Food and wine bloggers should blog with passion, they were told by both wine blogger Dusan Jelic and food blogger Linda Harding, who addressed the first meeting of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club of 2011 and which was held at Pigalle Restaurant. It was the largest attendance in the nine-month history of the Bloggers’ Club, and representatives of food and wine PR companies, food bloggers, wine bloggers, wine estates, and even the author of “Pinotage’, the only book written about this wine variety, UK-based Peter May, attended.
Dusan Jelic introduced the bloggers to wines he had brought along from Wederwill (12°C and 17°C) and Avontuur (Vintner’s Blend Rosé and their Brut). Dusan started working as the Social Networking and Media Manager of wine.co.za in May last year, and he embraces Facebook, blogging and Twitter for the company, spending about 9,5 hours daily with social media. His company’s website is the most comprehensive data base of wine information in South Africa, it was said. He gave bloggers the following tips:
1. Always be honest in what you say and write. One’s “reputation is priceless”, he said.
2. Wine education is important, and should be constantly improved. Dusan praised the Cape Wine Academy, as being a top-class institution, and its courses at three levels. He himself is currently studying for his Diploma.
3. Dusan advised social media users to ‘don’t drink and Tweet’. He warned that it “reveals deep fears and thoughts”, and gives away more about oneself than one would have wanted to.
4. Have integrity, because you will be found out. Dusan quoted winemaker Abrie Bruwer of Springfield, who has not released one of his 1999 wines, because it is not ready yet. It could have been launched and earn revenue, but the brand would have suffered. One cannot fake passion and work ethic, Dusan said.
5. Trust your palate – Dusan explained about the different wine evaluation methods used, including the Decanter score out of 100, and the South African score out of 20. Platter uses stars. He said one should respect those wine drinkers who are able to express what they can smell and taste in a wine. As one develops one skills, one will be able to smell and taste specific fruits. Dusan advised one to be relaxed when tasting a wine: “wine is a living thing”, he said, and advised that it was acceptable to ‘slurp’ one’s wine when tasting it, to bring in air.
6. Do not be a freeloader. Freebies must be acknowledged in blogging. Give the sponsored brand credit, but also point out its weaknesses, if relevant.
7. Do not write monotonously, approach an evaluation positively, and present the aspects which need to be improved.
8. However, in contrast, Dusan said that one should not be a “people pleaser” in one’s blogging, as one would not have credibility.
Dusan was asked which wine blogs he reads regularly, and his list includes Simon Back from Backsberg, and Emile Joubert from Wine Goggle, both previous speakers at Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings. He said that wine tasting was the beginning, but the ultimate was the pairing of wine and food.
Linda Harding is a bubbly blogger, who only started her blog Squashed Tomato, based on the title of a book she read as a child, in May last year. She is an intern for Eat In and Eat Out, and works in tasting rooms too. She described herself, highlighting that it is important to read other bloggers’ blogs, to get to know them and their personality, and that will determine who one will follow on Twitter and whose blogs one will read, she said. Linda is a Sagittarian, and her star sign defines who she is. She describes herself as a “flexitarian” as far as her eating goes, eating anything, especially seafood, but she once was a vegetarian! Linda only started cooking four years ago, and blogs about her recipes, which are quick and easy to do and do not need expensive ingredients. She started off using her cellphone camera, and has ‘progressed’ to a “mik en druk”, she laughed.
From input gleaned from other food bloggers, Linda presented a list of food trends for 2011:
1. Food markets are increasingly the source of purchase, away from supermarkets
2. Eating out will increasingly be for lunch on weekends
3. Fruit-based desserts will become increasingly popular
4. Restaurants serving all-day breakfasts are on trend
5. Meat will increasingly be bought from butchers who have personal relationships with the farmers that supply their meat
6. Serving tapas in restaurants is a strong trend
7. Good value for money quality offers will be a success formula for restaurants.
8. Meat-free Mondays will grow in support
9. Artisan bakers will receive increasing support
10. Greater awareness of food origin and reading of pack labels.
Linda sees Twitter as an important networking tool, and it reflects what one is passionate about. To be re-tweeted by Spit & Swallow, with their more than 6000 followers, is first prize, she said. Linda advised bloggers to ‘write for what you want, for what you enjoy, and not for what you think others want’. She also advised one to read other blogs regularly, and to evaluate their layout and photographs. To build relationships and to receive support and traffic, bloggers must give by commenting on others’ blogposts. One should use one’s own photographs, where possible. Images are vital, as ‘one eats with one’s eyes’. Spelling mistakes are unforgivable, especially as most blog platforms have a spellchecker. One should become a real person on Twitter, sharing not just business information (such as a new blog post), but allow one’s personal side to come through as well, she advised. Keeping awareness on Twitter throughout the day is vital, due to the volume of Tweets one is exposed to, but she advised against retweeting one’s blog link more than once a day.
The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to allow food and wine bloggers to meet other more established bloggers, to learn from them but also to network with them. There is no formal blogging course, and the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club assists in growing the body of knowledge about blogging, through the sharing of information. It also is an opportunity to taste good wines, and to sample good restaurant food.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage