Dec 4 2013
It is December again and with yet another year coming to a close, I find myself in a reflecting and sentimental mood; maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones, or maybe it’s just the nostalgia evoked by the intoxicating blend of nutmeg aromas, Christmas music and embarrassing amounts of tinsel strewn around town.
No matter the reason, in looking back I realize I have read so much wonderful wine content this year, which, more and more, is coming from digital sources like blogs, e-zines and mobile apps. After attending this year’s European Wine Bloggers Conference, also known as the Digital Wine Communicators Conference (or as I like to call it, the Wine Nerd Bowl), I’ve been introduced to a new crop of international wine blogs and e-zines, which officially guarantees that my husband must share our precious, post-kiddo bedtime hours with my computer.
While I am a faithful reader to go-to wine writers, like Eric, Tyler, Joe, Tom and Jon, the following six blogs topped my list this year for awesome wine content. Why six? Because top ten lists always strike me as suspect…too round to be true. Some of these guys and gals are well-known, some are diamonds in the rough, but all are worth adding to your favorite reading list.
Happy Holidays y’all. Cheers!
1. Wine Folly
Madeline Puckette is the brain behind this fan-diddly-tastic wine blog. I love every single thing they put out because it’s inevitably witty, visually appealing (given her background as a graphic designer) and new to vino cyberspace. Truly unique content is hard to come by and the smarties at Wine Folly just keep rolling out the good stuff.
Founded by my well-hydrated pal, David White, Terroirist took home the “Best Overall Wine Blog” at the 2013 Wine Blog Awards. Another winner in the content division, Terroirist puts out an amazing amount of useful, original and news-oriented wine content every day. And this isn’t even his day job! I read it every morning and you should, too.
Whatever Ron Washam is on, I want in. Reading this blog penned by a retired sommelier from Southern California, I find myself feeling some mixture of elation, glee and confusion. He took home two wine blog awards this year, but based on this post, I’m pretty sure he didn’t pick them up in person. His satirical blog is incredibly funny and pointed, sometimes uncomfortable to read, but always worth the time.
A blog more about digital topics than wine itself and penned by Paul Mabray and his team, VinTank is a digital think tank. If you’re looking for Paul, he is likely multitasking on a conference call while driving his car somewhere in the Bay area, or speaking as a keynote at a wine conference, or announcing some piece of news that spreads like wildfire around the wine world. They have rad algorithms I don’t understand that tell us what fellow wine nerds are talking about, and more importantly, are kind enough to share this social intelligence, mostly for free. Check it out.
5. Palate Press
Co-founded by David Honig and W.R. Tish (incidentally one of my favorite and oldest wine industry pals), Palate Press is a wonderful online wine magazine with a serious lineup of columnists and contributors, both professional to citizen bloggers. This is a well-researched, well-edited e-zine, packed with all forms of wine content and news from around the world.
Newly launched last month by Christopher Barnes, co-founder of amNewYork, this video-centric wine blog/e-commerce site has signed on some heavy hitters to provide and edit wine content, including Nick Fauchald, Kristen Bieler, Dorothy Gaiter and Barbara Fairchild. WHAMO! I am clearly partial, because they launched with a massive feature on Rioja, but it doesn’t change the fact that this site is worth checking out.
Nov 20 2013
It’s hard to imagine there is market demand for yet another new flavored vodka. The number of SKUs is staggering and there’s no end in sight. According to several industry sources, the popularity of flavored vodkas is soaring. Between 2010 and 2012, volume increased 38 percent. Of the 171 vodkas introduced in 2012, 122 were flavored. Experts say 2013 will be another banner year.
So, where do these flavor ideas come from? While many are concocted first as drinks in bars and restaurants, more and more distillers are hiring food scientists and researchers to develop new flavors. According to industry watchers, fruit flavors are seen as perennially popular, the recent “indulgent and sweet” trend is now giving way to spicy hot and herbal.
Truth be told, flavor trends are coming from everywhere. Color chips? Yes, the lime flavor trend started when the Color Institute identified a lime-green color pantone color as coming into favor, er flavor. Some trend spotters look to cultural anthropology, global trends and even art. Growing interest in Latin cuisine and an increasing Hispanic population are driving flavor choices in theU.S.
