News and Updates

Meet the #BDWAbyWIM winners: Simon Woolf

002015 BDWAbyWIM, interviewTags: , , , , November, 15

Simon Woolf: Winner, Best Editorial/Opinion Wine Writing
interview by Richard Siddle

Simon WoolfWho better to pass on advice about how to succeed with writing about wine online than the winners of the 2015 Born Digital Wine Awards.

Here Simon Woolf, who writes regularly across both traditional wine media and his own blog, The Morning Claret, explains to Richard Siddle, chairman of the BDWA judging panel, what the inspiration for his winning article on Italian winemaker, Frank Cornelissen, was as well as sharing his overall approach and views on wine writing and what advice he would have for others.

Why did you enter the Born Digital Wine Awards?

“At first I wasn’t planning to. Industry-specific awards can be very inward looking, but BDWA is trying to change that, so I thought why not give it a go. Being recognised and respected for what you do is a great feeling.”

Why did you choose the pieces you entered?

“I selected three pieces where I felt I’d achieved the desired flow and literary style – pieces with a good story and decent structure. I wasn’t too concerned with the subject matter, although I favoured pieces that got a strong reception when they were written.

“That said, the winning entry was a bit of an outlier – it didn’t get a great deal of traction when it was originally published.”

How did your winning entry come about and what was the purpose and aim for writing the piece?

“I visited Frank Cornelissen while I was on holiday in the Etna region. Admittedly a bit of a busman’s holiday as both my partner and I are committed wine geeks, and we love visiting wine regions together.

“His reputation for being controversial, and the fact that his wines are pretty divisive was a given – so I was pretty sure I’d get a good piece out of it. Tim Atkin MW accepted my pitch, with the proviso that I made it objective. Tim can be pretty anti the natural wines phenomenon, whereas I’m generally sympathetic.

“I’m the only one writing about the ‘crazy stuff’ on Tim’s site, in fact I play up to that a bit, so it contrasts with people like Hosemaster who like to put the boot into the natural wine sector as often as they can.”

What is your wine background and how did you start as a writer?

“I’ve been a keen amateur for a good 15 years, working my way through WSET courses up to Diploma, but I never published a single word.

“In 2011, a combination of boredom at my then job, and a competition run by Fine & Rare Wines incentivised me to write a few paragraphs about claret (my first love in wine).

“I didn’t win the competition, but it did kickstart the blog which became “The Morning Claret”.

“Then I discovered the DWCC conference (then called the European Wine Bloggers Conference), which introduced me to people who were actually doing it professionally. I thought ‘Bloody hell, I need to up my game here’!”

How would you describe your approach to writing about wine? What makes you stand out?

“I’m aiming for beauty and artistry in the writing, as well as the subject matter. The stories we have to tell in wine are often quite gentle, although they may have huge resonance. It’s impossible to keep people’s attention unless you reel them in with every sentence.

“Either it has to be attention grabbing, or it has to flow so easily and smoothly that you just keep reading. I’m better at the latter I think.”

How do you see wine writing in general?

“I read an awful lot which is either just communicating information in a fairly boring way, or functioning as a basic travelogue (we went here, we did this, we tasted that, it was great).

“The challenge with online and the blogosphere (if that’s still a valid term) is that there are a ton of self-proclaimed experts. I like to think I can tell the pretenders from those who really know what they’re talking about, but it can be hard. Opinion versus considered opinion.

“On the plus side, being able to read on demand about almost anything, however niche and obscure, is such a privilege. Twenty years ago when I got excited about something I went to the book shop and bought a stack of books. Now I spend an hour Googling.”

What other wine writers do you admire/respect/read?

“Paola Tich’s writing has the punch and clarity that you’d expect from a seasoned journalist – something missing from 90% of wine writing. Andrew Jefford always has a unique angle and is never less than poetic. I read Robert Joseph and W. Blake Gray to be shaken up and entertained, Richard Hemming MW for his refreshing take and super readable style.

“Erika Szymanski covers mind-blowing subjects that no-one else even considers – and with panache and dry humour. RIP Old Parn.”

