is being shared, influence and money (in terms of what people who read and participate in those updates and discussion will buy) will often follow (though, maddeningly, in ways that are difficult to track, but that’s not the fault of the platforms themselves).

Anyway, if wine blogging is actually dead, then someone forgot to send that memo to Grape Collective, you also recently quoted me in dear-gawd-TMI-bro! fashion when they interviewed me for their “SpeakEasy interview series with influential bloggers.”

I’m not dead yet! I think I’ll go for a walk!

Cheers!

Grab The 1WineDude.com Tasting Guide and start getting more out of every glass of wine today!

Shop Wine Products at Amazon.com

Copyright © 2015. Originally at Wine Blogging Is Dead! Again! Long Live Wine Blogging! from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Get Screwed This Winter (Publix Grape Winter 2015)

Get Screwed This Winter (Publix Grape Winter 2015)

image: Publix Grape

Just a quick hit to let you know that the Winter 2015 edition of Publix Grape Magazine should soon be available (if not already), and that I’ve once again penned the In Focus section (as well as some other items in that issue).

This time, In Focus focuses on screwtop closures, with some insights from irrepressible Bonny Doon winemaker Randall Grahm. It gets into the background history of both cork and screwcap closures, and that research, for me, was always the most fun part of that Grape Mag gig.

I write “was” because, alas, Winter 2015 is the last printed edition of Grape, which will be moving to an online/email publication titled Publix Wine Program. As they say in Jolly Ol’ England, I’ve not heard a dickie bird about whether or not I will a part of that new program, and I’ve no details on if/how the traditional Grape content will be changing, apart from what’s been published publicly on the Publix website (sorry!).

I’ll miss the gig; it was a blast. And it had some seriously sweet food porn photos in it, too. I find at these moments, it’s best to look back with gratitude on having been a part of the experience for so long, and having the opportunity to work with such professional people. And to drink sparkling wine… lots and lots of sparkling wine…

Cheers!

Grab The 1WineDude.com Tasting Guide and start getting more out of every glass of wine today!

Shop Wine Products at Amazon.com

Copyright © 2015. Originally at Get Screwed This Winter (Publix Grape Winter 2015) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Rolling Out The Barrels (PUBLIX Grape Fall 2015)

PUBLIX Grape Fall 2015

image: PUBLIX Grape Magazine

Summer’s almost over. Yeah, I said it. Yeah, it’s mildly depressing. Yeah, it’s a good excuse to drink.

For those of you within the mailing address sphere of supermarket chain PUBLIX, you can find my latest contribution to their wine-focused magazine, Grape, in the soon-to-be-released Fall 2015 issue.

Therein, among other things, we revisit the impacts of barrel aging on wine (not all oak is the enemy, folks), as well as on beer, with some quotes from wine luminaries such as Master Somm Evan Goldstein, who is one of the few wine people for whom I’d consider taking a bullet (hopefully, we never have to test that promise…).

You can subscribe to PUBLIX Grape Magazine for the low, low price of $0.00, for those of you who live in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama. Which is probably those of you who have been wanting Summer to end for the last two months already.

Cheers!

Grab The 1WineDude.com Tasting Guide and start getting more out of every glass of wine today!

Shop Wine Products at Amazon.com

Copyright © 2015. Originally at Rolling Out The Barrels (PUBLIX Grape Fall 2015) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!