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An experience in how not to market Portuguese wines: the 1st International Wine Meeting and Tasting (in Portugal)

>> Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This post is really a comment on a blog post by Luiz Albert over at The Wine Hub, but for some mysterious reason the full commentary refuses to publish on that blog.

Last week there was the 1st International Wine Meeting and Tasting (1o Encontro e Prova Internacional de Vinho) in Portugal.

It was a three day thing: two days of conferences and one day with tasting.

You can't really find much information online about it (although one of its objectives seems to have been to talk about social media and the internet) but here is its page: http://www.encontroeprovainternacionaldevinho.com/.

It was organised by Maria Joao de Almeida, who has a site here: http://mariajoaodealmeida.clix.pt and who also, if I understand it right, runs Vinho.tv: http://www.vinhotv.clix.pt/.

There were a number of "international" (i.e. non-Portuguese) wine journalists present, probably between 20 and 30, from all around the world: Europe, North America, South America... All expenses paid for. I was one of the invited.

Unfortunately it was an event that more showed how not to market a country and its wines rather than the opposite.

I have been debating with myself whether to talk about this debacle in public or not. Will discussing it publicly only put Portugal and Portuguese wines in a bad light and be unproductive? Or will it be constructive?

In any case, Luiz Albert at The Wine Hub as brought it out in public in his post What were you thinking Maria João de Almeida?

Luiz mainly talks about one of the remarkable things at the conference: when we were brought to a tasting room for a 'historical' tasting of fortified wines, but where the only thing that we were allowed to do was to listen to a press conference presenting the tasting that would be done by other people; where we were not allowed to participate.

However, that tasting was just the tip of an iceberg. The other parts of the conference were no better (albeit perhaps less insulting).

I have tried to post my comment on it on Luiz' blog but it won't stick... (Google Blogger magic?)

So here is my comment in full to Luiz' post:

It pains me very much to say this, because i love the wines of Portugal and the Portuguese wine regions that I have visited. I could wish for nothing better than an opportunity to write something positive that would entice more people to taste Portuguese wines and to come to Portugal.

But I will say it here anyway.

It has to be said.

The total failure of the "historic" wine tasting that Luiz talks about was just the tip of the iceberg. (It will certainly go down in history as the biggest insult to wine writers.) A reflection of the whole.

The rest of the event was not much better: the organisation was virtually non existent. The contents were of not much real interest to visiting journalists.

It failed to give me much good new material to publish.

(No, I don't come home empty-handed; I do have some good info. But that was thanks to individual initiatives (of me and others) that were possible to do in spite of the organisation.)

It failed show Portuguese wines in a favourable light.

It failed to show case the region, the wine and the food of Beira Interior, which apparently was one of the objectives.

When I talked to Maria Joao de Almeida about this she tells me:

- “Perhaps you should check your spam folder. We have sent out information about this tasting and the organisation to you by mail”

So, I am so incompetent that I don't read my email? And so is every other visiting journalist?

- “Oh, you know, it is very difficult to organise this kind of event, have you ever done any such thing?”

As a matter of fact I have – my business (apart from journalism) is to organise wine travel and events. I have also organised three international wine fairs, so yes, I do know what it takes to do it. And if anyone who worked for me was in charge of a project and it failed so dismally as this they would be fired on the spot.

- "It must be my staff that has not done their job to inform you properly...”

What kind of manager reacts in that way? In front of a "customer" and a journalist?

- “Were you not glad to listen to Jancis Robinson and Jamie Goode?”

Well, it was my first meeting with both of them, so yes, it was good to meet them. But Jancis talked about some basic ideas of how Portuguese winemakers can market their wines more effectively internationally. Not of use to me as a journalist, no. Jamie's talk was a basic introduction to the internet and social media. Perhaps also useful for wine producers unfamiliar with the internet? I have been writing about wine on the internet since 1996 so, no, not really useful for me or anyone else who knows a bit about blogs, facebook etc.

- “You know, I’m a journalist too so I know what it is you need to work”

Well, I very much doubt that, on both counts. And what does it help me (and her) to tell me that I apparently do not know what I need to do my work, and apparently do not know either how to do my work as a journalist?

Maria Joao de Almeida also told me that I was insulting the organisation with my critical comments. Really?!

Unfortunately, my conclusion is that the whole of the event, the full three days, plus two travelling days, was of not much use. Not for me. It was not “just” the historical tasting that went wrong; far from it.

I have not, ever, experienced a similar thing. I can only guess what the other visiting journalists thought.

I would love to write more about the lovely wines and regions of Portugal but this event did not help. There was very little there to give me any new information that I could use. And at every step of the way the organisation of it was inept, inadequate and in..., well, not quite what could have been expected or hoped for.

