Why Have An In-House Team When You Can Outsource It

March 5th, 2015

Corporate-Benefits-of-Transcription-servicesTranscription services provide information which is the fuel for business and can take it to great heights of success. Transcription act as a business tool these days as it enable businesses to take strategic and business decisions. Transcription is not just an art of converting audio & video files, it is much more than that. Many companies try to have an edge over other companies by using transcription reports and analysis. They tend to incorporate an in-house team as well for transcription.

When companies start in-house transcription services they face a lot of difficulty and have to bear the set up cost, cost of hiring people who are skilled and have good listening abilities. Some companies are of the opinion that such decisions serve you good returns for a long run and outsourcing makes sense only when the projects are smaller or scarce. However, statistically outsourcing can offer many advantages even for longer or regular projects both for companies as well as individuals.

  • Think of outsourcing transcription and think of reduced capital investments, expenses and overheads, resulting in significant savings and increased profitability. Profitability act like a wheel to run the company which can’t be ignored.
  • Transcription service requires specialised skills, proficient manpower and by outsourcing to transcription agencies whose core area is just transcription, will assure better quality and results. They are the ones who guarantee the best results.
  • Organisations for e.g market research firms or subtitling agencies can outsource transcription services and focus themselves on their core area, be it research or captioning.
  • Outsourcing transcription work also reduces the burden on company’s I.T department, in terms of maintenance of software, transcribers might use or just the staffing cost.
  • Most agencies who provide transcription services also provide many additional services like 24 x7 x 365 customer care support, various TAT options with different rates to suit ones pocket.
  • When major professionals or individuals e.g journalist started doing it themselves they get frustrated, as it is not easy to transcribe especially if the audio is noisy or with lot of disturbance. It takes a lot of their effort and time which they could have utilised in their actual work. Outsourcing takes away pain from them.

At Scribie, we are here to shoulder your burden of transcribing, throw your work at us and we will present it in most comprehensive manner and best quality within your time lines and budget.

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March 3rd, 2015

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Free Podcast Transcript: Another Question, Episode 3, Clockwork

February 26th, 2015

We are pleased to bring you another Free Podcast Transcript; Another Question, Episode 3, Clockwork. As part of our Free Podcast Transcription program, we transcribe podcasts for free for the benefit of the community. Our mission is to transcribe all the world’s audio to text and this is another step towards that. Submit your podcast for free transcript today at the following link.

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00:01 Sage LaTorra: Hi I’m Sage, and this week, another question: What is the toughest RPG to master?

00:05 Adam Blinkinsop: Oh, I like it.

00:06 SL: I know, we’re trying out new things. Nice rehearsed intro.

00:10 AB: Madness.

00:11 SL: That’s the only rehearsed thing in this entire podcast. So this question was sent in by a reader named Phil, and we thought it’d be a great thing. ‘Cause we’d actually been discussing a few different topics around difficult games or mastery of games, and why not use one that somebody suggested? So we decided, through the strict science of alternating, that I’m up first this week.

[chuckle]

00:34 AB: Deep magic man.

00:35 SL: I know. We’re getting more and more complex. We’ve got a rehearsed thing, we’ve got a clear alternation of who’s doing what. So I’ve got a runner up which, I’ll just touch on briefly, which is GURPS. It’s not maybe for the reason you were expecting.

00:52 AB: No, I considered putting GURPS on the list. Go ahead and give rationale and we will see how it goes.

01:00 SL: So, my thinking on GURPS is, there are two primary ways to play GURPS that I see. One of them is, you use the fact that it’s GURPS and you play with everything in the book basically, which is the GURPS who’s who books that stat up historical people are in. In which case you’ve got a really complex game because you’ve got Shaka Zulu and Winston Churchill adventuring side by side, and you’ve gotta have rules for all very different things. And you get into the complexity of rules, which I think is gonna be a common thing in this podcast and it’s tough to master that because you’ve gotta deal with all of these weird interactions between like, “what happens when I throw a spear and I block it with a tank?” That one’s probably not that weird.

01:48 AB: Well, unless you’re playing Civilization.

01:49 SL: Unless you’re playing Civilization. In which case that one apparently is surprisingly effective. But the other way to play GURPS is where you’re playing GURPS in kind of a specific setting which turns GURPS into a create-your-own-game kit practicaly.

02:02 AB: Right.

02:04 SL: I picked this up from my friend Luke. I had always thought of the main reason that I’d play GURPS as the throw everything in it game, but he pointed out that GURPS is also a make your own game kit, which actually I’ve played more of it that way, I just wasn’t GM-ing it so I didn’t think about it as much. But that game is complex because you’re responsible for kind of designing the game.

02:25 AB: You’re responsible for building the genre in.

02:27 SL: Yes.

02:28 AB: Because GURPS does not build genre in.

02:30 SL: Which is a considerable part of designing a game is setting up these expectations of theme and picking out which things are gonna matter and which things aren’t. And with GURPS you’re, if you’re trying to play GURPS in pretty much anything but the “let’s just throw it all in” genre, you’re gonna do that a lot.

02:48 AB: Now the GURPS game that I ended up playing, that you were not involved in ’cause it was before you got to Google, was Civil War era and we had somebody from Russian mythology who was immortal. We all built characters based on insane things. So we did the grab bag approach but without pre-stat’ed characters.

03:10 SL: Mm-hmm.

03:11 AB: One of the most crazy things I’ve ever seen. That was fun but figuring out how to move a story along, figuring out how to move a scenario along, figuring out what kind of next stuff would happen outside of the party was impossible. ‘Cause the book can’t guide you, right?

03:31 SL: Yeah. My friend Ben, who is pretty much where I get most of my GURPS stories from, either playing with him or his stories of these things. I remember going to Kinkos with him and photocopying the pages out of GURPS who’s who, so that he can hand them out as character sheets. And it’s just, “these are your guys, choose” because I think…

03:48 AB: Character creation in GURPS is insane.

03:49 SL: Oh my gosh. The only times I’ve ever done it I’ve used a computer program to help me with it.

03:53 AB: Doing it well is super insane, so.

03:56 SL: Yeah. So then the other GURPS game was a GURPS setting called Reign of Steel, which is basically the future portions of Terminator. The machines have taken over, humanity is, maybe fighting their last ditch effort. That was a great game but part of that was that so much of the choosing what things to do in GURPS had already taken place either through the setting book, which GURPS setting books are great, or through Ben, as a GM just kind of ignoring the things that he didn’t wanna have to deal with. And us as players, with the exception of I think me, most people just kinda showed up and picked a few things out of the book. And I sat down with the character creation software and got through everything and it didn’t make a huge difference in the character really. Everybody else had just as memorable, just as awesome characters but mine was point buy down to the single point, and theirs were just kind of eh.

04:52 AB: Yeah GURPS is interesting. We should have a big discussion on generic role playing systems at some point in the future.

04:58 SL: Yeah. So somebody suggest a question about what’s the most generic game? Or something.

05:03 AB: Oh man!

[laughter]

05:05 AB: Go ahead.

05:06 SL: Okay. So my real pick, and it’s unfortunate that I ended up going first this week, ’cause I think this is gonna contrast with how we pick a lot of other things, at least I’m guessing at your picks.

05:17 AB: Very possible.

05:18 SL: And compared to GURPS, is actually Freemarket. So Freemarket is a role playing game by Jared Sorensen and Luke Crane and it comes in a box, it’s a box set that’s the only way to get it. And the box contains materials that you need including special decks of cards. And the concept of Freemarket is that you are people on a space station orbiting Jupiter, Saturn, one of the two. Somewhere off in space that is post-scarcity. So, you don’t… All of your basic needs are taken care of. Death isn’t really a factor anymore, except in really intense situations. You have a place to sleep, you have food to eat, you can replicate things on Star Trek-style replicators kind of, they’re a bit more like matter printers but like you can…

06:09 AB: All of the normal RPG conflict is gone…

06:12 SL: Is just gone.

06:13 AB: Yeah.

06:14 SL: Which is what makes it such a tough game to master. The procedures of the game are a little complex. I mean Luke Crane’s involved so they’ve got some teeth but they’re not as crazy as some of his other games. The thing that takes a lot of wrapping your head around and that is tough to master is what happens in a setting like this? Because so many of our other games, you have all these genre touchstones. Like if we’re working with super heroes, you’re going to be like “Okay, somebody’s trying to blow up the world”, done. There’s a dungeon with something in it, there’s spies trying to infiltrate your organization, all of these things we’ve got lots of media sources for.

06:53 AB: Something is attacking your safety, your food, your shelter, your whatever.

06:58 SL: Well and compare this to Apocalypse World. Apocalypse World has an entire, you design things based on scarcity.

07:02 AB: You are the eight scarcities.

07:03 SL: Yeah, all these things are scarce. Here’s a game where nothing is scarce.

07:07 AB: Right.

07:09 SL: Or at least nothing that’s particularly important. So it’s a game that challenges you to think about that world and you don’t have a lot of touchstones for thinking about how humanity interacts in that situation.

07:22 AB: So one of the side pieces of this question is, because it’s going to take a while to get good at this game, is it fun while you ramp?

07:32 SL: Mm-hmm.

07:32 AB: Right, because if the learning curve is too steep and it’s not fun when you’re not very good at it…

07:37 SL: Yeah…

07:38 AB: Nobody’s going to get good at it unless they really really are like, “No, no, no, I’ve heard great things about this,” when you know how to do it.

07:45 SL: Well, and I think that’s the awesome thing about this kind of complexity is that when it’s a complexity of the setting that you’re trying to understand and it’s not a detail-oriented complexity. Like complex settings that are about remembering the lineage of some kingdom or something…

08:00 AB: Right…

08:01 SL: That’s not very fun when you can’t get it and nobody cares. But when it’s trying to imagine how you act in this world where you’re not fighting for your next meal or you know, you don’t really have to have a job. Like the thing you do is the thing you want to do. Thinking about that world is a challenge, but it’s kind of a fun one and it’s kind of a big part of the reason that the game exists. So it is challenging but that challenge a fun one and it kicks off right from the beginning.

08:26 AB: So it’s an enlightenment question? The idea of enlightenment being that you can understand something intellectually but not really get it, right, not be able to apply it by default and that’s actually a theme in a bunch of my own so…

08:40 SL: Interesting, I was guessing that we were going to have a lot of picks about like complex mechanics and stuff like that. Interesting.

08:47 AB: I feel like in general, role playing gamers, especially people that DM are very smart people. You need to read this gigantic book and wrap your head around it and be able to apply it in an improvisational scenario, you better be pretty quick on the draw, right?

09:06 SL: Well in the improvisational, I was thinking about how to talk about mastery and I think the mastery of the rules as the facts of them is less important than the mastery of the rules as an application.

09:17 AB: Right because if you know them all, if you can reference them all, that may be great in the random scenario in D&D where you need to be all like, “Well I know that I got armour class 27 because of these modifiers or in the all-the-time GURPS scenario”, right.

[laughter]

09:32 AB: “I know the combat pattern” which is just such a pain. But I feel like as a GM, yeah, let’s talk a lot more about mastery because we can’t just jump into mine yet. Gosh.

09:46 SL: I know.

09:46 AB: That was way too quick.

09:47 SL: No and there are more things about Freemarket that I’m sure will come out in the discussion, how you master Freemarket.

09:51 AB: Yeah, yeah… Definitely. Because mastery, like your book is always in front of you. And so at the worst, you can say let’s do a snack break for a second while I look up the grappling rules. But if you don’t understand how the game text produces a game experience then creating that thing, especially as a GM or worse, in a GM-less game where the group doesn’t understand the same way how the game creates an experience, everything is just going to break down, right?

10:28 SL: Yeah, and the idea that the rules are a thing that you have to internalize in detail, I mean both of us work in programming basically…

10:40 AB: Basically? We work in programming. [chuckle]

10:43 SL: Well, I mean, sure, and this often comes up when you interview at companies and stuff is it knowing the intricacies of some language and being able to point out that the syntax here should actually be this, or this is the preferred way to do this. Or is it understanding the complexities of the problem and being able to explain how you’re balancing these challenges and stuff. The application of that tool is more important than a complete and total knowledge of that tool. And it’s kind of the same way in RPGs, like if you can’t… Or I can’t think of what the bonus for plate armour in D20 was, that really doesn’t matter compared to knowing how to use the tools of D20 to make an adventure…

11:26 AB: Right.

11:26 SL: And it helps that a lot of the adventures you’re going to be there are the kinds of things that are really easy, you know, somebody has something that you want, somebody has stolen something from you, you’re poor and you need something. And Freemarket, the system itself, you’re not going to have to remember what the bonus for plate armour is but you have to figure out what life looks like when it’s not our life anymore. I’ve heard it described as living in heaven kind of. Your characters no longer have basic human needs for the most part or rather those needs are trivially taken care of.

12:04 AB: Sure. Yeah, it’s an interesting thing trying to create plot in that particular scenario.

12:09 SL: Oh but it… Oh, sorry I’m turning all over this…

12:11 AB: No, no, no, I’m just continuing to think, go ahead.

12:13 SL: The plot in that scenario becomes about a lot of things that other games don’t do very well.

12:20 AB: Sure.

12:20 SL: Creation and networking, and if you don’t have to worry about where your next meal is coming from, and you…

12:29 AB: Step up the Maslow’s Hierarchy type of thing.

12:31 SL: Yeah, totally. You can just be a game designer now. You and your friends, since you don’t need to worry about if you can make money off of it, or what other people are gonna think, you just design games and you give those games to people. You don’t even sell them because why would you sell them? The thing you want is for people to create things and for people to like your things, and for them to… It’s a social… There’s a degree of social economy and kind of a buddy system and a like system. Everybody has crazy cyberware, so you can just send somebody a thumbs up or whatever, what do they call them? Attaboys. And that’s more important than money because there’s nothing really to buy. You wanna share things with people and you wanna create things that people wanna share. You wanna be a contributor to the society, which is so different than so many games.

13:28 AB: Which leads to this very interesting philosophical discussion about what is currency in the first place.

13:33 SL: Oh, totally.

13:34 AB: Do those become the currency just on a different plane of need, right? That’s really interesting.

13:42 SL: Yeah, that’s the thing that the more you poke at the construct, the more these little bits of need and want still pop in. These things that you are, not necessarily lacking in but are still scarce in the sense that some people have more than others, which I think is interesting, this is kind of a meta statement of the game that I think we as humans are wired up to understand, we’re want machines. We’re dealing with wanting things all the time. And so once we deal with the situation where that isn’t the case anymore, to not want at all, all our ideas of conflict and success. Like success is kinda tied to conflict, ’cause you’ve succeeded over something… that’s gone.

14:31 AB: So in running like that, so one of the things when you’re talking about programming languages… There’s a saying, we’re gonna get way software engineer-y up in here. There’s a saying that you can write Fortran or C or whatever in any language and it talks about… The idea is that there is an idiomatic way of doing stuff, and so if you’ve played… I don’t know, if you played… Why not, if you played a ton of D&D, the idiomatic way of starting off is “everybody is in a tavern” or “you’re in a dungeon” or “here’s my adventure” or…

15:08 AB: You have all of these patterns that you can just fall back on, and so when you move from playing a game like that to almost anything else, part of you is gonna start with, “Well, I guess we’re gonna start in a tavern.” ‘Cause that’s the way I know how to do things, which is why some of these games that are coming out like Diaspora, Fate Core… One of the early Fate Core 3 stuff. Diaspora is a small kind of outer space, Traveller-style, “let’s go around and do cool things” RPG that starts with Fate’s normal “build relationships with all the other players,” in a really hand-wavy kind of, put down whatever you want that’s cool and come up with that back story. Once you’ve done this, you have generated all of the idioms for your session, which is great because it throws you off the default, “Well this is how you all know each other because I needed to come up with something really fast”, which is really, really important. And games that don’t give you a really good way of generating kind of that initial scenario, I feel like they’re in massive danger of just falling back to whatever the DM’s idiom is.

16:20 SL: Well, and I think that, that initial scenario, some games kind of appear to gloss over that because the initial scenario is, “I don’t care exactly how you got here, but you are here.” And this is like the classic…

16:36 AB: We’re just not gonna talk about the back story.

16:38 SL: This is the classic D&D answer that we’ve talked about before. “You start at the entrance to the dungeon.”

16:44 AB: Right.

16:44 SL: And the idea that suddenly sitting in a tavern and deciding if we’re going to go on an adventure is this weird,… I wanna know where that came from, I wanna do a historical study and figure out, how that entered as a… Jon Peterson, please: the next thing you write on, how did meeting in a tavern get started? And it really needs to be done, but speaking of applying D&D genres elsewhere or tropes the… What did you call them?

17:12 AB: Idiomatic.

17:12 SL: The idioms of D&D. I started mostly with D&D, some GURPS and stuff and started running Mutants and Masterminds for some friends ’cause we’re superhero gamers, and we thought at the time that League of Extraordinary Gentleman was just the coolest thing, that we’re going to do super heroes in kind of victorian… Well…

17:33 AB: Go steampunk superheroes.

17:34 SL: Yeah, basically.

17:35 AB: Nice.

17:35 SL: So we started with that and we ran into first of all some of the classic problems with superhero games, that games are really hopefully help you gloss over of like, “Wait, how do we know that the bad guys are attacking?” I’m like, “How do we get there? How do we get there in time?” All of these are classic superhero problems, and so many games you have your session, and then in an entirely different game we had somebody arrive to this big superhero showdown on a bus. [laughter] ‘Cause we somehow we started worrying about how would the Batmanish character get there?

18:07 AB: And you don’t care, right?

18:08 SL: You don’t.

18:08 AB: You turn the page and Batman’s there. That’s all you care about right?

18:11 SL: But of course, because we’re gamers we sit there and we’re like, “Oh, well, I guess he tops the bus.” And it was horrible but in this one, the Victorian Adventure, because I’m using the D&D idioms, ’cause that was what I’d run the most of, the players beat some bad guy on a boat. And because I’m thinking D&D and I’m thinking there must be a reward for this fight, he drops his wallet.

[laughter]

18:35 SL: And he’s not even…

18:36 AB: Oh, man. And that’s so not super hero, even right?

18:39 SL: That’s so not super hero. And the reward wasn’t even… Now, that I say that I think, “Oh, the wallet could hint at his identity and there could be a hole in it… ” No, the wallet had money in it. That was… I was telling my players, “Good job. You beat him. Here is… ”

18:51 AB: Here’s some treasure.

