Friday, February 12, 2010

Upcoming Spirit and Wine Events and Tasting Competitions

We get asked for recommendations on which competitions and industry events our off-shore clients should participate in and attend, so I've compiled a list with some of the key dates and links. These are posted roughly in order of their deadlines or event dates.

-NY Wine Expo: Feb. 26-28 at the Jacob Javitz center (I'll be there)

-South Beach Wine and Food Festival Event Feb. 25-28, 2010

-San Francisco Wine and Spirits Competition
Event Mar 13-14. Deadline for entries Feb. 19

-Ultimate Spirit Challenge (judging takes place March 1-3 in NY, and Ultimate Cocktail Challenge (judging takes place April 12-14 at Astor Center in NY but entry deadline is Feb. 15. These are two new events which split from the SFWSC. They represent a new concept in spirit review methodologies and also a new contest specifically dedicated not just to spirits but the cocktails that are made with them.

-BTI Eastern European wines deadline March 25.

-Wine and Spirits Wholesaler Assn. WSWA takes place April 6-8 in Las Vegas Nevada. This used to be an "old boy networking" event but has evolved in the last few years to be more egalitarian. The exhibit floor used to be a minor adjuinct but now has become much more significant. It's not the answer for exporters looking to find importers in the U.S., but it's a good start.

-Winery and Wine Distribution Law: April 29,30, Inn on the Lake, Canandaigua, NY. This is the third of these beverage alcohol law seminars hosted by Nixon Peabody that I've spoken at. They attract a stellar list of attendees and speakers including Craig Wolf of WSWA, a senior staffer at TTB, Ted Jansen of Inertia Beverage, Bill Tomaszewski of, Jason Eckenroth of Ship Compliant, and hosts Vince O'Brien of NP and Ron Fondiller General Counsel for Constellation Brands. A lot of what will be presented at this event will focus on the issues surrounding direct shipping.

-Manhattan Cocktail Classic: Takes place May 14-18 New York. This is also a new event backed by some major names in the US spirit business including Dale DeGroff, Simon Ford, Doug Frost, Allen Katz, Steven Olson, Paul Pacult, Sasha Petraske, Gary Regan, Julie Reiner, Audrey Saunders, Andy Seymour, Charlotte Voisey and the man with the Civil War-era beard David Wondrich. They had a “test” launch of the event in the fall that was well represented by spirits suppliers and the may event is eagerly awaited by the cocktail community.

-Ultimate Wine Challenge Deadline for entries May 25, Event June 7-11, New York

-Aspen Food and Wine Classic This event is an interesting blend of consumer and trade participants, but you have to be an advertiser in Food and Wine Magazine to be an exhibitor. Aspen, CO, June 18-10, 2010.

-US Wine Bloggers Conference June 25-27, Walla Walla WA. I'll be there this year, but was unable to attend the first two. I heard some very good things about the USWBC as well as its European Counterpart.

-Fancy Food Show Event dates for NY: June 27-29, 2010 and San Francisco, Jan 2011

-Tales of the Cocktail:
Tales is the Grand-daddy of cocktail events and the one that defined and democratized spirits well before social media became cool. Unfortunately I've not been invited to speak this year (but I'm available!) and will be joined by my daughter Lindsay who's now a very successful Brand Ambassador for Mekhong, The spirit of Thailand working the Meatpacking district in New York for them.

-BTI World Value Wine Review for wines under $20 deadline is Aug. 6.

-US Drinks Conference Oct. 12/13, 2010 in NY. (Full transparency...we are the organizers of the USDC) This will be the fourth year of the conference and last year we attracted 160+ delegates from 11 countries...we're hoping for 250 next year, so please pass this on.

-European Wine Bloggers Conference Vienna Austria, Oct. 22-24 (and sponsored by our client the Austrian Wine Marketing Board! Thanks to Susanne Staggl and Willi Klinger for hosting the event.!) I plan to be there and look forward to meeting my blogger friends from Europe.

