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I’m speaking at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference

Somehow I’ve gone this far without telling many people that I’m speaking at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference next weekend in Santa Barbara County, CA, and I couldn’t be more excited! (And nervous!) I get to talk about my two favorite things, wine and WordPress. OK, I’ll mostly be talking about WordPress, but I’m sure to mix in a number of good wine-related allegories because that’s how much of a wine geek I am.

My talk is titled Supercharging Your Blogging With, and I’m scheduled for Sunday morning against a photography workshop and a writing workshop. So presumably anyone who comes to my session (other than my work-mates Derek and Rebecca) will be superlative writers and photographers who need to learn more about embedding images and video, managing spam, backups, security, and all the cool stuff that Jetpack lets you do on your self-hosted WordPress site. Oh, and people who didn’t stay up too late drinking on Saturday night. This seems like a good crowd for my inaugural workshop on blogging with WordPress, which will truly be a case study in the thought expressed here:

That being said, the thought of sharing the same “stage” (as it were) with speakers like Eric Asimov and Jancis Robinson is… a little intimidating. Could you tell? Just in case my presentation is less than thrilling, your consolation prize is a video of Jancis Robinson’s keynote from WBC 2011.

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Live Wine Blogging to commence on Friday July 11

I’ll definitely be live-blogging my tastings at the Wine Bloggers Conference next weekend, using the WordPress iOS app. Unsubscribe if you don’t want to hear about all the cool juice I’ll be sampling in Santa Barbara County! ūüôā

industry news

Women who drink wine don’t lose their minds

At least, not via dementia. The Vancouver Sun reported on a study conducted in Sweden, which followed nearly 1,500 women for over 34 years to study the relationship between kinds of consumed alcohol and the risk of dementia.

What they found was rather interesting, though scientists have no explanation for it. Evidently, women who reported drinking wine regularly were 40% less likely to develop dementia, even though they tended to live longer, thereby giving them more time to do so. Even more dramatically, women who reported drinking only wine (that is, no beer or hard liquor) were 70% less likely to develop dementia. Women who drank liquor exclusively had a higher chance of developing dementia. Sorry, cosmo gals.

This being said, there is counterbalancing evidence about wine and women’s health: Reuters reported Sunday on a huge San Diego study indicating that postmenopausal women who consume one to two drinks a day are 32% more likely to develop breast cancer. Postmenopausal women who consumed three or more drinks a day were 51% more likely to develop a hormone-sensitive tumor. Granted, it doesn’t matter what kind of alcohol was drunk.

So… we women wine drinkers will be completely sane as we desperately try to chase the cancer out of our boobies? Thanks for sharing, Science!

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Closure kerfluffle

The Italian winery Allegrini, a reliable go-to for quality wine from the Veneto region, has announced their plans to close their bottles of Valpolicella Classico DOC with screwcaps this year, according to a Wine Spectator Online article. Unfortunately, because of silly Italian wine regulations restricting what wines can get what kind of closure, Allegrini will have to de-classify their wine to a mere Valpolicella, an appellation with less restrictions (and thus usually lower quality).

Franco Allegrini comments in the article that he’s not sure in screwcap closures are better for wines meant to be drunk young, like their Valpolicella, but that they have to use much less sulfur in the wine when they use screwcaps. This reduction of intervention would generally be thought of as a good thing, and it’s a shame that the Italian wine regulators are so hidebound to their outmoded traditions that they can’t see the advantage of modern closure technology.

Allegrini will probably get less for their wine, bottling it with screwcaps as Valpolicella, than they would bottling it with corks as Valpolicella Classico. Co-owner Marilisa Allegrini thinks this will actually help, rather than hurt, the wine’s sales, considering the dollar’s activity these days.

Funny old world in which, when your country’s wine laws work against you, it can actually boost your sales.

blogosphere industry personal world of wine

Am I professional enough for CellarTracker?

I spent many hours this weekend geeking my ass off on CellarTracker. If you are not yet familiar with this means of exhaustive wine cataloging, CellarTracker is a website that allows a user to log all the bottles in her cellar, including such details as when a bottle was purchased, how much it cost, when it should be drunk, where it’s being stored, et cetera ad infinitum.

