Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Awesome Sponsor: Seriously, Who Doesn't Love Italian Wine? Be Honest Now.

Introducing: Me! Brought to you by:

Il Mio Vino, the Italian wine magazine, now available in English. Want a free issue? Click here. Fill in your name and email address. You will not be asked for a credit card. Later, if you want, you can get a year's worth of Il Mio Vino (12 issues) for $4.99.

Here's the deal. My client, Il Mio Vino, has been publishing their magazine and distributing hard copies on newsstands throughout Italy for years. This January they finally came out with an English version, but here's the twist: it's only available online, in a PDF-based flash program called FlipIt. Basically the thing looks and behaves almost exactly like a regular magazine.

You flip the pages, you browse stories, you get your read on, you get the inside dope on some of the lesser-known Italian wineries and you end up looking cool in front of your friends and enemies.

So how is Il Mio Vino different than a regular Italian wine magazine? Obviously, the first way is that it does not exist in the physical world. Il Mio Vino decided to publish online-only for cost and environmental considerations. No paper, no plastic sleeves, no shipping costs, infinitesimal carbon footprint. It just makes sense to publish online these days. Especially when you look at how some of the old heavyweight publishing companies and news conglomerates are crumbling into bankruptcy.

Some other features of Il Mio Vino's FlipIt format:

1. You can bookmark pages "flag"-style. Neat and tidy that way.
2. You can zoom in and out, scroll to any page, and view the magazine in fullscreen mode.
3. It is fully searchable (only single-word searches, for now).
4. Download and print any full story in PDF format.
5. When you scroll over ads they light up and you can click them if you feel so inclined.

Il Mio Vino prides itself on its totally blind taste tests and stringent editorial standards. The two latest controversies in the wine industry:

  • Wine Spectator recently gave out a wine award to a restaurant that failed to exist. Oops.
  • Decanter has been widely rumor to sell positive reviews to highest bidder. D'oh!

I'm a journalist by training, so I'll give it to you straight: I'm new to the world of wine tastings, celebrity taste buds, Gary Vaynerchuck and that whole crowd. I don't know how often these wine reviewers let ethics fall through the cracks, and I don't know that anyone is particularly immune to lapses in judgment. But I have never heard of Il Mio Vino being caught with its pants down like that. So far it's got a nice clean reputation. Therefore if you're looking for credibility, I suppose you should make Il Mio Vino one of your wine information sources.

Am I right or am I foul? How can you tell what's a credible source for good information about wine? Let me know in the comments.

Il Mio Vino focuses on reviewing wines from the smaller producers. These vineyards generally have no advertising budget, so this is a nice way for them to get seen. The benefit for readers is that they get to learn about some of the one million-plus "ma-and-pa" wineries that produce top-notch stuff but just don't have the money to get reviewed in Decanter. (Oops, did I just take a potshot at the competition? My bad.)

In the same spirit, Il Mio Vino often pits less-expensive wines against pricier varietals/blends in blind taste tests. The February issue, for example, features a story entitled "David versus Goliath: Six Sagrantinos at less than $70 vs. one at $126."

I'll let you read the story to see who wins.

So that's my sponsor these days. Do me a solid: take a look at the magazine and tell me what you think.