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Archive for September, 2010

Mike’s perfect sloegasm

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I have noticed the past couple of days that people have been complaining about the fact that summer is over and all that lies ahead is cold and miserable. For many September seems to be a miserable month as holidays are over and everyone must return to school. However September is by far and away my favourite month, closely followed by October. The weather is still warm (ish) but you can wander about outside for a few hours and come back looking windswept and interesting, the colours and countryside are at their most beautiful, you can forage, you can eat the best mushrooms around, in fact food generally is great at this time of year, plus the brunt of the shooting season gets into full swing!

There is so much going on in Autumn there is no excuse to be bored!

So get out of the house and get involved in something. Here is my suggestions for an otherwise dull autumnal Sunday. There is a very important harvest coming up…no it is not in Champagne…it is almost the time to start harvesting Sloe’s for this years vintage of Sloe Gin and it looks like it is going to a great one!

There is vast amount of debate about how to make the best Sloe Gin, I have never tried goggling it but I am sure there are many people out there with bits of hedge in their hair offering fantastic advice. To save you the hassle of reading through a blog that will also give you recipes to cure cancer with nettles I will provide you with my personal recipe, that always seems pretty shit hot.

If you make the mistake of asking someone with a beard about Sloe Gin they will insist that you never ever pick them before the first frost. Don’t listen, if you wait to the first frost you will no doubt find that the man with the beard has already picked all remaining fruit. However there is a tendency to pick them too early so wait until at least October then freeze them for a night.

Now here comes the technical bit!

Get a bit bottle, fill it half with sloes, work out the weight of sloes, then add that same weight of sugar. fill the bottle to the top with the cheapest gin you can find and put in a cupboard until Christmas.

At Christmas time remove the fruit from the liquid and you have Sloe Gin!

Now, by itself it is delicious, however I like to use it to make Sloegasms! This again is a pretty technical recipe…

Add a shot of Sloe Gin to Champagne! It is great and will definitely wake your guests up.

If you live in central London and don’t have access to a sloe’s then head to the country for a day and go on an adventure to find them!

I should really have my own channel 4 series!!


Don’t Buy It Because It’s Cheap!

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

My mother used to consistently buy vast amount of bananas from the supermarket. This had nothing to do with our family having an obsession with the banana, nor have we ever had a pet chimp. The only reason we always seemed to have mountains of browning fruit was because for whatever reason bananas were often on special offer in our local supermarket and therefore the only sensible thing to do is buy 5 bunches because they cost the same as 3, irrelevant of the fact that we only actually required 1.

Clearly price is highly important when buying anything but how often have you purchased something purely because it was reduced? I see complete sense in buying things you need/want in a sale but being persuaded to buy something you have no desire for based entirely on a reduction is surely madness! Especially if the product is wine and you have no idea of what it might taste like.

Clearly this is an issue in the wine world. Many UK consumers find buying wine a confusing and stressful process because for most, unless you have actually tried the wine you will be fairly clueless about what the liquid inside the bottle will taste like. Therefore there is no wander many consumers will choose something that has 50% off because they suddenly feel that they are presented with something twice as good for their budget irrelevant of whether it is something they will actually enjoy drinking and with no sense of it actually being good value even with the reduction.

I am not suggesting that everyone should spend a fortune on wine, in fact I am a great believer in drinking what you enjoy no matter what it is. What I do not agree with is that wine prices become a race to the bottom.

From a small retailers point of view, I don’t want to have provide special offers on all of my products before anyone will show interest in buying them. Now, my typical customer is not a 3 for £10 supermarket customer however there are few wine drinkers who won’t be drawn in by some sort of good deal and once someone has paid half price for something it makes it very difficult to make them pay the full price again. A problem that I fear the New Zealand Wine industry will feel over the coming years.

Therefore for an online startup business the big question becomes, how can we make ourselves attractive to the market without instantly devaluing our offering. Luckily we are in a position whereby we are small enough to to be innovative and change direction quickly. However acquiring new customers without offering some sort of financial incentive is tough as unfortunately it has become the norm.

The more observant will have realised we do have a “Special Offers” section on this website and we do promote it from time to time but I believe selling off some remaining stock by discounting it is very different from selling your entire company based on discounting it.

This is currently a very big topic in the wine industry and I am sure I will return to it often.


The Best Cure!

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

This the French solution to NHS Direct, who needs Penicillin?


What do you want from me?

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Following yesterdays blog about how I can retain and entertain my customers I have been thinking a lot about the parcel our customers receive. This is the one time there is any physical contact between Find Wine and the customer and therefore a crucial time to make and leave a lasting impression. If you have ordered from us you will know that although our boxes look perfectly nice there is nothing extra that get’s your heart racing with excitement (other than the wine of course!).

