Fassina’s South Australian tasting – variety and character in spades

In their last tasting of 2011, Fassina have excelled themselves again, attracting a diverse range of wineries from across South Australia with different grape varieties (I counted 17!), climates, soils (dare I say terroir), histories and approaches. Some I knew well, some I had not tried before. I’ll give you some snippets about each winery and highlight the stars of the night – you’ll be surprised! Check out the slideshow below to sample the atmosphere and see some of the star wines and their fans!

I started with the Mayhem & Co. wines from the Adelaide Hills because I spotted the winemaker, Brendon Keys, the maker of one of my favourite chardonnays, the One Ball, made under his label BK Wines. His philosophy with the Mayhem wines is to produce single vineyard Adelaide Hills wines that are edgy and interesting and food friendly.

I loved the bone dry 2010 Old School Riesling, so fresh, citrus, dry and clean, alcohol 11.5%, with tight acid so that it will age spectacularly well. A great lipsmacking start! Then onto the Sancerre-style sauvignon blanc, also bone dry with a 10% barrel ferment to add texture. Lovely lemon sherbet nose, with a zesty lemon and lime palate and textured mouthfeel.

The 2009 Newcomer Pinot Noir was one of the night’s standouts for me, proof – I bought some! The fruit was from Balhannah, fermented with wild yeast, only 10% in French oak and 30 days on skins resulted in lots of primary brambly fruit and cherries jumping out of the glass, with rich, savoury flavours, and that wonderful earthy, mushroom character.

The 2009 Bells & Whistles Cabernet Sauvignon was the last in the line-up – and oh boy did it have that WOW factor! Airing in the decanter it was a deep dark intense colour (see the photo in the slideshow) – and the flavours were even more intense, complex and concentrated. Brendon described the style as between Napa and McLaren Vale, and definitely not a traditional Bordeaux style, but most definitely a food wine and would cellar for many years. (I didn’t need food with it – fine as it was for me!)

Onto The Islander wines from Kangaroo Island – winemaker Jacques Lurton (pictured). I found their wines elegant and flavoursome with some non-typical blends. Take for example the Bark Hut Road Cabernet/Shiraz/Viognier. This was a 65/30/5 blend, although the shiraz was co-fermented with the viognier so it could be called a 65/35. It had a generous and fresh nose of blackcurrant and a touch of vanilla with dark chocolate, the palate following through and very long.

Their flagship I found out was named after a ship! The 2005 Investigator Cabernet Franc/Sangiovese (just a small amount of sangio) was named after the HMS Investigator which in 1802 took Captain Matthew Flinders on a voyage that included the discovery of Kangaroo Island. Renowned French winemaker Jacques Lurton rediscovered KI as a great winemaking destination a couple of hundred years later! This wine is intense and savoury with dark berries and chocolate. Jacques’s philosophy? To make wines with texture and structure that go well with food. C’était magnifique!

Cape Jaffa wines from Mount Benson on the Limestone Coast, from husband and wife team Derek and Anna (pictured) were all biodynamic, all using French oak and all impressive. The 2010 semillon/sauvignon blanc (50/50 blend) was made with a French twist with some old oak, adding to the texture while retaining fresh, zingy citrus flavours. The pinot gris was a delight – a wine that can sometimes miss the mark. It had some new oak treatment in large (500 litre) barrels. The texture was wonderful – creamy and soft, with subtle flavours of honeysuckle and pear.

Their flagship was La Lune shiraz, fermented with wild yeast and a combination of new and older oak – their aim is for “oak integration not domination” says Derek. Hear hear! It had lovely soft tannins, rich flavour and great length. It was also a favourite with the other winemakers trying each other’s wines!

Cape Jaffa had the only sticky of the night – a botrytis semillon. Bursting with that typical marmalade and honey botrytis semillon character, it had amazing length and lovely long finish – and not too sweet, just perfect. My friends bought some of that and I intend to share it!

As well as a particularly enjoyable cabernet sauvignon, Kalleske from the Barossa Valley had a couple of less usual varietals – a 2011 chenin blanc and a 2010 durif. The chenin blanc had great texture and soft fruit. The durif I lingered on for a while. It is from a single vineyard, from hand-pruned, low-yielding vines and grown in “shallow, sandy loam soil over superb deep red clay, providing ideal conditions for durif”. (I copied their tasting notes!) It had 16 months in oak, mostly used American hogsheads.

The colour of the durif is the first thing you notice – solid ink black. The nose was deep and rich with licorice, with very very dark berries and plum. The palate was just as rich and intense with the dark fruit characters and dark chocolate and big velvety palate, rounded off with drying tannins. This is a wine that must be tried by any wine enthusiast!

Bremerton wines I am familiar with, having been to their cellar door in Langhorne Creek several times. They have a number of outstanding wines and at very competitive prices. They didn’t bring their reserve cabernet sauvignon which I love – and have some at home. They did bring the Old Adam Shiraz though, a flagship of theirs and never disappoints. Rich flavour, great texture, a classy wine. The Coulthard cabernet sauvignon is also excellent, a worthy little brother of the reserve. Their white standout for me was the verdelho, fresh and lively, a perfect summer wine.

The Wilson Vineyard from the Clare Valley had a fantastic – surprise surprise – Polish River riesling – proof – I bought some of that too. It was made with cold whole bunch pressing which helps to lock in flavour and aroma. The wine is wonderful, great varietal aromatics, with a zingy fruit-driven palate, nice and dry, with a soft mouthfeel, and fresh clean fruit. I loved it.

The Coonawarra was represented by the Flint family (pictured), presenting three reds – a shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot – the only merlot of the night. It was a little corker! They reeled off a number of medals it had won, including a gold in class at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show and a runner-up in the 2007 Jimmy Watson Trophy. The reds all had some nice age on them, the merlot and shiraz both being 2007s and the cab a 2008. Great ambassadors for Coonawarra reds.

Thank you to Fassina for yet another fabulous winetasting with interesting bite-sized presentations from each winery represented. Enjoy the slideshow and come along to the next event!

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Posted in Barossa wine, Cabernet sauvignon, Chardonnay, Langhorne Creek wine, McLaren Vale wine, Pinot noir, South Australian wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine events, Wine varietals and blends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Making good pinot is like reaching for the stars!

Brian Schmidt

This interview is one that I will remember forever – talking to Australia’s 2011 Nobel physics prize winner about his passion for making pinot noir. Professor Brian Schmidt is not only highly accomplished and respected in his field of astronomy but he also has many qualities that I admire – pragmatism, tenacity, energy, enthusiasm, and enquiring mind and a healthy level of humility. As his friend Tim Kirk, the Clonakilla winemaker states:

“Brian is a genius scientist. It means he’s got an inquiring mind, but he hasn’t got a closed mind.” (‘Restless Experimenter’, Canberra Times, 6 April 2011)

He is also a self-professed perfectionist – making his experiences with the notoriously fickle pinot noir grape an interesting juxtaposition – interesting to all concerned – as Brian says, “The Swedish academy asked me about 2011 vintage when they told me about my Nobel prize – that kinda floored me!”

