|Work in progress – the greatfoodandwinesites site|
Why don’t I hear the people who complain about being starved of wine TV ever talk about the lack of all but the briefest references to wine in restaurant reviews? Or about the absence of wine suggestions to go with the recipes in women’s magazines?
Those of us who don’t like segregation have two choices. We either simply go on complaining about it, or we try to change the situation ourselves. Wine producers could – now here’s a really weird notion – save some of the money they throw away on glad-handing wine writers with tiny audiences and spend it on getting to know some food writers. The people charged with promoting wine regions could start to talk to the people responsible for those same regions’ tourism campaigns. Instead of running expensive advertisements depicting the same old images of bottles, barrels, vineyards and grapes, the marketing departments of the bigger wine companies could start to look at ways of putting the stuff they sell in the context of the stuff with which it will actually be consumed.
When saying all this, I’m talking from experience. Of the 25 books I’ve written, the three that still help to pay the bills have, coincidentally or not, been the ones that feature food.
|Regional recipes appeared in
This was not, I should say, originally my choice. My Complete Encyclopedia of Wine which has won some nice awards, originally began life – surprisingly to some – as an own-label book for Tesco, and it was the supermarket that suggested the inclusion of recipes. At first, I couldn’t see the point but, when I saw the sales figures, and some of the comments from readers, I ate my helping of humble pie.
|Appropriate dishes are
included in every fact box.
|Each major region comes with a
“Food of” section, featuring
When Dorling Kindersley approached me about producing a guide to French wines, food and travel pages were almost automatically built into the project – as were food recommendations for every wine. This time I didn’t argue – and French Wines has been by far my biggest seller, with editions in languages including French, German, Russian and Chinese.
|A guide to wineries, wine bars,
restaurants, wine shops,
museums – sponsored (but not
editorially influenced by
The Wine Travel Guide to the World was intended to serve as a companion for anyone who travels and enjoys wine, so it seemed natural to include restaurants, wine bars and museums as well as wineries.
I’ve had similar experiences in the press. For over 14 years, I contributed a weekly wine column in the Sunday Telegraph. Nowadays, that same newspaper sometimes asks me to write about wine sto go with articles in its travel section. One commission, for example, involved recommending wineries in Australia to visit while following England’s cricketers on their last Ashes tour down under. The difference between the impact of writing a wine column in the food section, and having a few hundred words on the travel pages was dramatic. After all those years of often meeting Sunday Telegraph readers who’d never read any of my wine columns, I suddenly kept finding myself encountering complete strangers who’d devoured my contribution to the travel pages.
Some wine companies and regions are, of course, exploring ways to think outside of the wine box. Barefoot Wines for example offers recipes galore on its website, while Bordeaux is increasingly focusing on food with its Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux and travel. My own Wine Travel Guide to Wine would never have seen the light of day without sponsorship from Pernod Ricard. And the Savour Australia event in Adelaide, to which I’m heading next week has apparently been jointly funded by Australia’s wine and tourism bodies.
My own recent DoILikeIt? project with McGuigan Wines has also exploited the relationship between food and wine. Starting with a small QR Code on the back of the bottle – and the words “scan to win”, we have managed to give some 25,000 people suggestions of dishes to go with the wine they are holding in their hands – and just under 5,000 of them have gone onto receiving tailor-made recipe books containing 50 dishes and the same number of wines. (For more information about this project click here.)
on to answer lots of questions
about their personal tastes in
food and wine.
Will it work? We’re still building it, tweaking the software – and planning the incentives that we’re going to offer users to interact with the site. But it is already attracting a lot of interest from both food and wine professionals, and visitors are spending over four minutes per visit and looking at several pages, so I’m feeling optimistic that we’re on the right track.
In any case, I feel much happier actually trying to give non wine-enthusiasts a reason to explore the subject for themselves rather than moaning about the media failing to do our job for us.