The race to win legal age Millennials is also driving flavor trends. This group grew up with a more global outlook and are said to have a more exotic palate. But, they’re both global and local, they like buying worldly fare at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but they’re also drawn to locally grown co-ops and farmer’s markets. So, watch for more “local” sourcing to become a trend – perhaps not sourced down the street, but ingredient origin is important to them.
The newest twist? Absolut Tune, a sparkling fusion of premium vodka and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: Spirits flavored vodka. Absolut led the way with one of the first vodka hybrids. Introduced in eight markets in October 2012, it is now distributed nationally and considered a huge success.
Absolut senior marketing manager Shefali Murdia says Absolut Tune gives consumers a sparkling drink with the extra oomph of vodka, creating an entirely new category in the overcrowded flavored vodka space. The new hybrid was inspired by consumers tired of the tried and true and looking for the next new thing. And, others are quickly jumping in. In fact, just last month Exclusiv Vodka launched its brandy flavored vodka, XO Napoleon in eight states.
What’s next? Well, Absolut just introduced cilantro flavor. Perhaps cardamom vodka is on the horizon!
Nov 13 2013
It’s been nearly a month since I downloaded, in the name of research, a handful of wine-oriented apps onto my iPhone and now it’s time to report my observations. People think that drinking wine and fiddling with your iPhone is all fun and games but I say, “Science!”.
So, the results: out of the 8 apps I downloaded, I’m going to discuss 5 of them. For the most part, across the board, this current generation of wine apps is a huge improvement. I still have some reservations about all the attempts at reducing the mysteries of wine and pairings down to an algorithm but feel that there are some apps out there that could prove genuinely useful for the average drinker. Let’s get right to it, shall we?
WineSearcher: WineSearcher.com is a website I go to all the time. It’s simple, has clear and singular purpose (where can I find X wine?) and, although it’s not the niftiest looking website out there it gets the job done. The app version opens up to a random stock image of a guy in a suit perched a couple of steps up a ladder that has been randomly perched in a nondescript dessert who is looking through a pair of binoculars. I could do without this lost gentleman. However, once I’ve made it into the app, the first page goes ahead and shows me all the nearby wine shops in descending order of proximity with a handy one to five star rating next to each shop. From there, I can also search for a particular wine nearby. This is a wine app that knows what its doing and does it well without a lot of gimmick (but with a random image of a guy in a suit who is lost in a dessert somewhere with a ladder. He looks nice. I hope he finds what he is looking for).
DrinFoo: Drynfoo is one of the prettier apps I downloaded, aside from the ads along the bottom that I suspect may be the app’s entire point, and its aimed at helping you find the perfect wine pairing with whatever you’re serving. One of the things that immediately sets this app apart is its bizarre choice of categorizing foods. Enter the “Veggies” section, for example and “Lentils” has its own category. As does, btw, “Eggplants” – as if there are so many choices in one’s day-to-day when it comes to eggplants. Where are the bell peppers? Carrots? Broccoli? You know… normal things that people eat frequently?
To be fair, they’ve got you covered in the “Meat” section with Kangaroo and Ostrich as options. Whatever ingredient you’ve chosen, your next step is to choose its preparation. Was it Broiled? Grilled? Braised? From there, you’re asked to choose a sauce (herbs, cream, tomato?) and when you’ve finally inputted your dish you’re taken to a screen that shows you… not the suggested pairing! But instead! A list of countries! Ok… let’s try Chile! That should get me a wine! Nope. Now you’ve got to select a variety. Ok… Carmenere! Finally! A wine! Aaaand… nope. Now I’ve just got an info page that lists the characteristics of what a Carmenere is and those characteristics are “Red, Still, and Dry.” Helpful. Finally, I am led to an “Explanation page” that tells me that “A full red wine serves as a perfect marriage to my kangaroo.” Welp, I guess I know I should find a full red wine (but what kind?!) to serve next time I grab some Kangaroo meat. Overall, although it looks nice and hip, this is an app that won’t be making it through the next app cull.