18:52 SL: Yeah, here’s some treasure. Here is five pounds, which when I said it in the moment, the players were like, “Wait, he has weights on him?”

[laughter]

19:00 SL: Which just made it even worse.

19:02 AB: Yeah, oh man. So, this leads right into my answers because talking about how mastery is: how can you get into the idioms of this other game? The first… I have two runners up and a main because I dropped two others off so we can talk about them later.

[laughter]

19:18 AB: Amber Diceless Roleplaying.

19:20 SL: Oh, that’s a good choice.

19:22 AB: Amber is by a Polish guy… I think he’s Polish, named Erick Wujcik and… Back in ’91. And the Amber series of novels is this very Eastern European fantasy series. So, if you haven’t read them… Stuff like the Witcher, is also Eastern European. It’s got a very different feel from kind of the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien stuff. Kind of low-fantasy awesomeness. And in the Amber series of books, the main characters — hardly protagonists — the main characters are all hyper-powerful members of royalty. And so in the game, all the players are hyper-powerful members of royalty. They’re not friends. They’re family. They are not friends. So, the beginning of the game, the DM does this big stats auction and the auction is public and then you can privately buy up some more points. So, while you’re playing this game, you generally know who’s the best in one or two things but you don’t know who’s beating you, necessarily. So, this game becomes about, “Well, how do we manipulate the conflict if we’re in a conflict to be in my area of strength or whatever?”

20:39 AB: But the more important thing about mastery is this is a totally unrecognisable idiom. You can’t put them at a threat anywhere unless it’s against another player character because nothing else is a threat to these people.

20:53 SL: Yep.

20:54 AB: Right. The big story is this massive story of politics and continuation and how do you deal with chaos? And that’s totally different from all this other stuff. And there’s no dice. The GM is going to make everything else happen, how do you do all this stuff? How do you keep all of this information private, that the characters can know but not share. It’s just so way out of left field.

21:16 SL: Well, and there’s practical challenges to the way that RPGs are normally conducted around a table once you start them, secret information and all that stuff, which is an entire other sort of mastery. It’s a mastery of the actual physical space and little tricks and techniques, note passing and stuff.

21:36 AB: Yep.

21:37 SL: But your stat buying, it’s such a big part of Amber, it reminds me of a game that I’m unlikely to bring up somewhere else so I just have to…

21:46 AB: [chuckle] Yeah, do it.

21:46 SL: It’s so perfect for stat buying. ‘Cause it is kind of a stat auction, as well. A game called Best Friends by Gregor Hutton, which is about a clique of friends. Usually, it’s kind of a high school team, girl, best… That Lindsay Lohan movie, “Mean Girls.”

22:02 AB: Nice.

22:03 SL: It’s kind of that, but you can also do pretty much any clique of in-fighty frenemies but the amazing thing there is you assign your stats by going around the table and each person names one of the other players and says for each stat that they’re better than you at that. So, it’s, “Oh, Adam’s character is prettier than me.” And that gives you a point of the pretty stat.

22:25 AB: Nice.

22:26 SL: And so we all go around table saying that and so you are pretty because we all hate you for being pretty, ’cause you’re prettier than us, which is this beautiful take on the same trope because you know everybody’s stats and you know that you don’t like them for that reason. You know that that’s a problem to you, kind of like in Amber, you auction off these stats and then you realize, “Oh, man, I know that he’s got a better whichever stat than me, I need to be careful of that ’cause we’re gonna be playing against each other.”

22:53 AB: We’re gonna be fighting.

22:54 SL: Yeah.

22:54 AB: So, there’s some mechanical mastery that’s difficult there, too. Doing the stat buy in a group that has not done Amber before, the GM really, really has to make sure everybody understands the importance of it and also push them to auction way higher than they otherwise would. ‘Cause if you have a stat buy where everybody’s buying at 10 or 20 points, where you start with 100, it’s not as interesting as the stat buy where somebody is egged on to go to 67 in warfare and then is like, “Wait, I only have thirty points to do anything else with?” So, yeah. So, Amber is interesting. Yeah, we’ll stop there.

[laughter]

23:34 AB: The number two runner up is… We’ve talked about this before but not as a main game, The Clay That Woke…

23:41 SL: Yes.

23:42 AB: By Paul… Yeah, as previously referenced. The big thing here is a idiom change, right? This is not a game about the characters being protagonists in the world. This is a game about the world having really crazy shit going down and you putting a whole bunch of yourself into that, and then having all the player characters interact with that and make interesting talk happen.

24:09 SL: Yep. Which is just such a Paul Czege design.

[laughter]

24:14 SL: I mean, it’s wonderful and Paul’s great. I got to game with Paul last year at a convention, and I’ve met him before, he’s wonderful. But it’s the epitome of Paul is a game that makes you all sit around and say interesting things.

24:30 AB: So, there’s other, again there’s mechanical mastery interestingness here, the entire idea of doing this kind of fortune telling to move where you’re going to be talking next. And it’s just there’s so much different, and I haven’t quite had the enlightenment moment, yet. I feel like you could get there if with the right group.

24:53 SL: I have yet to play that but I got to see some of the session that you ran, and I could definitely see, that was another great example of coming to a game and not quite having the idioms for that game. You, obviously, understood all of the mechanics, I’m not sure “mastery” is quite the right term, but there was no surprises of like, “Oh wait, how do we… ” or, “What’s the bonus for this?” Or something. All that was fine but the idioms of how you actually make that happen, and even the idioms of communicating that to the players, that’s an entire other sort of mastery. If you’re the only person who has read or run the game, how do you communicate all those things to other people?

25:30 AB: Right, and I feel like Paul does communicate this relatively well in the book.

25:35 SL: Oh, yeah, it’s great.

25:36 AB: It’s a very well-written book and he discusses how to do… ‘Cause we were talking about this kind of first session problem. He discusses how to build the first session very, very well. My problem is understanding where to go and doing that mind shift that needs to happen to run it and cause interesting stuff. Because interesting stuff in this game is not, “The Orcs are coming out of the forest.” Interesting stuff in this game is, “Well, how does slavery make you feel as a person?” And it’s weird.

26:09 SL: It’s not even just how does it make you feel, it’s “What are the effects of slavery on the way our society… ”

26:16 AB: Second-order and third-order effects.

26:18 SL: Yeah, and the effects on other people, the effects on how you interact with other people because you have this. Yeah, it’s…

26:26 AB: So, it’s a game that I want to figure out, but there are lots of those games, which leads me to the third, and I think obvious answer that Sage avoided picking, which is Burning Wheel.

26:36 SL: Yes. I was briefly wondering if you weren’t gonna pick it, and we were gonna have this hilarious discussion where…

26:42 AB: We should have picked. Burning Wheel is… So, I have lots of games that are mechanically dense that could have been on the top of this list. Burning Wheel is not there because it is mechanically dense, Burning Wheel is there because it has 20,000 moving pieces that all fit together precisely, and you can’t change any of them because Luke knows what the fuck he’s doing.

[chuckle]

27:07 AB: And if you don’t remember one of them, things are gonna be just subtly off. Your clock’s gonna tick a little bit fast or a little bit slow, and you’ll be like, “You know, this isn’t working as well as I wanted. Oh, that’s right! This rule… ” And then everything moves again.

27:24 SL: Oh, and I wanna jump back, because it’s not that you can’t change these things, it’s that it is a complex watch that… the mastery is when you get to the point where you can, you know all those interlocking gears and you can tweak them. And to Luke’s credit, the thing that a lot of people don’t pick up on in the book that I think is absolutely key, is that the game tells you that it’s built on concentric circles, basically; you can just do the innermost circle and that cuts out a lot of the gears, basically. The gears that are there are still intricate and beautiful and they work together great, but they require a bit less of that “remembering the AC bonus of plate,” kinda stuff.

28:07 AB: Even that smallest circle, though, is pretty complex. Even that smallest circle is, “Okay, your character better have beliefs that actually matter. They better have traits and remember to pay attention to them. They better have instincts that are actually going to be relevant in game. They better have goals that are actually gonna be relevant in game. Oh, and by the way, when you’re creating your characters, all of these steps in character creation are gonna need to be relevant in game. And by the way, as a DM, here are the things that you’re gonna think of as reward tokens that aren’t really reward tokens, they’re ways of making sure that the characters can proceed to do the things that they care about doing and signal to you that they’re things that they care about doing.”

28:50 SL: See I feel like the… And this may be a weakness to how the game is presented to some degree, all that stuff is actually outside the most inner circle. The most inner circle are the basic mechanics of the game which are reasonably complex, and pre-gen characters, like from “The Sword” scenario or something. ‘Cause it does take some skill to cook up good beliefs and instincts and traits… Well, traits are a little less so. But beliefs and instincts in particular. And to mesh those all together there’s a collaborative aspect to it where if everybody writes all their things individually and then sits down, you’re probably not gonna get anywhere. But if you take something in one of Luke’s published scenarios that has pre-gen characters, a lot of that stuff is done for you.

29:38 AB: Right, but so talking about the first session… First session problem, I don’t think that The Sword or The Gift count, really, as a first session.

29:46 SL: Oh, I think The Sword can totally be a first session.

29:49 AB: I think it’s a “Let me show you this game,” session. But it’s not a first session, right? If you play The Sword a couple of times or you play The Gift a couple of times, you can’t… I don’t know if it’s… That’s not gonna hold up for a group that wants to play a campaign. You think you could go from The Sword and…

30:05 SL: Oh, but I think that the spiralling outward from there… I mean The Sword ends with some notes on these are…

30:11 AB: Take this into a campaign thing?

30:12 SL: These are directions where things could go from here if you’re playing another session and I think that like with all good Burning Wheel characters, those beliefs, if you just keep on poking at those and looking at “Okay, if this character believes this, this implies these things about the world and that means that I can knock over this domino to challenge that belief”, all that stuff is still built into those characters. The Sword is just… In some ways, I think you could even drop the scenario of The Sword and just say “These are pre-gen characters and you cook up a little scenario”. Again, it’s concentric circles. The most concentric circle I think is running the sword with just the hub system from Burning Wheel. So the most basic ways of resolving dice and stuff, and just keeping on going with that for the longest time. And it still, the fact that this is the most concentric of all these circles, it means that there are still a lot of things to master as you grow out from there. But I think that that game is still really good, which I think is one of the best things about Burning Wheel.

31:15 AB: It’s a major strength of the system. There are idiom changes that you need to make but the big strength of the system is that it does survive without all of these extra pieces.

31:26 SL: The idiom change is the interesting thing I think to bring up, ’cause that’s actually part of what knocked Burning Wheel off of my list. Also, the guess that you’re gonna pick it.

[laughter]

31:36 SL: But part of what I think that Burning Wheel why I would argue that other games may require more mastery is that the idioms of Burning Wheel are actually relatively familiar, not necessarily from D&D but from other types of fantasy literature in particular. In some ways, Burning Wheel is a great system for, like even Lord of the Rings. A lot of the fantasy touchstones that get referenced in regards to D&D I would say actually fit better for Burning Wheel. You could totally set up, I’m sure somebody’s done this online, set up all the main characters, the fellowship from Lord of the Rings, and that would actually probably give you most of the things I guess, Gandalf spells might be a little off, but whatever. So are all these D&D spells.

[laughter]

32:26 AB: But people are coming from the fantasy novels, right? The fantasy novels were a touchstone 40 years ago but at this point, there are…

32:36 SL: They’re coming from the movies.

[laughter]

32:38 AB: Well, right. But a lot of those are coming out of… Like watch The Hobbit, right?

32:44 SL: Mm-hmm.

32:44 AB: The three movies of The Hobbit are 70% “Look at this awesome fight” or “This great CGI things” and not, “Hey, my beliefs are really being challenged here”, right?

32:56 SL: Yes.

32:56 AB: And then yeah, yeah, Luke’s stuff is built off of the good modern and even not quite modern fantasy novels that have all these useful interesting things going on and things that are not just “My character has a spell to deal with this”. But I don’t think that there is many people coming to this game, coming to RPGs from that point as they’re coming to RPGs from “I wanna hit stuff with my battle axe,” right?

33:25 SL: That’s a very valid point. Like I agree that a lot of people come to RPGs for, I hit it with my battle axe, which is a great way, there’s a reason for D&D’s enduring success ’cause that is an awesome trope, and it’s a thing that people want. And this isn’t to like cheapen that at all but I think that there are other touchstones, like the Burning Wheel beliefs, instincts, traits stuff you can easily parse out to other types of media as well.

33:52 AB: Sure, sure, sure.

33:55 SL: When we were talking earlier today we brought up Lost, which Adam hasn’t seen so I can’t even give a talk about it.

33:58 AB: No, go crazy.

34:00 SL: But a lot of the characters there, you can parse those characters into beliefs or you could do Primetime Adventures issues, which are both kind of flip sides on the same thing. I think that people, once you can help them have that insight to look at their favorite media whatever that is, and look at what’s driving those characters, like you can totally write up Batman’s beliefs. Well, various takes on Batman. There’s so many takes on Batman, Each one has their own beliefs, but…

34:29 AB: But I mean, like this is innermost concentric circle. We could talk about beliefs for weeks, like there are people that have been playing Burning Wheel for a long time and still have trouble coming up with really good beliefs.

34:43 SL: Well, but on that standard I think you could say that dungeon design in dungeon crawly RPGs has this same level of people have done it for years and can still talk about the intricacies, like it’s an art not a science.

34:55 AB: Right. But the difference between “Okay, I’m gonna build a couple of dungeons” and “I’ve been building dungeons for 20 years”, I feel is way smaller than the difference between “This is a belief that I just came up with” and “I’m really good at writing beliefs”. Like the guy that’s really good at writing beliefs. Here’s a belief that the GM can take and build an entire scenario and setting out of. Here’s a dungeon when you’re done with that dungeon, you’re done with that dungeon or here’s a dungeon and it’s enormous but they just did this enormous amount of world-building, which is a totally different scope of effort, right?

35:27 SL: I think that I’ve got a different appreciation for well-designed dungeon than you do. I actually feel like the thing with beliefs is that they take a lot of skill to write, but there are a lot of references to come from. If you’re ever in danger of trying to write a belief and you’re having a hard time you think of some drama-ish TV show, book, movie, or whatever, think of some character who has some personal struggle, translate that into your situation and that… It’s a different level of mastery. You’re not coming up with these things whole cloth, but it totally works most of the time. Whereas a dungeon has all this moving parts to it. It’s almost back to the level of game design where you’re not just coming up with one thing that can drive play, you’re coming up with an entire dungeon of in or out locking things. And I think that raising beliefs to this level of they have to be these wonderful works of art, is also tuning in the system because part of the wonderful thing about Burning Wheel is that you can change your beliefs. They’re meant to be changed in a lot of ways as long as you’re not trying to game the system by constantly changing them. The whole point is that if one isn’t working, you just swap it out.

36:42 AB: Sure. No, it’s a beautiful system. Dungeons, I don’t know about dungeons. One of the problems with dungeons to me is that very few people are really gonna take the time to craft a dungeon.

36:59 SL: True.

37:00 AB: Because there are even random dungeon generators, right? And the random dungeon generator is not gonna create something that’s really interesting in play, but it’ll create something that your players are gonna go through and have a good time with, because most of the games that use a dungeon that you are legitimately mapping out; the players are not gonna care that “This is the beholder section of the dungeon and you can tell that because of these bones here and these people are eaten over here”. Like all of the stuff that you bake into a dungeon to, especially in modern play group that’s played 10 years of D&D, they’re gonna say “Who cares? Where’s the trap? I need to know where the monster is, I need to know the tactical situation, I don’t really care about all this care that you’ve put into this thing, it doesn’t make any difference to my character.”

37:51 SL: Well, but that’s exactly where the mastery of dungeon design comes in. If you’re just throwing in random things there as atmosphere or something, you’re doing a relatively poor job designing. And even if you’re throwing in details where atmosphere would work, this is something that really well-designed dungeons and adventures in general do really well is communicating a maximum amount of atmosphere that the GM can then use in a minimum amount of text instead of maximum amount of details so the GM then has to be like, “Oh, wait, you can tell that the scorch beams are actually a little above your head. Sorry about that.” That doesn’t matter. You want the GM to be able to communicate a feel, which is a craft… crafting something like that is I think more complex than a belief.

38:44 AB: But in D&D, only one person has to do the dungeon design.

38:46 SL: True.

38:47 AB: In Burning Wheel, everybody has to do beliefs.

38:50 SL: And here I am, arguing for a game that’s not even the one that I picked. [laughter] Isn’t it interestingly, both of our top picks are Luke Crane games.

38:57 AB: So this is the thing, designing… Well, I don’t know, I guess. On the one hand, designing a game that is simple enough to pick up and play and have a good time with is very, very difficult. And the games that we have that exist right now that are really pushing that, stuff like Microscope and Apocalypse World and Fate that are, “Here are some dice, make up a couple of things go”, and the game will work out. And if it doesn’t, you can totally switch and play something else.

39:33 SL: That’s totally not new, but anyway.

39:34 AB: And I’m not saying that it’s new. I’m saying that it’s relatively hard to do, even though it looks straightforward, right?

39:40 SL: Oh, totally, yes.

39:42 AB: I didn’t have enough time, sorry this letter was so long kind of thing, right? [chuckle] And Luke Crane’s philosophy, not to put words in his mouth, but the way that his games end up designed is, they are these beautiful watches that are gonna take a while to absorb. And I think that that’s also a ton of work. And doing the editing to drop it down so that there are these concentric circles, so you have this innermost piece that you can play and that part is simple, but then you can also take the game and add all of this massive amount of complexity that still works and still interlocks is way more work than I want to do.

40:22 SL: But that’s game design work. There are games that the effort and mastery that were put into creating them is an order of magnitude different than the mastery that goes into playing them. And I think that’s actually true of most games.

40:38 AB: Right, and I think that those two layer on top of each other, though, which is why I think Luke Crane games were at the top of both of our lists because I even got Dread and Pendragon on my massive runner-up list because I feel like if you want to play them really well, you better do a lot of work to get into that right idiom and to understand that this is how you have to play this game differently than you’re used to playing games.

41:04 SL: Pendragon was almost on my list as well.

41:06 AB: Oh Pendragon is so… Okay, let’s make it your third runner-up then. Or your second runner-up…

41:08 SL: Oh, but I don’t wanna burn through so many games.

41:10 AB: They’re so good, though! We can repeat and nobody’s gonna listen to all these. So talk about Pendragon, ’cause you only get…

41:16 SL: So Pendragon, I was deliberately committing myself to just two games ’cause I wasn’t gonna have this massive list of runners-up, but now that I’m going into runners-up, I’m actually gonna go to two more. So Pendragon is this wonderful game of Arthurian legend where specifically you’re not playing Arthur or any of the knights you’ve heard of. You are playing these knights, and eventually their descendants, through the entirety of Arthurian legend, which, first of all, takes a lot of re-thinking of how you run the game, because it’s against this massive backdrop that is already known to everybody to some degree.

41:56 SL: And really the best way to play Pendragon is to get The Great Pendragon Campaign, which is a book larger than the rules that goes over what happens through the entirety of Arthur’s life, actually starting before his life. And this game, I’ve actually struggled with running it, because the backdrop is so good, and the concept of these long-running knightly dynasties, and it matters not just how you can actually fight, but the glory you can gain in battle and all this stuff, all that sounds really good, but making it work in play, I didn’t quite have the idioms. Part of it is, in some ways we wanted to take all this Pendragon stuff and play Burning Wheel in front of the Pendragon stuff. That’s eventually how my group works.

42:47 AB: But that misses… So, The Great Pendragon Campaign… So, my D&D background is with a group that was playing, that knows everything Forgotten Realms related, everything Forgotten Realms related this group knew about. They knew when their sessions were planned in the Forgotten Realms universe timeline. They knew what the year was, down to, “Well, this is the year of this thing, and so this stuff is going on, and so let’s build it in.” And so, having a campaign that existed in a pre-existing setting, I’m used to that. The thing that I couldn’t really get a handle on with Pendragon for a long time was that all of the player characters are… You have stats in Pendragon based on actions that you want to take. And the stats in Pendragon will occasionally force you to take actions.

43:48 SL: Yes.

43:49 AB: And that is the big, massive mind shift for Pendragon.

43:53 SL: And we struggled with that a little bit, because the rules, at least in the current edition that I have, I feel flip-flop on this on a little bit. How much you’re supposed to be bound by these things and how much they are things that you want to do. We ended up almost wanting something more along the lines of beliefs from Burning Wheel to some degree. It’s important to have something that can get you into trouble, that’s very Arthurian, you’re too loving and so you can’t turn away the unreasonable demands of your suitor or whatever. But we had a hard time getting the actual dice there to work, and then the rest of the rules, the combat stuff always came out really flat for us. We had a couple of wonderful sessions, and then a lot of mediocre ones and we eventually gave up on it.

44:44 AB: Yeah, I feel like… So, the beliefs are… I feel like they are less beliefs and more instincts.

44:50 SL: Yeah.

44:51 AB: Like, “I will be loving in all scenarios” type of thing. And they are instincts that you can attempt to avoid. But yeah, I’m right there with you on the conflict rules. There’s a ton of that game that is complex for it doesn’t seem like very much reason, I… Pendragon is Greg Stafford I think, and it’s relatively old, I think it’s in fourth edition at this point. And I don’t have enough experience with Pendragon to give Greg the faith that all of the rules are there for a reason. So, it’s very likely, it’s very possible that they all are and that we just don’t know it. But this is the problem with a building a complex game that is not concentric, right? So, anyways.

45:36 SL: Yeah, you have to immediately invoke pretty much all of Pendragon, and then a couple of other challenges that we came across, that by default you are all the eldest sons of various houses, which doesn’t give your characters a lot of reason to do any… There are plot things that draw you all together, which in The Great Pendragon Campaign are sometimes very just like, “No, Merlin just chooses you for some reason, who cares, you’re on the adventure.”

46:03 AB: You all meet in Merlin’s Tavern.

46:05 SL: Pretty much, you all meet in Merlin’s Tavern and we ditched that, because we were having a hard time getting all of these eldest sons to… It felt like running three solo games that occasionally overlap. So instead, we went with the eldest child and two younger children of a family that had some standing, so all three get to become knights, but one of them is definitely set up to inherit. And then we also… I mean, we tinkered pretty heavily, because things weren’t quite coming the way we wanted. We also actually added this whole thing where we decided that we didn’t really want to deal with women being totally just damsels to be saved and stuff, so we decided that in our setting women are technically allowed to inherit, but are often… They’re still often skipped over because they are declared unfit or whatever, “Oh the moon had effects on her, she’s too flighty to be the heir.”

47:10 SL: So, our eldest was actually a woman and we had to rethink all of the feudal system with this. So, whenever you arrange a marriage, you decide who is marrying into who’s house, and all… We dreamed up all of this stuff, which actually didn’t mess with the game dramatically. I was really worried that this was gonna mess with…

47:28 AB: Hey, who knows, maybe it did. Maybe the conflict rules are heavily dependent on status of women in society, right?

47:35 SL: Yeah, the conflict rules… But this stuff, at least for my group, I’m sure other groups would have a great thing, that actually led to some of our best moments. The best thing we ended up with was somebody getting murdered and the players blaming Uther’s other son basically.

[laughter]

47:53 SL: And taking him hostage, and like…

47:55 AB: Nice.

47:56 SL: And it turns out that it was a magical thing and all this stuff and whatever, but we had this great 10th session of the two younger brothers, who before had been kind of like, a bit at odds. And they’re not telling their older sister, the one who could actually maybe negotiate a little bit more. Oh, it was a wonderful session and a lot of that came from some of the changes that we made and from some of the focus. Like the Pendragon campaign is great for setting up things that happen each year, and this wonderful backdrop, but some of the ways it tries to weave the players into that backdrop are a little heavy-handed. Like I said, sometimes Merlin just shows up and is like, “You’re all coming with me. Why you? Because you’re the player characters.”

48:40 AB: So number three, I guess.

48:41 SL: My third runner up, since we’re just going crazy with this.

48:45 AB: Mad with power.

48:47 SL: Well, we’ve run out of episodes within the year. The great thing is I think we’ll come back to some of these games and talk about other aspects of them.

48:54 AB: Hopefully.

48:55 SL: Hopefully. But the other one, and this a bit of a deep cut, is Continuum, which is a game of time travel. And the reason that it requires a lot of mastery is because the majority of the book is not actually about the things that you normally associate with a role playing game, like how to figure out if you managed to shoot somebody with a gun or run away fast enough or whatever. Most of it is about the mechanics of time travel.

49:21 AB: Right.

49:21 SL: So it provides you this entire explanation of dealing with basically everything with… What happens when you go back and kill your own mother? Well, this, this, and this. You’ll accumulate… They don’t call it…

49:33 AB: Paradox. They don’t?

49:34 SL: Paradox. It’s basically paradox. I wanna say they have a different term, but I can’t think of it off the top of my…

49:37 AB: Of course they do. Because it wouldn’t be a time travel game if they didn’t have a bunch of funny time travel terminology.

49:43 SL: Yes. They’re a bunch of… Well, in all… The way the people become time travellers, it’s like an innate gift and when you figure out you have it, you kinda graduate into this fellowship of time travellers and you’re allowed to make a little bit of money off of it by buying the lottery ticket that’s going to win and stuff. But if you go too far there’s police, kind of, that come after you and stuff.

49:59 AB: Time traveller police.

50:01 SL: So the real challenges to mastering this game, one of them is, first of all, understanding and explaining to everybody else how time travel works.

[chuckle]

50:11 SL: I’m serious. The majority of the book, and if I remember there’s some examples with like tearing and folding paper to help you explain how the time continuum changes and all this. The other real challenge is that it’s one of those games that to master it is to figure out what you do in the game. Like D&D has never had this problem, it’s really easy to say like, “Well, you go on an adventure, probably into a dungeon, probably to get something you need.” Maybe that’s money, maybe it’s something bigger and more important. But the problem with Continuum, what are you here to do? You’re here to, maybe… Maybe you’re trying to pull off a heist ’cause you want more money but you can also travel through time. I mean what’s the driving action?

50:58 AB: What’s the scenario? That’s gotta be… Oh man.

51:01 SL: So, yeah. This is a really interesting game. I always wanted to play it more, because I’ve always had a problem of actually… You kinda sit down to play, you manage to get through a description of time travel and then you’re not quite sure how to start a session. But yeah, it’s kind of my white whale, to actually run a good Continuum game.

51:20 AB: Man, and there’s Time and Temp. Have you played Time and Temp?

51:23 SL: Time and Temp is a… On the other hand, completely jumps over why time travel works or anything.

51:29 AB: Right. Because it’s the Star Trek problem, right?

51:33 SL: Yeah.

51:33 AB: Ideally, in fiction, here’s some crazy thing that enables plot. It works because, insert technical babble here, go. Now Continuum might have enough mechanics built around time travel, that it kind of… It drives the game and it means that if you didn’t have it, the game just wouldn’t work. But most fiction doesn’t end up doing that kind of thing.

52:00 SL: Well, no. I mean, I think the continuum is kinda like the movie, Primer. I mean that’s what I’ve always imagined it to be like. The reason that there has to be rules for this stuff is not that the rules for rolling the dice interact that much. It’s because these rules are what it feels like should drive the action of the game. Like the idea that you can die… Be dying once, jump away from that into a different point in time, but now you know to preserve the continuity of the continuum or whatever, you have to get back to that moment to die. So if you die again, you’re really in trouble. Like all these things are… In theory, that’s what the game should be about dealing with, is dealing with the rules of time travel, which is why it’s important to have all this, not do the Time and Temp thing. So Time and Temp is a game where you are temp workers sent through time to correct problems or whatever, and it very quickly glosses over a lot of the problems.

52:59 AB: Is that Epidiah’s game by the way?

53:01 SL: Yes. Epidiah Ravachol. I’m not sure how to pronounce it. It’s Eppy.

53:06 AB: Trying to give credit!

53:07 SL: Yes. And we’ll, of course, link all these from the show notes as usual. But the thing there is that it really quickly glosses over why time travel exists, how you’re not going to get sick and die, how you’re going to be able to communicate with people, how you are going to look like you fit in and why they would send temp workers back through time?

53:24 AB: The first 10 questions that your players are going to ask. Right?

53:26 SL: Exactly. All those are pretty much techno-babbled over.

53:29 AB: Yeah. We’ll save it for the time travel episode where I can talk about Microscope for extended periods of time.

53:34 SL: But in Microscope you’re not actually travelling through time. You’re just spectators, jumping through time.

53:38 AB: That’s why we can have that argument. It’ll be great.

[chuckle]

53:41 SL: Okay.

53:42 AB: So I think, I think the winner here is, straight up, Luke Crane.

53:45 SL: I was about to say, it’s Luke Crane.

53:46 AB: And Burning Wheel headquarters, like…

53:49 SL: Luke Crane is the most complex game. The hardest game to master.

53:51 AB: Right, but I think… But the return on investment in those games is at least worth it. We could definitely pull up games where it is not.

54:00 SL: And we didn’t even talk about Burning Empires, Blossoms are Falling, and oh, what’s the name of his other one? But anyway, all of Luke’s games fall onto this category of mastering, and the thing I always worry about saying that, we both agree that his games for either the idioms or some of the clockwork of them, can all be very rewarding and tough to master. The thing I worry about saying that is that now, we’re gonna scare people off of these awesome games.

54:29 AB: Yeah, oh, man, totally worth it. But as you noted, grab The Sword, grab The Gift, grab something or find somebody at a con to play one of these games.

54:41 SL: And Mouse Guard is also more accessible than his other games I would say… So, grab Mouse Guard. I believe it is either back in print now or about to be.

54:48 AB: Second edition is coming.

54:50 SL: So, grab Mouse Guard. It involves a lot of the upsides that we’ve been mentioning, with a little less requirement for mastery.

54:59 AB: Or Torchbearer, if you wanna play more D&D-style, dungeon stuff.

55:01 SL: Torchbearer, I still feel is a step up from Mouse Guard in mastery requirements.

55:08 AB: Pretty much anything that comes out of that studio is beautiful, but will take a bit of time, so…

55:14 SL: I get to kick out of calling Luke’s crowd a “studio.”

55:18 AB: Right? Come up with a different term if you like. The other thing that I really…

55:22 SL: Burning Wheel HQ, that’s what they go by.

55:23 AB: Yeah, HQ… The other thing that they do that’s really cool as a parting note here, is that they treat their materials as artifacts. And as much as I hate not being able to have a PDF of Burning Wheel on hand, the books are just amazing. And Torchbearer, just holding the Torchbearer book makes me nostalgic and happy.

55:47 SL: Yes. And Torchbearer is definitely at the high end here. I will say that I feel like you can make a high quality book, and still sell the PDF, and be just fine because… This is the story I’ve told a few people. When we ordered Dungeon World, we talked to various people who had already printed books, and Luke was really cool. We went with his printer, and for the longest time whenever they gave me a quote, it’d a quote for “Luke Crane books.” [laughter] ‘Cause we used the exact same configuration of his books except for the few differences in cover, and size I think, it’s a smaller size than ours. But anyway for the most part, we are the exact same, the interior. Everything of Dungeon World and Burning Wheel is the same. So, and we do just fine selling our PDFs and books at the same time.

56:32 AB: In future episodes, we can do, “what is the best PDF role playing game?”

56:36 SL: What is the… [laughter]

56:36 AB: And that way…

56:37 SL: Which opens it up to just about everything.

56:39 AB: That way we can drop Luke and make sure that we can come up with other people.

56:43 SL: Yeah. Okay.

56:44 AB: Totally awesome.

56:45 SL: Well, that’s this week’s episode, and I shouldn’t say… I keep on saying this week, but we do these bi-weekly, so this is this two weeks’ episode.

56:53 AB: Gosh, it’s so hard. Maybe we should do weekly. Weekly is too much, though. We would definitely run out of stuff.

56:58 SL: I know weekly is too much.

56:58 AB: But yeah…

57:00 SL: We’re not gonna run out of stuff. We’ll always have new aspects to talk about existing games. We still have games in our queue that we would wanna play.

57:06 AB: Definitely.

57:07 SL: We’ll always have something.

57:07 AB: We’ll figure it out. Send us more questions because it’s awesome to use reader questions. That’s way better than using our own.

57:14 SL: Yep.

57:15 AB: Hit us on Google Plus at +Another Question or me, Adam Blinkinsop or Sage LaTorra. And then, Twitter @aqpodcast, and…

57:23 SL: Yep, and we’re on Facebook, not many gamers on Facebook.

57:25 AB: Nobody cares about Facebook anymore. [chuckle]

57:27 SL: Yeah. Nobody cares about Facebook. But we get a fair number of people on Facebook, and Google Plus, and yes, this is Adam Blinkinsop not Adam Koebel.

57:36 AB: Right.

57:37 SL: We’ve had that mistake a few times already.

57:37 AB: I’m not that Adam.

57:39 SL: I obviously have a type of people to communicate or collaborate with which is people named Adam.

57:44 AB: So, if you are an Adam, and you would like to go on a show, [laughter] let us know. We can interview for a position.

57:49 SL: Cool. Well, we will see all of you in two weeks.

57:54 AB: Woo!

Four Step Versus Two Step Process

February 23rd, 2015

4 stepIn today’s world we need to be fit to survive in cut throat competition. Every one tends to provide services which make them stand out in this competitive environment. You may land to different companies for your transcription needs who offer you a plethora of services in a flashy way. The key factor that makes Scribie different and much ahead of its competitors is the efficient four step process which has been tuned for best performance. While others similar services follow a two step process, we follow a unique four step process for transcription. Each step adds an additional layer on quality assurance and thus ensures the delivery of best quality files and 100% satisfaction to our customers every time.

4-step Process

  • Each file is split into smaller parts and each part is first transcribed and then reviewed by certified transcribers/reviewers simultaneously. The benefit of getting the file transcribed and reviewed by different people are:
    • Accuracy: As the saying goes “Many Eyeballs and Ears Makes All Errors Shallow”.
    • Confidentiality: No transcriber gets to know the entire content of file so it is very safe and secure with us.
    • Faster: Since files are worked on simultaneously it gets completed faster as compared to one person working on it and we get more time correct all the errors.
  • Different people working on a file might introduce inconsistencies, which is why we have the next step. The different part files are first collated. The complete file is then proofread and checked for any inconsistencies and contextual errors, by the in-house proofreaders.
  • The in-house quality analysts, who are the best in the industry, then check the accuracy level of the file. The delivery is done only if it meets our standard of 98% accuracy. If not, then the file is again sent back for proofreading. This continues till it reaches our quality standard.
  • At every step our certified freelancers and the in-house QA team are trained to research on topics or acronyms and fix contextual errors if any.

At Scribie, our customers like us for the way we connect with them and we stand by what we say and promise. The types of service we render to our clients make us different from all as we value our esteemed customers and our promises. We are known for the services and our experience over time.

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Combined Conferencing And Transcription For Market Research Firms

February 4th, 2015

market research

Transcription for researching is what people are searching!!

Many renowned companies get into deep down market research before launching any product or service. Market research has become the most efficient tool to launch a product that gives you good return on investment. Many research companies are working day and night to get insights for soon to be launched products. Every minutest detail about consumer preferences is jotted down to get the most accurate findings and results. These consumer insights give product its dimensions and name. Every activity which is done from making till promoting that product i.e surveys on product, finding the need of product, feedback, focus group interviews, group discussions, personal interview of experts of industry is an important part of market research. In this crucial scenario transcription becomes most reliable resource.

How to make your market research more efficient by using conferencing combined with transcription service

Interviewing: A market researcher conducts a series of steps like conducting interviews and then they write a report on the conclusions based on the responses from interviews. In this interview transcription one needs to filter the valid responses as well. Many times the interviewee gives responses which are coveted so one needs to find the meaning and relate it to the topic. So market researching firms finds transcription services to fulfil such requirements.

Accuracy and Quality: Research reports have to be accurate and of high quality as such reports are the basis for conducting various activities related to product or service. At Scribie, we guarantee 98% accuracy and quality as our entire transcription process gets quality checked at every step.

Turnaround Time: Some interviews might need a quick turnaround while others may not be urgent. So just in time transcription service becomes inevitable. Provider should have options like express delivery or 30 days option from which they might save money.