This article focuses on Brian’s wine and his love for pinot. For anyone who wants to know more about his scientific achievements and theories, there are endless articles available. In layman’s terms, the Nobel prize was to recognise his findings that in the last 6 billion years since the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, the universe has been accelerating in its expansion. In his words,

“Space is made up of more than three dimensions, it’s made up of at least four. And that fourth dimension is related to time, so when I say the universe is expanding, it’s really expanding into the future. That’s what’s so difficult for people to get their head around, including myself.” (‘Restless Experimenter’, Canberra Times, 6 April 2011)

Not only that but the pace of expansion is accelerating, with galaxies “racing away from each other at ever-increasing speeds”.

I have enough difficulty getting my head around wine! Deep breath – pinot time…

A suitable wine with which to celebrate!
I asked Brian – which wine does a Nobel prize winner celebrate this milestone with?

“I went into the cellar and I pulled out a 1990 Château Montrose, Bordeaux. Why did I choose that – well it was the first wine I bought back in graduate school.”

It was also the first expensive wine he ever purchased, something all of us wine lovers would remember. Clearly his interest in wine has always been there. I was interested to see that the 1970 Château Montrose, from the Médoc region, placed third out of the 10 French and Californian red wines at the infamous 1976 Judgment of Paris wine competition (as featured in the movie ‘Bottleshock’).

Cosmic Pinot!
With the Twitter name @cosmicpinot (bit of a clue there…), clearly Brain’s passion leans towards pinot noir, an intriguing, fickle and ultimately rewarding variety that can never be totally conquered. He says:

“I know I’ll never conquer it, there is no way to conquer pinot. Even the best pinots I’ve had in Australia – I’ll have a great one and the next year it’s like ‘ah it’s OK.’”

Canberra’s winemaking fraternity
I asked – where did you learn your winemaking skills? “I mainly learned on the fly. I did a vintage in 2001 at Lark Hill” – Lark Hill are pinot noir specialists, and Brian worked with David Carpenter, who has a PhD in physics.

“We’re a very academic group here in Canberra, plenty of winemakers here have PhDs.”

Brian chose the hands-on approach to learning the winemaking skills, and applied his methodical and thorough mind to reading a lot of books on the subject. Being a scientist is a seriously solid basis for any winemaker. It was more the specifics he needed to pick up, and this he learned by doing.

“I have certainly made my fair share of mistakes”… “Yes, pinot noir is the perfect wine for people who are not afraid of failing”

She’ll be right!
In true Aussie style, this pinot fan’s own wine label has the name Maipenrai – Thai for ‘she’ll be right’, the name given to their property by the previous owners. What a great (and somewhat ironic) name for a pinot label!

I want to know what this wine is like:

“Canberra is a continental cool climate. It has the full spectrum of flavours depending on the year.” Describing the Maipenrai wines: “2008 aromatic briary; 2009 very rich, quite a bit of structure; 2010 between the 2008 and 2009; 2011 very light and fruity.

“Unlike most wine regions in the rest of Australia we are not affected by maritime, we are cool and inland. In that sense we are not dissimilar to Burgundy. Every vintage in Burgundy is a little different to every other one and we are in the same boat. That’s kind of interesting but also challenging.”

Brian does not fine or filter his wine and relies entirely on natural yeasts. He and his family undertake every stage of the winemaking themselves, although he gets a team in to help with pruning, as he just doesn’t get the time to do this around his day job.

The Maipenrai style? He describes the Maipenrai pinot as having fruit flavours of cherry and plum, with complex savoury characters, such as briary and forest floor.

“I’m trying to make pinot noir with a bit of substance, not just primary fruit, some interest in terms of savouriness, complex gaminess, not just strawberries and intense fruit.”

Would you consider growing whites?
“Riesling is very popular in the area and we seem to have a lot of success here with riesling. In my case I am a full-time astronomer and so I wanted to concentrate on one thing and I wanted to do it as best I could and I personally find the red winemaking more interesting and challenging, whereas most types of white winemaking is pretty clinical, relatively speaking.

“As in Burgundy where you don’t usually find the little Burgundy guys doing a red and a white, they usually focus on a red or white.”

In my research I saw that the Maipenrai pinot had sold out this year “We were down to our last few cases before the announcement of Maipenrai’s Brian Schmidt winning the Nobel Prize, and what remained has literally gone in 60 seconds.” (Source: http://www.maipenrai.com.au/)

So where can a pinotphile like myself find a bottle?
“I sell to local restaurants, I have exported it in the past to the US, but with the US dollar where it is and quite frankly when you are my size, the costs of exporting it are huge and it doesn’t make it worthwhile. So mostly local restaurants and mail orders.

“I have a Burgundy-sized operation, I make 250 cases a year, so it is pretty scarce. I like that though because one part of the winemaking that I misjudged – I understand the time it takes to grow grapes, make wine, but marketing is the part I grossly under-estimated.

Just like the wine itself, wine marketing is a moving feast anyway isn’t it?

“Yes! It’s a challenge – but I have done pretty well in the past year and a bit and the wine has gotten good reviews so even before the Nobel prize we managed to more or less sell out on its own so that was great.”

Reviews have been published in the magazine Winewise; by Canberra Times wine reviewer Chris Shanahan; and by wine critics James Halliday and Nick Stock.

Brian’s pinot picks
What would be your picks of Australian pinot?

“Like anything it varies a lot, it’s a movable feast. I’ve had great bottles of pinot from a variety of places. If I had to pick a single wine that’s really knocked my socks off, I’d pick 2006 Curly Flat pinot from the Macedon Ranges. It’s a wine that has structure. I really like that style, it is the style I am trying to do here and their climate there is not dissimilar, it’s more continental. That’s what I’m after. There’s a lot of people who love the Mornington Peninsula style and there are some there that I am quite fond of but they have less structure and I prefer the more continental type that’s where I live and I guess that would be my favourites.”

What do you think of the New Zealand pinots?
“Some of them I’ve had I am very fond of – the right Felton Roads are magnificent. Having been to that area, Central Otago, it is not dissimilar in climate to what we have here in Canberra. It is continental, it’s cool, their soils are a lot more fertile than here , the basic ideas of what they are trying to do are similar. I do like some of the Central Otago ones, they really are my style, as long as they are not too rhubarby.

“At Gibbston Valley I know the winemaker, Grant Taylor, who now makes Valli, they make some good ones. The actual Gibbston Valley is very cool so I find those less ripe. Those down in Bannockburn are very ripe – I would say Bannockburn is a warmer grape-growing region then we are, plus they have this very fertile soil, so it makes a very nice compelling wine and I do like the best examples of these.

“I like a Burgundy style. The Burgundies have structure and finesse. Pure fruit is good, but you need the structure. You wouldn’t be drinking a 2010 Burgundy right now but you wouldn’t think twice about drinking a 2010 Martinborough or 2010 Mornington Peninsula.”

