The power of social media

September 7, 2012

As you know, I usually do not write about negative things. Wines which I did not like, I do not report about. Similarly I deal with restaurants I visited and dishes which I found wanting.

In more than 5 1/2 years as food and wine blogger, the Man from Mosel River has only twice issued a critique. In both cases it was about wineries I visited where I felt ill treated. One was about Punt Road Winery in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia. The second about Weingut Von Othegraven in Kanzem, Saar, Germany.

In both cases senior management of the wineries in question has apologized to me. Punt Road got back to me within days, Von Othegraven respondedn within two weeks. In both cases I have accepted the apology. And in both cases I was invited to visit again. The wine-maker of Von Othegraven offered a wine tasting to make good for the sloppy service I encountered when visiting the place last July.

I find this very remarkable. It shows that in the time of the fast internet and social media, businesses cannot afford not to respond to queries. This is a very positive thing. Consumers have not only purchasing power but also the power to influence the public perception, the image of a company.

This experience confirms that my cautious use of negative critique is justified, and effective.

Cheers everybody

My life as a “food and wine” blogger

December 19, 2009

When a couple of weeks ago I read on Wannabe Wino that she (Sonadora, but she does not provide her real name) had completed her third year as a blogger, I was reminded that my own three-year-anniversary was approaching fast (at the end of December).

Sonadora has completed her third anniversary with a record of 1076 posts in 1096 days, I thought how wonderful. But it made me also think about my own up-coming three year anniversary.

I then also counted. At that time I thought that even if I were very industrious for the rest of the month, I will not surpass 400 blog entries. Now I am only nine more entries to go. This (the 400 in 1096 days) makes an average of 2.6 days for one entry. I think that’s not bad for someone who has a demanding day job, lots of travel to do, a family, and consequently only evenings for preparing his entries.

However, when I read through my various entries I somehow feel that my life seems to be rather repetitive. So far I did not run out of stories but the stories are very much shaped by the way I live, whom I know, whom I meet and where I go, my habits so to say. How can that be interesting for a stranger.

My statistics look good, the general trend is still pointing upwards. But I am contemplating about stopping my blog altogether. I ask myself why I am still doing it? What are my motives? Should I not spend my precious time doing something else, engage in some physical exercise for instance instead of sitting behind a laptop at night (after I sat behind a desk top for 8-10 hours at work).

So why do I blog? Well, it provides a framework for storytelling. After all we humans love the narrative. Moreover, I disciplines myself. I have to write and keep writing, writing and collecting, and researching of course. I usually make some sort of “investigation”, check out websites and thereby learn a great deal about food and wine and the people who’s passion this is. Yeah, I learn a lot.

Another benefit is “staying in touch”. Living in foreign lands makes it difficult to stay in touch with family and friends. By updating my blog, people can learn about my movements, my thoughts and my life. And I do not to have write letter.

So do I want to miss this? I don’t know. Have to embark on some more introspection, I guess.
Have a good weekend folks. Cheers

From the sidelines: Judging the wine judges II

September 9, 2009

The day I received the results from the 2009 Decanter World Wine Awards, I also received an e-mail from Karl Storchmann from the American Association of Wine Economists announcing the newest publication of the Journal of Wine Economics (Vol 4, No 1).

The lead article in this issue of the journal is about the wine judges and their reliability in judging wines. This was the perfect contrast reading to the long list of award winners from Decanter. Again Robert T. Hodgson has summarized some more research about the topic in question.

The title of the article is “An Analysis of the Concordance among 13 U.S. Wine Competitions”. Hodgson followed over 4,000 wines entered in these competitions of which 2,440 wines were entered in more than three competitions. 47% of these wines received gold medals in one show but 84% of these same wines received no medals at all in the subsequent shows. These results indicate that winning a Gold medal is greatly influenced by chance alone. Or to put it another way: Wines which were deemed of an extraordinary quality by some wine judges were assessed as very ordinary by others.

In come the Decanter World Wine Awards 2009 results. What does the study say about these awards. Nothing, of course. My skepticism about wine shows, however, is rather stronger then before.

One may ask the question are the Hodgson findings about wine shows in the U.S. applicable to shows such as Decanter? Can we safely conclude that some of the Decanter award winners would be seen as ordinary by other wine judges at other shows, and that some of non-winners could easily win a Gold somewhere else. Or could the Decanter wine judges replicate the tasting with the exact identical findings? Or what would their “margin of error” or inconsistency be?

What Hodgson’s study also tells us is, that wine judges are just human beings who are inconsistent and unpredictable. But we might rightly assume that they are trying to do the right thing but fail in this from time to time. The judges at the wine competitions surveyed, though, seem to have a shared idea about the wines they do not like and therefore win no awards at all. That’s at least something.

A few wine blogs have taken up the issue as well. Alder Yarrow for instance writes on Vinography about the AAWE paper and calls for a stop of the proliferating state wine shows. He admits, however, that the shows surveyed where, and I quote, “essentially the largest and most prestigious wine competitions in America”.

What does this tell us wine consumers? Well, wine quality and medals won at wine shows are not “orthogonal”, the presence of one doesn’t imply the presence of the other. Therefore, trust your own taste and buy what you like, possibly after tasting and let the wine shows be wine shows.

How about the vintner? Well, it is very nice for any wine producer to be recognized for outstanding quality and performance. So it is nice to win a medal at a wine show or getting a five star winery rating from James Halliday for instance. But it is not the end if this is not coming along. Most important is that ordinary people like to drink and buy your wine; the rest takes care of itself.


Cheers folks, trust your own judgment and taste as many wines as you can.