Customer Support: Customer support is the most important aspect of every service delivery, what if anything goes wrong or is not according to SLA then companies look for customer support. Transcription service may have some issues so service provider should have a strong customer support.

Confidentiality: Marketing research contains a lot of confidential data which cannot be shared with everyone so trust is very important to earn when a company provides transcription services.

Integration of teleconferencing and transcription: Market research involves conducting surveys on product, finding need of product, feedback, focus group interviews, group discussions, personal interview of experts of industry. The conference or phone call recording solution is a basic requirement for each of these activity. To get high quality for these conference calls transcripts, it also requires an active listener and a good interpreter. We provide teleconferencing and phone call recording combined with transcription service so you don’t have to worry about recording the call, downloading the file and uploading it to transcription service provider and then ordering the transcripts. With just one click, you can book a call, record it and the order for transcription will be done automatically once the call ends.

Most importantly, if you use our service, then you can focus on your core area which is research and let us do the mundane job.

At Scribie, you will experience our expertise in market research transcription as we guarantee utmost accuracy and timely delivery. We are skilled in handling assignments such as questionnaires, focus group discussion, surveys, interviews, and group discussions that are used to achieve success in competitive marketing research. The teleconferencing service ensures good quality recording since it is off the wire recording which in turn helps to get highly accurate transcripts. We have in house editor and hire highly skilled professional to do transcription of the files. For security the file is bifurcated and allotted to different transcribers to make sure the data remains safe and confidential. We have a fair and transparent payment system. At Scribie, we do, what we promise to you, we earn trust with our flawless services. At last our action speaks louder than words.

For more details on conferencing service, please check the link below.

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Free Podcast Transcript: The Conscious Entrepreneur

February 3rd, 2015

We are happy to present another Free Podcast Transcript, The Conscious Entrepreneur Podcast, as part of our Free Podcast Transcription program. Our ultimate vision is to convert all of audio/video content to text and unleash the knowledge therein. This is our way of contributing back. Please visit the following link to learn more about this program.

https://scribie.com/free-podcast-transcription

Transcript Download Links:

TCE001.doc

TCE001.pdf

TCE001.odt

TCE001.txt


[music]

00:06 Speaker 1: Alright, this is my first attempt at a podcast for the conscious entrepreneur. And one person who has driven me to do this, to be an entrepreneur, to find my own path by example has been my own father, who I see as the water entrepreneur. So, I am with him here today in my studio and would love to hear his story. So, Mike, from what I know, you went to school at U of M with an architecture degree. And when you left, you opened up a scuba diving shop in northern Michigan, what drove you to do that?

00:49 Speaker 2: Actually it started long before that. It started with, as a child, doing the usual things to make money, I cut grass, I shovelled snow, delivered newspapers, all those usual things. But then when I was at scout camp, I was interested in camping equipment, so I found out that you could buy wholesale if you had a sales tax license. So, I got a sales tax license and bought the camping equipment at wholesale, and sold some to my friends.

01:30 S1: At what age was that?

01:32 S2: 16. So, then I went… But I was involved in water all my life, I was on the swim team as a kid, lifeguard, swimming instructor at camp, scuba diving, snorkeling during the summers. And when I went to U of M I had the opportunity to take a diving class at college, and did that and became an instructor, but we ended up buying our diving equipment from a local supplier who sold out of his home. And he, when I went there to buy a mask and fins, said that he was going to be leaving town. And I said, “Well, would you sell your business?” And he said yes, and so I bought it. And I was selling diving equipment from my apartment in Ann Arbour for at least two years, maybe three, before I decided to move to Traverse City. And of course, water had been my passion and I already had a dive shop, so this just made it official.

02:37 S1: How did you know that this was the leap you were gonna take? What drove you to love water, and give up everything and draw unemployment every winter to go for it?

02:50 S2: Oh I didn’t draw unemployment, I had other jobs during the winter. But my love of the water, and love of diving and I had already been selling equipment, so the most exciting thing was to be able to teach other people as an instructor, and to get a boat and shipwreck hunting. And ultimately a side scan sonar, and a dive shop, and chasing your passion.

03:22 S1: About how many people would you say in your estimation, looking back, did you pass on that love for water to, through sailing, through scuba diving, through all those jumping on the bus down to Florida to get on a boat, is it pretty huge?

03:42 S2: Probably. I operated Scuba North from ’71 to 1980, so I’ll bet we taught in the neighborhood of a 100 people a year. And then took dozens of diving/sailing trips to the Bahamas. But when I sold that, we became Sail North, we had already been the sailing business for several years as a division of Scuba North. So, it kinda continued teaching sailing lessons, we had a sailing rental fleet on the beach, small boats, as well as a charter fleet, big boats, up to 36 feet. And then I founded Traverse City Community Sailing, which is a non-profit organization that teaches youth and adults to sail. And we teach on the average 350 students per summer, and have for 20 years, last year was our 20th anniversary.

04:38 S1: Now, it sounds to me like you are definitely just built to be an entrepreneur, that you don’t even think about it, it just happens. And you’ve influenced a lot of people because of it, what would you tell other people who have that innate dream, or love of something that might put too many fears in front of them, or think that it can’t happen? I know you did that for me.

05:06 S2: Well, if you start young, you’re naive, so that’s my first advice. You’re not scared when you’re young, you’re invincible, so with no fear, you leap. As you get older, you develop more fears I suppose, but still, if you’re passionate and you’re willing to dive in with everything you’ve got, you’ll learn what it takes to be the best at whatever it is you’re doing.

05:36 S1: Incoming call, we forgot to put it on silent. He’s gotta take it, entrepreneur calls. Okay, we’re back. I just have one more question for you Mike, what does water mean to you now?

06:01 S2: Water still runs through my veins, just about everything I’ve done in my life has something to do with water. So, my current project is a river-front town home development on the Bourbon River downtown. So, even all of my business dealings really have had something to do with water, and all of my passions have to do with water. Fly fishing, canoeing, SCUBA diving, sailing… Well, I guess bird hunting doesn’t really, but…

06:32 S1: Your daughters?

06:33 S2: And my daughters. Oh, yes. Water was so much a part of my life that my three daughters each inherited middle names having to do with water. Lindsey Sea, Chelsea Bay, Allison Brook. So I guess that says something right there.

06:50 S1: Well, thanks for giving me your time, and I love, love, love hearing your story. I learn a little bit more about you every day, and we’ll talk to you soon.

[music]

Free Podcast Transcript: I’ll Drink To That! Podacast

January 22nd, 2015

We are happy to present another free podcast transcript; the I’ll Drink To That! podcast by Levi Dalton & featuring Erin Scala. Thank you to Al Cevola for submitting the request.

The Free Podcast Transcription Program is our way of contributing back. We are on a mission to transcribe all audio/video created by man to text to unleash the knowledge contained in them. This is one small step towards that.

Download Links:

IDTT233AntonioGalloni_2.mp3

IDTT233AntonioGalloni_2.doc

IDTT233AntonioGalloni_2.pdf

IDTT233AntonioGalloni_2.odt

IDTT233AntonioGalloni_2.txt


0:00:00 Levi Dalton: I’ll Drink To That! , where we get behind the scenes of the beverage business. I’m Levi Dalton.

0:00:05 Erin Scala: I’m Erin Scala.

0:00:06 LD: And here’s our show today.

0:00:08 LD: Hey, you, wholesale buyer type person, you listen to the show. You know who is making good wine, but how do you keep track of where to buy it? Well, SevenFifty has you covered. Powerful, easy to use browsing tools with all kinds of ways to drill down to what you need. Lots of vendor information including company background, contact info, and even a link to a vendor’s Facebook page if they have it. The power to make out a tasting list of wines you’ve enjoyed. You can keep those online for as long as you need them. You can refer to them for years, even. And a constantly updated list of tastings in your area. You wanna know what tastings are happening tomorrow and which are happening in two months from now, where are they happening? SevenFifty has you covered. Have you checked out SevenFifty lately? You should. It is the wholesale buyer’s best friend. Go to SevenFifty.com for more information and to get signed up.

0:01:04 LD: Antonio Galloni of Vinous Media back on the show. Hello, Sir, how are you?

0:01:07 Antonio Galloni: Levi, thanks for having me. Thrilled to be here with you today.

0:01:09 LD: Nice to see you.

0:01:10 AG: Yeah, it’s great to be back.

0:01:11 LD: So, there’ve been some changes since the last time you were on the show. What’s new with Vinous Media and what’s new with you?

0:01:16 AG: I just think about some of the experiences that we’ve had this year, that are things that I could have never imagined a few years back. We’ve been to Google twice this year, and we have this interactive map project that we’re working on. So, one of the ideas with Vinous is that I don’t want people to be just solely focused on points. I think it’s a result of… This incredible obsession with points, a lot of it is driven by people getting so much content delivered to them at once, that the only possible way that you can possibly deal with this, in between picking up your kids, or making dinner, or dropping off the dry cleaning is just to say, “Just tell me what the 10 best wines are, or the 20 best wines are.” Because if a publication puts out 3000 or 4000 reviews at once, that’s the only way our brains can really process this stuff is just to filter it somehow and that’s the logical way.

0:02:08 AG: That’s one of the reasons that Vinous publishes everyday, because I want people to actually read the stuff that we write. Along with… The score’s important, but it’s not the only thing. So, one of the reasons we adopted a continual publishing model is because we see that there’s much greater efficiency putting out smaller articles that people actually read. So, we were talking about Sandlands before. That was a winery that we featured in an article last year that we did on undiscovered or new producers that were in their first or second year of commercial production. And there were maybe a dozen producers in there. And that article was read… Was one of the most popular articles that we’ve ever read. And they weren’t massively expensive or necessarily rare wines per say or from historic vineyards, but it was new. New states that nobody had really heard of, not too many many people had heard of.

0:02:54 AG: But it was also delivered in a modern, contemporary format that people can actually read in between whatever else they’ve got going on in their lives. So, there’s a lot of things on Vinous that have nothing to do with points, nothing to do with scores, and nothing to do with ratings. And interactive maps is one of those tools, where we’ve started off with Piedmont, but we’ll do it in other parts of the world. And it’s our multimedia approach that brings together the maps with our database, with video, with photography. So, in June… Well, in February, we developed our first map, a Barolo map. In March, I showed it to Google. They flipped out over it in a good way, and in June they invited us to come to the office to show it their engineers and kick the tires and tell them all the things that we didn’t like. Well, first of all, spending a day there is a life-changing experience. You don’t wanna leave ’cause you’re just surrounded by all these young people and all this energy and all this buzz, you can really feel it. They prepare 30,000 meals a day there for their employees. Every restaurant has a different theme and…

0:03:54 LD: What’s the wine list?

0:03:55 AG: The wine list, I don’t know. I think that maybe we can get hired to do the Google wine list. But they’ve got teaching kitchens in there, and they have… If you wanna know how many calories are in your plate, it’s all available and it’s just crazy. There’s probably algorithms behind everything. But the place is an inspiring place. There’s a reason why this is a great company. We got to spend… We’ve been there a couple of times, but we got to spend a day there in June just with the maps, and it was amazing, because people were asking us questions and after about five minutes you really understand that what they want is for you to tell them something that they haven’t heard from somebody else.

0:04:30 AG: If you merely tell them the bugs that they already know exist, they don’t value you too much. They really want you to tell them something that they haven’t heard before. And boy, if you can’t get turned on by that, inspired by that, you have no heartbeat, you’re dead. So, going to Google, talking about our maps, writing an article for their enterprise site on how we’re using maps, that was a huge highlight. We did a partnership with CellarTracker over the summer. I’ve known Eric LeVine for maybe 10 years, and we finally got to do something together, so that was fun. And then, more recently, about a month and a half ago, we announced our acquisition of IWC, Steve Tanzer’s publication.

0:05:08 LD: That seemed to catch a lot of attention.

0:05:10 AG: Yeah, it was great. I think great for everybody. So, that’s kind of in a nutshell, our 2014. We’ve now got… We’ve doubled our readership now through this acquisition. We have customers in about 60 countries around the world. It’s a global platform as we had envisaged. And again, when I think about 2014, it’s really our first full year of operating. So, we’re pretty jazzed, pretty tired, looking forward to a day off or two.

0:05:34 LD: One of things I thought gave you a leg up when you started your own business was that you were able to take your own reviews with you. And people who searched for your old notes could find them on your new program on Vinous Media. And I feel with the Tanzer acquisition, that brings a depth of tasting notes that you wouldn’t expect from a year and a half old operation, where now people can search back to the tasting notes from the ’80s.

0:05:58 AG: Yeah, it’s amazing because Steve… The IWC… We started in 1985, so almost 30 years. The oldest independent American wine publication when we bought it. We’ve put everything together with the goal of 1 plus 1 equals 10. And, yeah, there’s all of Steve’s tasting notes going back all the way, as far back as his own site had. So, his and Ian D’Agata’s, Joel Payne, Josh Reynolds, David Schupack, when he was writing, as well for Steve. So, now we have global coverage of the world, and… Yeah, it’s exciting. The whole idea with Vinous, from the very beginning was that I didn’t want to build something that was too much associated with me. I’d kind of seen the path where that leads. You have to be very careful when you create something that is indelibly linked with one person. If you don’t set up the mechanism for succession in a way that somebody else can pick that up. It’s kind of like fashion, there are definitely cases where a person’s name can become a brand: Bloomberg, Armani, there’s a lot of examples.

0:07:04 AG: But you have to have really sharp management and a long-term view to creating that. And if you don’t, then you have, potentially, an issue where you just wonder to what extent are things linked to a single person? And I just didn’t wanna have that problem in the future. I try to make 20 and 30 year decisions, and they’re certainly not all gonna be right. But I’m pretty sure that starting something that’s linked with one person, I’ve seen where that goes, and I just didn’t wanna repeat something I had already seen; I kind of know what the future’s like and that doesn’t happen too often in life. So, the whole idea with Vinous is we wanna build a platform, we want it to be a place for the best and the brightest. And it took us a while, obviously, to do that; you can’t build Rome in a day.

0:07:50 AG: But, by bringing on Steve and his team, now we have a group of very experienced people in wine, very highly respected, great tasters, great people, which is, to me, just as important, if not even more important. The human values are really important to me. So, now we have a team, and yes, now we can cover the world. Whether it’s Argentina or South Africa or more coverage of Burgundy or Bordeaux or the Rhone, for example, Spain, obviously, to a degree that we couldn’t do it when it was just me putting out the content. So, yeah, we’re really excited, and that was the whole idea. So, the database does have all the historic IWC stuff, plus, of course, my stuff. And now we’re gonna be very thoughtful and strategic about where are the areas that we want to be really strong. So, one of the things that I have always done is a lot of verticals and retrospective tastings.

0:08:38 AG: I think that Vinous has the, if you’ll forgive me, but I think Vinous has the best database for, especially older Italian wines. Monfortino sold their… Every vintage of Solaia, every vintage of Masseto, every vintage of a lot of benchmark wines. And you can go and get a pretty great education for yourself in a pretty short amount of time if you wanna know those wines, even some of the wines from the south: Rosso del Conte, Maestro Bernardino, Taurasis, those are all very heavily represented. And that, to me, is really important, because one of the things that people always ask about wines like that is, “When should I drink it? Should I drink it now or should I drink it in five years, 10 years, et cetera?” So, I think that the historical archive is very important.

0:09:20 AG: And so, we’re now gonna seek to build that in places where maybe we don’t have it as much, so that… I started to do this with Napa Valley, complete vertical of Dalla Valle Maya, of Opus One, which is one of our most popular articles of Don Howell Mountain. There’s a lot of Mayacama’s Cabernet notes, and we will continue to build that up. Because I think it’s really important to have the historical fabric of a wine, so that then you can write something intelligent about the newest release, and people can go and read about vintages that might have similar characteristics or whatever.

0:09:50 LD: When did you first meet Stephen Tanzer?

0:09:53 AG: I don’t know, maybe about 10 years ago. I’ve been his subscriber, his customer for a long time. And I wanted to meet him, so we went to dinner, we went to a dinner at Alto. We had… I remember because… I have a pretty good memory for wines, and he brought a ’96 Serafin Charmes-Chambertin. And I’ve always loved Serafin, just really beautiful wines that are really transparent; that vintage, that wine, it was just fantastic that night. I bought ’71 Conterno and we had a great old time at Alto. [chuckle] So, that was probably close to 10 years ago, but I don’t remember the exact year.

0:10:26 LD: What’s he like as a person?

0:10:29 AG: Well, Steve is a jewel of a guy. You won’t meet a more genuine, down-to-earth, and yet incredibly experienced person in wine. I remember when I first started going to Burgundy, just for fun, just to taste, to buy wine years ago, I don’t remember exactly how many, but people… If you asked, people, winemakers, and people in the know would always say, “Steve Tanzer had the best palate for Burgundy.” He’s just incredibly precise and detail-oriented. I know that when I would read some of the articles that he wrote about regions that I cover as well, and I knew exactly what tastings he had done and how many wines with how many people. And I would just be amazed at how accurate he was, knowing that sometimes he liked to do tastings that were bigger than mine, with more wines, we’re talking about Nebbiolo, in particular, high acid often, high tannin wines, young, and he was just spot on.

0:11:19 AG: So, it’s really quite remarkable. So, I’ve always just admired his tasting ability, his writing ability, and a level of integrity on a personal level that is very, very high, and that, to me, is really important. So, he’s just a great partner, great person to work with, great person to learn from, and we’re just really both excited to be working together.

0:11:37 LD: What do you think the strengths of that team are: Ian D’Agata, Joel Payne, Josh Reynolds, what do they bring to the table?

0:11:44 AG: When I and are team, when we were looking at who would we wanna hire, what are the areas that we wanna focus on, what are our readers asking about? And sort of looked… We talked about Steve, obviously, very precise and detail-oriented. Also is somebody who’s run his own business for several decades, so that’s always helpful because writers are kind of artists and sometimes, timeliness and meeting deadlines are not always our strengths as a group, so having somebody who obviously has kind of called the shots for many, many years is a huge asset. With Josh, I’ve known him maybe even longer than Steve. He’s one of those guys who’s been in the business since the ’80s. He’s done retail, he worked for Neal Rosenthal for about 12 years, worked for Steve for about 10 years, and he probably knows more about the areas he doesn’t cover than a lot of people who spent all their time with those wines. One of those encyclopedic people, great passion, enthusiasm. And I just think the world of Josh. I think his strengths are… For us, will be Spain and the Rhone valley, in particular, but I think more than anything he’s one of those people that I don’t… I think he’s an under the radar critic. A lot of people just don’t know how talented and exceptionally gifted he his, what a great taster he his. So part of my job is to make sure that people know.