-NY Wine Experience (M.Shanken Publications)
NY: Oct. 28-30, 2010

-Miami International Wine Fair
Oct. 16-20, 2010

-BTI Wine Packaging Competition (takes place Dec. 29, 2010)

-BTI Spirits packaging contest takes place Dec. 30, 2010

-Boston Wine Expo Jan. 2011, Boston, MA

-BTI Spirit review schedule covers all categories which have various deadlines throughout the year.

-BTI Wine review schedule runs throughout the year for various regions, countries and wine types Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Virtual Vino Seminar at Vino 2010

Wow! I’ve had some time to reflect on Thursday’s panel “Virtual Vino” at the Italian Trade Commission’s Vino 2010 event. It was standing room only and great to see so many familiar faces in the audience. The feedback we got was extremely positive and clearly reinforced just how important…and controversial…social media is in the U.S. wine market.

vino10 on Broadcast Live Free

With only two hours for presentations and discussions, it was a pretty big subject to cover, so we were really able to only touch on some of the more “sensitive” issues. The overriding theme centered around the implications of the democratization of information created by this thing known World Wide Web or informally as the Wild Wild West.

Fred Plotkin asked the first audience question which led us right into the conundrum of how blogging is impacting traditional journalism and where the line demarcating fact from opinion lies.

I’ve been thinking about all the ramifications of Fred’s question which initially centered on the idea that “authenticity” was a critical issue to Millennials. He asked how I defined the word. And as I’ve had the chance to cogitate on it I realize there are two definitions that need to be addressed individually. One is in regard to authenticity as “honesty”, and that is more a function of voice of the writer/blogger. The second relates to authenticity as “truth”: facts and disclosure about the source of the content.

As to the writer’s voice, the conversation at the seminar revolved around the subjectivity of wine criticism and review. Your “notes of tobacco, tar and leather” may be someone else’s “bold, assertive and ripe fruit.” No one is “right” and a numerical rating scale is inherently flawed in that it presupposes the reviewer is comparing all wines against the same set of criteria. There’s been a lot of discussion on wine blogs about evaluations focusing more on a scale of “I like it” to “I hate it”. It’s perhaps more of a useful way to rank (not rate) the personal appeal of all wines against what is inherently a complex of personal opinions. At the end of the day, a Parker 94 and a 1WineDude “I really liked Wine A better than Wine B” are equally useful. The former more so from a commercial perspective and the retail price elite wines can command in the marketplace, the latter because I’ve found from personal experience that Joe Roberts and I share similar preferences in wine. (but Joe's opinion is free, Parker's you have to pay for)

Regarding facts and disclosure, the operative word is transparency. The FTC has mandated that bloggers must disclose the source of samples. (Interestingly, traditional journalists are not held to the same standards.) Many if not most bloggers have been doing this routinely anyway. But it came to a head with Tyler Colman’s (aka Dr. Vino) outing of Robert Parker and The Wine Advocate’s inconsistency in enforcing its own policies on samples and trips. The original post thread begins here and there is also a good summary published on Slate by Mike Steinberger. My personal opinion is that we will look back on Tyler’s post as being the point at which the influence of established wine critics and journalists crossed with the influence of the online world. And let me be perfectly clear here. It may have seemed that the whole seminar was saying that Andy Blue's self-described dinosaurs are going extinct, but that's not what we were saying at all. The point was the internet has created a new medium that enables regular folks to weigh in, and an audience that respects those opinions more highly than the traditional journalists. The very real problem faced by many traditional writers is how to get compensated for those skills and services they've honed over the years when arriviste bloggers don't expect to make money at all.

I’ll be writing more on this in my next post, but wanted to get this up in response to requests for access to the video archive of the session. For those who want to see the slides I presented, they can be found here: The Vintank report on Social Media in the Wine Industry, Tyler’s original post on the Robert Parker Kerfuffle and Mike Steinberger’s summary of the hoo-haw Dr. Vino created at Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Vino 2010: Panel Discussion on Marketing to Millennials

The Italian Trade Commission is bringing the wines of the Veneto, Calabria, Puglia and Tuscany to the Big Apple this week via Vino 2010. I’ll be speaking on a panel moderated by Anthony Dias Blue (author, editor of Tasting Panel Magazine, San Francisco Wine and Spirits Comp, and wine and food personality) alongside Susannah Gold of Vigneto Comms., Susanna Crociani of her family’s eponymous winery in Siena, Doug Cook of Able Grape and Alder Yarrow, author of Vinography, arguably the oldest wine blog in the world. The focus of the panel is “Millennials, social media and technology's seductive appeal, and its growing role in reaching, informing, entertaining tomorrow's Italian wine drinking customers.”

The bad news is if you haven’t reserved a seat, the session is sold out. But the good news is, the ITC folks will be video streaming the session on the Vino 2010 website. And true to the title of the session, viewers will be able to interact with the panel by tweeting questions and comments to @vino2010 or @JRvino2010. (You can also tweet me @Stevenraye)

I’m still fine tuning my intro but will be presenting data on who the Millennials are, how they’re different from prior wine-consuming generations and how to engage with them using the new tools of social media. (The pic is of me in Pompeii at one of the many "wine bars" in the city that set the fashions for Imperial Rome...Falernum anyone?)

The real fun will be the conversation and questions that follow the panelists’ opening comments. Joe Roberts of 1WineDude called Andy out on comments he made about the legitimacy of bloggers in the July 2009 issue of Tasting Panel Magazine:

“And who are these bloggers anyway and, more important, what is their motivation? It would be comforting to find that they are altruistic wine lovers who see their purpose as bringing insight and valuable information to like-minded consumers. But the image that presents itself is of bitter, carping gadflies who, as they stare into their computer screens and contemplate their dreary day jobs, let their resentment and sense of personal failure take shape as vicious attacks on the established critical media.”

Never content to leave well enough alone, Joe posted AGAIN with a great title: “Guy who possibly hates wine blogging to give talk on Wine Blogging at Vino 2010”

Inflammatory? Yes, but that’s what sets up a good panel discussion. I expect that Andy’s vitriol may have been tempered by time (hey, 6 months in Internet time is an eternity) and I look forward to hearing him squizzle out of this one.

To be fair, I spoke to Andy about his POV and it was more a function of contrasting blogging with traditional journalism where editorial review, fact checking and “journalistic integrity” have a history as a profession. I was a communications major in college and while I never had a "legit" journalism job, coming from the school where Strunk and White taught and wrote their little book I take the subject very seriously.

So much so that I organized a Wine and Spirit Blogger summit last year. We gathered some of the top thought leaders from both the wine and spirit blogosphere to explore why there is such a dichotomy in philosophy and practice between the spirits and wine folks and what each group could learn from the other. What came out quite clearly was that the spirit folks actively court involvement and engagement with brands and their PR agencies. In contrast, the wine bloggers are more likely to publish their angst about integrity, transparency, bias (both real and implied) and whether its ok to accept samples or trips. The net result of the summit wasn’t what I had hoped, but it did highlight the dramatic and one might say polarizing difference between the two categories.

So back to Vino 2010…if you’re at all interested in this subject, then I think you’ll find the conversation on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 10AM EST interesting and enlightening. You can access the video stream somewhere on the Vino 2010 site (I’ll post a direct link if I can get the exact URL). And do please participate in the discussion by contributing your questions via Twitter. Sphere: Related Content

Constance Chamberlain and I attended the CT Wine Expo at the Mohegan Sun Casino this weekend and had the chance to meet up with Gregory Dal Piaz, editor-in-chief at Snooth.

We covered a lot of ground but the topline takeaway was that we're seeing continued convergence in wine websites. Snooth still has a major function as a shopping comparison search engine for wines. But their goal is to be much broader than that and to provide a wide range of content on regions, varietals,food and wine, wine tourism and of course ratings. Much of this content will be user generated, but unlike Wikipedia, subject to gatekeeping by the editorial folks both on staff at Snooth and via volunteer curators.

Constance offered to curate the Austrian section and we're waiting for Greg's formal OK on that.

To illustrate the convergence factor, you can link an account at Snooth, (and I would assume Wine Searcher and WineZap) to your twitter and facebook accounts. Sphere: Related Content