Hungry for wine

Seeing the World through the Lens of a Wine Glass

Hungry for Wine is maintained by Cathy Huyghe, wine writer for and author of Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World through the Lens of a Wine Glass.

Filtering by Category: Travel

30 Lessons in Wine Communication for Italian Brands

At VinItaly on Monday I was part of a panel called 30 Lessons in Wine Communication for Italian Brands. Other panelists were Robert Joseph (who spoke on packaging), Damien Wilson (websites), Reka Haros (advertising), Rebecca Hopkins (public relations), and I spoke on social media.

What, I asked the #winelover community and others on Facebook, would YOUR "lessons" or advice be? 

For ease of reference, especially for anyone not on Facebook to access, here is the discussion thread with full commentary from the #winelover community:

Fabien Lainé If you have most the key informations on the front label on a quite large label then I think it helps consumers as being in front of many references a consumer won't turn back all the bottles to read infos or get websites adresses, QR codes and so on

Elena Roppa If we consider wine communication in the world, the real values are already expressed and put into practice in the Italian wine world. The Italian wineries need to focus on their way of life (the Italian way of life): our vineyards are gardens, our wineries are stylish and comfortable, our villages are nice, wines and food are excellent. We have to improve our self confidence. The prices of our wines have to be the right prices (yes, I know that some wines are very expensive, but they are "exceptional case"), but it’s impossible if we follow the crowd (for example, screw cap is a good alternative, but it’s not our tradition and it is often affiliated with young and cheapest wines). Italy is one of the centers of wine culture and we have to tell our history. My advice for every winery is to trust in themselves and to meet winelovers with the simplicity of their story.

Robert Joseph Elena, you make some good points. But we were not talking about how to sell Italian wine v French or Spanish; we were looking at how one Italian wine producer can persuade a consumer to buy one of his/her wines than another brand of Italian wine.
You work in marketing, I believe; I'm not sure that 'trust in yourself' is quite enough as a marketing strategy, but 'meeting wine lovers' is definitely a good idea.

Elena Roppa Robert, "trust in yourself" is finally communicate what they usally do everyday and I think here it's not the place for marketing lessons 

Damien Wilson There's increasing evidence of 'the front label attracting attention', and 'the back label making the sale'. Remember that most of your sales will be with new customers. So overloading the front label with information just makes it more difficult for the new customer to determine what's important. Keep the front label clear, consistent, and distinct.

Fabien Lainé 2 years ago I wrote a post on labels -

Cathy Huyghe Thank you, @FabianLainé! Two points Robert Joseph made about packaging was adding a Call to Action to QR codes (if the brand uses them) and increasing the font size of website addresses. I'd add making the label easy to read/photograph and "scannable," in light of how many consumers now snap photos of labels with their phones in order to document their wine consumption via apps like Delectable. All good, simple, direct info!

Robert Joseph Damien, I think it depends hugely regarding the particular wine (style, quality, price) and the situation. In supermarkets, where the majority of wines are sold, most are bought without recourse to a back label. Ironically, however, in specialist stores where purchasing is often more considered and back labels are of greater value, European producers often prefer not to have one.

Cathy Huyghe Elena Roppa, thank you for your feedback here. I completely agree with you that the Italian way of life is compelling and appealing! What will happen when wineries go further than that to distinguish themselves individually, within the Italian lifestyle umbrella? How COULD they go further? I'd encourage wineries to identify what makes them distinct and unique, and then use that as the foundation for communicating in a dialogue with consumers.

Damien Wilson True, Robert, but I'd suggest that the purchasing experience explains that observation. In supermarkets, there's (almost) no personal service at the point of sale. As such, the back label provides more assistance. It was also in a wine retail study that they found that almost 90% of wines picked up off the shelf and examined end up in the trolley. The difference at independent retail is that the staff are on the spot to help/inform/advise, and back labels are less useful.