0:13:04 LD: Do you feel like you have given those writers more outreach now?

0:13:06 AG: Well, there’s no question that all of these… All of our writers are gonna have more outreach because we publish in a continual fashion. We publish… Right now it’s the holidays, but on a normal week, we have something new on the website everyday. So if you’re reading Vinous, you really need to check it pretty much everyday because there’s something new. And that means that before those guys were publishing once every two months on Steve’s old site, with the occasional intra-issue feature but now they can publish pretty much whenever they want. They can publish weekly. And that’s just more times that people are going to see your name. If you’re publishing once every two months and for whatever reason somebody doesn’t see your article, they might not see your name for another couple of months and wonder, “Hey, I wonder if that guy is… What are they doing? Are they still around?” So, yeah, Vinous gives all writers a much bigger platform for the simple reason that we’re publishing all the time. And not always big, thousand wine articles, sometimes just an article on a restaurant, or a collectable wine, or a value wine. And all those guys will contribute to those columns as well.

0:14:02 AG: Ian and I have spent the last few months looking at his book on the native varieties of Italy, which is just… I look at this book and I can’t even begin to think about how does one even collect, assemble, digest and then put into some package this information, it’s just vast. It’s a great book for anybody who wants to really learn more about the origins of the Italian grape varieties. Whether it’s Nebbiolo or Fiano di Avellino or whatever it is, it’s a really a reference point. And he’s a guy with great enthusiasm. You can’t talk to Ian for more than about two minutes and not be laughing about something. And I think that at the end of the day, we can’t take ourselves too seriously. There’s a certain element of fun-ness I think that has to exist. It can’t be all dry reviews. And Ian has the joie de virve, Italian style, dolce vita, I guess but he’s from Rome. And his ancestry is Roman and Canadian. He’s just got a great sunny disposition and just a real joy. And obviously people know him mostly for his knowledge in Italian wine which is pretty amazing. He’s pretty much the only person I would want to work with on Italian wines, I think, in the world.

0:15:16 AG: But as I wrote, when I told our readers what was happening, I said, “This is the guy I think the world of.” But it’s not just Italian wines for Ian, he’s been going to Alsace for something like 30 years. I ran to him in Bordeaux in the spring, even though I’ll be doing Bordeaux for Vinous, we may publish an occasional vertical or some other article from Ian on Bordeaux. He’s one of those guys with a great, really broad view of wine. I think that’s very important. I think there’s a danger in being too specialized because you don’t understand the whole world and so that’s Ian. And then, Joel Payne is an expert on Germany, Austria, the Loire and he’ll probably be taking more responsibility with us shortly. His first articles have been really well received. Just one article, just on Chenin Blanc. Another article just on Loire Valley Cab Franc. You can’t really… Where are you gonna read about this stuff? There’s just not many sources to go and get that level of coverage on these wines. And so we’re really excited to have Joel. He’s done some verticals for us and that’s something that all the critics are gonna do. So that’s… I think it’s a really solid team.

0:16:21 AG: There’s still a few other people that we wanna hire but this is a good first step and obviously, integrating people is always a challenge. So it’s… Not so much that it’s a challenge, it’s just… It takes time. At Vinous, we’re used to doing things very fast. Everything is extremely digital. We can publish things immediately, we can correct things on the website immediately, I can run everything on Vinous, I can run it on my phone. Whether it’s our payment processing, editorial, whatever, it is a totally mobile business. And I think that’s a level of technology that is gonna take a while for some people to really get a hold of. But if I publish a review and there’s something wrong and you sent me a note, I can correct it immediately, anywhere I am. So we’ve really invested in… Made big strides to really want to have a technological-advanced website out there and though that takes a little bit of time to get used to, what happens is that the learning curve though is very steep and I can just see that. For example, the amount of time that I need in my office after a trip has been cut down significantly each of the last four or five years, as we’ve done more with technology. So I think that the gains, the efficiency gains are really life-changing but you gotta kinda go up the curve first and that takes a while, it’s okay.

0:17:40 LD: How do you think it’s coming across the customers, people who are reading and subscribing? What’s the reception? What’s worked and what hasn’t worked with Vinous Media?

0:17:48 AG: We’ve addressed some of the things that probably weren’t working so great. One of them being… Obviously, when there’s only one person writing, number one, your regional diversity is obviously limited; the frequency with which you can put out in depth articles is somewhat limited, so that was… We’ve addressed that by hiring a bunch of people. I think our website is very good in some ways, but I think particularly in search, we’re still working through some issues. And the IWC acquisition has actually created a lot of complexity. We’ve got things like producer names where there’s seven different ways that a winery is listed, and that’s because we have… You mentioned this before, but we have my database from Piedmont Report, which goes back to ’04. Then about six and a half years of stuff that was originally published in The Wine Advocate, and then all the stuff that I’ve written for Vinous. That’s fairly clean, but even there occasionally, something pops up, a wine name is wrong, or listed more than once. But now with Steve’s, which was created basically by a third party, so with less you could say immediate oversight, and so there’s more room for little slight imperfections and as you know in data, that stuff just kills you.

0:18:59 AG: So, we’ve got these issues now where we’ve got, I don’t know, a winery that might be listed five different ways. You see this you just, [chuckle] “I can’t believe it.” So, this is kind of what we’re working through right now, is to clean up the database, I’d say that’s our biggest Achilles heel right now, is getting the data clean. That’s just so fundamental for all the things that we wanna do in the future, I’d say that that’s one thing. We have done a lot to make the site faster, we’ve done a lot to make the site more visually appealing. The great thing about Vinous is, it’s a 100% subscriber supported, there’s no advertising of any kind, no sponsorships of any kind and that just means that we have a very tight relationship with our readers. If somebody says, “You guys ought to do this or you should consider that.” If it’s a good idea, we’ll put it into place, we don’t have ask anybody to do anything and our customers mean the world to us. So, we’re very keen, we pay a lot of attention to what our customers think and we try to, anywhere that we can, we try to implement fixes to make the user experience as good as possible.

0:19:59 AG: Ultimately, it’s I think one of the rare cases in a project like this, where the end user can really play a role in shaping the future, by telling us, “Do this, do that.” Or, “This doesn’t work, we like this.” And we approach our work… It was a great lesson to go to Google, it was so humbling, because if anybody could afford could take the attitude of being arrogant, or difficult, or “Who are you?” That would certainly be a company that would be more than entitled to have some of that, and instead what we found was the exact opposite. That is the definition of greatness, is humility. They were so open, so receptive, could not have been more engaging, could not have been more interested. And that was a good lesson for us, in terms of how we approach our customer and I’d like to see if we can replicate that level of total openness, of just trying to see what’s out there, of receptiveness, of incorporating feedback. So, it’s a learning process, the site is a year and a half old, maybe 19 months now, there’s still a lot more to go I think. The next 19 months, 18 months are gonna be much more exciting than the last.

0:21:04 LD: So, when you put the two together, IWC and Vinous, did you find that the score ranges kinda matched up, did you have consistency that way?

0:21:11 AG: Well, one of the things that was interesting with Steve is that think, by and large, things line up as much as they can line up, considering that everybody’s human and different, so there’s gonna be areas where… In most cases you’re gonna see that the scores are not that far apart, but in some cases they are. And that’s fine, I think that’s just sort of the nature of life, you’re wearing a blue shirt, I’m wearing a checkered shirt, nobody views something exactly the same.

0:21:41 LD: I’m sorry, I do have checkered shirts, so I could have…

0:21:42 AG: No, no, I know.

0:21:43 LD: If you’d asked, I would’ve changed.

0:21:44 AG: But we’re not looking for cookie cutter people, nor am I looking for somebody who has necessarily my same preferences, nor am I changing anything that anybody else writes to make it match with mine. ‘Cause at the end of the day, people have to… They have to be accountable for their own work. So, I’ll tell you, when I worked for Bob Parker, he never once changed a single score of mine, or asked me to change a single score of mine. Or asked me why this… My favorite producer getting… Why is my favorite producer getting lower scores? Or why is this producer that I don’t like getting big scores? Never once, to his great credit, never once said… Never once tried to mold me, so therefore I must assume that’s true of everybody else. Never once tried to say, “This is our way of thinking, so you’ve gotta fit into this.” Now obviously, that can also backfire, if you haven’t picked people properly… The right people, so you have to find the balance there, but one of the things that attracted me to Steve and his team is that I think that we’re mostly on the same… We have mostly a very similar philosophy of wine, and therefore I think that the ranges mostly match up. Steve has a, most people know, he’s got a reputation for being very conservative, and there’s a lot of value to that. My own personal view is…

0:23:05 LD: You mean in terms of scores?

0:23:06 AG: In terms of scores, yeah.

0:23:07 LD: Not in terms of political persuasion?

0:23:08 AG: No. [chuckle] I don’t know. And my view is, look, we’ve got a 100 point scale and when you run across a great vintage, some wines are probably gonna be in that very high stratosphere, of which I would say is sort of 97, 98 and up. And I think that there’s this perception maybe out there that critics like to give these high scores, but I can tell you that every time I see one of the wines that I’ve given a really high score to, I get really nervous.

0:23:37 LD: How so? What does that feel like?

0:23:39 AG: Because I know that people have bought a wine based on some very high score, a very positive review that I’ve given a wine, and I would be devastated if people were disappointed, I would feel like I had really let them down. It’s easy to give 92, or 93, or 88, maybe for a Chianti, or a Pelaverga we were talking about before wines where, it doesn’t really matter whether… It’s not gonna make or break anybody’s year. But when you get into the 97 and up range, 98, 99, 100, people make decisions on those wines. Those are never inexpensive wines. People’s expectations are high. It’s like going to a three-star Michelin restaurant. You can almost only be disappointed. If you have a great meal, all you say is, “Yeah, so what? That’s what I paid for. Per se, it has to be great, that’s the whole… EMP has to be great. That’s what we’re paying for.” The risk and reward is so skewed towards actually being disappointed. So if I give a… One of the first wines that got a 100 point score for me was ’04 Monfortino, let’s say. Every time I see that wine, I get a little nervous because it’s like holy S-H-I-T, I hope this wine is great. I’ve had it enough times now that I’m not really too concerned anymore. But I can tell you the first couple of times I’d see that wine pop up, I’m like, “Oh my God, I hope that this shows great”.

0:24:55 AG: So, it’s not at all simple or easy to be enthusiastic about a wine, because at the end of the day, my reputation and everybody else’s reputation who does this job is really linked towards that credibility that comes with being more right. It’s not black and white, but being more right more often than not. And so giving out high scores, I think takes a lot of conviction, because chances are… Look we’re all human, you’re gonna fall flat on your face at some point and probably at many points in life. That’s just the way it is right?

0:25:30 AG: So yeah, any time I see a wine that I’ve given a high score to I always… It’s like stage fright. You just sort of like these little butterflies, like, “God I hope it’s great”. And thankfully, more often than not, it is. But it’s not so easy to take that position, to say, “This is an extraordinary wine or a vintage”, to say “This is a really great vintage.” 2010 Barolo, now everybody’s crazy about these wines, but I’ve been telling our readers for a couple of years that this was a great vintage.

0:25:55 AG: And anybody can start to be a critic. That’s what I did 10 years ago. I just started going to these places, tasting, writing. And it’s not hard to start, but it’s pretty hard to take a position of conviction. You think about all the people who for example, all of the critics or people who have access to these wines who maybe live in Europe or Switzerland or France who can go to Piedmont, get in their car, they could go there. They could be in these cellars, tasting every weekend. Whereas guys like me or Steve or anybody based here, you’ve gotta make a trip. You’ve gotta pay for your airfare, hotel, rental car. You’ve gotta get your appointments scheduled two months in advance. It’s a big commitment. And so to come out and say, “Well, you know, I think that this is a great vintage,” well a lot of people could have done that. But actually, very few people did. So the idea of giving high scores to wines when I think that they’re merited, that’s not as easy as people think. Because if you’re wrong, you’re gonna pay the price.

0:26:53 LD: Have there been times where you were really excited about a wine, maybe in barrel, and then later you went back and tried it and it wasn’t what you expected and you had to revise what your thoughts were originally?

0:27:04 AG: Yeah, that happens occasionally. You never really know why that could be. I think that making wine is really hard. You get one vintage a year, obviously. You can’t really erase mistakes. You’re not really drawing in pencil. And I think great winemakers have… Because I was always taught that great winemakers had a great palate to know when to do what. And that’s not so easy. And I think it’s probably much… Like a chef will tell you, you buy a piece of fish, the minute that fish is butchered, you’ve determined 95% of your end result. You can’t improve that. If you buy a pristine piece of salmon, you can’t make it taste better than it already is. You can only enhance what’s already there but you can’t turn three-day old fish into a Le Bernardin dish. It’s just not gonna happen.

0:27:54 AG: So with wine, I think of it very similarly. It’s very easy to take something away. And it’s very hard to keep something great, if that’s what you’ve picked. So a lot of times, what happens, maybe the wines aren’t racked properly, meaning they’re not moved when they need oxygen, or they’re maybe bottled too late and they oxidise a little bit. So I have had that happen where you taste wines that are not as impressive in the barrel as they were in the bottle. But that’s why I think it’s really important to do both sets of tastings. So, that takes an enormous amount of work especially the region where it takes the most amount of work is Burgundy because the production of these wines is very small. It’s not easy to taste bottled wines in Burgundy. Producers will open them up very rarely. So it takes a lot of work, a lot of scheduling, a lot of organization, a lot of logistics. That’s why I always believe very much, as much as possible, to taste bottled wines again in barrel. And the only place where that… Steve is really taking over Burgundy for Vinous for the most part. But the only place where that is just logistically, virtually impossible on a comprehensive basis is in Burgundy. Anywhere else, if you can taste wines that you’ve had in barrel and bottle, so that gives you the chance to do the comparison. But yeah, that happens occasionally.

0:29:15 LD: You spoke about it being difficult to give a wine a high score. Is it sometimes difficult to give a wine a low score?

0:29:19 AG: Absolutely. It’s the same deal. At the end of the day, most wines especially… With the exception of big, mass-produced wines, which are not necessarily gonna be in the sweet spot for readers of a publication like Vinous, or the other publications in the same kind of realm, they’re often made by people and families. They’re not made by corporations. And you know what it’s like to go to Burgundy or Piedmont or many other parts of the world where you might be tasting in what is basically somebody’s home or their kitchen or their garage. And sure, sometimes even your favorite producer’s gonna have an off vintage. It happened to… For example, Bruno Giacosa, 2008s, 2009s, are very disappointing vintages next… Relative to what’s happened there since 1961. That’s like five decades, right? ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, 2000s. So, yeah, there’s a perfect example. That’s one of the producers that I own the most of. I still have 1960s Barolos and Barbarescos in my cellar of Giacosa.

0:30:21 AG: So, I know these wines really well, I’ve tasted them forever, but they had a really… They’re, I think, coming out of it slowly, but they had a really rough patch there in ’08 and ’09. The wines were really disappointing and I wrote what I thought. Same thing with Mauro Mascarello’s 2009s. I thought Kelham Vignet had a problem with ’09s from the barrel to the bottle. I thought that the wines had been bottled perhaps a bit too late. The fruit was dried out. They were very different from when they were in barrel, and I had given these wines really good scores in the barrel. Really good scores. And in the bottle, the wines were really… Unfortunately, I thought they were kind of a disaster.

0:31:00 AG: There’s some times when you taste wine where you just, you pray, you hope, you would love to be wrong. You would love that this is not the reality, but you can only write what you think on that one day, and I thought these wines were a little… They were oxidised, and they were… And the fruit had dried out, and you’re dealing with a person who’s had a very hard life. She lost her husband young, she’s a single mother raising two kids in France, massive fighting with the relatives over vineyards. This is very difficult. Making wine is hard even without all that, and yet this was in Wine Advocate days, but the principle was the same. It was basically the reader needs to know that these wines in the bottle are not what they were in the barrel, and it was heartbreaking to publish those reviews, but I had to…

0:31:45 AG: And that’s an example where I used… I just listened… I used as a barometer, as a compass, I really thought, “What is in the best interest of the reader?” What’s in the best interest of the reader is that I publish what I really think about these wines, and that’s a very hard decision ’cause we’re all human and it was not an easy thing to do, and I don’t know if it’s the right decision or not. But I did do what I thought was in the best interest of our customer.

0:32:14 AG: I wanna to be able to sleep at night, so the only way that that’s gonna happen is if I write what I think. That’s what people are paying for. I won’t always be right, but it will definitely be what I think. But then that happens because… Just because you made a great wine last year, doesn’t mean you can make a great wine next year. I think one of the things that’s interesting is that because wine making is so tied to nature that you can see incredibly fast changes actually even though you only get to make one vintage a year, that is true. By the same token, it’s amazing actually, but it’s actually true, that you can see very significant changes in a very short period of time. We’re publishing Napa Valley reviews this week, and you look at Hourglass and Blueline, which were made by Bob Foley. Now they’re made by Tony Biagi who, of course, made wines at Plumpjack for many years. The wines could not be more different. And you can have a conversation about you like them, you don’t like them, that’s all totally cool, but in just a span of a year, everything is completely changed.

0:33:17 AG: Maria Teresa Mascarello, her dad’s wines were funky, inconsistent. She gets rid of the old barrels, brings in new barrels, is doing better sorting. She’s got people working there who can help her in things because, ultimately, nobody does anything by themselves in this world. You have to have people who can help you in things that aren’t necessarily your strengths, and in a few years her wines are now among the very best in Piedmont, but they are for sure better than the wines her father was making. No question about it. A few small little tweaks and changes. So now you’ve got two very different worlds. Napa Valley high-end Cabernet versus Artisan Piedmont, even though Blueline and Hourglass are still small by Napa Valley standards for sure, but you’re talking about rich sumptuous Napa Valley wines versus Artisan transparent Barolos, and those are two cases where a change had profound influence in a very short period of time.

0:34:14 AG: So, those are two cases where the changes have been positive, but you can also have changes where the… Can have cases where the changes are negative in a very short period of time. I have never made wine, which is one of my great regrets, but one racking, one filtration that’s too heavy, one whatever, treatments that are too close to the harvest, there’s just so many chances to get it wrong, it’s actually a miracle that the world has so many great wines when you think about all the things that you could do wrong. So, I don’t think it’s easy at all, but I do think, and I’ve seen it, that you can see major changes in the positive in a very short period of time. So, it goes both ways.

0:34:57 LD: Have there been repercussions to giving low scores? Have there been times where they didn’t let you taste there anymore?

0:35:03 AG: Yeah, that’s happened. It just comes with the territory. This job is a privilege, and I view it as such, and it’s kind of unfortunate sometimes that people care so much, but it’s just gonna happen. You’ll get nasty emails.

[chuckle]

0:35:25 AG: I’ve gotten my share of those, for sure. There are people who don’t wanna let you taste their wines, which is, I think, a bit short-sighted, but it’s unfortunate. There’s definitely places where I can’t go back and taste. We’re talking before about Bruno Giacosa. That’s another one. They were just livid after I wrote what I wrote about their reserve of their ’08 red label, and I can’t go back there and taste. That’s okay. I’ll just go buy the wines. We do what’s in our subscribers’ best interest, always. So, if that’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen. I didn’t pull any punches there. I wrote what I thought. The reviews weren’t terrible, they just weren’t at the level of what they’re used to. So be it. It’s part of life. It’s happened to me in California, too, where I can’t go taste certain wines.

0:36:10 LD: What is a day in the life of a wine critic? What’s that really like and what have you learned over the years of what works, what doesn’t work for you?

0:36:16 AG: Depends a lot on the region and the vintage. So, which is to say that I try to take my time and not be too rushed. You learn how much time you need in each… So, a lot of what this comes down to this job is about organization. It’s the idea of that piece of salmon… Well, like your trip, the success of your trip is actually determined before you leave. It’s determined by how well you’ve set up your schedule, and I have a great team of people who help with that.

0:36:47 LD: Including your wife.

0:36:48 AG: Including my wife who does that and much more. She really, basically, runs the business. But a lot of it has to do with organization. How much time do I need at each place? Do they know exactly which wines I wanna taste, so people aren’t fumbling around? And are they prepared? And sometimes you can save a lot of time by having a power outlet for your computer or a table if you wanna sit down. So, there’s just things that you learn over time, and these are not my divine ideas, they are things that I’ve been taught by other people. So, somebody said to me, “Well look, you should ask to have a table and an outlet for your computer.” And Becky Wasserman told me this in Burgundy. She said, “Look, this is what you should do.”

0:37:27 AG: Because obviously, some people prefer notebooks and are a little bit more old fashioned, but she knows how I like to work. She said, “Look, what you need to do is you need to tell everybody to have a table, an outlet, and a chair ready for you when you show up.” And she said, “Even if only half of the people do it, you’re gonna come out so far ahead.” We did that and guess what happened? Almost every single person did that. Oh, and have the barrel samples blended and prepared in advance. Almost everybody did that. Not everybody, but almost everybody did that. So much so that… It was funny because it was a couple of years ago. I was in Burgundy and one night I went to dinner with Jancis Robinson, and she said, “I was just at Dugat-Py this morning and they had this table and this outlet.”

[laughter]

0:38:11 AG: I’m like, “Yeah, that’s because I told them. I asked them to please do that, because of Becky Wasserman.” And it’s sort of funny that… So, she got the benefit of that as well. Makes a big difference. But I also think sometimes, tasting in cellars can be confusing. Not confusing, it’s the wrong word. But there’s too many smells and other things going on there. So another great example of something that happened was one of the first times I went to Bruno Clair in Marsannay. I asked if the wines could be prepared in advance, because they make 18 different reds. It’s a lot of wines. And they weren’t very happy at first, ’cause nobody had ever asked them to do this, I guess. So, we go into their room. It’s me and Bruno and Philippe Brun, this long-time winemaker, and we’re tasting the wines, and he’s gruff at first. He says, “Nobody’s has ever asked us to do this before.” Kind of like, “Who the hell are you? You’re the new kid on the block.” This is when I worked for Parker.

0:39:04 AG: So, you’ve got these people who’ve been going there for many, many years before you. Clive Coates, and Alan, and Steve Tanzer, and John Gilman, and all these people have been there probably many more times than me. And I could tell, he’s like, “Who the hell are you? We’ve done this, but we’re not really happy.” So, we’re tasting the wines and about a third of the way into the tasting, he’s like, “You know, it’s really interesting to taste wines outside of the cellar.” Okay, I’m like, “Maybe I’ll be allowed to come back.” And then, about two-thirds in, he says to Philippe, he says, “You know what, we should taste wines like this more often.” So, it’s interesting, but that’s another example of… I guess, the question was about what makes a successful trip or what do you learn, but a lot of it is really about how to manage your time and how to taste most efficiently, and there’s no question that if you can taste the wine outside of a cellar, which is tough to do in Burgundy, really, sometimes almost impossible; but when you can do a lot of times, you find things and wines that are not always so apparent.

0:40:07 AG: So, what’s the life of a critic? It’s about managing your time. If I know that I’m tasting a very tannic vintage, like 2003 was in Barolo and Piedmont, because the heat had a stopped the phenolic ripeness in a lot of these wines. And so, I was imagining that I was gonna taste really massively tannic wines, I will make a little bit of a lighter schedule. And then, there are places where you can taste all day. Burgundy is a great example, the wines are not that alcoholic. Obviously, they’re all about lightness and grace. You never get poured a lot of wine either. I think Burgundy is just the best place. I noticed once I started going there, you become much more sensitive. It think that Burgundy is the best place in the world to train a palate. Because you’re gonna go to Bruno Clair, and you’re gonna taste 18 Pinot Noirs, and they’re all Pinot Noir, and they’re all pretty much made the same way.

0:40:57 AG: And the only thing that changes, only, right, like everything. But what changes is really where the wine is from, and that is a great, great, great exercise for developing your understanding of nuance and finesse, shades of grey. It’s all shades of grey. There’s no blacks and whites here. It’s all shades. It’s all tonalities. It’s like looking at a Mark Rothko painting and just seeing where the colour very slightly changes. And from top to bottom, it’s totally different. It’s all about the transitions. What’s the difference: Marsannay, Chèvre? Really understanding that the nuances of the village or the Premier Crus. So, in Burgundy, though, I find it very easy to taste, because you’re not getting a lot of wine. They’re also on this schedule, ’cause generally… Especially, for the red wines are mostly tasted in November. These producers have a whole slew of people coming, who’ve come before or coming after. So, producers themselves are on a fairly tight, you can tell, schedule. So, you’re in a groove of having to taste a fairly high number of wines fairly quickly, with very few variables, ’cause if you’re tasting reds from Côte de Nuit, it’s all Pinot.

0:42:05 S5: So you’re gonna go from cellar to cellar. So I find that very easy to taste in Burgundy, actually. Because the wines don’t really tire you. Napa Valley is tough, wines are big, powerful. I try to limit centralized tastings and do mostly visits, which obviously spaces out the wines, ’cause there’s a lot of conversation and context. So it’s a question of kind of understanding what you’re going to taste and how you’re organized. I also like to start early and go late, but I like to take a nice break in the middle of the day. So that’s not so easy to do in the States because culturally, it’s tough. But in places like Piedmont or Burgundy, it’s easier. But I found that that to me is the ideal day. Start 8:00 or 8:30, work ’til 12:30 or so, have a real lunch, not a sandwich, not a hard-boiled egg in the car, which is my usual routine in Burgundy, [chuckle] I hate to say, it’s not glamorous. And then taste ’til 6:00 or 7:00 at night, maybe a little bit later sometimes.

0:43:00 AG: So you kind of, if you do it that way, you can kinda get two days out of one, ’cause you take a nice chunk off in the middle. And unless there’s some spectacular life-changing wine to taste, basically, I have lunch by myself and I don’t drink at lunch or dinner. There’s always a couple of exceptions to that, but it’s for the most part, that’s what I try to do. And if I drink at night, it’s really just a taste, it’s never anything major ’cause I wanna be really fresh the next day. So those are the things you learn.

0:43:26 LD: How does your palate change over the course of the day?

0:43:29 AG: Well I like tasting the best at the end of the day. It’s really funny, another Sonoma winery, I was scheduling my first appointment there and I wanted to go at 5 or 6 o’clock at night, which is kind of like my favorite time to taste because one, you’re really in a groove, I find that I’m at my most sensitive and perceptive at the end of the day, because I think tasting is a lot like sports. What you really like is that last mile of your run, you get tired in the middle, you don’t get tired at the end. So at the end of the day, I usually feel very alert, very focused and I’ve got the memory of all the wines I’ve tasted up until that point. So I like tasting around, let’s say six or so, five or six, and later… Not, obviously, ’til like midnight or anything that. [chuckle] But that sort of the last appointment of the day, is a very calm period also, because you’re not thinking about where you have to go next. So I there’s, I think, an aperture of the mind that’s totally different. So to me this is a great time to taste.

0:44:31 AG: So anyway, I emailed this winemaker and I said, “I’d like to come at 5 o’clock.” And he said, “Do you have no respect for our winery? We will not be your last stop of the day!” Wow, okay. Because there’s plenty of places that ask me to be the last stop, usually a lot of places, especially in Italy, they kind of prefer that because then the winemaker themselves is not thinking about who’s coming next. Dinner is very late so they’re not thinking about dinner, it’s just kind of this very nice peaceful time between, call it, 5:00 and 8:00, where there’s no more appointments but no meal or any other commitments of any kind. So a lot of times I save big tastings or very important wines that are structured and tannic that I wanna spend some time with, a lot of times, I’ll do those tastings at the very end of the day. But here, it was a completely different reaction. [laughter] So you sort of learn a little bit kind of what other people’s perceptions are. But I like tasting towards the end of the day, I find it a great time, very relaxing time.

0:45:30 AG: So I think that maybe that’s what happens, sometimes it’s a little bit hard in the morning and so I like to take my time in the morning as well just to get sort of habituated. But you also get into a kind of a routine of doing things and so it usually takes a wine or two and then you’re sort of off to the races.

0:45:46 LD: You spoke a little bit about the situation on the ground in Burgundy, but how is the situation on the ground in the Piedmont? That’s the region you’ve been going for many years, what’s it like today versus yesterday and the day before?

0:45:55 AG: Well, it’s radically changed. I started going there in 1997, first time. And this was the era of the Gambero Rosso, of the Tre Bicchieri, of the super, jammy, concentrated oak-y wines that were all the rage. You couldn’t give away a lot of the wines that are super popular now. And I did this private event on these wines in the fall, two or three months ago. And somebody asked me, “What is it about this region that made you fall in love with it?” And the main reason is that you could go to these wineries, you would meet directly with the winemaker and they would open whatever you wanted to taste and spend hours of time with you. And so what a tremendous education. So you’re tasting with Luciano Sandrone, you’re tasting with Bartolo Mascarello, you’re tasting with Domenico Clerico, you’re tasting with Elio Altare. My God, what a privilege! On top of that, you have this wine, Barolo and Barbaresco is one year less, but you’ve got this wine that has aged for a couple of years in bottle and a year in the barrel, which means that you might be able to taste three or four different vintages of each wine.

0:47:12 AG: So you go to Scavino or Brovia, or any of these producers who make multiple single vineyard wines, and once they know that you’re a serious taster, you might taste three or four vintages of these wines, and now you do that once a year or twice a year, that is an amazing education that you can’t get in any other part of the world. So when I go to Piedmont in November, for example, which I’ve been going there at that time of the year for forever, but to give you an example, in November, I might taste… So this is, let’s say for example, this would be November 2014, I would’ve tasted the 2011s that were bottled in the summer, sold next year, 2015. 2010, which is the vintage that is currently being sold, I start with bottled wines, then I’d taste all the 12s, all the 13s and possibly some 14s as well, if the wines aren’t weird. This was a very late harvest so not the best year to do that, but it gives you an idea of four or five vintages, every time you go, of every wine of four or five vineyards. You cannot get that education in Burgundy. You cannot get that education in Napa Valley. You can’t get that education anywhere, accept for possibly, very specific wines that spend a lot of time in the cellar. It could be Vega Sicilia, Monfortino, whatever, but there’s just not… This is not the way that wines are really made anymore. Montalcino would be another place if they didn’t tinker with the wines so much.

0:48:33 AG: So now you’re visiting a region where you’re tasting a lot of wines and a lot of vintages on a rolling basis and your palate just grows because you have this ability to access wine because the wines are available. They’re in the barrel. They’re not bottled, and nobody’s really losing anything by pouring you something that’s in a tank or a barrel. Roberto Voerzio would go and taste six or seven crus of La Morra, four vintages. That’s a hell of an education. If you can’t understand the difference between Cerequio, La Sera, Brunate, Rocche dell’Annunziata in that tasting, you should be doing something else. It’s just an unbelievable experience.

0:49:10 AG: So that’s why I fell in love with Piedmont. I fell in love with Piedmont because you had access to the actual people who were making the wine and the ability to have an incredible educational tastings, place after place, after place after place. You go to Conterno Giacomo with Roberto Conterno, you can taste every barrel in the cellar if you want. That’s an amazing experience. So that’s why I fell in love with those wines.

0:49:32 AG: It’s interesting though because back then, you could buy as much Rinaldi as you wanted. You could buy as much Bartolo Mascarellos you wanted. The first vintage is a Monfortino that I bought, they were available at retail for years.

0:49:45 AG: The idea that a wine is sold… The prices for Italian wineries that come out in January, not necessarily January 1st per se, but in January a company will… A winery will put out its price list. And the idea that a wine is made and then sold within that calendar year that’s a very recent phenomenon in modern times. This is not the way that it used to be. It used to be that vintages would take two or three years to sell through. And therefore, you might walk into winery XYZ and see several vintages of wines. And when I started to go back in the late ’90s, the wines that were all the rage were the blends, Monpras, and things like that.

0:50:26 AG: You talk to these people and they’ll tell you, “We use to have Monpra in our location, and Barolo, we couldn’t sell.” [laughter] To even say this, it’s not even 20 years later, it seems almost unbelievable. You might sit across the table from me and say, “This guy is crazy”, but that’s really the way that it was. It was totally different. So what’s changed? Well back then obviously, there was an infatuation with much more international style of wine, of grapes. And then the Italian press, I think did a really bad job in the sense that they only promoted one style of wine. This is one of the very first things I wanted to do with Piedmont Report.

0:51:00 AG: I’ve never taken the view as a critic people should care what I think, per se. It’s more a question of, I wanna show you the lay of the land and then I want people to figure out what they like, give people the tools to make their own decisions. What I like is only important to me. Why should you care? You shouldn’t. But you might have in interest in saying, “Well, this is kind of a good representation of the landscape. Let me taste here, and there and see what I like.”

0:51:24 AG: So Piedmont Report was conceived to give people the entire breadth, just like we’ll have our Festival of Barolo coming up in a couple of months. It’s the same deal. I want people to taste everything from Burlotto to La Spinetta. Then you decide what you like. I could care less. It’s not my job to tell you what to drink. I don’t wanna tell you what you should like or not like, but what we wanna do is show the breadth. So Piedmont Report was born with the idea of showing people the breadth.

0:51:50 AG: When we started this 10 years ago, the only sort of traditional Barolo or Barbaresco that was very well reviewed in the states was really Bruno Giacosa, and that’s because he’s was represented by Winebow. And Winebow had great access to Parker and the rest of the US media. And then you would get an occasional good review here or there. But these wines were really not at all followed. And you could buy, even 10 years ago, you could go to Rinaldi and buy multiple vintages, Mascarellos had wine lying around forever. Monprivato was an unknown wine in the States aside from New York, Chicago and California which is not America. And it was just amazing.

0:52:28 AG: So what’s changed is that the more traditional wines have become obviously, much more popular. But more than that, there’s really been a convergence of style in a big way because if you go look at Cascina Francia today, I can guarantee you that that vineyard is not being farmed the way Roberto Conterno’s father farmed it. There’s a lot of dropped fruit. The yields are really low. This is a modern vineyard. [laughter] It’s a modern vineyard. You can say whatever you want. The only thing that’s traditional about this wine is that it’s got… It spends a lot of time in barrels, has long fermentation and it’s very basically, minimally handled, but this is not a traditional wine in the sense of the oxidated wines that my dad liked to drink 30 years ago.

0:53:11 AG: So the massive convergence of style, the traditionalists have backed off, they’ve cleaned up the cellar and made more effort to have hygiene, and switched out old barrels, bought better destemming equipment. I think this is one of the big issues with Nebbiolos that Nebbiolo has a very fragile jack that doesn’t always separate from the skin. And if you don’t have full phenolic ripeness, you end up with jacks in your tanks.

0:53:35 AG: So you can assume that in an era where… Let’s take about, look at what the ’70s… ’60s and ’70s, where you had cooler vintages, lower levels of ripeness, probably not the best equipment. Even if you destemmed, you’re probably getting some percentage of stems, or jacks or stuff in your tank, and that was in the wine. Today, people are more attentive. So, wines are cleaner. They’re more polished, and then of course, the weather has changed dramatically. It’s much drier, warmer, most of the time. So the weather has played a big role in how these wines have changed, but the wines of today are very different from the wines of 30 years ago. There’s nothing you can do about that. But basically, since I’ve been going there, there’s a big stylistic shift, a big stylistic conversion, which I think is generally good because the idea of modernist versus traditionalist was something that I never really found particularly exciting, where you see the big jump in quality which is great. What worries me is that Barolo might become the next Piedmont. Producers might become inaccessible. It’s harder to go now. Producers travel more.

0:54:37 LD: Might become the next Burgundy?

0:54:38 AG: Yeah.

0:54:38 LD: Barolo might become the next Burgundy?

0:54:40 AG: It is already, I think, but I don’t mean just in terms of the wine. I mean, in terms of the lack of access. It was very easy, when I started going there, but now, when I try to make my appointments, people are travelling more. You got to start a little bit earlier. People have more commitments. This year, I saw more British and French tourists in Piedmont than I have ever seen ever before, in restaurants, in town, walking around, in shops. I think that that’s obviously very good in some ways ’cause there’s economic prosperity, but it’s also changing the landscape quite significantly. And now you have foreign groups looking for places to invest. A hectare of top quality Barolo vineyard is gonna cost about 1.2 million Euros more or less, give or take. In Burgundy, the price for Grand Cru vineyards might be 15 times that. So the parcels of course is very different, but 10 to 15 times is normal.

0:55:37 AG: So people are looking… There are serious foreign groups, American, Asian, European, at Italy, of course, looking to make investments in Italy, including the biggest luxury brand and mass market wine groups than you can think of. You name five of them, you’re gonna get three right away that are looking right now to buy vineyards in Piedmont, and that will change forever, the economics of vineyard land in Piedmont. The local wine making family can still afford to buy even top tier vineyards in Piedmont. You might have to get a loan or securitize versus other assets that you have, but it’s still possible. But in five years, it won’t be possible. It will become like Burgundy where all vineyards are slowly gonna be owned by investors, and that totally changes the place. So as somebody who’s been buying these wines and drinking these wines, it just seems inevitable to me. I just hope it doesn’t happen necessarily right away, but it just seems sadly like it’s just gonna happen. And once that train starts, I don’t think it can really go back.

0:56:42 LD: And do you think the interest that we see now in the market for Barolo is based on the great 2010 vintage, a run of good vintages in general, good pricing in an era of price escalation in other regions? What’s causing so much interest in Barolo today?

0:56:57 AG: I think it’s kind of a perfect storm. This is what I told my readers early this year because I knew this was gonna happen. It was so clear to me that this was gonna happen, Levi. This is the… Why you can’t have your blinders on, and only can think about one or two regions, why you have to understand what’s happening in the world. What was very obvious to me was… Look, this should be obvious to anybody this is not rocket science. What do we know as a fact? We know as a fact that Bordeaux hasn’t had an exciting vintage since 2010, which itself has not sold because the prices were too high because after 2009 sucked out so much money from the market, that people just didn’t have enough to really spend. So you still have 2010 unsold, which is a great vintage, maybe better than ’09 for Bordeaux. Those wines are unsold, then you have 11, 12, and 13, which are all some various level of average or slightly better but certainly not going to… Or slightly worse, but certainly not vintages that are going to inspire people to go out and buy wines, which for people who didn’t know it before are not particularly exclusive. There’s nothing exclusive about a first growth Bordeaux.

0:58:04 AG: The wines are fantastic. They’re reference points, I think they’ll come back. They’re a great book or a great piece of art, a great symphony. There’s always a place for those wines, but they are produced in big quantities. There’s 20,000 cases of each first growth Bordeaux made each year more or less. So when people decided, these wines are expensive, but they’re not particularly exclusive. That was a big problem because there’s only 500 bottles of Christophe Roumier Musigny. And if you want that, that’s really exclusive. That’s expensive and exclusive. So that’s Bordeaux, so you’ve got unsold 2010, and then three vintages in the pipeline that are not particularly gonna set the world on fire. Then there’s no Burgundy. Burgundy hasn’t had a regular harvest since 2009 of production, so there’s no wine. When I went this summer to Taste 2012, producers were so apologetic about not having any wine to show. Those vintages are down anywhere from 30% or so in ’10, and ’11, 30 or 40%, but some places in Cote de Beaune, as you all know, 2012, 2013, and maybe even ’14, it’s too soon to know exactly, but you’re looking at minus 70, minus 80, minus 90. So there’s no volume, and if you’re only getting a six-pack of Grand Cru Burgundy to sell, you’re not gonna be able to pay the lights if you’re in the business of selling wine.

0:59:20 AG: So it was very clear to me that two of the other big traditional Old World regions, one had no wine to sell, and the other one had no exciting vintages to sell. So it just seems very obvious that the market is going to flock to Piedmont. And 2010 Barolo, which is a better vintage than 2010 Barbaresco, one of the things I’ve tried to always highlight, but it’s hard, these are two different regions. Yes, they’re few kilometres away, but the vintages do not track. It just seemed to be so obvious that there was gonna be an explosion in these wines because what else are gonna people sell if you’re in the business of selling? What else is sexy right now? What else can you get people excited about? There’s no doubt on my mind that if 2010 Barolo had come… As good as the wines are, and I believe that they are great, if they had come out at a time when there was a similarly high quality vintage in Bordeaux or Burgundy or also let’s not forget Napa Valley because even though those buyers may not be the same buyers, Napa Valley 2011, which is an unfairly maligned vintage in my view is still not a hyped vintage by any stretch of imagination.

1:00:18 AG: So, there’s no excitement in the world of wine right now. If the ’10 Barolos had come out at a time where there was ’09 Bordeaux or ’09 Burgundy, it would be a totally different ball game. But you have one region with very high quality wines and a lot of dollars, Euros, whatever you want, chasing a limited supply, and this is wha

as created I think this interest in this wine. Not that the wines don’t merit it on their own, but it’s accentuated by the lack of stuff for the trade to sell in this moment right now.

1:00:46 AG: So, that’s why I told my readers that they need to get on it right away if they wanted to buy these wines because it was really clear that these were the industry dynamics and you can’t change that, it’s so obvious. So, I think that’s the main reason. And then now people are tasting the wines and they’re phenomenal, of course. But I think a lot of it has to do with the macro environments, the macro environments surrounding wine. I’ve never seen so much interest in Barolo. But I also know that I’ve had big merchants in London tell me that they’re out… That their Bordeaux business is down 70 or 80%. What are they gonna do? They’re gonna sell something.

1:01:16 LD: Is the image of Barolo helping with that somehow or is there something about what Barolo is that helps it through the channel besides the numbers part of it?

1:01:24 AG: Well, I think there’s an image thing. But I’m not sure that necessarily… It’s one of the most beautiful things about Barolo, but I’m not sure people necessarily understand it ’cause it’s not been so well documented. But Barolo is a wine that has both… Has its origins in nobility. So it’s an aristocratic wine from the beginning. So, we’re talking like late 1800s. It’s an aristocratic wine in its birth. You have three noble families that are involved. No heirs really and so then there’s a period of kind of void. And then the modern day version of Barolo, as we understand it sort of today is more closely linked to what you might think of Burgundys or vineyards that are owned multiple families, artisan wines, small scale production, very much hand-made, hand-crafted kind of wines.

1:02:12 AG: So, Piedmont is this region that can bring together that it can appeal to you for… On a number of different levels. You can fall in love with the aristocratic origins, places like Fontanafredda or the Castello di Barolo or the Castello di Grinzane. And then you can fall in love the producer who’s got their vegetable garden outside their vineyards like Elio Altare, which is like… That is as artisan as Contadino, as a vigneron as it can get. So, Piedmont has both. But I think what’s really changed Levi is that the wines are much easier to drink young than before. It was always like, “Oh, you’ve got to wait 20 or 30 years.” Yeah, those are the wines my dad bought. They were undrinkable. They were hard as nails. Today, you’ve got cleaner cellars, better destemming, higher levels of phenolic ripeness ’cause there’s less snow and the seasons are generally drier and warmer, generally. There’s obviously been a few exceptions in there, ’13 and ’14, but for the most part, the… And wine-making has improved, weather forecasting has improved.

1:03:15 AG: 2005 is a vintage where they know that there was a big weather storm coming and that it was gonna last many, many days like seven, eight days, and there was a decision to make: Pick early and make sure that you’ve saved the crop or wait it out. That is a harvest saved by weather forecasting. The parents of today’s winemakers had no radar or weather forecasting to even make such a decision. They would’ve just harvested when they always harvested. It would’ve been harvested under the rain. That is an example of a vintage that exists today because people have weather forecasting technology. Think about it. A generation ago, that would’ve been one of those rotted vintages that you forget about.

1:03:55 AG: So, the quality of wines has gone up and now people taste the wines and like, “Holy smoke, these wines are tremendous.” You can taste… We did a 2008 Barolo dinner at Bar Boulud a couple of months back and I was talking about this with Mike Madrigal the other night how incredibly beautiful the wines were. Are they gonna be better in 10 years or 20 years? God, I hope so. Yes, I think that they will. But is it a crime to open 12 or 14 ’08 Barolos and taste them? Absolutely not. The wines are delicious today. So, I think that that’s what’s changing. What’s changing is that more people are tasting the wines young and then you make a decision. “I like them. I don’t like them,” that’s fine, whatever. But the wines are much more easy to understand young, people can make decisions, people are discovering how beautiful the wines are. They’re nowhere near as monstrously tannic as they were a generation ago.

1:04:40 AG: And so, people are starting to buy a little bit more. I had one reader say to me, “I’ve never bought Barolo, but this year, I wanted to check out this vintage, so I bought a mixed case of ’10 Barolo.” Well guess what, there’s 13 million bottles of Barolo made each year, of which, maybe half a million are going to be wines that really interest you. Just think about sort of half a million, maybe a million, tops. But I think it’s close to half a million. The average domain… The production at a high-end domain of Barolo might be 25, 30, 40,000 bottles, even unless you get the Scavino or Vira level… The production is pretty small, actually. So, even if you said it’s a million of bottles that interest us out of 13 or so, if thousands of consumers around the world say, “I want to buy… I’ve never bought this wine, but now I wanna buy a case.” Well, it doesn’t take very much of that kind of behavior, which is actually fairly tame behavior. It’s not saying, “I’m gonna buy 10 cases of something.” And then… And multiplying that. If thousands of people around the world say… Who’ve never participated in this market for this wine say, “I’m gonna buy a case to check it out.” That can have a profound impact on the supply and the availability for everybody else. So, these are the things that I think are really driving it. Wines are just better, younger, more easy to understand.

1:06:00 LD: But has the palate of the American consumer changed at all? Because I feel like, say, the 2007 vintage, if that had come out in 1997 or in 1990, which are vintages that I think are somewhat similar, it seems like that vintage would have been a lot more popular with the consumer. In reality, it came out in 2007, and it seems like it did okay, but not great with the American consumer.

1:06:23 AG: Well, I think people are going to re-discover ’07. I think it’s a great vintage. For sure, it’s not a classic vintage, there’s no question about it. It’s a very precocious, warm year. The wines are really rich, voluptuous, maybe uncharacteristically so. But would I love to have some more ’85 Monfortino? Or ’85 Giacosa Red Labels, or ’85 Elio Altare or whatever? Yeah. Those are vintages that I think get their due much later. It’s a paradox, you would think, right? As long as the wines don’t fall apart, of course, that’s… We’re gonna knock on wood here. I don’t think that’s gonna happen. The mind always thinks, “Well, ripe, flashy, vintage, these wines should drink well young, but they may not age, and they’re kind of sweet, and not sweet like in an RS way, like you might find in Napa Valley Cabernet, but they’re definitely richer. There’s more glycerine than you’re used to seeing in Nebbiolo, and that can throw some people off. But when the wines are 15 or 20 years old, they’re gonna be absolutely glorious, and I regret not buying more of that vintage.

1:07:21 AG: It’s not a vintage for… It’s a vintage that drinks young, ’cause the tannin is sweet. So, if you’re in a restaurant or whatever, you’d for sure drink a seven before a six. Six is hard as nails. It is not a classic vintage, there’s no question about it. Yeah, maybe it is like ’90. But so what, those are glorious wines, too. I always think more by the estate, more than the vintage anyway, but I think ’97 is not… I mean ’07 is not the vintage for the real hardcore Nebbiolo drinker. I think that the classic vintages happen to all be even. ’04, which I just did a huge retrospective tasting of that’s an unbelievable vintage. That’s just… Yeah, and talking about a vintage of giving high scores to.

1:08:02 AG: I remember tasting those wines when they were just coming out. I was working at Deutsche Bank at the time, squeezing in my tasting during Thanksgiving week. I loved this vintage. I thought the wines were tremendous. I always published Piedmont in The Wine Advocate in February, sometimes April, ’cause I wanted my article to be in the hard copy for those wines. And I thought the world needs to know this vintage is great now. And I remember, I pulled my… I was around Marco Parusso’s place, it was like six or seven o’clock at night. It was dark. I stopped. So, that’s kind of on the border between Castiglione Falletto…

1:08:36 LD: Castiglione and Monforte…

1:08:38 AG: Yeah, between Castiglione Falletto and Monforte, you can see Aldo Conterno. But I remember exactly where I stopped. I called Parker on the phone, I said, “I need you to save me 12 pages,” whatever it was, “In the print edition. We’re gonna put Barolo in the December issue.” And that was the earliest year that The Advocate published Piedmont’s scores, because I was just blown away by these wines. They were so pure and delicate, but powerful. And I tasted the wines at age 10, and they’re all really pretty exceptional. So, I was really happy with that tasting. That’s a perfect example of being a little bit nervous about revisiting a vintage, 10 years later. But so, four, six, eight, 10, those are the vintages for people who like more powerful, more… Even though four is very sexy and refined, I’ve always like that vintage for its finesse.

1:09:23 AG: Six is very… Four is kind of like eight, those are very late harvest vintages. Very sweet, more feminine, delicate. Six and 10 are power house, massively tannic vintages. You don’t wanna touch those for a long time. And then, seven is not really a vintage for maybe the more classic leaning palate, but I think in 20 years, people will be very happy with those wines.

1:09:45 LD: And two is a good example of classically rainy.

1:09:48 AG: Two is a freak vintage that got destroyed by hail. I think it was on September 1st. When I went to Piedmont… I was living in Italy at the time. When I went there, the first time after that, I just could not believe what I was seeing. We’re just talking about just devastation of vineyards and vines are… People think, okay, January 1 is a new year. Vineyards have a historic memory, they store information, like people. The year doesn’t reset for us on January 1, it’s just seamless. Vines are the same way. So, the effect of hail, 2002, it’s not just in 2002, but had potential issues for the future now. Looks like nothing too bad happened. Yet, ’03 was a freak vintage afterwards. But ’02, yeah, very rainy, but hail was really the big issue, ’cause that just eliminated the need for… The ability for people to make wines. People made wines in ’91, they made wines in ’92, they made wines in ’94. In ’04, there was no fruit, in ’02, there was no fruit. I remember going to Roberto Voerzio’s place and seeing the tanks empty in like October. It’s just crazy. Empty with the doors open.

1:10:55 AG: And usually, you expect to have the smell of the Nebbiolo fermenting, which is a godly, heavenly smell, as you know. And you expect sound, and you expect to see bustle and people moving stuff. And there’s dead silence, really pretty depressing. In ’02, there was a few people who made wine. Monfortino, of course, the Massolino brothers made all of their single vineyard wines. And I think it’s an average vintage, where people made wine, but you have one epic wine. But I think it’s very interesting that the Soldera ’02 is also extraordinary. And Miani’s ’02s, I think are beautiful. And I think that there are places where, it just makes you think about what does it really take to make great wine? Risk, you got to take some risk, of course. Why is it that the ’02 Soldera is so magnificent? Why is is that the ’02 Monfortino is so great? Yeah sure, if you’re in La Morra and you had no grapes, okay fine. But that was… Hail was very localized. That was a huge hail storm so, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to minimize it. But I can’t believe Cascina Francia is the only vineyard that can make a great wine in all of Piedmont. That just can’t possibly be. There’s gotta be something more than that. And that more is I think what separates. They inspire people from the excellent, from the good, from the not so good, from the worse, right?

1:12:22 LD: Let’s talk about Tuscany for a minute. You mentioned Soldera. The last time you were here, you talked about Montalcinos being divided by the [1:12:28] ____, which I thought was a particularly poetic and quite apt historical observation. What’s the story with Montalcino today and what happened in 2009?

1:12:39 AG: I think that the Italian culture really likes controversy and likes to air the dirty laundry. Thankfully, Montalcino’s been kind of quiet for a while, and I think that’s very good. People don’t need to know about the ins and outs of stuff. You go to Burgundy, you never hear producers speak badly about their neighbour. They might hate them. They might be killing each other to buy the same vineyard, but they’re not gonna let somebody from the outside see that. Montalcino, they’ve go 2010 coming out. January, the wines I’ve tasted from the barrel have been terrific, so hopefully that’s what’s gonna come through. I think things are a little bit more calm down there. ’09 is a really… Before we talked about giving low scores to wines, well, ’09 Montalcino is a perfect example. Certainly, my view was much more critical than I think anybody else’s that I’ve seen.

1:13:28 LD: And why do you think that would be?

1:13:29 AG: Why?

1:13:31 LD: Yeah, why do you think you took a more critical tone than someone else?

1:13:35 AG: Well, again, it really is pretty simple. One, I wanna sleep at night. Two, I know people are gonna make decisions based on what I think, and I just don’t wanna let people down. I view what I do as… It’s a massive responsibility, and it was just obvious that the wines were… They were off. You could just tell the colours were very forward wines that deviated significantly from historical norms at estates. So, when you’ve tasted a vintage like that, you’re collecting lots of data points and triangulating, and you’re thinking, “Okay, maybe, I’ve got 50 wines in front of me.” And you’re comparing them to each other, but then you’re obviously visiting wineries and tasting the surrounding vintages. How does nine compare to eight, to 10, to 11, to 12? It was so obvious that this vintage was problematic. But it wasn’t always problematic. See, I think that the… Well, when I was also there in the summer, I forgot. It’s important but in the summer of 2009, I spent… I can’t remember how much time we spent in Italy, but we spent at least a week in Tuscany, visiting vineyards and seeing things.

1:14:43 AG: And so, you drive through these vineyards, and there was a massive heatwave at the end of August. Second half of August is when you expect, after Feria de Agosto, that’s when the weather is supposed to turn. That’s supposed to be kind of the very, very last days of summer. It’s when the nights start to get cool, and you start to get a sense that fall is somewhere off in the horizon. The really intense dog days of summer are supposed to be past by then. But in ’09, it just continued to be very hot even at night, very… Uncomfortably hot. And I was there. I saw it. I went, saw vineyards. And I think it’s a question of probably what happens in nine is that you have yields that are too high, therefore, it’s a paradox. But when you have a very hot year, you actually have to drop crop. I think people sometimes think, “Well, if I drop too much crop, I might get fruit that’s excessively concentrated.”

