Archive

You are currently browsing the archives for the Website Reviews category.

Oct

31

Belated update on the ‘mad’ world of wine

By mthomas

I have been so caught up in my practice, teaching, marking, writing and acting as an external examiner for Doctoral vivas that I feel like a terrible slacker in terms of blogging and wine. There have been some incredible things going on in the world of wine (dare I mention Billionaire’s Vinegar?) but I have not been able to find time to comment on these seismic events or the ‘fall-out’ on other blogs. I think the picture of me to the left captures a sense of the world speeding along as I contemplate things…

Despite this, I have managed to read a couple of books and have added them to the bibliography/research list as I think they are both fundamentally psychological in terms of what they say about important issues and figures in the world of wine. The first Billionaire’s Vinegar has resulted in some really contentious blogs and forum contributions that have been fascinating to follow. I would not want to add to hurt feelings or lawyers’ profits but would urge people to be aware of the issues involved as they cut across the world of  ‘fine, rare and old wine’ in terms of  provenance, reputation, expert opinion, economics and potential conflicts of interest. The psychological implications of this compelling but slightly tawdry tale could occupy a gaggle of PhD students for some time.

The other book, now in paperback, is the Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy (hardback picked up in an Oxfam bookshop in Bristol between vivas) which I have been meaning to read for some time. Robert Parker is, without doubt, a fascinating character and probably the most influential person in the world of wine (perhaps ever). Being that influential is bound to involve costs and benefits and I am constantly weighing these up in terms of his influence. Again, some blogs take polemic stances on homogeneity, the validity of scales and issues of independence and are often compulsive reading. For example this recent contribution from Jonah Lehrer on the neuropsychology of ratings and the inherent limitations of the approach. I think there are other limitations linked not only to subjectivity but to the properties ascribed to scales (which are sometimes not grounded in statistical logic).  I also think we need to distinguish issues from people and that simplistic splitting into good\bad usually fails to capture the complexity of human experience. I will review the books when things calm down (in every sense).

McCoy, E. (2008) The Emperor of Wine – The remarkable story of the rise and reign of Robert Parker Published by Grub Street

ISBN-10: 1906502242  ISBN-13: 978-1906502249

Wallace, B. (2009) The Billionaire’s Vinegar; The mystery of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine Three Rivers Press (CA)

ISBN-10: 0307338789 ISBN-13: 978-0307338785

Sep

24

Wine Enjoyment

By mthomas

boniwellI have kindly been asked to lecture on the groundbreaking Masters degree in Applied Positive Psychology run by Dr Illona Boniwell and have agreed that my talk will focus on ‘enjoyment’. I have therefore been musing on content for this and previously suggested that wine enjoyment W(e) can be understood as a function of 3 main variables;

- features of the wine itself (W),
- personality or self (P)
- environment or context in which it is drunk (E)

W(e) = f (W, P, E)

I am trying to model this in more detail and would really appreciate suggestions regarding the variables involved. The ultimate aim is to minimise attribution errors and optimise the integrative transformation that defines our subjective experience of drinking a wine, and the enjoyment or interest derived from it.

I am also interested in the relationship between Hedonic and Eudaimonic Valence associated with wine consumption. In less jargonistic terms the different types of enjoyment or value that can be had. I sometimes joke that the former (Hedonic-  which is associated with the pleasing taste and intoxicating properties of wine) is more likely to give you a hangover than the enjoyment derived from the latter (Eudaimonic aspects such as learning about wine or sharing it with friends).

Martin Seligman, the ‘godfather’ of positive psychology, is a wine fan and I wonder what a positive psychology of wine might look like. I guess key concepts might include ‘temperance’.  I would be interested in your suggestions…

Boniwell, I (20068) Positive Psychology in a Nutshell (second edition)PWBC ISBN 978-0954838782

The website of Illona’s Personal Well-Being Centre (PWBC) is here

Jul

21

The Wine Society Tasting Guide and the Social Media Revolution

By mthomas

wine-socI am an unapologetic fan (and member) of The Wine Society and generally find it to be the best UK independent wine retailer in terms of wine quality and customer care.  Over the last 135 years it has built up relationships with producers that are based on trust and symbiosis rather than fleeting market trends and global branding concerns. As a member of a co-operative I feel valued and engaged with the business in a way I never experience whilst browsing the shelves of supermarkets.

tasting_guide_10The society website, whilst not exactly cutting edge, is functional and worth a visit. It has a useful text guide to tasting that includes a basic ‘how to’ but also extends to spotting faults and matching wine with food. A new addition is a short and simple video guide to tasting which I guess signals a move towards new ways of communicating with members.

I have been reading up on new communication and marketing technologies and trends in the wine world and guess my site and blog are representative of some of these. The Wall Street Journal has recently published an article related to this under the headline ‘Luxury Wine Market Reels from Downturn’. It suggests that some wineries are using online services such as Facebook and Twitter to target consumers directly and that this is increasing revenue. The evidence for the efficacy of this approach appears limited at present but the exponential increase in social networking media suggests that it will be increasingly important in future.

You have probably noticed the AddThis buttons at the bottom of my posts. These let you share posts etc with friends via sites like digg and Facebook. If you are not already using these, try them out. Try to find a sharing site that has the kind of content you like and also start flagging up articles for others to enjoy.