Brian has visited the region and knows the intricacies of the style and the French traditions and approaches to making good Burgundy – the style he most covets.

@cosmicpinot is also a foodie!
Brian spent the first part of his childhood in remote mountain country in Montana, and from age 13 lived in Anchorage, Alaska, before doing his PhD at Harvard where he met his Australian wife, and moved to Australia in 1994. He grew up with hunting being part of the way of life – elk in Montana and duck and geese in Alaska. Wild duck was often on the menu after a cold, wet day of hunting, and is interestingly now his number one food match for his top Maipenrai drop.

He learned to cook from the ripe old age of six and has been keen to master some tricky dishes ever since – including croissants, mozzarella and prosciutto. He has his own Beech pizza oven and Rancilio de Silvia coffee machine and has even planted 30 trees to establish his own truffière, to grow truffles for his own consumption.

How on earth do you grow truffles I asked…

“You can purchase truffle-inoculated trees where the people who grow the trees get the truffle fungus growing on the roots of the tree. When you plant it getting the pH right is the most important bit – it has to be up over 8 in your soil and that’s a bit of a challenge here. In time you get them. Canberra has shown itself to be a really good place to grow truffles of high quality and high quantities.”

The obvious final question
So Brian, do you think you will ever conquer pinot or is that half the fun?

“No I know I’ll never conquer it, there is no way to conquer pinot.

“I live in a challenging climate. The climate is probably changing. I may eventually have to move to a warmer variety I don’t know. At this point I don’t want to. It’s too cold for example for shiraz here still. So no you can never conquer pinot and it’s always a challenge. I want to make sure I keep on doing as good as I can and that’s the thrill of it, I know I’ll never get it perfect but I can try to do as good as I can and I like that.”

And so do we!

Thanks so much to Brian for such an enlightening and invigorating chat about a shared love – the mighty pinot noir.

Tigs (@WineSupporter)

References:
Wine review by Chris Shanahan — ‘Lark Hill, Maipenrai Amungula Creek, Balnaves, Majella and Peter Lehmann’, posted on 17 August 2011.
Canberra Times, ‘Restless Experimenter’, 6 April 2011, by Kirsten Lawson.

Posted in New World wine, Pinot noir, Wine news, Wine2030 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meet the Australian flying Swedish-Italian winemaker in the hills!

On a clear sunny spring day I drove up into the Adelaide Hills to interview a very interesting man I had met a couple of weeks earlier at an artisan winemaker tasting in McLaren Vale, where he was presenting his Ochota Barrels grenache and syrah – premium boutique wines. This man is Taras Ochota and his story was so interesting I had to share!

Taras in mid-flow!

Taras is a friendly, relaxed, open Aussie winemaker of Ukrainian descent. But he is much more than that too – he has worked as a winemaker in diverse regions around the globe, in terms of culture, climate, language, grape variety and working conditions. I sat through the interview with my mouth open and eyebrows raised, wondering how one man could fit so much into his not-so-many years!

What had caught my attention was the reference to being a winemaker in Sweden – not the most obvious country in which to make wine. I had to know the background and to understand more about the Swedish wine market.

How did it all start?
Taras has always had an interest in wine and his first job after completing a business degree was working in vineyards, eventually becoming a vineyard manager in the Adelaide Hills. He studied wine science by distance learning at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga and then completed a postgraduate oenology degree at the University of Adelaide. He also worked as a cellar hand in wineries in South Australia and California for several years, travelling back and forth doing vintages in each hemisphere.

His winemaker break came when he got the assistant winemaker role at Two Hands Wines in the Barossa Valley, where he stayed for about three years. Then by chance Taras saw an advertisement in The Australian for a ‘world winemaker’ who was ‘young’, ‘dynamic’, and who would ‘make wines from all over the world and based in Northern Europe’. Intriguing and mysterious, he applied. The interviews were in Adelaide for two positions – winemaker and chief winemaker. The chief winemaker role went to Scott Rawlinson who was the Serafino winemaker at that time and had won the Bushing King title in 2007. Great wines, I have some in my cellar! Taras got the winemaker role and the Aussie team was set!

Why Aussies? The company owner had a belief that Australian winemakers have the technical knowhow, the can-do attitude and the flexibility to experiment and try new things, and make the styles that he wanted.

Arriving in Sweden
Taras, Scott and their wives arrived in Stockholm in May 2008. They were working for the large Swedish wine-importing company Oenoforos. As part of this role they had to assess wines from all over the world – Europe, South Africa, Australia, etc. – to see which wines to import. They travelled to many wineries and gave them protocols of what wine they wanted, and how they wanted it made. They were involved in vineyard selection right through to making the style of wine to their specifications .

Scott’s main role was to set up the facility in southern Sweden – the Nordic Sea Winery – to process the wine and to take on more of the winemaking processes – the company’s owner wanted to bring as many of the processes to Sweden as possible. He wanted more control, so that the quality could be maximised, prices kept down for the Swedish consumers, and more of the value added happening within the country. Scott was in charge of sourcing and setting up equipment for bottling, packaging, making and storing wine at the facility.

Wines were sent from the originating country in various ways, mostly in tankers driven across country (taking around three to five days from France, Spain and Italy), or if there was no rush, by sea in flexitank which was effectively a 24,000 litre bag-in-box in a shipping container (taking about four weeks).

The company selected the minimum processes that the satellite country would do. The facility in Sweden would then finish and bottle the wine. In general, the reds would have gone through malolactic fermentation in the satellite winery and sent in bulk to Sweden. White wines had usually just finished fermentation so they did the cold stabilisation in Sweden and the satellite country would have already done the protein stabilisation. Some wine was also imported finished and simply bottled in Sweden, such as that from Australia.

As well as the quality control and selection of imported wines in Sweden, Taras had a flying winemaker role, visiting wineries and vineyards in Italy to have the wine made for the company. As an example, one of his jobs was to spend time in a seaside village in southern Italy, where he was involved in the modification of a run-down cantina (winery). The idea was to make Italian wines in the more ‘New World’ fruit forward way, suiting the Scandinavian market. He would regularly travel from his home base in southern Sweden on the Baltic Sea by train to Copenhagen, then fly to different parts of Italy to check or source wine for the company’s many products.

Taras and Amber

Taras concentrated mostly on the regions of Puglia, Sicily and Abruzzo, with varieties such as primitivo, negroamaro, nero d’avola, montepulciano and sangiovese (reds), and cattaratto, fiano and grecanico (whites). He was the only Australian in these Italian towns he stayed in and soon picked up the language (with the help of pictures and often animated actions), while his wife worked for the Nordic Sea Winery and picked up Swedish! Amber also spent considerable time in Italy working for the company in laboratory and cellar hand roles. They were also joined by select Australian cellarhands who were flown over to help with the vintage period.