What other writing do you enjoy outside of wine and publications /websites that you read outside of wine?

“Modern fiction, especially Haruki Marakami and John Le Carré, cookery books, non-fiction about whatever is currently obsessing me. In the last few years it’s ranged from photography to cryptography to modern art.

“… and books on how to win writing competitions.”

What advice would you give to your fellow wine writers or someone looking to write about wine for the first time?

“Broaden your outlook as much as possible. Taste as much as possible, travel as much as possible. Read as much as possible, not just about wine.

“Re-read yourself at regular intervals and note the weak points. Then improve them.

“Try to find new angles. It’s hard to get excited about another blog post or article about region X or winemaker Y. Follow the story, not your preconception of what you thought the story was going to be.

“Take advice from as many people as possible, then ignore it all and do what your instinct tells you.”

Oh…and what are you going to spend your BDWA prize on?

“It’s a toss up between a bottle of Armand de Brignac, a palate of Echo Falls Fruit Fusion White Peach and Mango or an overpayment on the mortgage. I bet the last one’s going to win.”

Meet the #BDWAbyWIM Winners: Lisa Mattson (Jordan Winery)

012015 BDWAbyWIM, interviewTags: , , , , , November, 15

Lisa Mattson (Jordan Winery): Winner, Best Wine Themed Video
interview by Richard Siddle

On the eve of Star Wars returning to the big screen, hats off to the fun, creative and, let’s face it pretty brave, folk at the Jordan Vineyard and Winery in Napa, California for even attempting a Star Wars spoof.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAANOAAAAJDM1MDM4NjY0LTVjNWYtNDc0ZC05YmY4LTcxMmI5MTc1NmE0OQNever mind one that attempts to cover the somewhat controversial subject of too much oak in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons by depicting Darth Tannin and Oak Maul of the Malolactic Empire as the defenders of “excessive use of oak in the cellar” against those who seek “balanced winemaking”.

The result is the rather wonderful Cab Wars: The Fruit Strikes Back, which walked away with the Best Wine Themed Video category.

Richard Siddle caught up with Jordan’s very own Princess Leia who by day goes by the name of Lisa Mattson, Jordan’s director of marketing and communications, to find out how the film came about.

Who wrote and directed the video?

“This is actually a complicated answer, surprisingly. In short, it was a team effort by two other members of the marketing team, one of which no longer works for us, John Jordan and myself.

Cab Wars was actually a three-part video project. Two of the videos were created as digital invitations for Jordan infamous industry Halloween party. Those invitation videos were not promoted to the public and had a slightly different script.

“John Jordan and I wrote the introductory narrative to Cab Wars, and I wrote the revised script for the Cab Wars version of the video, which was our public consumer version.

“Lori Green, our marketing manager, and John Jordan, along with digital media specialist Erin Malone, the person who no longer works for us, wrote most of the dialogue for the two invitation videos that were private.”

Click here to see the full collection of videos

Who’s idea was it to attempt a Star Wars spoof?

“The Star Wars Halloween party was John Jordan’s idea. We have a lot of Gen Xers and millennials who work at the winery, many of whom are huge Star Wars fans.

“Erin Malone is also a Star Wars nut, and when John told us that he wanted to do video invitations for the Halloween party for the first time, we were all on board, and Erin led the project.

“My only stipulation was that we were going to need to be able to shoot the video in a way that would allow me to create a second script and another version of the video that would be public.

“That’s when John Jordan and I started brainstorming the Cab Wars concept and the battle of fruit vs. oak in Cabernet.

“Our Halloween party is limited to 300 and guests, and I wanted to make sure that a video project of this magnitude had an opportunity to be enjoyed by a much larger audience.

“When it came to officially shooting and directing, Erin and I were the two shooters for the two invitation videos. Lori Green and I directed talent on the set.

“For the Cab Wars consumer version, Drew Ross, Erin’s replacement, shot while I directed any additional shots needed.”

Those sets, costumes, and effects were pretty impressive. What was the budget to make the video and how long did production take?

“Again, it was actually three videos that were shot all under the same budget, so we got more bang for our buck. The whole project cost us about $20,000.

