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  • Wine Conversations: An Interview with Robert McIntosh

    How is the Internet changing the world of wine? To find out, I spoke with Robert McIntosh, organiser of the European Wine Bloggers Conference and author of WineConversation.com about how he got interested in wine and how he's seeing social media transforming people's relationship with wine.

    How did Robert first get interested in wine?

    Robert spent part of his childhood in Italy and so was more aware of wine than the average child in Scotland. At university, he had already become interested enough in wine to ask the staff at the local Oddbins to help him organise a wine tasting for his 21st birthday. The helpful advice of the Oddbins staff allowed Robert to develop his knowledge of wine. Nowadays, with the decline of highstreet wine retailers, Robert's concerned that it is has become harder to find people, like those staff at Oddbins, who can help novices get into wine.

    Does Robert have any particularly fond wine-related memories?

    Robert recalls a visit with his wife to a restaurant in Chablis. He'd been getting more wine at that time and the restaurant owner recommended a 10-year old Burgundy. When Robert started drinking it, the difference in quality from the wines he was used to was immediately clear. That moment of realisation cemented Robert's appreciation for good wine.

    What does Robert enjoy most about his work with wine?

    For Robert, it's all about the people. He enjoys working in the wine industry because people are passionate about what they do and, in general, they're nice people. Robert spends a lot of time championing the use of social media in the wine business and is clearly fascinated by how platforms such as Twitter and blogs are bringing more people into conversations about wine. He's excited by what these new forms of interaction mean for the wine industry, whether it's novices asking for recommendations about wines to try, or wineries sharing the stories of their heritage.

    What developments in the wine world is Robert most excited about for 2011?

    "None," is Robert's first reaction. But with a chuckle explains that, actually, what he sees for 2011 is a combination of things:

    Robert sees the trends of the last two years continuing, with more wineries and retailers getting involved in social media.

    He's hopeful, too, that more wine drinkers will start looking outside their 'national bubbles' for information about wine. Robert feels that, within each country, people tend to get stuck with national perceptions about wine from particular regions and countries that may or may not be accurate. He's keen to see people reading what people from other countries have to say, for example Portuguese writers talking about Portuguese wines. And Robert isn't all talk on this subject. As well as his involvement with the European Wine Bloggers Conference, Robert is also a co-founder of the Born Digital Wine Awards, set up to recognise the best examples of the new wave of online wine journalism.

    What projects is Robert working on this year?

    The inaugural Born Digital Wine Awards will be taking place in May at the 2011 London International Wine Fair and, in October, Robert will be co-organising the latest instalment of the European Wine Bloggers Conference. Robert's other plans for 2011 include developing his blog, wineconversation.com, in new ways, and exploring some new social media concepts for the Rioja wineries for which he is a brand ambassador.

    For someone who’s just getting into wine and is keen to try something a bit different, are there any wines Robert would suggest?

    "That's a difficult question," remarks Robert. He's currently keen on wines from Mount Etna in Sicily, but that's hard to get hold of in the UK, so he feels it's not a useful thing to suggest to friends. Instead, Robert's recommendation to people who are just getting interested in wine is to learn about the different wine regions. "Don't just focus on the grape variety," he advises. Rather, Robert suggests that people get to know the general taste of a region and to try that region's blends of grape varieties.

    If Robert could be sharing a bottle of wine anywhere in the world right now, what wine would it be and where?

    "At home with some friends, whilst the kids are with a babysitter," is Robert's response. He enjoys traveling for his work but Robert is also very happy simply enjoying where he is. His wine of preference to share with these friends? An '82 Rioja.

    Thanks Robert!

    Wednesday, 12 January 2011 09:39:20 Europe/London

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