The Swedish wine retail system
In Sweden, all liquor sales (except with less than 3.5% alcohol) are through the government monopoly distributor Systembolaget, which literally means the ‘system company’. It is government owned and run. Alcoholic beverages may not be sold to anyone aged under 20 and opening hours are strictly adhered to – generally Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm and Saturday 10am to 2pm. Nothing is refrigerated as no product may be seen to be favoured – if one thing was refrigerated, then everything should be available as such (as appropriate). There are no discounts or deals. The retail monopoly of Sweden is accepted by the EU. (There is also a retail monopoly in Finland, Norway and Iceland.) With a population of 9 million, this makes Systembolaget one of the world’s largest buyers of wine and spirits.

The on-trade market is not controlled by Systembolaget, so any licensed importer can sell to restaurants. In the on-trade market, sales of beer dominate.

According to the Oenoforos website, in 2005 Systembolaget sold 143 million litres of wine in 2005. It also states that Sweden was an early adopter of Australian wine back in the late 1980s – well spotted Systembolaget!

The Swedish wine consumer
Some statistics on the Swedish wine market are shown in the table below for your interest, sourced from the Global Wine Markets statistical compendium produced by Kym Anderson at the University of Adelaide, with a little help from yours truly. The first number is for 2009 and the number in brackets is for 2000 to give an idea of the direction that consumption went in the last decade.

Country

Wine consumption per capita (litres)

Beer consumption per capita (litres)

Spirits consumption per capita (litres of alcohol)

Sweden

21.21 (14.07)

51.29 (62.72)

0.94 (1.00)

France

39.39 (58.10)

30.05 (36.20)

2.47 (2.41)

Germany

26.33 (22.36)

107.13 (129.20)

2.29 (2.17)

Italy

43.45 (46.63)

28.69 (31.23)

1.01 (0.50)

UK

22.19 (15.46)

80.95 (105.88)

2.05 (1.57)

US

8.66 (7.65)

80.10 (80.54)

2.09 (1.93)

Australia

23.48 (19.50)

88.10 (89.36)

1.14 (1.64)

It is interesting to note that Sweden’s wine consumption has been rising in a similar fashion to the UK and Australia, and is at similar levels, at 21.21 litres per capita in 2009. Meanwhile consumption has fallen sharply in France, albeit to a level still nearly double that of the other countries shown – besides Italy – France and Italy are clearly wine-based cultures as opposed to beer. Sweden’s consumption of beer and spirits is low compared to the countries shown. Beer features most strongly for Germany, followed by Australia, UK and US. Beer consumption has notably fallen in Sweden, the UK and Germany in favour of wine.

With 9 million people and a per capita consumption of 21.21 litres that’s a lot of wine! Sweden produces a tiny amount of wine but basically imports all (99%) of the wine consumed. Oenoforos is onto something!

Furthermore, Oenoforos is operating in a highly taxed environment, so it has a challenge to provide wine to Swedish consumers at competitive prices. Alcohol products in Sweden are taxed on alcohol content not on price. Examples of wine excise rates provided in Global Wine Markets are for a bottle of commercial premium wine (A$7.50 per litre) being taxed at 50%, super premium wine (A$20 per litre) at 19%, and at the non-premium end of the scale (A$2.50 per litre), wine taxes are a whopping 151% (2008 figures).

Wines available through Oenoforos
I had a look at the Oenoforos website and saw that they are importers of a huge range of wines in terms of grape variety and originating country. They say that their whites are dominated by South Africa and reds from Spain. Also significant are Italy, Australia, France, Chile, US, Germany, Hungary, Portugal and Argentina. Here are some examples I found as I scouted around the site:

French syrah, cabernet sauvignon, viognier and chardonnay; New Zealand gewürztraminer, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, pinot gris and riesling; Italian chardonnay, primitivo, sangiovese, canaiolo, merlot, nebbiolo and grecanico; Spanish grenache, tempranillo, bobal, airen and macabeo; Greek moscofilero and cabernet sauvignon; South African chenin blanc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon; German riesling, pinot noir and scheurebe; and yes – Australian shiraz!

Cheers in Sweden!
Cheers in Swedish is skål, as most people would know. The word means bowl and comes from the sharing of a drinking vessel around the table. You can say skål to congratulate someone, wish them well, welcome them, or to celebrate something like a birthday or wedding, just like cheers. Importantly, you look into the eyes of all of the people you are toasting to, one at a time and after drinking you look into their eyes again and then put down your glass. I was taught that this was the tradition with ‘cheers’ too and am quietly disappointed when people look away or do not drink after saying cheers. Follow through I say and do it properly! So skål to my readers!

Skål to Taras

Taras enjoying Swedish fare!

Finally, skål to Taras for a peek into a very exciting life. He is a fabulous advertisement for Australian winemaking – both skills and attitude. He is also a great reflection of the high standard of Australian winemaking education including the University of Adelaide. The Wine2030 network loves to share this kind of success story.

We are lucky here in South Australia to be keeping Taras around for now as he has the position as the contract winemaker for Revenir Winemaking Pty Ltd (the former Nepenthe winery in Lenswood) and continues to produce his highly regarded premium Ochota Barrels wines.

Tigs @WineSupporter

Posted in Barossa wine, Chardonnay, McLaren Vale wine, New World wine, Old World Wine, South Australian wine, Wine events, Wine news, Wine varietals and blends, Wine2030, Winemaking, wine appreciation and viticulture courses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

#CabernetDay – the Adelaide contingent plays its part!

Wine and social media – that pairing again! Those following my blog will have read about #ChardonnayDay on 26 May 2011 – well 1 September was the second year for cabernet to take the stand. Rick Bakas, the wine and social media guru from California who toured Australia in April this year, was the brains behind this idea of themed wine days, combining those two elements – wine and social media.

In Adelaide, the Qwoff Boys – Justin and Andre – have taken up the baton and run fabulous events for wine drinkers and tweeters – not only do you get to try some excellent wines – and lots of ‘em – but the networking is incredible – online and face to face. There is also the conversation before and after the event online.

At this event the same was true for cabernet – this included cabernet franc, not only sauvignon so there were a few francs there, such as an elegant number from Howard Vineyard in the Adelaide Hills. I wouldn’t like to guess how many wineries had contributed wine for the event but safe to say you couldn’t realistically try every single one. I tried very hard though you’ll be relieved to know! There are some photos in a slideshow below showing the wines that I loved and some of the great people I chatted to at the event. The atmosphere oozes from the pics!

The GWA app
With this event, the Qwoff Boys had stepped up a whole new level in their use and inclusiveness of social media. As well as the #cabernetday Twitter reference to follow the conversations around the world, prior to the Qwoff event we were asked to sign up to the new initiative – the Great Wine Adventure – and put the app on our phones and link this through to Twitter (@GreatWineAdv on Twitter). At the venue there was a screen on the wall showing these tweets – which show up on Twitter but are in a single stream on the GWA website too. The app was excellent and easy to use with a tincy wincy bit of help from Justin, Andre and Jason, their web wizard. The app asks (i) where you are – at a winery, restaurant, wine bar or pub, at home or somewhere else; (ii) what you are drinking – it lists the wineries taking part in the event so you don’t even have to type it in, just select from the list; (iii) you have the option to attach a photo or video and write something about the wine, and then just hit the ‘Check In’ button.