WineQuest: WineQuest does things a little different. Rather than ask you to input foods for pairing, it starts you off with a fairly comprehensive “Taste Interview” that consists of about 20 questions about what you generally do and don’t like to eat and drink. Once you’ve finished your “Taste Interview”, the app pulls up a series of 10 red wines that are a mix of fairly commercial and famous wines (Silver Oak, Louis Jadot, Kendall Jackson) and asks you to rate them using a fun finger-controlled gauge that ranges from “Double Yuk: hate it (1)” to “Double Yum: love it (5)”. Now that you’ve got your Taste Profile set up, you can walk into any wine store or look at any wine list, select a wine, type it into WineQuest and, based on the information you’ve supplied, WineQuest will tell you whether you will love or hate that wine.
I tried it a few times to varying degrees of success but generally it was fairly correct. On top of that, once you’ve found the wine, WineQuest will find you and tell you the closest place you can purchase that bottle of wine. Bonus! You can add frequent drinking buddies, build profiles for them, and ask WineQuest whether they will also enjoy the bottle of Malbec you’re considering. Overall, I think it would be nice to have a feature where users can connect with one another and share profiles so that each user is not responsible for building their friends’ profiles. For me, this app is pretty useless only because my friends couldn’t care less what they’re drinking as long as it has alcohol in it.
Blush For Wine: This was another wine app that, similarly to DrynFoo, seduced me with a lovely millennial-targeted aesthetic. It looked clean, modern, and fun. Blush for Wine combines a couple of features that I liked in both WineQuest and WineSearcher and does a much better job of tailoring pairings based on another “Taste Survey” (How do you like your coffee? Lots of cream? A little cream? Black?) to find out what kinds of wines I like and also recommend specific bottles rather than generic grapes/regions. It will also pair my dish with wines that I like that are available nearby! Useful! You can also snap/scan wine for an in-depth description from the app. This is a keeper.
Delectable: Look at me, I’m the worst – I saved the best for last. Delectable is basically Instagram for wine geeks. That’s literally all it is – you have a profile where you take pictures of wines that you’re drinking, can write tasting notes, and can rate the wine on a cute sad-to-happy-face sliding scale. If people are following you’re your wines will show up on their “Feed” and visa-versa. Other Delectable users can “like” and comment on your wine. My only problem with Delectable is that there are not nearly enough people on it! The other problem? Some people… cough…. don’t quite have a handle on the etiquette of social media so rather than snap as they sip, my feed will get inundated by a flood of back-logged wines that are posted all at the same time – clogging my feed with 20 pictures from the same user. It’s annoying. Don’t do it. Also – get on Delectable!
Oct 23 2013
Just look at pumpkin beer – because it’s hard not to… it’s everywhere! It wasn’t many years ago when the pumpkin brew was something of a red-headed stepchild in your favorite local beer store come fall, always outnumbered by the staple of the season: the traditional Oktoberfest.
But that’s no longer the case.
Today, we live in the era of craft beer. And with an ever-growing number of new brewers seeking to win our favor – be it in a pint or a six pack – they’re going beyond the expected Oktoberfest options, putting a renewed emphasis on the “season” in seasonal.
I’ve yet to come across a frothy pint of pumpkin beer that pleases me, but I must be in the minority. Everybody from big brewers like Blue Moon and Sam Adams to a number of craft brewers are filling shelves with the stuff. Fortunately, for those of us who’d rather the pumpkins stay on porches and out of beer, there are some other interesting fall choices.
A new fall favorite of mine is Sweet Yamma Jamma, a sweet potato ale with candied yams and spices from Minneapolis-based Indeed Brewing Company. It’s the perfect hearty accompaniment to any warm fall meal, and is dangerously tempting enough to serve as a meal in itself.
Harpoon Brewery’s seasonal Grateful Harvest Ale isn’t available within a reasonable driving distance of me, but I have to admit I’m intrigued. It’s an amber ale brewed with cranberries, so a seemingly perfect complement to your Thanksgiving dinner. And if you’re on the fence about it, perhaps the $1 they donate to a local food bank for every six pack sold will sway you.