So what should we include to cement our relationship forever? A spray of my aftershave? A corkscrew with our logo on? Perhaps a grape outfit you can wear to impress your friends? Whatever it is, it needs to make you feel special, it needs to be a constant reminder of Find Wine and it can’t cost very much money!

As it happens I have had an e-commerce frenzy this week and have ordered various things from 4 very different websites. Although this may strike you as a most unusual shopping list I have good reason for buying them all… A jumper from Boden (Yorkshire is cold), Stephen Fry’s new book (for the cold dark northern nights) and The English Patient on DVD (a gift) from Amazon, A large black pudding from the best black pudding producer in the world Charles Macleod in Stornaway (Breakfast) and 3 small glasses with pheasants on them for 99p from Ebay (a long story!).

Rather sadly, this week I have been most excited, not by my new things but by the way in which they arrive on my doorstep. Plus for the purposes of this experiment I am counting myself as being typical, in that I pay very little attention to anything in the box other than what I have ordered.

In every case there was some additional flimflam in the parcel (other than the ebay purchase but that is different!) and I didn’t really bother to read any of it never mind keep it as a memento of my purchase. Boden even inserted something offering me money off my next order. This is great but why do I need to keep a piece of paper when I can do exactly what I did this time and go to some voucher codes website to download a 15% discount. The black pudding butcher inserted a brochure of his products which consisted of black pudding, white pudding or both of the above gift wrapped. Other than providing me with an amusing thing to send someone this Christmas it was of no use and therefore entered the bin at some speed. And I can’t even remember what Amazon provided but I didn’t look at it.

Maybe I am not typical of an online shopper and therefore no use to this discussion. However I know I would be so impressed and excited if I received a genuinely original and useful freebie that I would remember the company forever. But what is the perfect freebie, should it be fun? Functional? An incentive? Or just thought provoking? (well the Chinese have already done this with their cookies!)

Packaging is very important, I have seen things arrive (not for me) from Net- a- porter and they are fantastic, I totally get if you’re are spending a lot of money you want the parcel to make you feel important when it arrives.

But I feel wine boxes should be functional. I would love to send everything in wooden flat boxes but there is a slight cost implication there. And a cardboard box can only be so exciting, even with cool graphics on the side. Therefore it should the the inside that you remember.

My aim is to create the same child like excitement that Charlie (of chocolate factory fame) felt when opening his Wonker bar with the golden ticket inside. I want receiving the insert to be as exciting as receiving the wine itself and different every time!

Unfortunately on this rather rainy Tuesday evening I have not yet thought of the answer…but I will and the next time you take delivery of some of wine you will most likely pour the wine down the drain and keep whatever gift we have given you.

If anyone makes a brilliant suggestion that I simply cannot ignore, I will give you a case of wine.


What can we give you?

Monday, September 13th, 2010

I was having a chat with a friend over lunch today about the relationship companies have with their customers, especially online companies.

It is very difficult to go anywhere or do anything within having some request for money put on you. Whether it is a simple as getting on the bus or reading a magazine there is always someone demanding money for something, the fare, the flashy adverts tempting you to buy a suit that makes everyone want to sleep with you. Everybody wants money from you but how often do you really get something back from them, well beyond whatever it is you have paid for?!

The internet is funny in the vast majority of things you probably use online never ask you for money. It has got to the point where, apart from shopping online the vast majority of people feel upset if they are ask to pay for a service, even if it is as simple as being forced to see an advert where before there were none. You just have to read about the storm that was created by users when Twitter unveiled plans to include advert tweets in their feeds. The internet is the fastest commercial advancement to have ever happened to mankind, yet so much of it remains uncommercial.

This is where I find online wine sales very interesting. Selling wine online is difficult to say the least. This is purely speculation but I suspect the majority of people buying wine online do it for convenience and price comparison( Majestic, Virgin etc). Then there are a lot of people looking for specific wines they cannot find in their local merchants (Berry Bros, Great Western Wine and any other high end merchant). Then, there are the much smaller group who are purely looking for a new experience either in where they shop or what they drink (this is my category). These people may have heard about our website or stumbled across it, either way something about the way it works has appealed to them and the have chosen to part with not insignificant amounts of money in order to experience the full journey on it.

When they receive the wine they enjoy it but don’t drink anything they simply must drink everyday. Therefore why on earth would they decide to try again? They may receive an email from me once a week suggesting they buy something else but then they receive an email from 5 wines websites asking to use them!

In order to make sure that customer will use you every time they get thirsty they must feel part of the company, part of every decision made, they need to know that I care about them more than I care about my own dog and yet I must convey all of this digitally…wrap them in a cosy blanket of text, pictures and videos, engage them in flirty pillow talk every night so they dream about nothing other than their next order and who else they can tell about this great new website they have found!

I can’t afford just to take peoples money, it is too easy for them to leave me forever. I have to make sure I always give something back, I think that is the key to the internet. Whatever activity you engage with from retailing to blogging your audience can so easily go elsewhere so ensure they couldn’t be happier than in your company.

The tough bit is, how to do this! I am working on that bit!


I drink riesling therefore I am very sophisticated

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Certain grapes seem to say a lot about the drinker. But one grape more than others at the moment seems to be making a lot of noise and as far as I can tell it is with a certain drinker and that is riesling.

Riesling is as fantastically contrasting as it can be complex. One of the worlds truly inspirational and exceptional grape varieties. I love the stuff as do many many people. It is by no means a newcomer to the wine scene however it does seem to be growing in popularity and fame. I would hope this is because the consumer is becoming bored of dull wine flavours that have mass produced in their direction and are seeking out new and interesting flavours from their wine.

There seems to be quite a specific Riesling following emerging. For whatever reason this little grape attracts some very deep discussion. It is definitely a grape favoured by the philosophical side of winos. So why has this wine, which must be one of the oldest and most traditional varietals attained such a deep and classical following with entire blogs dedicated to it.

I love the attitude of so many Riesling drinkers, who somehow think they are onto something new and that nobody regarded Riesling as anything special until they made it cool again.

No matter, it is certainly worthy of such dedicated following as it is wonderful. If you want to check out two complete contrast in the riesling world have a look at Gapstead Riesling and also Hamm Riesling both for sale on our buying page. They are worlds apart but both glorious in their own right.

Whatever the pull of Riesling it is certainly growing and the more sites dedicated to it the better!


Itchy Feet, Great for Wine Tasting

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

I had a lot of fun at university. One of the great advantages of “studying” in Edinburgh was living in massive georgian flat in the New Town, where we could throw glorious debauched dinner parties (I think 25 around our table was the record). Being blessed with a flatmate who had a farm that provided a years supply of beef, lamb and venison helped! If nothing else at university I learnt a lot about cooking for large groups, whilst slightly tipsy and how to dance on a rather flimsy wooden table.

I will be honest, these evening rarely provided me with revolutionary vinous experiences but they were probably some of the entertaining evenings I have ever had…Our countryside erotic themed dinner sticks very much in my mind!

Another fond memory of my time at Edinburgh was the amazing club nights put on by Itchy Feet Events. Therefore i was over the moon when I recently found out that the Dj’s from Itchy Feet have started to produce Podcasts of some of their mixes. If you do nothing else today go and download the first two. Episode 2 is my personal favourite so far. It is perfect to taste wine to!

These guys are awesome!

Who knows it might well provide the soundtrack when I try to recreate one of our dinner parties shortly.


Tuscan Wine….Tipicita anyone?

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

This blog was very kindly written for us by Chris from Sant Alberto. Check them out here

For me some of the most rewarding wines in Tuscany cost between €10 and €20 and have Sangiovese at their heart. However since our own oenological journey began in 2006 we have discovered Gamay, Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay are all weapons in the Tuscan armoury. Almost a new world flavour but with an old world rule book?!

However it appears that the Tuscans have always been struggling to retain their tipicita (typicality), Nicolas Belfrage MW writes that even in the 19th century the province of Florence had an estimated 150 varieties in the vineyards. We understand why they all felt the need to plant international varieties as the French marched on through the 1960s and 1970s. Meanwhile the Italians were still in the grips of the mezzadria (sharecropping) and the preferred sale into a cooperative.

Merlot is a grape with which we are particularly familiar and it is more widely used across Tuscany than anywhere else in Italy. As an illustrative example one of our favourite nearby estates in Tuscany makes a smooth, 100% Merlot IGT at €40 a bottle ex cellar. Whilst it is unquestionably quality fruit and very well made, my question would be does it warrant a place in your cellar? The same estate’s Chianti Classico Reserva is stunning and is half the price. We of course understand the role that Merlot can play in softening Sangiovese and can make it more approachable in its youth. We often blend a touch of Merlot in our fruity Sangiovese whilst others blend the native Canaiolo for the same desired effect.

Without question our Cabernet and Merlot are very content gorging on the Tuscan galestro soil and climate, and have clearly benefited from a more recent “site selection”, modern vineyard training methods and the judicious use of French barriques. The resulting IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) wines are a fruity, powerful blend and provide the perfect complement to barbeques, red meats and pecorino cheese.

I am certainly not attempting to make sense of the IGT vs. DOCG status as I will leave that to those more qualified than me. But even if consumers are aware of the IGT marque, what style of wine do they expect to receive in their bottle? Are they presuming it will be made with more care? A Bordeaux grape variety? Aged with new oak or just more expensive than the traditional wines? There is no consistency and one has to rely on firsthand knowledge of the vineyard and an understanding of which wine style you prefer as the sommelier hovers over you on that first date. The blended wines absolutely have their place and can bring a touch of Tuscany to a wider drinking audience but does it make understanding Tuscan wines easier?