Robert Joseph Yes, Damien but… Your wholly reasonable point overlooks two crucial aspects: 1) a lot of wine shop customers prefer not to ask for advice. Indeed it's a reason why some successful retail shops leave wine books and guide around for customers to peruse. And 2) with over 500 wines in some shops, the level of knowledge of the manager (or his assistant) is often less than satisfying...

Elena Roppa Cathy Huyghe there is no “magical formula”, but in my experience the unique for a winery is the place where it’s located. In Italy that means wine + food + culture + art + tourism: so it’s important to communicate this 360° image. How? Every tools can be good: NFC for the label (more interesting than a qr code, because it will be connected with the winery ecommerce and more for example), short videos that show the life in the vineyard and in the winery, a good monthly newsletter, a wine club (not something exclusive, but occasions to meet the consumers): all tools and events that can create a contact, so the consumers knows that if they need more information they can get in touch with the winery thanks to tech. In my last panel with winegrowers, I suggested them to start to use whatsapp as costumer care: someone told me they already use it, and it very good also to sell the wine directly to consumers. I don’t need more infos on the label, if I can have real time infos from the winery (and I want it, because now it's possible).

Reka Haros Elena, but if all or even 20% of Italian Wineries started communicating wine + Italian food + Italian culture + Italian art + Italian tourism; don't you think that US consumers (as the session was US focused) would continue feeling confused? These topics are huge, and confusing to Italians let alone to foreigners. Cathy is looking for a key distinguishing point for communications. Sometimes, and I would argue always, the distinguishing point is not about the product/history/territory/culture. Those are points that Italian wine communications for the US use already, not always effectively I would assume. Italian lifestyle as concept can work, but not very distinguishable. Label is crucial for 1st - 2nd- and 3rd hand passing on of the bottle. But what in your opinion could be the true key factor for an excellent brand communication?

Magnus Ericsson Informative back labels are one of the most underrated tools in the trade. If you are in a store or are drinking at a wine bar you might get very handy info from the sommelier or the store owner. But you can remember just so much verbal info - especially if you do not know much about the subject. If you hold the bottle in your hand and can read the story about that wine - that's worth a lot.
Another underrated tool is no bullshit informative home pages. Be transparent - tell all you can in an as straight forward way as possible. Information and a feel for the product must go hand in hand. 
The San Leonardo label is a good point. For a new customer - where the f%&€ is it from (btw - I love the wines!  ).

Reka Haros Authenticity is a key point Magnus! Website design for usability is another key point!

Elena Roppa Reka Haros the 360° image has to be linear and referred to the winery, not to Italy in general of course (no confusion, but richness). The disorganization creates confusion, and this is an Italian problem. Wine is different from other products, so I don’t agree with you: the distinguishing point in this case has to be the territory/product/history/culture and maybe "family". The value of a wine is connected with a territory (soil, land). If there is no communication of the territory, the wine is an “industrial” product , so a very different message to create.

Reka Haros And what if the brand value is connected to consumers' values instead of territory/product/traditions/family? What happens if the brand value is connected to consumers' emotional world instead of the glorification the winery itself?

Fabien Lainé It reminds me of a great Ted speech

Elena Roppa Glorification? You are too dramatic. Every brand is a glorification (beacuse it tells its story or its point of view). I know very well what you are meaning, and it's important (to tell a story that can be also your story, sharing economy / "sharing branding"), but not the only (it depends on the tactic and on the subject) 

Cathy Huyghe One of the points I made in the presentation was about WIIFY -- What's In It For You, "you" being the consumer, rather than the winery. The consumer needs a reason to see the winery/brand as relevant to them personally. It's why they think, I'm going to buy THIS beautiful Italian wine rather than THAT beautiful Italian wine. Try turning the lens around. Relating the narrative to the consumer's interest, I think, rather than the winery's can be a key differentiator for a lot of brands.

Reka Haros And this was leitmotif our presentation, from packaging to SM.

Reka Haros Fabien, a more complete concept about this is Leo Burnett's HumanKind principle for content development.

Cathy Huyghe And IDEO's user-centered design http://www.designkit.orgThese are obviously not concepts traditionally applied to the wine industry but I do think there's a lot to learn from them and apply.

Annette Lizotte The question is really what is the "added value" of your product for the consumer and find the adequate way to communicate it. It can be a certification: Bio, Demeter, Vegan etc... no added sulfites and you might just want to put a sticker on the bottle, or maybe just put the information on your homepage and brochure? It maybe the information that the product is extremely rare, limited and unique for a reason you'll have to explain. Famous awards are key to enter some markets. Maybe the wine-food-pairing information is seen as added value. I agree with Cathy Huyghe - the producer HAS to learn to put himself into the role of the end consumer when he decides on the content of his communication, visuals etc... Be authentic and coherent, don't make your story too complicated. Every communication tool should express the same base message, only in a different manner.

Reka Haros Yes Annette, first you need to know who your consumers are, understand their "why"-s and real motivations for purchasing your brand. Then deliver your message on what is important for them.

Robyn Lewis Is this question about selling Italian wine in general or one individual brand?

Cathy Huyghe Individual Italian brands, Robyn Lewis. Would love your input!

Jennifer Gentile Martin It's a matter of education, especially with the lesser known grapes. This is part of the reason why I write my blog as well as others. It's a matter of getting some of these wines into the states to begin with. Then when they are on the shelves I feel it's the labeling. They all can't be hand sold and some labels don't tell enough to the uneducated consumer.

Sean Piper They should communicate that they are real humans making drinkable wine in another unique place on the planet earth and care deeply about the quality of their product. 

Then - if they're feeling frisky - they should say that they got massive awesome number scores from critics and that they only employ the master masters of wine.

Cathy Huyghe Thanks, Sean Piper! One idea that came up in the VinItaly session yesterday was "real humans" and showing the imperfect sides of wine too. Maybe not what you'd want in a print mag ad, but very appropriate for social media sharing. Yes, Reka Haros?

Sean Piper I almost forgot, they should also say that their wine regions and areas and wine blends are better than anywhere else on planet earth. 😎

Sean Piper And they should cite history and tradition to reinforce the fact.

Sean Piper And they should ignore the bliss and loveliness of being alive and touching the flavors of life.

Ole Udsen I'm not the right guy to ask, because I seek out the wines, they don't have to come to me, but a few thoughts I have wrestled with in respect of how I would do it myself: 1) Track record. Do verticals, if you can. Show a constance of quality and purpose. Show an evolution towards an ever better product. Show your (humble) ambition and passion through the wine, and how that happens over time. 2) (and closely related) Keep your selection simple and constant. Don't add new wines all the time. Take the time to build a following for something that remains constant. Do away with all the "fantasy names" (which are not vineyards, but are family, history, stories etc. - only a select few can remember and keep track). Keep the labels simple and constant through the years. 3) Show team spirit. Speak well of and promote your area, your neighbours; build an area and/or variety presence. 4) Go to where the consumer is, literally/physically. They want to meet you, look into your eyes and observe your body language as you show your passion and pride, your constance of purpose etc. 5) Maintain an active social media presence. Wine is - deeply and essentially - a social thing, as lubricant, conversation piece, identity builder, prestige object etc. People want to communicate it, and they want to be communicated to about it. Use that to your advantage. 6) Avoid BS. There is too much BS in wine, too many "perfect soils", "perfect climates", "chemical/additive-free wines" etc. etc., which doesn't stand up to scrutiny in the long run - not because it is not true (it might be), but because too frequently the grasp of both the wine producer and the consumer of the real science involved can be a bit weak. Instead, communicate the soul of your wine. What's it like, why, can the consumer expect it to be such going forwards, what are the choices made (but simply!), why are YOU doing it etc.? I realize these aren't quick fixes, but wine is very much a time thing also. You have to be in it for the long haul. There are no quick bucks out there in wine land.

Reka Haros Sean, authenticity is key for communications, scores and critics' endorsement need a different context.

Rome. And Blood.

I'm just coming down from three days of meetings this week, in Rome.


The best word I can think to describe those days?


Dinner the first night was at Campo de' Fiori -- historical site of executions and torture -- in the shadow of the statue of Giordano Bruno. He was burned at the stake for ideas that were "dangerous" and, at the time, heretical.

Maybe that set the tone.

Coffee another day was with a friend of mine, another writer, who these days is having a hard time making ends meet. He said that the flow of his energy for his work, the flow of blood to the heart of it, is slow. Very slow. 

It is a very difficult time in Italy, he said.

(Has it ever not been a difficult time in Italy? I wondered.)

After that, the momentum for this metaphor -- of blood and the life-giving energy it is meant to carry -- gained steam. 

Over another coffee, a different friend told me about an opportunity... It's a good opportunity, an interesting and challenging one, the kind I normally love. But there would be a lot of drama to it, drama that I know -- because it is a familiar drama -- would sap the iron out of the energy, of the blood, from the opportunity. I left the meeting not yet agreeing to the project, but already feeling anemic.

Can you really feel anemic after only a conversation?

Maybe my imagination was getting the best of me, I thought.

But then there was another meeting, this time with a very strong undercurrent of intrigue. Maybe he was telling me the truth but it was his version of the truth with many (many) sinuous layers of meaning hidden underneath.

As for the metaphor of this meeting? 

The blood flow was clotted, hindered by the obstacles of multiplicity. I'd swear his skin seemed more pale, more lifeless, than normal. I left feeling confused. A little bit spooked. And exhausted.

I was rejuvenated, paradoxically, by a conversation with a diplomat. Even though they are extremely difficult things -- women's role in the church, sex trafficking -- they were at least concrete, tangible things and I can take hold of them, and take action, rather than play catch-up to slippery words and motivations.

Another coffee, a final one, was with an amazing woman, who is very young, with a spine of steel for the perfectly contrarian work she is doing. You have a sense, looking at her initially, that she is a lamb surrounded by a pack of wolves.

And guess what? The metaphor is here too. Those wolves think that they could smell her blood in the water. But she has a heart of her own, a powerful pounding one that beats for a mission. She survives. And so does the mission.

Yes, I am still coming down from these three days in Rome.

And I am carrying a question around with me, because I know that Rome can be a Place in the future of my life's story.

The question is whether I have the heart for this, for this Rome?

Do I have the reserves to replenish all this bloodletting? 

Yes, I believe I do. I believe my heart can stand it. I believe my heart can shape that way. 

The question is whether I want it to.

A Love Letter --

Tonight I fell in love with you.

It had been a long day as tourists in a new city, and everyone – including my husband – was tired. But there was one more wine bar I really wanted to check out. I decided to go alone, and then I heard, “I’d like to go with you, Mom.”

I turned to you. My son Leo, age 9.

“Is that okay?” you asked.

Yes, baby. Yes, it was okay.

So you got dressed in the best clothes you brought. Your Dad whispered a few things in your ear. We left the hotel and walked northeast toward the French Quarter. We held hands the whole time. Sometimes we were the only ones on the street. It was dark, and misty, and you talked to me about the architecture and the alleyways, and how you thought the lights made it seem creepy.

But you were brave.

At the restaurant, while we waited for our table, you talked to me about the mural behind the bar. You told me how you’d compliment the painter, and you told me the five reasons why.

Then they led us to our table, a banquette, and you instinctively took the chair so that I had the perspective of the room.

They gave us the wine list and we looked at it together. Immediately you honed in on the rosé section – they aren’t too strong, and they aren’t too soft, you said – and you picked the very bottle I myself would have picked.

The server, though he wasn’t supposed to, brought a glass for you too and he poured you some wine. We toasted. We smelled. We tasted. We laughed.

Then we looked at the menu and decided to share a main dish. You asked me which I preferred, the chicken or the steak. I said the steak because I knew that’s what you preferred. But you said no, Mom, let’s get the chicken, you like it better.

So we did. We ordered the shrimp cocktail in the meantime and you tried it. You were uncertain about it but you tried it. (I love that about you.) Then the cone of pommes frites heading to another table caught your eye. Of that you were certain! We ordered that too. The roast chicken came, and you compared it to what I make at home. I like your skin better, you said.

We ate, and we talked, and we shared. You had a lot to say, and very often you’d end it with, “Don’t you agree?” Sometimes I did, and sometimes I didn’t, but that is how a conversation works. As you know.

And so it went.

After dinner, we held hands again as we walked back to the hotel, and this time we took a better-lit, less creepy route. You noticed the homeless people, and wondered why they come to a big city rather than a smaller town, where people seem nicer and more likely to help.

It’s a good question, a good conversation topic, a good observation.

That’s one reason I fell in love with you tonight, Leo, and I’ll remember it just as well as the others. I am grateful for the person you are now, and for the seeds of the person you are becoming.

I love you, Leo.


Winter Reading: The Garden To Be

Bread, and vegetables.

These are the two "home" projects high on my priority list for the New Year:

Making homemade bread regularly, and planting a vegetable and herb garden.

I've already begun experimenting with bread recipes, from whole wheat flour to spelt flour, from popular current recipes to a multigrain recipe I picked up from an old (old) French cookbook.

It's an incredibly satisfying thing, to knead bread into the smooth, elastic dough that, set to rise near the lit fireplace, magically emerges into the bread that eventually I will slice and lift to my nose, to smell the grain and inhale the texture next to my skin.

But the garden? Growing my own vegetables and herbs?

Somehow it feels overwhelming.

Even though it isn't, exactly. That is, i've enlisted help -- my friend Jonathan, an experienced gardener who for decades made things grow in the forbidding environment of Vermont. And I've grown things before, to some degree of success -- a tomato-basil garden during graduate school, and herbs planted in boxes on our porch on Cape Ann.

Still the overwhelm -- or, more accurately, the anxiety -- chases me.

What to plant? How will it thrive when I travel so often? Where to plant? And how?

So I do what I always do when I have too many questions causing too much anxiety.

I read.

At the moment it is a book written by Alice Holden, a gardener in Wales. It is called Do/Grow: Start with 10 Simple Vegetables, and I picked it up a few weeks ago in a bookstore in Sydney. I didn't know that THIS was the book I was looking for, until I found it on the shelf and thought Well. Of course.

Even 10 simple vegetables feels like too much to me to start, and I pare down the list to what my family and I actually consume and want to consume more of.







Enough! For now, anyway. To start. Let me just start.

I would like to write about this garden, and this bread. I would like to sow the seeds, and test the recipes, and coax it all to nourish.

I would like to be patient with the process -- of growth, of taking root, of rising, of the timetable of nature.

I would like the process to teach me patience. And how to be where I am, on this piece of earth.

Patagonia, at the Micro Scale: A Photo Essay

There is every reason to think of Patagonia on the MACRO scale.

It's where two of the earth's major oceans converge. There are massive glaciers. Major implications for the world's geology. Maritime studies -- of hundreds of thousands of penguins and whales and anchovies and sardines -- that help us understand the origin of our world as we know it.

For this photo essay, I took the opposite approach.

That is, I focused (literally) on the wonder of Patagonia at the micro scale.

Most of the images below fit within a two-by-two inch frame. They include edible fruits along the trail of a national park. "Waves" of geological formation within a rock. Vegetation from all over the color scale. A decaying vertebrate bone from a sea elephant. A translucent piece of seaweed so thin you can see the grains of sand underneath it. Lichen shaded in perfectly complementary colors of gray and yellow, and the underside of lichen that sparkles like diamonds.

This kind of zooming in, and this kind of deep dive, is a helpful strategy too, to approach the current state of Chile's wine industry: not only this wine, but this wine, made from the same vineyard, from the same grapes, by the same winemaker, for the past 25 years. And etc.

Stay tuned for that. But for the moment, here's a look at Patagonia, on the micro scale.

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Essay: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Essay: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

Rumi at the Airport --- and in a Tavern Buying Wine

One of the benefits of traveling for my work -- so far and so variously -- is time spent in the cocoon of airplanes. International travel, also, normally means no phone or internet access, which for me translates to long periods of concentrated time to write, to catch up, and especially to read.

Which is why I tend to linger, for as long as possible before my flight, in the bookstores at international airports around the world. They carry plenty of books in their native language, of course, but there is also usually an English-language section that carries locally popular books in translation.

It's an amazing opportunity to pick up books that are important in that place at that time to that population, and most often they are books I have not encountered at home in the US.

(Sidebar: bookstores, and consignment clothing shops, are vacuums for me. I'm drawn in and have a hard time pulling my imagination away from all of those STORIES -- no matter their shape, as text or images or scarf or hat. Especially hats...)

I pick up book after book. Fiction. Biography. Business. I put 96% of them back down. But when I find The One, I know it immediately.

That's what led me to, for example, Napoleon Bones by Jenny Hobbs (picked up at the bookstore in Johannesburg, South Africa). And An Italian Education by Tim Parks (picked up at the bookstore near the Delta gates -- right around G7, I believe -- in Rome). And, most recently, The Forty Rules of Love, by Elif Shafak, which I found at the airport in Istanbul.

Shafak is a Turkish writer, well-known in her own country but not in my reading circles at home. Forty Rules is about the poet Rumi, who I've long admired, and the imaginary retelling of his encounter with a Sufi dervish who helped him find his voice as a poet and not only as the well-respected Muslim scholar he was before they met. 

I knew immediately that Forty Rules was The One for my trip home from Istanbul. I wasn't disappointed -- far from it, in fact. But there was another layer of benefit I hadn't expected.

Since I've returned home from visiting wineries in Turkey, I've written about the religiously-motivated regulations imposed by the Turkish government against the promotion or marketing of alcohol. It's been on my mind, for lots of reasons -- not only the economic implications of the regulations on the wineries, but the pervasive insidiousness of the anti-alcohol, anti-wine sentiment.

Here, toward the end of Forty Rules, I found this scene where Rumi is sent by his dervish into the local tavern to buy two bottles of wine. It's a test, obviously, and Rumi handles it beautifully. Before he leaves, he is asked by one of the tavern's regulars:

‘You have seen us. We are not evil people, but that is what they say about us all the time. You tell me, what is so wrong with drinking wine, provided we behave ourselves and don’t harm anyone?’

Here's how Shafak describes the scene that follows:

* * * * *

Pensive, kind, sober, Rumi walked toward me, and here is what he said:

‘If the wine drinker

Has a deep gentleness in him,

He will show that,

When drunk.

But if he has hidden anger and arrogance,

Those appear,

And since most people do,

Wine is forbidden to everyone.’

There was a brief lull as we all contemplated these words.

‘My friends, wine is not an innocent drink,’ Rumi addressed us in a renewed voice, so commanding and yet so composed and solid, ‘because it brings out the worst in us. I believe it is better for us to abstain from drinking. That said, we cannot blame alcohol for what we are responsible for. It is our own arrogance and anger that we should be working on. That is more urgent. At the end of the day whoever wants to drink will drink and whoever wants to stay away from wine will stay away. We have no right to impose our ways on others. There is no compulsion in religion.’

* * * * *

I don't know if Rumi actually ever spoke about wine, or wine in relation to Islam. What is interesting to me about this scene is Shafak's having written about it, about her reimagining this element of society, and the implication that an issue so relevant in October 2014 was similarly debated 800 years earlier.