Age-ableThis was necessary because I have finally been allowing myself to purchase wine. Not that I haven’t been buying the wine I’ve been tasting for you lo these last months — but a lot of my tasting has been in events and at wine bars. I have not until recently been able to afford to keep more than about 6 bottles around the house.

And look at me go! I learned, after pulling all my bottles out of the pantry and reorganizing them via the interwebs, that after relaxing the old purse strings for a mere 2 months, I have over 40 bottles in storage, to the tune of over $500. I have clearly been carried away, especially considering that almost half of my “cellar” is comprised of inexpensive, everyday bottles. Considering how much wine I drink on a weekly basis (not that much), the only word that comes to mind is ridonkulous, gentle reader.

Mostly everyday drinkingNow I need more room. As you’ll see in the photos (finally, I get to show you my rack!), I’m keeping wines organized through a combined system of 12-bottle cases and shippers. Classy, eh? Nothing but the best at Wine Scamp World Headquarters. No, seriously — Mr. Scamp is an accomplished welder and is planning out a dilly of a rack for me, which will allow my collection, such as it is, to top out at 60 bottles. Cross your fingers for me.

But that’s not why I gathered you all here this evening — the subject at hand relates to another aspect of the coolness of CellarTracker. The site allows users to share their own tasting notes in the Personal and Community Tasting section, as well as the tasting notes they’ve found from wine critics in the Professional Tasting section.

Ah ha! I can see I’ve got you now. Where do I put my tasting notes? Do I include the notes I’ve written for Wine Scamp in the Professional Tasting section, all up in the face of Robert Parker and Stephen Tanzer? Or do I write separate tasting notes in the Personal and Community Section, a la Dr. Debs?

There are long, fascinating discussions on the blogosphere on this subject. Check out this post on Lenndevours, this one on Catavino and yet another at Fermentation. (There’s an interesting Catavino post regarding Cellartracker and tasting notes in general, if you’ve got the time.) Just so you have a full grasp of the details, I publish this blog via a small business, DBA Wine Scamp, and accept paid advertising on the site. This blog does represent, quixotically or no, an attempt to make money from my writing. It has not yet even begun to turn a profit, but money exists in the equation. I have a day job, of course, which involves some writing, but not in the wine business. I have a Creative Commons license.

So here is where I solicit your opinion — do the wine tasting notes I pen here at Wine Scamp International belong in the Professional Tasting section of CellarTracker? Am I enough of a pro?

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Tasting Pellegrini Family Vineyards

I heartily recommend the Saturday tastings at the Austin Wine Merchant. They’re free and feature interesting, stylish wines that you probably haven’t heard of or tasted before. I have a slight infatuation with the shop right now, I’ll admit, which will likely fade as I start putting out my wine shop feelers closer to my new workplace, Anderson and Mopac. Yes, I know: Grapevine. We’ll see; I could have been much more impressed the last time I was there.

I tasted 6 wines at the AWM last Saturday, all from the Pellegrini Family Vineyards in California. Robert Pellegrini and Moreno Panelli were there, representing the winery, as was Alison Smith of Texacali Wine Company, who represents Pellegrini in Texas. Ali is a fellow blogger, writing about her experience running her small wine sales and marketing business at the Texacali Wine Trail. She’s a charming woman who reps an interesting portfolio, and it was a pleasure to meet her.

Wines are listed in order of tasting:

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Damn you, big glasses!

Another story for the “don’t hate the playa; hate the game” files here at Wine Scamp International:¬†

Professor Steve Allsop, whose National Drug Research Institute study concludes that larger wine glasses mislead wine drinkers, says¬†this causes¬†consumers to drink more than they intend to, as reported in an article in Australia’s Herald Sun.

Australia’s Department of Health defines a standard glass of wine as 150 ml, about 5 ounces.¬† Maximum recommended alcoholic intake for a woman is 2 glasses of wine; for a man, it’s 4.¬† The study showed that when people poured what they considered an average serving of wine, they ended up with 6 to 10 ounces in the glass. ¬† Thus the Australian public over-serves itself with blithe ignorance, especially women.¬† I can only assume it’s especially women because we’re not supposed to drink as much as men.¬† Certainly it couldn’t be because we’re out of control and need male scientists and politicians to teach us how to modulate our behavior.¬† Great, glad we cleared that up.