Another curiously interesting option is Oregon-based Harvester Brewing’s seasonal Squash Ale. The beer features not only squash but also roasted pumpkin seeds, cinnamon and nutmeg.
The availability of these increasingly exotic beer options can be chalked up to a couple factors. First, it stands to reason that a larger number of breweries will lead to a wider array of choices and please a more diverse range of taste preferences. I learned this when I tried my first (and last) jalapeno beer a couple years back.
Second, the unstoppable growth of breweries in the U.S. is naturally going to lead to more competition. The craft-beer honeymoon is over for most people, meaning breweries need to do more and more to gain some distinction and make waves in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Think of it as Darwinism with malted barley.
Showing some panache and playfulness in your beer-making abilities and putting out more adventurous options will do that. And so will a host of other things – small-batch brews that can generate some buzz, tastings and brewery-based events that integrate you brand into people’s social lives, giving back to your community to connect with people at an emotional level and building a strong web and social media presence so you’re always present in the lives of today’s connected generations.
In other words, craft beer can no longer be sustained on its name alone. Brand image, creative marketing and reputation all are increasingly important. And remember, craft beer may have all the buzz, but big beer is still king.
Of course, the question now lingers: Who’s going to give us a gravy beer?
Oct 9 2013
Going on week two of the Federal Government shutdown, and this is getting real.
From support for needy mothers and their newborns to clinical trials for cancer patients to benefits for servicemen and their families, there are endless, heartbreaking stories of affected people, programs and agencies, each more horrifying than the last.
No industry is immune, including the one that puts your favorite libation in your glass. It may seem trivial in comparison to literal life or death situations, but the effects are hard to swallow (pun intended) to many businesses. Despite stories of Congressmen remaining well-boozed during the shutdown, here are three real life examples of how the government has brought the beverage alcohol industry to a screeching halt.
1. The Godfather of beverage alcohol is on vacation. With the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) shuttered with the rest of the government, all label approvals are on hold. Wine labels, which provide the consumer key information about the product, must be approved before wineries can label their bottles. Bottling lines are built to label empty bottles, meaning the finished product must remain in tank or cask. No big deal, right? Just sell what you have for now, and let the wine in tank age a little longer. Well, not exactly.
Delay in label approval, and thus bottling, is a serious problem for wineries that need to free up tanks for new wine coming in from the harvest. Delay in this cyclical process would have devastating impacts on the wine itself, and serious financial implication for wineries. Breweries and cideries are in the same sinking boat.
2. Big beer won’t feel much pain, as Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors can just continue to produce their household name brews in bulk. Craft breweries, however, are definitely paying attention. The TTB shutdown means no new recipes can be approved, while craft beer is all about new, fresh and interesting labels coming to market. The AP reported Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, which represents more than 1,900 U.S. breweries, as saying “one could think of this shutdown as basically stopping business indefinitely for anyone who didn’t have certain paperwork in place back in mid-August.”
From autumn seasonals awaiting labels to spring recipes needing approval, this shutdown has hit home for hundreds of small breweries and, indirectly, craft beer lovers. According to Bryan Simpson, spokesman for Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing in the AP article, the brewery has five new labels and three recipes on hold, and “everybody is frustrated in general. The whole way this has played out has been disappointing for the entire country.” We’re with you, Bryan.
3. No new permits from the TTB mean no craft brewer’s dream of opening a new brewery or production facility will be fulfilled anytime soon. This is serious news for the record breaking 1,300+ breweries in planning, according to Gatza. With an already overloaded TTB, due in part to the exciting boom of the craft beer industry, a total shutdown is a nightmare-come-true for brewers.
Aspiring Milwaukee-based craft brewer Mike Brenner, for example, hoped to open by December, according to the AP article. With his application and labels now on hold, “he expects to lose about $8,000 for every month his opening is delayed.”
Despite the shuttering of all services, the government will continue to get paid, in part. How ironic! Shanken News Daily reported that the TTB’s website will continue to accept “electronic payments and returns for federal excise taxes and operational reports.” Now that is going to chafe quite a few booze makers.