Why do this?
Lots of reasons and feel free to tell me more – blogs can always be added to! As with many people I am constantly learning about these media and their benefits – because the benefits often surprise me in their nature and reach!

Well the app links the check-ins through to the wineries who then see who is saying what about their wines – Jim Barry answered me thanking me for my comments and retweeted it. Retweeting is gold as all tweeters will know!

I noticed with several of my check-ins (I did about eight or so I think, through the evening…) I earned a reward, such as a free tasting of a wine – for example the d’Arenberg check-in rewarded me with a free tasting of the 2002 Custodian Grenache. This encourages people to go to that cellar door to claim their freebies and helps cement that winery in that customer’s mind, and hey presto you have the all-important ‘attention’ that Rick Bakas tells us that social media is all about, in our busy, media swamped lives.

Of course, it helps the wineries themselves see what people think about their wine, where it is being consumed – geographically and venue type – and which wines are getting the most accolade, etc.

The tweets for me personally are a great record of what I tried and what I thought of them. I only checked in with the wines I really liked, although in fairness I struggled to dislike any at this tasting – well done Australia for some most excellent examples of cabernet!

I had many leads from the #chardonnay day event at Qwoff HQ, where I stayed for hours, trying a whole range of styles of chardonnay from all over Australia and New Zealand and tweeted and subsequently blogged about it. I have ongoing Twitter relationships with many of these people, it has added to my number of followers on Twitter and readership of my blogs (so it widens my online reach and networking), and I have subsequently met these people again at these kinds of events and even at cellar doors. My circle of contacts has been greatly widened by Twitter, not just online but also face to face.

Of course I learned about the wines too – more exposure to your area of interest widens your knowledge. More exposure shows people that you are serious about what you do, enough to take part in events and have your say. While fun, these events are extremely educational, that has to be a central theme, but the most fun kind of learning!

The networking though is infinitely valuable. How else could I meet so many people with interests and expertise in areas relevant to me without attending a conference every month designed for my own purposes! This is like conference networking with the face-to-face element and involving a whole range of people who aren’t physically there. They may be at other events around Australia or around the world or sat at their home or restaurant or pub tasting a cabernet and taking part in the global conversation. You get the idea!

Thanks Qwoffers!
A massive thank you again to the Qwoff Boys, driving the Adelaide contingent in these themed wine days and opening up more avenues to learn about wines, wine events, share our wine thoughts through their apps, websites, Facebook pages, events, and engage in some networking – be it for work reasons, fun, or realistically a combination of the two. I love my work!!

Sit back and enjoy the slideshow – some of the wines we loved are pictured. Thanks also for the great wines from d’Arenberg, Zema Estate, Saltram, Kilikanoon, BK Wines, Plantagenet, Brash Higgins, Jim Barry, Voyager Estate, Penfolds, Raidis Estate, Chain of Ponds, Wirra Wirra, Haselgrove, Serafino and more.

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Tigs
@WineSupporter

Posted in Barossa wine, Cabernet sauvignon, Langhorne Creek wine, McLaren Vale wine, New World wine, South Australian wine, Wine events, Wine news, Wine varietals and blends, Wine2030 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pertaringa unveils its McLaren Vale tannat and aglianico

Some less common (in South Australia) varietals came to my attention recently so I had to get hold of some and see what it was like. Thanks to wineries like Pertaringa our taste buds will never be doomed to monotony! A little introduction before I share my pickings!

The name Pertaringa means ‘belonging to the hills’ in the Aboriginal Kaurna language. This is appropriate when you see that it is nestled in the eastern foothills of McLaren Vale, away from the main drag of the vale – and it has turned out to be one of my enduring favourites – along with d’Arenberg of course. If you only go to two wineries in McLaren Vale these are the two to pick! Both have excellent wines and very knowledgeable and friendly staff and are in pretty settings surrounded by vineyards. The experience at Pertaringa is quite different to d’Arenberg (read more about d’Arenberg wines here), being a much smaller venue and hence more personal and with some different varietals and blends.

The owners of Pertaringa are Geoff Hardy – fifth generation descendant of South Australian winemaker Thomas Hardy – and Ian Leask, while Ian’s son Richard manages the vineyards. Geoff has a strong winemaking and viticulture background, joining the family business as a teenager, and over the years making an enormous contribution to research into clonal variation and supplying many growers with vine planting material. Ian previously ran vineyards in the Hunter Valley, including Tyrell’s, Rothbury Estate and the Pokolbin Vineyards for J.Y. Tulloch and Sons. He ran Ryecroft in McLaren Vale for several years before he and Geoff purchased the 32 hectare vineyard in 1980 to start Pertaringa. Winemaker and brand ambassador for Pertaringa is Shane Harris who made these two wines just released.

Pertaringa has the traditional McLaren Vale varieties of grenache and shiraz and others you might expect, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sauvignon blanc and semillon and even has a trendy moscato. My interest was heightened when I saw that they had released two unusual red varietals – the French tannat and Italian aglianico, both grapes with a long history in Europe where they originate.

Pertaringa 2009 tannat and 2010 aglianico: the elegant floral yet minimal labels reflect the class of the wines within.

Aglianico 2010
Originating in Greece, this black grape variety was introduced to Basilicata and Campania in southern Italy over 2,000 years ago. It is used to make Basilicata’s only DOC* wine – Aglianico del Vulture – from vineyards around the extinct volcano Mount Vulture (not the scary flying version). In Campania the notable wine is Aglianico del Taurasi, a DOCG** wine. It can also be blended with cabernet sauvignon and merlot to produce some Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) wines (see Tig’s Tuscan article for more on these Italian classifications…).

The typical characteristics are of firms tannins, high levels of acidity and concentrated fruit, so this already puts its hand up as a wine likely to age well. So to Pertaringa’s single vineyard 2010 aglianico – well what a refreshing and vibrant way to enliven your passion for wine (not that mine was flagging…). This ruby/cherry red wine gives raspberry, red plum and cherry fruit aromas with some alluring spice and hints of licorice and chocolate. These flavours follow through to the palate, bursting with these fruit flavours, mouth-watering and juicy, with a touch of sweet fruit and a gentle peppery tinge. The lovely mouth feel of this medium bodied yet generous wine has a long loong looong savoury finish!