Australia’s federal government is jumping into action to address this problem of heavy pouring by including a standard drink logo on bottles of wine to tell people how many servings are in the container.¬† That works really well with Americans and snack food, as anyone who counts out one 10-cracker serving of Wheat Thins for their afternoon snack knows.¬† So it’s good to see we’re setting a good example for the world with our abstemious approach to food portions.

I agree that it’s easy to pour a little heavy at home, especially into a glass big enough to swirl your wine in, but can we just cool it with the puritanical hullaballoo? ¬† If we can trust women enough to assign them the job of feeding our children and patriarchs, surely we can trust them to pour the perfect portion of wine for every occasion.¬† Can’t we?

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Big servings of wine cause alcohol abuse, says MP

According to an article in the Guardian Unlimited, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Greg Mulholland wants to force pubs in England to sell smaller servings of wine.

Evidently, some pub chains in England used to offer three different sized pours: small (125 ml/4 oz), medium (175 ml/6 oz), and large (250 ml/8 oz). Mulholland himself used to work for a pub chain which did away with the 4 oz. pours, saying “bigger glasses equal higher prices and more profits.” So now most pubs only sell 6 and 8 oz. servings, forcing people to drink more wine than they normally would, to Mulholland’s mind.

Am I a moron, or do the Brits just do it differently than we do? Back when I was helping restaurants set their prices, you wanted as small a pour as you could get away with, so you could sell more glasses from a bottle. A 750 ml bottle will serve five 5 oz. pours or four 6 oz. pours. If an 8 oz. pour is the norm in England, then those pubs are only selling 3 glasses per bottle. Either their glass prices are ridiculously high, or they’re doing it wrong.

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Blah, Blah, Blah Wine

Dr. Debs’ interesting post at Good Wine Under $20 about jargon got me thinking about the way we communicate about wine. Her point to ponder was whether “jargon (technical terms about wine), dialects (terminology common to a group of wine writers), and idiolects (terms that a single wine writer comes up with; if sufficiently popular, idiolects can get shared and become dialects)” actually obstruct our ability to communicate about wine.

Jeff’s post on Good Grape got the old wheels churning even harder; for him, Dr. Deb’s post dovetailed with a magazine article in Sante that he read about how menu descriptions affect how we eat in restaurants. As Jeff sums it up, a dish that’s more elaborately described on the menu will be described by those who’ve eaten it as “more appealing, tastier and the restaurant as being trendier and more contemporary.”

This would seem to argue, then, for more elaborate tasting notes, rather than less. If we are trying to get more Americans drinking wine (and we are; you’ll thank us when you’re older), then hopefully by introducing it in elaborate, flowery language will make everyone have better, fonder memories of their wine drinking experiences… and thus drink more wine.

As you may know, if you’re a regular here at the Wine Scamp, elaborate is not a problem for me. And as I commented on Dr. Deb’s site, one of the reasons I love wine so much is that gorgeous juxtaposition of sensation and language that is the tasting note. My first love being poetry, I have always been fascinated by our attempts to communicate the indescribable; emotions and sensations are so subjective that the attempt to encapsulate them in words seems almost impossible. So things get fancy, words get outlandish, and jargon and dialects are born.

Seems like the perfect opportunity for a Friday poll, which I can’t seem to get to work in this post, but which you can vote on in the sidebar to your right.¬† Sound off!

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Flora Springs goes solar

What does this do to the carbon footprint of a wine? 

According to a story in Wines & Vines this Tuesday, Flora Springs, the Napa Valley winery owned by the Garvey and Komes families, has installed enough solar panels on a hillside behind their winery to power all of their yearly red wine production.¬†How many solar panels does it take to power a year’s worth of red wine from Flora Springs?¬† 435 SunTech panels at 170w each, that’s how many!¬† That covers over 6,000 square feet; they installed the panels on an elevated platform to allow for shady storage below.¬† Isn’t that clever, now?

Flora Springs takes its sustainability pretty seriously.¬† They’re in the process of getting all of their vineyards certified as organic, which takes 3 years in California.¬† About 70% of the vineyards will be certified organic by 2009.¬† No word if they’re planning to convert the white wine production to solar too, but kudos to Flora Springs!¬† They make great wine, and now there’s a great excuse to drink more of it.