Here’s to hoping our currently ineffective and frustrating government finds a way to play nicely together in the sandbox soon. Cheers.
Oct 2 2013
With the recent activity (or lack thereof) in Washington, I got to thinking - what would happen in the U.S., let alone the world, if the winemakers were to shut down? Wine production would come to a standstill; grapevines would become abandoned in the fields; restaurants would offer a water list in lieu of wine; liquor stores would have nothing to replenish their inventory. Basically, it wouldn’t be a world worth living in. That’s where PR comes in! As a PR professional who happens to work on a rather large wine account, how would I handle this, or use it to my (client’s) advantage? Here’s a top 5 gif-inspired way in said world:
5) Call up the top Michelin-starred restaurants and demand private tastings to “sample” the food in exchange for remaining bottles of wine
4) Email all the editors who were ever mean to you and tell them you would have shared the wine, but now, it’s TOO LATE
3) Meet Oprah (just ’cause)
2) Offer The TODAY Show producers bottles of wine for their personal stash in exchange for booze coverage
1) Get a new coffee or tea client
Sep 25 2013
Full disclosure: as an Austrian, I was practically raised on beer. Austria ranks among the top five nations worldwide in terms of beer consumption per capita. The U.S. ranks #13 with 21.5 gallon/person. So, perhaps you can see why I can’t help but have a good brew with special occasions – including the end of each workday and weekends :o).
A month ago, I went gluten-free and feared that I had to bid farewell to good beer forever. Turns out, I was wrong. As the gluten-free market continues to boom (approaching $5 billion and predicted to grow by another $2.4 billion by 2017), taste is not a sacrifice I have to make. The main challenge is to find gluten-free beer in my neck of the woods (Virginia), but the brews I have tasted (such as Estrella) are pretty darn good.
As I ventured into gluten-free territory, there was one stat that worried me: Only one in 133 Americans avoid gluten because of medical reasons, but almost one in three people currently stay away from gluten because “it’s trendy” to do so. What if all these trend chasers jumped on a new trend tomorrow? Should I start hoarding gluten-free brews now before they disappear from the shelves?
According to industry experts, gluten-free beer is here to stay (and grow). Here are three reasons why:
1. Better Ingredients, Better “Real Beer” Taste
Figuring out how to make gluten-free beer taste like “real beer” has been a major challenge, according to Chris Furnari, editor at Brewbound.com. Gluten-free ingredients, like corn, rice and sorghum, don’t match the typical beer flavors one expects. Redbridge, Anheuser-Busch’s first gluten-free beer released in 2006, for example, was completely made from sorghum. Breweries using traditional ingredients (malted wheat or barley) and extracting the gluten after the brewing process fit the taste bill, but can’t call their beers gluten-free (yet). Luckily, more breweries experiment with new ingredients: “In Portland, Oregon, you’ll find Harvester, a gluten-free brewery using chestnuts, oats, marionberries (…) and raspberries to create beers that are both wildly flavorful and gluten-free,” so Joshua M. Bernstein, author of The Complete Beer Course. The luscious flavors of chestnuts in particular seem to be promising to gluten-free brewers around the world.
2. Reducing Label Confusion for the Consumer
“Marketers clearly see an advantage in labeling their products as gluten-free to spike sales, even if the product never had gluten in it to begin with,” says Furnari. Gluten-free beers are one step closer to solving a labeling dilemma that has been going on for years: “In August 2013, the FDA finally implemented standards for what encompasses the definition of ‘gluten-free,’ a full five years beyond the deadline established by Congress,” notes Carolyn Smagalski, Brewing Advisor for the International Gluten Free Beer Festival. “Now that the line is drawn, there will be an expansion of products available in the market place, including gluten-free beer.” The Craft Brew Alliance (BREW), maker of a gluten-free beer with malted barley called Omission, could benefit greatly from the signal the FDA ruling sends to the marketplace. Only permitted to call Omission “gluten-free” in its home state of Oregon to date, Omission could soon be labeled gluten-free nationwide if the product contains “less than 20 parts per million gluten” proteins. “Labels allowed carrying the designation ‘gluten free’ will wear it like a badge of honor,” says Smagalski.