Pertaringa’s aglianico has had some gentle oak treatment in older French oak for a year. The tannins are evident but balanced and with the crisp acidity and delightful and rich fruit flavours, this wine will also age well for five to seven years – although beautiful now and an excellent food wine. My first ever taste of aglianico was a treat – to be repeated…

Tannat 2009
The palindromic tannat hints at its qualities in the name – derived from the Latin for tannin – and these wines tend to be powerful with high alcohol levels. This late ripening variety is suited to warmer growing regions such as McLaren Vale and the south-west of France, from where it originates. In France, tannat is associated mostly with the appellation of Madiran and is often blended with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc or fer (also known as fer servadou, pinenc or mansois). The wines are usually aged in oak for 20 months or more to allow the tannins to soften.

Tannat is also known as national grape of Uruguay, known as harriague, where the wines are made to be a bit softer and lighter in body. It is common to see tannat blended with pinot noir or merlot. It is also grown in other parts of Australia, Argentina, Italy, US and Brazil.

Tannat has a reputation for being especially good for heart health, containing high levels of procyanidins which are antioxidant and also help repair cells of the coronary arteries. For example, it is recommended for its health properties by Roger Corder in his book The Red Wine Diet.

So to Pertaringa’s 2009 tannat – this wine is deep, dark and brooding. In the glass it is dark purple, like black cherry juice. I decanted the wine and gave it time to open up and was rewarded with an equally deep and brooding nose of blueberry, blackberry and very dark chocolate, accompanied by earthy yet floral aromatics, with an occasional hint of toasty vanilla.

Typical flavours associated with the French tannats are of raspberry and the Uruguayans of blackberry, while the Uruguayan tannats tend to be lighter bodied and lower in tannins, so my amateur conclusion is that Pertaringa’s sits between the two!

This is a full bodied wine by anyone’s standards, savoury and with lip-smacking acid and grainy tannins. The earthy juicy fruit flavours fill the mouth and as it was open longer, I got more chocolate, a hint of vanilla and gentle toasted notes, slowing giving way to the long savoury finish.

No doubt about it this wine will age very well – up to ten years say Pertaringa. This will be a treat worth watching develop over the years.

Synonyms:
Tannat is also known as tanat, moustrou, moustroun, bordeleza belcha and harriague. Synonyms for aglianico include: aglianicone, aglianicuccia, agnanico, cascavoglia, cerasole, ellanico, ellenico, fiano rosso, gagliano, gnanica, prie blanc, ruopolo, spriema, tringarulo, uva catellaneta, uva nera and more!

Cheers!

Tigs
@WineSupporter

Pertaringa
Corner of Hunt and Rifle Range Roads, McLaren Vale, SA 5171
Phone +61 8 8323 8125

*Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
**Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)

Posted in McLaren Vale wine, New World wine, South Australian wine, Wine varietals and blends | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Superb and surprising Australasian tasting at Fassina!

How lucky am I that I live so close to Fassina Liquor in Somerton Park, Adelaide! They have one great wine-tasting event after another – see for example the mid-winter d’Arenberg tasting showcasing some of McLaren Vale’s best and from the Barossa the Langmeil range. The owners and winemakers seem to prioritise attendance at these events and entertain with stories and funny snippets around the wines and the wineries.

This latest tasting was no exception, with wineries represented from South Australia and New Zealand: Riverby, The Pawn, Murdoch Hill, de Giorgio, Dutschke, Whistler, Pirramimma and Penna Lane. This covered Marlborough (NZ), Barossa, Coonawarra, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and Clare Valley.

The range of styles was a real treat in itself as well as the range of varietals on offer – some pictured below. Each winery representative – mostly the winemakers themselves as Fassina tends to encourage! – gave a short introduction on the microphone telling us about their winery and what they had brought to the tasting and why. Other than that it was informal and a friendly, inclusive, mingling kind of atmosphere.

There were some real standouts for me – I loved the general style of The Pawn wines from the Adelaide Hills, particularly the pinot grigio and sangiovese, served by Tom Keelan the winemaker. Both gave great varietal characters, with lifted and generous aromas, elegant mouthfeel, balance and palate length. The 2010 pinot grigio gave melon and pear on the nose and was fresh and crisp; the 2010 sangiovese was absolutely divine (it made me groan with pleasure), with raspberry and cherry flavours. The sauvignon blanc was an elegant fumé blanc style, easy to drink.

Murdoch Hill, also in the Adelaide Hills, surprised me with some incredibly good whites – the 2011 sauvignon blanc was crisp, fresh, with a lively nose bursting with flavour, the palate clean and zesty with gooseberry flavours and a touch of fruit sweeteness balanced perfectly with crisp acidity. The 2010 chardonnay surprised me even more – the wild ferment gave it a lovely gentle funkiness and the 30% malo, lees stirring and eight months in French oak (20% new) all contributed to its complexity, crisp fruit, luscious mouthfeel and great palate length. I nursed this wine for a while and went back for more at the end! Their reds too were a treat but the whites really blew me away.

Riverby Estate wines from New Zealand were served by winemaker Kevin Courtney who was very informative about the wines and the style they aim for, with low cropping and picking the fruit ripe. Of course the Marlborough sauvignon blanc was good – duh! – but I also enjoyed the elegantly oaked chardonnay – all French oak, 30% new for 12 months. This is served in Air New Zealand’s business class. The pinot noir was a typical savoury, earthy, red fruits Marlborough style, soft palate, very pleasing. The last wine I tried on the night was Riverby’s noble riesling – oh wow! This is something that NZ does so well, the intensity of flavour, the full soft mouthfeel, the intensity of flavour – well it went on and on! Another groaner!

Mention must also go to the Whistler mourvèdre rosé from the Barossa – it looked like fresh strawberry juice in the glass and was strawberries and butterscotch on the palate – soft and creamy with some gentle fruit sweetness giving way to a dry finish. Of course Penna Lane presented some great rieslings from Clare – the dry Skilly Valley and the excellent Watervale, both 2010 vintages, and some smart cabernet sauvignon.

A fantastic atmosphere, great characters and some truly excellent wines!

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Thanks Fassina!

Tigs

@WineSupporter

Posted in Barossa wine, Cabernet sauvignon, Chardonnay, McLaren Vale wine, New World wine, NZ wine, Sangiovese, Sauvignon blanc, South Australian wine, Wine events, Wine varietals and blends | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tigs talks to wine marketing guru Dr Steve Goodman

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Steve Goodman of the University of Adelaide Business School for the Wine2030 network. The full article can be viewed at Tigs talks to wine industry and wine marketing guru Dr Steve Goodman.

I wanted to share with my Tigchandler.com readers a slightly less formal overview of this man’s experience and ongoing work in the wine industry and in wine-related research and publications.

Steve has become a friend, mentor and useful source of information and pragmatism to myself and to others at the University of Adelaide. His practical experience is impressive and his marketing knowledge is world class. He has been a consultant to wine businesses and has a great number of stories relating to the good and the bad examples of how to run a wine business. He is the creator of Daily Wine News and he is the author of a new book soon to be released entitled ‘Principles of Wine Marketing’. This will be reviewed by Tigs for Wine2030.