“Because we shoot our own videos in house and also handle most building projects internally, the project went quite quickly and wasn’t nearly as expensive as it would’ve been for someone who had to hire all of the resources and talent.

“We started costume research and ordering, as well as building the Tantive IV corridor set, in early May 2014.

“Our facilities staff of three built the entire set with Erin and Lori’s help over four weeks. There were many trips to Home Depot and much time spent watching the opening scene from Star Wars Episode IV.

“The set was used as the entrance to the Halloween party, so it had multiple uses as well.
We purchased all of the costumes rather than renting them, as they were able to be worn three times. We now have a dedicated Star Wars wardrobe area in our winery loft.

“We shot the save the date invitation video in June and the invitation video in July. We shot the additional Cab Wars scenes in September, and that only took a few additional hours of shooting and editing and a little bit of after effects.

“It took about four weeks of set building, costume gathering, organising employee talent, and writing and organising scenes and shoots. Two-three days of shooting for each invitation video. Then two weeks of postproduction for each of the invitation videos.

“Turning the invitation video into Cab Wars only took us another day of work.

“All of the talent in the videos were either employees of Jordan or relatives of employees. Darth Maul is our chef Todd Knoll. Chef Todd Knoll also played the main stormtrooper.

“Stormtroopers were employees from maintenance, the kitchen and also a couple of our contract construction builders. Sean Brosnihan, our head of guest services, is the rebel who got choked.

“The only thing we hired out was after effects of the light sabers and the Jordan bottle ship at the beginning.”

How important is video in your communications strategy? What impact has it had?

“Visual storytelling is an integral part of our communications. It’s not just online; we’ve fully integrated it into our guest experience. We have full-screen montage playing everyday in the lobby, overnight guests watch our music videos in the back of the Jordan Mercedes on their way into Healdsburg each night, etc.

“We believe it allows us to break through a very cluttered media world.

“It’s hard to quantify an “impact” directly. We’ve had people on Twitter tell us they bought a bottle of Jordan Cab because of one of our videos. We’ve had people come visit us because they saw one of our videos and said, “I have to go there. Jordan knows how to have fun.”

“We’ve had wine distributors send us emails after watching our parody videos and say, “I wish more of our established wine producers did this. We need more conservative, older wineries to embrace the modern-day storytelling and get consumers’ attention online.

“It makes our job of selling a lot easier.”

You have done a series of similar educational/fun videos…which ones have been the most successful?

“The music videos tend to go viral at first and spike; it’s the nature of music or whatever trend we are trying to align with, whether that’s a summer top 40 hit or the release of the new “Star Wars.”

“Dirty Work,” which debuted a few weeks ago, is our most successful to date.

“In the month to November 4, 2015 it received:

Facebook Video
Views: 222,128
Likes: 2,028
Shares: 3,942
Total Reach: 682,036
Paid Reach: 57,700
Organic Reach: 630,336
Reactions/Impressions: 19,583?

“But cooking videos actually get the most views.”

What advice would you give other wineries when looking at video to tell your story or part of your story?

“Great video can enhance your marketing; bad video can hurt your brand image. Don’t do it unless you are willing to do it well. Consumers have high standards for website, photo and video content due to the rise of Youtube and Instagram. It doesn’t take a lot of money to make good video these days.”

What other wineries do you admire/respect for what they are doing with video?

“I really liked Gundlach Bundschu’s history of Merlot.

“I like the Martinelli Jackass Hill video that was a Wine Spectator winner this year.

“I’ve always been a fan of Paso Man (work by Dina Mande).”

How are you going to spend your BDWA prize?

“I’m going to donate it to the #LakeCountyRising fund for the Valley Fire victims of our neighbouring wine region.”

Watch the winning video here:

Meet the #BDWAbyWIM winners: Alder Yarrow

002015 BDWAbyWIM, interviewTags: , , , , November, 15

Alder Yarrow: Winner, Best Tourism Content With A Focus On Wine
An interview by Richard Siddle

alder_CasualAmerican wine writer, Alder Yarrow, picked up two awards at the 2015 Born Digital Wine Awards. He came top in the Best Tourism writing category for an article about Austria, which he proclaimed to be “the wine lover’s dream destination” and was also a runner up in the Investigative/Journalism Wine Story category for his analysis of whether we need to worry about arsenic levels in wine.