3. Competition Breeds Innovation and Quality
In 2007, the Great American Beer Festival added a gluten-free category to its competition, judging a mere eight entries. Fast-forward five years and the category drew 20 entries in 2012. With rising competition, brew masters are bringing their A-game: “Gluten-free beers used to be like Budweiser – designed to appeal to as many people as possible. This meant a lager-like beer. Nowadays, craft brewers are creating a range of gluten-free beers, from saisons to IPAs and beyond,” said Bernstein. Smagalski thinks that “super-large brewing companies still view the gluten-free market as a limited market,” but with the growing awareness and diagnosis of Celiac Disease and gluten-intolerance, that may change. “Supermarkets are next in line” for a dedicated gluten-free beverage alcohol section, says Bernstein.
For your next trip to the supermarket, here are my top 5 gluten-free beer recommendations:
· Omission (Oregon)
· New Planet (Colorado)
· Dogfish Head Tweason’Ale (seasonal, Delaware)
· Brasseurs San Gluten (Canada)
· Harvester (Oregon)
Have you had a gluten-free brew lately? Let us know in the comments section.
Interviewees for this blog post include:
· Joshua M. Bernstein, editor of Craft Beer New York and author of the new book The Complete Beer Course, caught my attention in a Bon Appétit feature about “Ten Gluten Free Beers That Actually Taste Good.” Follow him on Twitter.
[Image credits: TheGuardian.com, WhyIsDaddyCrying.com, harvesterbrewing.com, growlermag.com, blogs.kqed.org, philly.thedrinknation.com]
Sep 18 2013
I am a born and bred New Yorker and a rabid Yankees fan. I curse too much. Behind the wheel, you would know pretty instantly where I learned to drive. With most of my tight knit family in the Northeast, there is really no good reason for me to have moved 400 miles south to Charlottesville, Virginia four years ago.
Not that my parents loved this explanation, but among other reasons, I came for the beer. And the wine, cider, local food movement and the Blue Ridge Mountains, but really the beer was a major contributing factor. When I lived in Brooklyn, I was already a craft beer groupie with a taste for Brooklyn Brewery and Sierra Nevada, but visits to Charlottesville’s Blue Mountain Brewery and craft beer mecca, Beer Run opened my eyes to this new world of endless and delicious choices. If you’ve ever sat outside at Blue Mountain Brewery staring at the surreal mountain range that is actually blue, over a pint of hoppy Full Nelson (60 IBUs), you’d want to move here, too. Yeah, it’s that good.
Apparently, I was unknowingly on-trend. 2009 was the coming of age for a lot of other craft beer fans, as well. According to Bryan Roth of the craft beer-focused blog This is Why I’m Drunk, craft beer went viral in 2009 coinciding with the peaking of social media itself, particularly among the Millennial generation.
Driven by the craft breweries themselves and the rise of brewery openings, especially in the Northeast, the term “craft beer” really took hold in 2009. As Roth points out, Google Trends showed “the term ‘craft beer’ grew steadily in searches beginning in 2009,” driven by the rise in brewery openings and sales, and an obvious increase of consumer curiosity. But why?
In walks social media and Millennials. Originally enjoyed by diehard trail blazers and adventurous yuppies as an affordable luxury, the craft beer demographic has shown a marked shift towards a younger, hipper audience. Millennials, in particular, have adopted craft beer as their own, perhaps due to the endless choices, opportunity to experiment with new brews, and of course, a certain cool-factor available for less than wine or spirits.
Social media gave this new audience the perfect forum for two-way conversation with friends and their favorite breweries. Roth offers the following stats about the rise of social media in 2009:
With such increased usage driven largely by Millennials, craft brewers quickly caught on that social media was a great way to start a dialogue with fans without incurring huge advertising costs associated with big beer. According to Pat Strader of Digital Relativity, “Unlike many of the brewers and brewery founders, those that have recently come of drinking age, have grown up in a world with widely-available craft beer. In addition, this age group expects a deepened level of engagement. Simply sending a general Tweet, Facebook or G+ post is just not enough. You have to reach-out, reply and be available.” He also points out “The power of the one-to-one relationship goes in both directions. It’s not just about brewers telling their stories, it is the interaction between craft brewers and those of us that love to drink their beers.”