Steve also teaches at the University of Adelaide Business School: he supervises Honours, Masters and PhD students, and teaches Marketing Communication (Undergraduate and Postgraduate), as well as Service Design & Marketing and Marketing in the MBA programme.

Thanks!

Tigs

@WineSupporter

Posted in Social media, South Australian wine, Wine2030 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Coriole releases at the zoo!

On 4 August 2011 I was delighted to be invited along to the release of several new Coriole wines, a winery renowned (in my experience at least) for its interesting varietals – I am a fan of their fiano and they are well respected for their chenin blanc. This was an opportunity to taste the sangiovese, nebbiolo and the more traditional (for South Australia) shiraz and cabernet sauvignon.

A great start – in a spacious function room at Adelaide Zoo, I was greeted by John Lamp with a smile and chilled glass of the 2011 McLaren Vale chenin blanc. It was crisp and fresh with a lively and generous nose of apple and a hint of lemon. Some sweet fruit on the palate is balanced by minerality and a pleasant dry and lingering finish.

Next I was greeted by the very friendly Harold Joseph who was giving samples of the outstanding food products – olive oil, kalamata and koroneiki olives, verjuice, aged sweet vinegar and red wine vinegar. Then back to the wine…

The new releases included the Chenin Blanc, Sangiovese, Estate Shiraz, The Dancing Fig and The Soloist Shiraz, the Scarce Earth wine produced by Coriole. There was also chance to taste the 2009 Reserves (to be released in May 2012); Mary Kathleen Cabernet Merlot, Vita Sangiovese and Lloyd Reserve Shiraz.

Several members of the Lloyd family were at the event, happy to share their passion for these exceptional wines. The earliest vineyards date from 1919 and the farmhouses at the winery’s cellar door date back further to 1860. Shiraz is the main variety planted on the estate, followed by sangiovese and chenin blanc. The wines are made from (predominantly) McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills fruit.

No lengthy description of the wines here – as a summary the reds fitted into a style that was refreshing and pleasing – dry, elegant, full of flavour, and made to age. The shiraz and cabernet sauvignon were typical of the McLaren Vale region with generous fruit and intensity of flavour. The Dancing Fig – a 50/50 blend of shiraz and mourvèdre – was aromatic with spice, herbs and red berry fruits. The palate had beautiful deep raspberry and plum and grippy tannins.

The wines previewed – Vita (meaning ‘life’) Reserve Sangiovese 2009, Mary Kathleen Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2009 and Lloyd Reserve Shiraz 2009 were clearly made to age, showing intense fruit and oak influence, with delightful varietal characters. These wines, the senior winemaker Simon White told me were wines made in a style he most loved to drink. They would age beautifully. There were some treats there for us to try too, to prove just how well Coriole’s red wines age – the 1989 Reserve Shiraz and the 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon (pictured). The shiraz was their first Lloyd shiraz and in a blind tasting it would be hard to believe that this wine was over 20 years old. The wine was holding together, still generous with fruit and the tannins soft and acid in balance. It was drinking beautifully.

A little bit of background before the pics! Coriole’s winemaking is mostly traditional, with red wines mainly open fermented in stainless steel or wax lined concrete tanks, with hand plunging. The soils are mostly terra rosa over hard capped limestone – according to the Coriole website, this kind of soil tends “to produce deeply coloured red wines with good structure and backbone that show great capacity for ageing”. The full range of Coriole wines is extensive with many traditional French as well as Italian varieties – see their web page for the full list.

Many thanks to John Lamp and the Lloyd family for a most enjoyable event.

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• Coriole Vineyards
• PO BOX 9
• Chaffeys Road
• McLaren Vale
• SA 5171

Tigs

@WineSupporter

Posted in Cabernet sauvignon, McLaren Vale wine, New World wine, Sangiovese, South Australian wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine varietals and blends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adelaide’s Wine2030 reaches out to the Gold Coast

Wearing my Wine2030 hat I flew to Brisbane to visit wine educator and friend, Steve Knight, and to talk about the University of Adelaide’s Wine2030 network to his students at Bond University on the Gold Coast – a beautiful venue by anyone’s standards. The sun shone consistently and the campus is perfectly laid out, with pristine modern buildings and facilities, open grass and seating areas, sculptures and wide pathways, and a glistening lake in the centre. See the slide show below.

Steve has been in the wine trade for many years both in retail and as an educator, and he is also an associate wine judge. His knowledge and palate are exceptional so it was a privilege for me to spend a few days in Queensland and see him in action. He currently teaches Wine Studies at Bond University and at Griffith University, both on the Gold Coast (details below).

Steve teaches students how to understand and appreciate wines of all styles and from all over the world. I attended one of his sensory evaluation classes where he concentrated on white wines, including the pinot gris/grigio distinction and other aromatics. We tasted a range of white wines from Australia and NZ and Steve put them into the international context, referencing Alsatian pinot gris, South African chenin blanc, and chardonnay styles from around the globe. Discussion was encouraged, while analysing all aspects of the wine within a pragmatic and practical framework.

This was only the students’ fourth sensory evaluation class and they sounded like seasoned professionals, talking about the weight of the palate, the length of the wine, the mouthfeel, the body, nose, food and wine matching, and picking out the array of fruit and oak-related characteristics of the wines. They all gave 100% attention to Steve who entertained them with his many tales from the industry and his extensive wine knowledge.

Wine2030 and social media in wine
It is important for students with this much interest in wine to be aware of the opportunities in employment, research and further study, and also simply to have access to sites which will further their knowledge and interest.

So I introduced them to the University of Adelaide websites for Wine2030 and the Wine Economics Research Centre (WERC) and talked about the aims of each initiative and the resources available, such as the Global Wine Markets statistical compendium on the WERC site. As they walked into the class I was tweeting about the event for all to see and during the talk showed them the Twitter, blogs and websites I use as components of the social media network promoting Wine2030 and WERC and sharing information and inviting feedback.

Steve noted that I had their undivided attention when presenting the part about the rules of engaging in social media. I had published Tig’s Ten Commandments for Engaging in Social Media just a few days earlier and already seen a spike in blog views, retweets and feedback. It was important to me to come up with a checklist of considerations when posting any material online as I have seen numerous examples where too little thought and care has been used and this can have far-reaching effects. As with any venture, if you want to do it, it is worth taking the care to do it properly.

As with all of my blogs, I welcome feedback and discussion.

If you want to learn more about Steve’s courses, here are the links:

Griffith University, 2217HSL, Wine Studies

Bond University, HRTM11-100, Wine Studies

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Posted in New World wine, Social media, Wine events, Winemaking, wine appreciation and viticulture courses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tig’s Ten Commandments for Engaging in Social Media

I think it is probably true that anyone who starts to engage, or increases their engagement, in social media has a level of uncertainty and insecurity about how to approach this whole area. By social media I include all communication networks, some of the most well known being Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, FourSquare, blogging and websites. This uncertainty is to be expected, given the rapid rise of these media and the relatively little guidance available to users. Furthermore, taking too much advice from seasoned users may not always be the most advisable route when you analyse their approach.