Here Alder, who runs his own blog, Vinography, shares his views with Richard Siddle, chairman of the Born Digital Wine Awards judging panel, on wine writing, who he likes to read and offers his advice on producing award winning copy.


Why did you enter the Born Digital Wine Awards? 

“As someone who basically sits around writing content for free on the internet there aren’t many avenues to have my work formally recognised. Mentions in the press, links, retweets, and comments from readers are all fine and dandy, but sometimes it’s nice to get some formal recognition as well.”

Why did you choose to enter the pieces you did in to the awards?

“I write a lot of content and had many articles that might have met the criteria for various categories. I just looked through my work over the last year and chose the pieces that I thought were the strongest.

“Some of my strongest entries I had to rule out because they were longer than the (what I think is silly and arbitrary) maximum length of 1,500 words. I’m mystified by this limit and would highly recommend removing that length limit in the future.

“One of the benefits of the digital world is that it makes longer, more in-depth writing possible in ways that print never could. By having a word limit (that rather suspiciously matches a traditional print magazine feature or in-depth news article length) you’re missing out on some potentially fantastic content.  End of soapbox.”

How did your winning entry come about and what was the inspiration for writing it?

“I was on my second trip to Austria and found myself marvelling at what a fantastic playground it was for people who love wine.  The piece was basically just an outpouring of love for Austria. It’s one of my favourite wine destinations.”

What is your background in wine and how did you start writing?

“I started my blog in 2004 as a self-taught, passionate wine consumer and that’s what I still am. Other than having taken an occasional creative writing class in college, and needing to write a lot for my day job, I’m self taught in that arena, too.”

How would you describe your approach to writing about wine? What makes you stand out?

“My approach to wine writing is essentially to write what I would want to read. I don’t necessarily have a specific angle, other than really appreciating the stories of the people and places behind wine, which are what I believe make wine meaningful and memorable.”

How do you see the standard of wine writing in general?

“Wine writing has never been stronger in the United States, or around the world. We’re in an age where there are many more voices and points of view accessible to the wine lover than ever before.”

What other wine writers do you admire and read their work?

“I read a lot of wine writing from both mainstream journalists and bloggers, but among my favourite writers are Mike Steinberger and Jay McInerney (neither of whom are writing much these days). I also read Eric Asimov, Hugh Johnson, Kermit Lynch, Terry Theise, Matt Kramer, Jamie Goode, Elin McCoy, Francis Percival, Andrew Jefford, David White, Elaine Brown — jeez this list is getting long.

“I of course also immensely enjoy the work of my sometimes boss, Jancis Robinson MW.”

What other writing do you enjoy outside of wine and publications /websites that you read outside of wine?

“I read for pleasure, and when I do it’s a combination of a lot of science fiction and fantasy, contemporary literature (e.g Booker prize winners, etc), and non-fiction books about evolutionary psychology, business, and design.”

What advice would you give to someone about writing about wine?

  1. Find the story.
  2. Know what you’re talking about.
  3. Read everything you can get your hands on.

Oh…and how are you going to spend your BDWA prize?

“I have no idea. The idea of getting paid for stuff that I do on Vinography is somewhat mind-boggling.  I think the most logical thing to do would be to spend the money on wine, I guess.”

