Robert McIntosh’s name is likely to mean very little to you unless you are a blogger in the UK, where he is rapidly becoming the face of the UK wine blogging scene. His blog, Wine Conversation, offers a different approach as it tends not to include wine, and writes more about what is going on in the world of wine and his reviews are on products. He also represents a trio of wineries from Rioja in the UK. We asked him six questions….
What got you into the wine business?
The romantic versions starts with the memory of the smells from my garage when I lived in Italy when I was around 6, where my father bottled & corked wines given to him by his colleagues who owned family vineyard plots. My 8 years living in Italy pre-qualified me as 'the expert' by the time I got to university in St. Andrews, when in fact I knew very little, but the Oddbins team did their best to educate me. I did continue this by taking the WSET exams as an enthusiastic amateur.
The reality is that I worked in business to business publishing and exhibitions for almost a decade, and latterly focused on getting these businesses online. The end of the first internet bubble meant redundancy, so I used my payment to find a more rewarding (interesting rather than high paying) job. Unfortunately the wine trade was not interested in marketing qualifications and experience, only wine trade experience, but Bibendum eventually took me on in trade marketing.
Why did you start wine blogging?
I enjoyed my time with an importer and agent, but wanted to work more closely with the wineries. I was extremely lucky to find a role for myself as Brand Ambassador for three wineries from Rioja owned by the lovely Vivanco family. I wanted to offer them my knowledge of the internet as well as the day to day communications in the trade. It so happened that they were not ready for their own blogs, so I started my own to establish a presence online and get blogging experience. However, that aspect really took off (as I knew it would), so it has become a more important personal endeavour than I first intended it to be.
You tend not to write about wines you have tried as there are plenty of blogs, including mine, doing this. This gives your blog a point of difference. So to break from tradition, what wines are you enjoying at the moment?
I consider myself a fairly normal UK wine consumer, but one who happens to have accumulated a reasonable knowledge of different wines. I hardly drink expensive, rare wines as some might expect me to. I still buy from supermarkets and high street retailers, but also like to explore online retailers and independent merchants when I can. At the moment I am finishing off wines bought for Christmas from The Wine Society, Naked Wines, Luvians and Waitrose, with a bias towards French wines.
If you weren’t writing a blog on wine, what would you be writing about?
I am a marketer to the core. I love ideas and I love creating solutions to problems, mainly by bringing people together who might not know each other. I guess I would still be writing about the benefits of social media in another business. In truth, I like helping people so I suspect I might have got involved in retail at some level, so maybe it would be an online retailer of some sort.
What is the best wine you have ever tried?
A Pinot Noir, from Burgundy, but unfortunately I don't remember what the wine itself was.
My personal 'epiphany' happened when I was offered a bottle of mature Burgundy when I visited Chablis with my wife almost 15 years ago. The owner suggested a 10 year old bottle and I think it was one of the first experiences of 'A VERY Good Wine', drunk at the right time, in the right settings, with the right food and the right person.
Name three people, real or fictional, living or dead, that would make your ideal dinner guests, and what wine would you drink?
I'm assuming my wife is also invited, so I'd include Robert Burns, Joni Mitchell and Thomas Jefferson - wouldn't that be something!? This is not a crowd you make decisions for, so we'd all drink what we wanted, but I picture there being plenty of classics; Bordeaux, Rioja, Riesling and Madeira (and absolutely no Holy wine!)