How people engage in social media reflects their attitude to society and to communication in general. It quickly becomes clear on these networks who are the listeners, who are open-minded, who are generous of heart and those who are none of these.

Before engaging in these channels it is worth noting that social media present us with unveiling and highly revealing forms of communication. This is partly because once you start to engage in one form, say you join Twitter, then your information is automatically shared across other sites you may be involved in, so people can have access to all sorts and sources of information about you. You need to assume that everything online about you is available to everyone. Furthermore, the content of your posts and your responses to others will quickly reveal your level of knowledge and understanding of your area.

In terms of your approach to social media, there are no hard and fast rules – although many people are learning the hard way about what not to do. It is certainly worth thinking about your approach and studying that of others. Social media is[i] after all simply another way of communicating with other real people but on a much larger scale in terms of the numbers and diversity of people, and in terms of the amount of information that is shared. The rules of engagement in a virtual society are no different to those in the more tangible society. Always be considerate of your audience as if they are in the room with you.

There are two huge advantages to be gained from understanding social media and using it well. These are: (1) reaching the maximum audience (in all senses – numbers; breadth of experience, backgrounds and opinions; and location); and (2) engaging in a two-way street for communication. For example, traditionally, marketers have relied on putting an advert in a newspaper or magazine to sell their product – telling you about the product in a ‘look at me’ approach. With more and more media at our fingertips, we are bombarded with so much marketing that the challenge now is to get people’s attention (as stressed by Rick Bakas, the social media guru, in his presentation on 5 April 2011). Social media presents a challenge and opportunity to get attention from a larger audience than we otherwise could (be it for a product, research outlet, discussion forum, whatever) so we need to approach it in the best way to capitalise on this opportunity. Sticking to the old model is not the way for most businesses to survive in this new climate.

Introducing the commandments
I have seen a few of these articles by people telling me what they think are the rules for approaching social media, and I have not yet found any that hit the nail on the head for me. I have put a great deal of thought into this based on practical experience and observation. Feedback as always is welcome! These ten commandments may be applied to Twitter posts, blogs, website updates, comments responding to any of these, and any other form of social media. I use the term ‘posts’ to incorporate all of these.

For those who like the quick cut and dried version, this is it – explanations follow:

  1. Interesting
  2. Interested
  3. Consistent
  4. Correct
  5. Standards
  6. Positivity
  7. Public
  8. Respect and humility
  9. Check, double check and check again
  10. Link across the network

1. Interesting – Make sure your posts are topical, current and reflect at least some degree of originality. If you have nothing to say, don’t say it. Banality is annoying on social media (as in society!). Think about adding in photos (not too many) or videos to keep your posts attractive and to retain the reader’s attention.

2. Interested – Be responsive and show interest in the work of others – this is social media and therefore requires interaction. It is vital to treat it as a two-way street for communication, unlike the traditional media of adverts on TV, radio, in magazines, and so on which have the “look at me, look at me” approach.

It is fairly easy to pick up followers, but it is just as easy to lose them. Remember to thank retweets, comments on your posts, answer queries, engage in conversations and read the work of others and comment on it. Being interested will keep you better informed about your area, and in turn enable you to make your contributions interesting.

3. Consistent – It is important to be consistent in terms of frequency of posts/presence on each form of social media, and also in terms of content – stick with a consistent topic/approach. Before engaging in any form of social media, take time to plan your content, style and approach, and how you wish to be perceived.

To be consistent requires discipline and a business plan-style approach. Your audience needs to be able to see what you are about and why and if you are consistent they will continue to be interested. Bear in mind though that while it is important to maintain a presence it is also important not to swamp your audience with too much material. I have unfollowed people on Twitter for this, have hidden people on Facebook, deleted emails and avoided their posts. This links directly with Commandment 8.

4. Correct – Quite simply – check your facts in your posts and ensure that links are correct. Correct spelling and grammar are also extremely important, linking in with the next commandment.

5. Standards – This commandment is extremely important and far too often broken and in my mind reflects a sloppiness in approach and a level of disrespect for the audience. Standards must be maintained in posts in terms of correct use of language, inoffensive use of language (for example, no swearing or offensive terminology), style, grammar, and correction of typos (they are annoying to read).

Some people on Twitter think it is fine to swear and to post offensive material – they are immediately blocked from my feed. I have come across some blogs (and sometimes from people well-known in their area) that are so badly written that I am almost embarrassed for them. These people need to hire writers or have their worked checked by someone before posting. Not everyone is a great writer. Certainly everyone should not write blogs. Quite simply, people will not follow badly written blogs and will not respond to badly written comments, tweets, etc.

6. Positivity – Ensure that your posts are never offensive. If you dislike something don’t post that. Be constructive not destructive. People have long memories for insults and unpleasant experiences. You want people to want to read what you write. Nobody enjoys reading negative posts. Furthermore, assume that anyone will be able to read any unflattering offerings, which leads to Commandment 7.

7. Public – With any posting of any kind, be prepared for it to ‘go viral’, and assume everyone can see it. Do not ever assume anonymity. Once it is out there you cannot take it back (hence Commandments 8 and 9!)

8. Respect and humility – Respect other people and their work – if you reference someone else’s work, reflect it correctly and provide a valid citation. Praise others where appropriate, and respect their views in discussions – if you don’t agree, there are ways of expressing this constructively. Listen to comments and respond to comments – if you put yourself out there be prepared for responses. Remember the two-way street.

Show humility (this is a human strength not a weakness) – do not act like you know everything, do not tell people they are wrong – discuss do not criticise. It is possible to write in an authoritative way without arrogance. Your audience consists of real people so write in a way that you might explain it to them if they were in the room. Do not simply force your point of view. Even if you know your subject area well, everyone always has something to learn.

Narcissism is rife in social media, both in terms of people pushing their views as being correct but not respecting those of others, and in terms of swamping the various media with too much material.

9. Check, double check and check again – Before posting any tweet, blog, comment, website edit or email, read through what you have written. Ensure it does not break any of the first eight commandments. Ensure that you are not inadvertently writing something which could be misconstrued. This a common error that I have observed. This is a simple yet often overlooked commandment.

10. Linking across the network – Decide which forms of social media you want to be involved in and why and once established, link across them to form a network of interlinking media. This will maximise your audience reach and lead them to the point you want them to go – maybe to read your blog, maybe to visit your Facebook page or website. Include this linking strategy in your business approach. Make sure to include the links on your business card, email signature, websites, etc.

I mulled over this list for a couple of weeks and it works for me but please let me know if you think there should be a number 11!

And a final tip – be committed and enjoy it – if you don’t, it will show!

Tigs

xx 


[i] While the term media is in plural form, the term ‘social media’ is repeatedly being used as a singular term. I acknowledge this, and believe it is one of those rules that will start to be accepted as an exception in the English language.  

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