2015 Born Digital Wine Awards Winners Announced

002015 BDWAbyWIM, Announcement October, 15

The winners of the 2015 Born Digital Wine Awards, brought to you by Wine in Moderation (#BDWAbyWIM), were announced 24th October 2015, at the 2015 Digital Wine Communications Conference (DWCC) in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

The winners of the four categories are listed below, and on the Born Digital Wine Awards site, including links:

Best Editorial / Opinion Wine Writing

WINNER: Simon Woolf - Cornelissen’s way – making wine without sulphur
Second: Wink Lorch - The Three Wine Events That Won’t Occur in 2015
Third: Matt Walls - Madeira quake

Best Investigative / Journalistic Wine Story

WINNER: Erika Szymanski - How to replicate a wine from 1500 year-old grape seeds
Second: Alder Yarrow - Do You Need to Worry About Arsenic in Your Wine?
Third: Becca Yeamans-Irwin - The Effects of Climate Change on The Global Wine Industry 

Best Tourism Content with a Wine Focus

WINNER: Alder Yarrow - Austria: The Wine Lover’s Dream Destination
Second: Louise Hurren - Swallow (or spit) and stroll: Languedoc wine walks
Third (equal): Pauline Versace - Œnotourisme : escale à Marlborough en Nouvelle-Zélande
Third (equal): Sophie McLean - Re-birth, Re-match, Re-think: Wines of Argentina

Best Wine Themed Video

WINNER: Lisa Mattson (Jordan Winery) - Cab Wars: The Fruit Strikes Back
Second: François Desperriers - Pommard, le Temps Vigneron
Third: Helena Nicklin - Winebird’s VINALOGY: Tempranillo

The BDWAbyWIM 2015 winners receive cash prizes with €500 being awarded to the winners, €250 for second places and €100 for third place. All these winners will also receive tickets to the DWCC 2016.

BDWAbyWIM Simon Woolf - winner

BDWAbyWIM Reception

About the BDWA

The awards, now in their third edition, were relaunched in 2015 with the support of the Wine in Moderation – Art de Vivre campaign in order to highlight the best content about wine being published online today.

The awards received a grand total of 227 submissions from 19 countries, including Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Serbia and Turkey. These submissions were received in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Portuguese and split into four categories. 118 entries made it to the final stage, where judges scored each of them on multiple criteria in order to create the shortlist of 30 entries.

The BDWA judges* were selected from the wine industry and briefed to compare writing and video content from across the world to find new voices and sources of wine stories, as well as stories that made responsible use and took positive advantage of the digital medium in some way.

Said Stylianos Filopoulos, director of Wine in Moderation-Art de Vivre: “We offer our hearty congratulations to the four winners for their outstanding work, but also to the creators of the 30 short-listed entries: thanks to your combined efforts, wine culture and its appreciation is being communicated in a wider, more diverse and responsible way.”

Awards co-founder Robert McIntosh commented: “By identifying these outstanding examples of online wine communication, we hope to create a ready list of content that can be a benchmark that both educates and inspires communicators around the world.”


*BDWA 2015 judges were: Richard Siddle (Chair of Judges), Sarah Abbott MW, Pedro Ballesteros MW, Hervé Lalau, Elin McCoy, André Ribeirinho and Luzia Schrampf


Robert McIntosh, Founder,
Vrazon Digital Wine LDA.
+44 7813 769052

Wine in Moderation:
Stylianos Filopoulos
Director, Wine in Moderation – Art de Vivre (WIM) Aisbl
+32 (0)2 230 99 70



About Wine in Moderation – Art de Vivre

The Wine in Moderation – Art de Vivre (WIM) Programme was launched in 2008 across the European wine sector. It is the tangible and measurable contribution of the wine business community to reinforce responsible drinking patterns as a social and cultural norm. WIM is a common programme, centrally coordinated and implemented nationally, with the capacity to adapt to local needs, respecting cultural diversity and regional identities.

The Wine in Moderation – Art de Vivre (WIM) aisbl is an international not-for-profit association founded in 2011 by the European wine sector to coordinate the WIM programme and expand its reach in Europe and beyond. Members of WIM include national wine associations from Europe and South America and leading wine companies who are known for excellence and a commitment to social responsibility.

About Vrazon and the BDWA

The Born Digital Wine Awards were launched by the Vrazon team in 2011 to focus attention on the range and quality of wine-related content being published online across the world in different languages. In its first two editions, the awards received over 500 entries from 24 countries and in more than a dozen languages.

The Vrazon team also organises the annual Digital Wine Communications Conference (DWCC) and is committed to championing online wine communication.