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Wine Future: Brief Overview of the Afternoon Sessions on Day 1

banner_winefuture_enEditors note: Wine Future – This is the second wrap up post of Wine Future LIVE www.catavino.net/wine-future-live – read Day 1 morning wrap up post. We’re doing our level headed best to report to you exactly what we’re seeing and experiencing at one of the most important wine conferences in 2009. What you see below is a summary of what we experienced this afternoon, written by Michael Oudyn. We’ll be posting many more articles today and tomorrow, as well as photos (tough to upload with a very small bandwidth). If you have any questions however, please leave them in the comments below or on the live blog. Cheers and thank you!

Session: Media, Wine Writers, and the Future of the Industry

Speakers: Stephen Spurrier, Jose Penin, Gary Vaynerchuck and Jancis Robinson

Stephen Spurrier said “retailing is communicating with the public” and that English is the international wine language. Thirty years old and one of the traditional ones is typical; its readers are 80% male, just over a third of them are in the wine trade, and many are from new markets. Much of their revenue comes from “high level dinners” which they try to keep original. For example they held London’s first ever 100% Tokai event. He finds sommeliers to be better tasters than producers since they are more in touch with the clients and try to see different wines through their eyes. He admits that his magazine might ” ignoring the average consumer”, but sees his magazine and events as a way to inform and therefore make wine more enjoyable.

Jose Penin is concerned with the question of “Markism.” A reader of his confessed to skipping all the articles and only reading the scores at the end of his magazine Sibarita. According to him Spanish wine writing became more sociable during the political transition. It started mostly as talk about France, then came basically British writers. Then around 2000, serious wine criticism in and about Spain began, but the “war of numbers” was much more important than the actual writing, so interest in the people and the earth has lost its importance. He laments that wine writers have turned into “involuntary wine salesmen”. Now, he says there are no real bad wines, which means that wine writers can not have so much fun.

Gary Vaynerchuck maintains the new internet technology is making content more and more important since the price of publication in the new media world is basically zero. Writers will no longer have to share revenues with the publisher. Parker needed a start-up loan from his mother, but no such loans will no longer be needed in the future. He agrees with Penin that people have lost the sense of terroir because there have been “too few storytellers”, but now we can all tell our own stories. There is no avant-garde versus the old order here, but that now “content is now king” and in this environment “the cream will rise to the top.” The Internet is “the biggest moment in media since the printing press.”

Jancis Robinson is less optimistic about the cream rising to the top because with so many on-line writers it is increasingly difficult to establish who is really valid. She says that in the old days there was little feed-back from her “obediently readers” but now writers must be “on their toes”. She says that printed journalism looks precarious since ad revenues are down and here are ever fewer prescriptions. She concurs that expensive food events keep many magazines in business.

How to Improve Sales and Consumption through Fairs and Competitions

Speakers: Baudouian Havaux, Manuel Julia, Mel Dick

Moderator Robert Joseph explained how his competition International Wine Challenge used to be the biggest in the world. He maintained that many publications make more money through competitions than with their magazines. He asked the question that is key for producers: which trade fairs should you attend? You can’t go to all of them; that would eat up all of your profits. A related question is of course how the medals you might win will work as advertising agents; how can you make them a value-added marketing tool?

Baudouian Havaux of Concursos mundial de Bruxelles talked about the benefits of submitting wines to international competitions. He said that the obvious benefits were marketing and media and communication potential. It seems a good idea but he warned against the pitfalls. The first is that is a “multitude of fairs which confuses the consumers”; the ideal would be to reduce the number of international shows to five or six. There is now a lack of credibility as many wines have medals from little known competition which leads to a lack of trust. He touched upon the much discussed issue of “a globalization of taste” and wondered if these fairs are not contributing to it. He warned companies participating in fairs follow three recommendations: (1) check out the quality of the judges; (2) make sure the results are publicized, or it has no value at all; (3) and use the results as an internal team motivational tool.

Concurses mundial de Bruxelles is trying to keep its international character by tasting wines from many countries; by having international tasters; and by holding the competitions in many different countries, certainly not in Bruselles every year. Havaux also recommends strict standards to keep credibility. Every attempt should be made to make sure the wines tasted are the same as the wines in the bottles at the stores and a rigorous statistical analysis should be made to make sure the tasters are being consistent. Competitions should remember that they are to build their mark so that ideally people will buy a winner of Brussels rather than a Rioja or a pinot noir.

Wine exhibitions were then discussed by Manuel Julia of Fenavin, one of the great exhibitions in Spain which is held in Ciudad Real, a small city close to Madrid. The goal is to sell wine at the exhibitions or which will be closed soon after the fair. He asked himself why can so much business be done in a small city? How can it keep on functioning compared with Madrid, Barcelona, or even Valencia? You must have “business clarity” in their fairs and understand the interrelation between the offer and demandThe demand is what is the important. Feravin has made careful studies about what the buyers did not like. It said it was essential to make it easy for the buyer to find all the produce on sale. He also noted that a fair can never be a three-day fair. There must be a month before to prepare and a nothing month afterwards to do business.

Next up was Mel Dick whose last year’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival showed the largest collection of Spanish wines in the United States. The biggest question was how can you improve sales through food festivals? In order to honor Spanish food and wine, they invited the King and Queen of Spain. He emphasized that these fair are excellent sales venues because they attract a rich demographic and can reinforce brand loyalty by associating brands with environments that add value to the brand. To that end they invited celebrity cooks, musicians, and politicians.

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