You may think that my writing is clumsy or inelegant, just like what you think of Luiz’, but that is beside the point. The point is the quality of the organisation and the contents of the three day conference.

If anything it has made it more difficult to write about Portugal and Portuguese wines. But I will not give up!

I will stop here with my comments.

Anyone who wants to know what I thought about it in more detail is welcome to contact me, e.g. here: http://www.bkwinetours.com/contact/ or directly on email: firstname dot lastname at bkwine com.

-Per Karlsson

Portugal is one of the really interesting up and coming new/old wine countries. There are many exciting wines and winemakers. But this was not the way to showcase them.

I can make a long list of what did not work at the conference, from letting us wait three hours on arrival at the airport before driving us two hours into nowhere in the middle of the night to arrive at 1.30 in the morning at the conference hotel. To the very last thing when we were supposed to go back to Porto (another two hour+ drive) and the bus never arrived (it did, but 30 minutes too late) and I arrived at the airport 5 minutes after check-in closing time - with no one from the organisation there see to that things worked as planned, nor answering the designated contact phone.

But more important than these "practicalities" was the lack of substantial and useful contents at the conference. Yes there was some, but very little.

So, in conclusion, a conference that did not have form (organisation) nor contents of a quality or professionalism to show Portugal and Portuguese wines in the positive light that it/they deserves. We, the visiting journalists, suffered from it. From what I hear, the wine producers who participated suffered just as much (and undeservedly felt embarrassed about it).

We, BKWine, will nevertheless continue to be very enthusiastic about Portuguese wines and Portuguese winemakers. We will continue to write about them, publish text, photo and video. We will continue to organise wine tours to Portugal's wine regions. We will not give up.

The Portuguese wine regions are spectacular and there are many, many exciting and excellent wines!

We will be back! It's a promise or a threat, depending on how you look at it.

7 comments:

Cortes de Cima March 22, 2011 11:00 AM  

As recent winners of the prize BEST WINE BOOK IN THE WORLD FOR PROFESSIONALS 2010, at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2011, and also the ”Best Wine Book of the Year” in Sweden 2010 - no one could doubt your talents as both journalist and wine writer, Per, nor should be allowed to get away with insulting you so grossly!

Thank you for expressing so clearly your dissatisfaction with last week's event, which I know is shared by many of you who attended.

Now it is our duty, of the Portuguese wine producers, to make sure that your message is passed on to other people in the Portuguese wine trade, responsible for organizing and paying events like this, and who need to hear about this, whether they want to listen or not. We will continue in our efforts to ensure this.

Luiz Alberto March 22, 2011 12:13 PM  

@Carrie,
Per and I have said multiple times already. We love Portugal and we will surely be talking about some great wine-related experience that involves its people and/or its wines in the very near future.
Here is a quote from FB:
"Carrie, my article never questioned the hospitality of the Portuguese people. I've had wonderful experiences every time I visited Portugal (including this last one) and I always be grateful for that.
In short, I love to write about good experiences and that’s what I essentially do all the time. However, I don’t believe anyone should get away with murder... And I’ll try my best to make sure it doesn’t happen...
Hope to see you again soon in the lovely Alentejo! Do you have any bottles of Incognito left? :)"

Vitor Mendes March 22, 2011 12:31 PM  

Per,

I subscribe all the words from Carrie at Cortes de Cima. Apologizing is good, but best is to make sure that this kind of situation never hapens again. And thank you for being so enthusiastic about Portugal and our wines. From our side, the wineries, we'll continue to make great wines so you can keep writing about!

Cheers

Ryan O'Vineyards March 22, 2011 11:01 PM  

Everybody had a pretty good time at my conference, Per ;D

Per and Britt, BKWine March 23, 2011 11:02 AM  

Yes, sometimes one gets priorities wrong. But the weather was very nice! (And there were a lot of nice people - colleagues, winemakers, etc)

BTW if you're at the Millesime Languedoc, say hello to Chris from Poland (but spelled in Polish Krysz... ?). I met him in Portugal.

-P

Angela Reddin,  April 02, 2011 7:10 PM  

Per, we talked a lot at the conference and shared views. I spoke a lot to whom I considered to be part of the organisation, and one of my questions was, "what is your message? I am unable it find it in the content of the conference so far, even with some decent speakers. Are you aiming at producers .." the answer was an emphatic 'no'! "Right, so you are teaching or lecturing or presenting communication to international communicators. I do not think any of us need this, 2 hours could have covered your (Portugal's) need for media coverage, so why are we here?" The answer was muddled, and like everything about this event, without direction or meaning. My conclusion, as you know well, was that an awful lot of money was spent to very little good. An awful lot of time was spent by us {ingrates} without purpose. So many people have apologised for the debacle of this event from Portugal, except the organisers. And it was a joke from start to finish.

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