It was a perfect storm, and a perfect relationship between a passionate craft beer audience and small business owner/brewers. Roth sums it up well in an earlier conversation with Fullsteam Brewery owner Sean Lilly Wilson. “Many businesses aren’t able to make the leap of using branding as a conversation, but we’ve been very lucky in the timing of our brewery to coincide with the rise of social media,” said Wilson, who runs the @Fullsteam Twitter account. “Early on, I saw people cared, they were interested and they liked giving us ideas online to help shape the vision of the brewery.”
Aug 28 2013
…Everything You Were Curious About But Afraid To Ask
When I was 19 and studying in England, I had my first encounter with cider. It was love at first sip. And when I came home, there was barely any cider stateside with the exception of the big boys with big money. Until now! Here’s a little Cider 101 for those of you who are ready for fall’s flavors.
What IS cider?
Cider is fermented apple juice with varying flavor profiles, just like wine and beer, and is touted as one of the most food-friendly beverages. Here are some quick points for the cider newbie (thanks to Virginia Cider Week):
Aug 21 2013
The Booze Bin
By Laura Petrosky (@chronic_ally)
Many people who work in the alcoholic beverage industry got their inboxes flooded with #dumpstoli emails last month. For those of you who were on sunning on the beach with a vodka tonic, here is what happened: Following the decree of the anti-LGBT laws in Russia, LGBT activists called for a boycott of Russian vodka in the U.S. According to activist Dan Savage: “If there isn’t a boycott (…) at the Olympics in Sochi this winter, (…) there is something we can do right here, right now: Dump Russian vodka.”
And yes, they dumped! And the top dumpee? Stoli, the largest-producing, most well-known Russian vodka available in the U.S. Though technically made in Luxembourg (I will spare you the details, which you can read here), gay bars across the U.S. jumped on the boycott bandwagon. Some of them even hosted #dumpstoli parties and poured the vodka down the drain.
With all of the vodka down the drain, it got me thinking about how Non-Russian spirit brands would react to Stoli’s misfortune. Would any other brand cross the so-called picket line of “politically correct” badmouthing of the competition? (More on that later.) Campari’s Skyy Vodka created a new twitter ad that reads, "Cheers to Equality" with a Skyy bottle in front of an American flag. The tweet further read “Skyy Vodka is American made, and made for everyone. Show your support for equality in every country.” 800 people instantly shared or marked the Tweet as a favorite. Point for Skyy.
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum. Luxco’s Pearl Vodka reportedly hosted a Stoli dumping party at Woody’s in Philadelphia. Wine & Spirits Daily (7/30 newsletter) reported that the party was the bar’s idea, but that Pearl provided POS for the event. A little harsh on the mob-mentality. Minus a point for Luxco’s Peal Vodka.
The question is: To what degree is it acceptable to benefit from a competitor’s misfortune? Here are three points to keep in mind before exploiting a rival’s hard luck:
1. Is it worth it? In PR, being first can be golden. Nothing is worse than missing the news cycle because you waited too long to act. However, take some time to think about the consequences of your actions. Grab a cup of coffee; sleep on it; run it by a coworker. Be your own devil’s advocate. There is such a thing as a sore winner and consumers may not like it.
2. Bluntly put, be subtle. Do you really have to mention your rival by name and throw them under the bus? Or can you take the subtle, clever road? There are ways of saying what you want to say without saying it. Do you know what I’m saying?
3. Beware of fake activism: Don’t ever talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk. When criticizing the competition, make sure you actually do better in the area you are critiquing. More importantly: Be sure you even care about the issue at hand. If you have never taken a stand for being environmentally conscientious, for example, does it make sense to start now?
[Image credit: Twitter, Getty, Family Guy]