Winery Dogs of Turkey

Most days, when I’m traveling to different wine regions around the world, I try to go out for a run in the early morning. It’s led to an unplanned series of pictures and tweets in the “View from This Morning’s Run” category that I really enjoy – from Florence to Friuli to Napa and New Zealand.

This week I visited a winery on the Aegean coast of Turkey, near Suvla Bay. Over dinner I asked my host if it would be safe to run the following morning, and could he recommend a route. Normally he lives in Istanbul, so he asked the workers who live locally all the time. The cook reminded him to warn me about the dogs.

In this part of Turkey there are still shepherds, and there are dogs who protect the herds. Especially overnight, when the sheep are sleeping, the dogs become very aggressive to anyone who comes near the herd. So I may not even be aware that I’m running by a dog who’s protecting a flock, I was warned. But if I did, it would challenge and chase me and likely attack.

So that morning I drove to the coastline and ran along a paved path there. I did encounter a dog, but it was a town dog and not a herd dog. It ran toward me and then alongside me awhile, but not in an “attack” way, just in a “Hey, you’re running! Me too! Let’s go!” way.

Dogs have become one of the strongest impressions I’ll take away from the properties I’ve visited in Turkey. They’re incredibly friendly at the wineries, and well trained, and not threatening at all. They live outside and organize themselves by temperament and personality – loners, pairs, packs.

I see the dogs in Istanbul also, and in the smaller towns. They seem to be stray dogs in those places, and they roam free and fend for themselves. Cats too. One morning, running along a main street near the coast, I saw a black and white cat lying dead and with its neck broken, near a dumpster.

Wine Travel GAH

The title of this post should really be Wine Travel YES and, by the end of saying what I need to say, it will be.

But let me work something through first.

I'm at that moment of a trip, at the very beginning, when I've said good bye to my husband and children, when I'm on board the plane, when I'm leaving on the first leg of the journey. The physical side of me is ready to go.

This particular trip, however, isn't to Napa or Oregon or Switzerland or New Zealand. It's to Turkey. And for that reason, it's taken the emotional side of me a few ticks longer to be ready to go.

Partly it's because the trip was almost canceled last week, when political protests intensified in some areas where we planned to be and, rather than postpone the trip entirely, we rearranged the itinerary around the sites of those protests.

Partly it's because of the sharp contrast of news coverage, between the sources I consult at home in the US and the sources my husband consults back in his native Belgium. He reads his news on the Belgian newspaper's app on his phone, and this morning he told me in detail about a US general's presence in Turkey, trying to convince Ankara to intervene in an aggressive takeover attempt of Kobani, a town along the Syrian border. (Belgium is home to a significant number of Turkish expatriates, and their national news addresses that population.) However, I had to dig -- deep -- for similar coverage in the US news sources that I regularly consult, which includes a website that claims to prioritize international news.

Maybe the US news sources are oblivious. Maybe the Belgian news sources are alarmist. Probably some of both. The bottom line is that I've got to cobble together information, which heightens my anxiety.

[several deep breaths and a take-off later]

There's something about starting, about stepping off, that adjusts my perspective.

This train has left the station and, since I'm along for the ride, my emotions need to recalibrate along with my physical location. It's a subtle shift but a critical one, from being anxious to being eager.

When I travel I am focused. I accomplish more work on the road than I do at home. I attribute this largely to my husband who, when we're both at home, is the biggest soaker-upper of my attention! (See what you get for marrying an incredibly interesting person??) And of course I miss our children, but the truth is that they've got fun and highly responsible people taking care of them. They are fine. They will be fine.

And so will I.

This is the kind of trip I adore. It is unusual. It will be challenging. I expect to learn things I won't learn anywhere else on the planet. I expect to meet people -- and taste wines -- that are distinct and unique in the industry.

So, yes, we have arrived at Wine Travel YES!

And for that I am extremely grateful.