1:15:37 AG: And I think that that’s a risk. I’m not a viticulturist. People who know what they’re doing, understand what the balance is. But if you too much fruit, and it’s hot, at that last phase of ripening, you’re not gonna ripen anything, and you’re gonna have these green wines. So, I felt like the wines lacked colour. Sangiovese is like Nebbiolo, they are wines that are supposed to have… People confuse colour with opacity and depth. You look at young Nebbiolo, it’s purple. It’s purple. You know what it’s like. It’s violet. And young Sangiovese can be dark red to violet, but it should be translucent and that’s very different. The tonality of colour, the translucence is very different from the actual saturation of colour. So, young Sangiovese should have a lively colour. It’s just not supposed to be black or purple, but it’s supposed to have colour, vibrant colour.

1:16:26 AG: So, you could see that these wines were already sort of orange-ish and brownish and fading. And I think that Montalcino really suffers by having these rules, where the wines have to spend a minimum amount of time in oak and a minimum amount of time in bottle. When you go to Napa Valley, there’s no rule for when wines are supposed to be bottled. There may be some minimum requirement, but it’s so minimal that everybody exceeds it anyway. But from what I’ve been told, there’s no real… There’s no minimum requirement. And I just think that today, with the improvement in viticulture… It used to be that wines needed a lot of time in oak, ’cause that’s when the edges would get smoothed out, and the wines would come together. But if you’re harvesting perfect fruit today, I don’t know that you really need that. Look at La Lubis, she bottles at like less than a year, which is obviously very early for Burgundy but still.

1:17:13 AG: This idea that wines have to spend two or three years in a barrel or more, and they’re released five years after, I just think it’s the death sentence. ’09 Brunello came out last year. The wines were already old. If they had come out two years before, it might have been a different story. And then, I think the Consorzio giving four stars to this vintage is very problematic, because you send a message, an expectation that’s very high. First, to your own members saying this is a good vintage, when you should have said, “Look this is an average vintage. Make little, bottle it, sell it as fast as you can and get it into the hands of people so that it gets drunk.” ‘Cause now what will happen is everybody’s gonna want 10, so there’s gonna be a total blood bath of ’08 and ’09. And the way that you’re gonna get your 10 is if you support people’s liquidations of ’08 and ’09, pardon the pun. I think. I don’t know. I’m not in the trade, but that’s just instinctively.

1:18:02 LD: I think that seems highly possible.

1:18:04 AG: Yeah, okay. So this is what I imagine is gonna happen. There’ll be a lot of good deals, but I think you would’ve had better price stability if you would have had the mechanism to sell that wine earlier without having to discount and just lower your price but don’t slash your price and get it through the system. This is wine that should’ve been mostly bottled as Rosso or some Brunello maybe. It should’ve been sold at a friendly price. It should’ve been put in restaurant wine list, sold, drunk, cleared out, turn the cash over, and get ready to buy 2010. I’m hoping those wines are great. So I think when the Consorzio says it’s a four-star vintage, it sends a message to its own members that instills a false sense of security. “Ah, see that vintage wasn’t so bad. Consorzio gave it four stars. What are you talking about? No, no, we’re gonna bottle all of it.” That’s what happens.

1:18:55 AG: And to me, it was very obvious. Now, some people were a little bit more charitable about the vintage I think, but to me I’ve just felt that it needed to be said, and I wrote an article that I’m probably harsh in some people’s opinion but I got a lot of people who told me that it was spot on, and I don’t think it was anything… What I wrote is what everybody knows to be the truth about Montalcino. Just very few people are willing to say, and it’s really obvious; on every level, it’s just so obvious. Just go there, spend a week there, I guarantee you, you’ll come to the exact same conclusions but you gotta go.

1:19:35 LD: So let’s take it back to Vinous Media a little bit. When you decided to purchase IWC, that idea originated with you or that was Steven’s idea? Who called who?

1:19:46 AG: No, that was my idea. It’s something that we had been talking about for a long time. I think that businesses that have been owned by an entrepreneur like Steve… My parents owned their own businesses and I know what this mindset is like. It’s a very emotional mindset as it should be. You’ve created something, it’s your baby, and it just takes a while for everybody to get comfortable. It’s just a very natural thing. These are not things that get done over terms or money or anything like that. It’s all about relationship and, “Are we gonna have fun and be able to work together?” Those are sort of the… And it just takes a while for both parties to converge and figure out that you’re in the same place. No, but that was something that I had started talking to Steve about a couple years ago.

1:20:37 LD: Asking you as Antonio, would you have rather gone this route? Or would you rather go on the route where you got a chance to purchase The Wine Advocate from Parker without starting Vinous?

1:20:47 AG: Oh, there’s just no question. It’s absolutely no question because… It’s true, I did try to buy The Wine Advocate a couple times and that was when I… The big shift for me at The Wine Advocate was when I went from writing there part time… While I was working in finance to when I joined full time, which happened around the end of 2010 and the beginning of ’11, which is when Bob basically told the world I was his heir apparent and blah, blah, blah. The whole understanding with Bob and his partners at that time was that I would buy this business, I would buy The Wine Advocate either alone or with other people. But that was a promise that was made many times. And for whatever reason, Bob decided to go a different direction, but I just think of the time I spent there was extremely valuable for me. It was a great experience, great stepping stone.

1:21:39 AG: I always knew that it was possible that Bob would sell the business to somebody else anyway because I had a very… I’d worked really closely with him over all that time and I knew how he thought, I knew how he had approached other decisions. I was on the management committee there. I had a lot of insight into how people thought and so I always knew that we needed plan B or plan C, whatever. So I was really prepared for whatever happened. It was kinda out of my control. I knew what Bob wanted financially. We had all the money, but at some point, as I said before, it really never comes down to money, there’s other stuff. But Bob made a different decision then and that opened up the door for us to do other stuff.

1:22:20 LD: And you’re happy with that stuff?

1:22:21 AG: Absolutely. I left The Wine Advocate, it was like, it would’ve been February of 2013. Three months later, Vinous was up and running, and in the middle of that, I changed one of our technology people. So I wasn’t really happy with the first person we had building the site, so we basically started over. So we got from February to May, we launched Vinous, with one major personnel changed, one of our outsourced contractors on technology that we changed. We did all that in three months, plus had that little bump, that little speed bump. Why is that possible? Well, it’s possible because our core team: You’ve met Marzia, James, Alex; we’d been working together for a number of years and we knew we were gonna do something. I wasn’t sure which direction it was gonna go, but I always had plan B and we needed to have various options. And so, when he sold it to the current owners, that was fine. I was like, “Okay, well, now we know what we’re doing next.”

1:23:19 LD: So that being said, you’re a man who thinks 20 years out as you said, what’s your end game for Vinous? What’s that gonna look like when you’re older?

1:23:28 AG: So what happened after the Advocate is the opportunities for me personally, but for us have just exploded all over the place. I could’ve never imagined if you’d said to me three years ago, “This is what’s gonna happen to you,” I would’ve said, “You’re insane,” but one door closes and a thousand have opened, and it’s just been tremendous. It’s been an incredible personal and professional life-changing experience in the most positive of ways. I would like for everybody who’s listening to this to know what that feels like. It’s just such an incredible thrill. So as we look to the future, 20 years from now, we’re… It’s true. I’ve got two young kids. I like to think more as like a 20 to 30-year timeframe, of making long term decisions, but I think right now, without getting too grandiose or anything, we’re focused on… We’ve got a lot of… You’ve gotta walk before you can run. We’re still in the walking phase. The walking phase is a lot of things that are not very sexy. Making sure that Scavino is not listed seven times on our website, but only once.

[laughter]

1:24:29 AG: Unfortunately, there’s a fair amount of that. Cleaning up stuff. Making sure that [1:24:34] ____ comes out properly. It’s not glamorous. It’s not sexy, but there’s a lot of that that has to be done. So, we’re really working on that. We wanna get our new team up to speed, and then we’ll see where we go from there. We’re very fortunate to be in a strong position. It’s possible we would make another acquisition. I don’t really know. We’ll see what’s out there, but I’m super excited. We’re just having a lot fun. It’s a lot of work, especially during the holidays, not a lot of downtime, but it’s been tremendously fun. And what else can you ask for?

1:25:06 LD: You recently announced a young writer fellowship, and it sounds somewhat like a mentorship program. Have you had strong mentors in your own life, and what is that fellowship gonna look like in the future?

1:25:16 AG: Well, that has always been really important to me because, yeah, I’ve had a lot of great mentors. Mostly, I would say almost all of them in the world of finance, where I worked for many years, where I think there’s more of a culture of that. What I mean by mentor is, I mean somebody who really goes out of their way to make sure you’re on the right path. And in the world of finance, I had a lot of people like that who really for whatever reason… I have no idea why. But people who went out of their way to make sure I was doing the right things, making the right decisions, thinking about the right things. And I will forever be grateful to those people because they didn’t need to do that. And they were massively successful people, and they helped me tremendously because I think this is what happens. There’s a real pleasure in knowing that you’ve shaped a young person, their life, their career, could be their personal life. It could be whatever, but I’ve had about three of four of those mentors.

1:26:17 AG: And so, that’s part of it. The other part of it is that it’s very hard to make a living writing about wine, and I think that I’d like to change that. I don’t know exactly how in every way, but in our own small way we will contribute to doing that by giving people opportunities. And then, I also wanna discover the next great talents, whoever they are, and then nurture them and have them work with us in the future if they want to. I think that… If you think about a great sports team, it’s not just the starters. It almost always comes down to the strength of your backups, your bench. How deep is that bench? That’s what really separates the championship calibre teams. That’s what really… We’re gonna hit the NFL playoffs now. It’s gonna come down to how good the second and the third-string guy is, or the person who just came off the practice squad. That’s what’s gonna really separate the great teams from just the really good.

1:27:12 AG: And Vinous has to be great. That’s one of the things that… I hate mediocrity, and we’re gonna do everything we can to really put out something that is the highest quality possible. And the only way that that’s gonna happen is we have to have a really deep bench, just like a sports franchise of young talent that can be the future of this company in 15 or 20 years or 10 years or whenever that is. ‘Cause I’m not gonna wanna travel this much forever, I’m not gonna want… I’m sure other people are gonna feel the same way. So, we’re gonna discover those people today and help them, shape them. I’ve taken somebody with me to Burgundy, to Piedmont, shown them around a little bit, given them an incredible experience. Certainly, I never really had that. I travelled with Parker a little bit, but it was all the way at the end when it wasn’t really that… Yeah, so I tasted with Bob at Harlan Estate and Beringer and a couple of other places, maybe at the Napa Valley Vintners or whatever. And that was a great experience, but I was beyond the stage of being young impressionable and shape-able, I was, sad to say. I was fairly old, but for somebody… So, the fellowship is for people under 30. So, for somebody of that age to have those experiences, you can imagine how transformational it might potentially be.

1:28:28 AG: So, it’s about giving back. It’s about discovering the next group of people. It’s about being surrounded by young people also, ’cause I find that really invigorating. Publishing their work, if we like it, and hopefully, we can launch some careers. And if we’ve done a good job and if we’ve created the right environment that I hope we will, I hope that people will want to be part of our team. I can’t control that in the future, of course, but it’ll be perfectly fine if people go off and do something else. I think of it kind of the way chefs train people. Some of them might stay on. Some of them might go on and open their own places, but there’s always a connection. I think that sometimes with wine writers and wine critics, I would like to see more of the camaraderie and friendships that you see with chefs all the time. These guys might hate each other, and they might be massively competitive, but the public would never see that. The public is gonna see Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud walking down the street in Aspen, arm in arm, having a grand old time.

1:29:24 LD: I’m pretty sure in real life, they like each other.

1:29:25 AG: Yeah, well, it’s an example, but it’s just to say…

1:29:28 LD: There are examples where that’s not true, but those two guys…

1:29:30 AG: I’d like to see a little more camaraderie. I’d like to see a little bit more… A feeling more of community. I don’t really think of…

1:29:41 LD: You’re not hanging out with Jancis and Helen Meadows all the time like, “Hey, let’s go throw the football around.”

1:29:46 AG: I’ve been to Jancis’ home for dinner. We’ve…

1:29:49 LD: That’s probably a good meal, huh?

1:29:50 AG: Yeah, well, Nick’s a great chef, and Jancis serves incredible wines, too. And she’s a lovely person, but I don’t think of her as a competitor. I think that Bob as…

1:30:00 LD: Is that generational? Why wouldn’t you? Is that generational?

1:30:04 AG: I just don’t think of the world like that. Or Bob or even Steve, when he wasn’t part of our team. I just don’t think of other people as competitors. First of all, we’re not in a zero-sum kind of business. So as an example, if you buy an Apple phone, you have, by definition, not bought a Samsung or whatever. So the fact that you’re buying one thing means that you’re not buying something else. But the fact that you may subscribe to Vinous has no bearing on whether you subscribe to the Advocate or to Jancis or to the Spectator. I mean I would hope that people… The total sum of these publications is nothing next to what people spend on wine and I hope that people subscribe to all the publications. For us to grow, we don’t need to take somebody else’s customer. We just have to put out a great product. If we put out a great product, then hopefully there’s enough people who will buy it. It’s very simple. So I don’t think of other critics or other publications as competing with us, really, and therefore, my relationship on a personal level with people is not about competition. Even when Josh didn’t work with us, I was still hanging out with him.

1:31:10 LD: I’m gonna hang out with him.

1:31:11 AG: Great guy to hang out with. And so I don’t… That’s just not the way I’m wired.

1:31:15 LD: You said something about a bridge builder?

1:31:18 AG: Well, Vinous is created to be a positive force of energy, not a divisive force. I think that things that are divisive are just full of negative vibe. Vinous is meant to be… That’s what the “O” is in our logo. It’s a connector. Vinous is a force of positive energy. We’re idealists. We’re dreamers. We’re artists. We’re creators. We’re not destroyers. We’re not trying to divide people. I find that… Who’s got time for that? It’s such a waste of time. I would much rather be engaged in things that are uplifting and that creates something positive for the future like the fellows program and whatever else we might think of next. But for us, I just think positive energy is a much better way to live than to always be looking over your shoulder or looking to see what somebody else wrote about something that you might have a different view of, and who has time for that?

1:32:16 LD: What’s your relationship with Robert Parker today?

1:32:19 AG: I’ve always had a good relationship with Bob. I was very transparent with him. I told him exactly what I wanted to do and I told him exactly what I was going to do at numerous critical moments. I don’t think he was in anyway surprised that I left, and I think it’s better for everybody because Bob really needs to be the number one guy at his publication and he probably should be the number… He should be the number one guy. You will have noticed that when I was there Bob had sort of anointed me… He had not sort of, he did anoint me as the heir apparent. But he hasn’t anointed anybody else the heir apparent after I left and what that tells you is that he’s got to be the king there and some people have that personality, that’s his personality and so great, so it’s worked out perfectly. I don’t have any… My relationship with him has always been really great.

1:33:09 AG: At a certain point in my life, he was very encouraging and that was important. I never got to taste with him as much as I would have liked to but I did at the end. But as I said sort of at the end, would’ve been much more valuable earlier. But it was for a number of years, it was really a wonderful opportunity. As I said before at the beginning of this interview, for all the years that I worked for Bob, he never asked me to change a single score or asked me anything about any rating. But it was not just that. It was much more than that. Bob didn’t ask me to do anything, in the sense that he never asked me about an expense report. Never questioned why I did this or that, and he basically for those six years, seven years, I ran my own business within The Wine Advocate, with full autonomy to go wherever I wanted, do whatever I want, write whichever articles I want. Obviously, I knew what our readers were expecting and that was the most important thing. But I had total autonomy to pretty much do whatever I want. That was a perfect working relationship for somebody like me who already had their own publication, who is responsible enough to not get carried away, who knew how to do it, and so it was a great opportunity for that time.

1:34:19 AG: When that changed obviously a lot of other things changed too but for that time it was really a great deal of fun and he’s really a great guy to hang out with. Most people don’t really… I don’t think most people really know the real Robert Parker. He’s very different from the public persona and when he wants to be he can be very, very… If he’s not busy combating people, he can be very down to earth. [chuckle] Very funny. Has a wicked sense of humour and he’s a great guy to hang out with and he taught me a lot about a lot of things. I’m always grateful for that time. There’s not question. But these last two years, have been… I wouldn’t give them up for anything. Anything. So it’s been tremendous.

1:35:01 AG: Now, we can build something. We don’t have any legacy. We don’t have any baggage to deal with. If I had bought The Wine Advocate, I would’ve spent the rest of my life building somebody else’s legacy. Now, we have… Because there was a time… Look, I love Bob Parker. There was a time in my life where I would’ve done anything for him. I mean anything. People thought I was nuts. In the fall of 2012, I organized with Marzia, we organized a benefit for the Navy SEALs to celebrate Bob’s 25th anniversary of the ’82 Bordeaux Vintage and the Navy SEALs were people that I knew, my friends and my relationships. I shared those with Bob. We organized that tasting in the fall of 2012. At the same time that I knew Bob was selling the business to somebody else and the reason I did that is because once I said we’re doing it, we’re doing it. It doesn’t matter. This other stuff, as upsetting it might have been at the time, it was just not gonna get in the way. We said we’re gonna do this event, we’re gonna do it.

1:36:01 AG: But I had plenty of friends who said, “You are completely out of your mind to be spending all of this time and to be putting in all your relationships, and all of your knowledge with these people.” And we had a retired admiral come and speak at that event. It was just the former deputy director of the CIA. These are all people that we brought, me and Marzia brought to that event, our relationships that we shared. But we did that event while Bob was selling the business to somebody else and people thought that we were insane to do it, but I think once you say you’re gonna do something, you do it. That is the most important thing, I think. Again, getting back to this idea of human values, if I say to you that we’re organizing this event, unless there is some act of nature that is… Like Hurricane Sandy was one of them, for something else, it’s gonna happen.

1:36:50 AG: So, but these are all learning experiences, this has just been a tremendous journey, so I can’t possibly complain because the last two years for us have been just fantastic. And I always think that things happen for a reason, so anytime I’ve gone through a period in life that’s been difficult or challenging, or full of uncertainty, when you look back, you always go, “Aha, there was a reason why.” So whenever I’m faced with that, those moments in life that are a little bit difficult, what I always ask is, “What am I supposed to be learning right now? I’m supposed to be learning something. There’s a reason why this is happening. What am I supposed to be learning right now?” I wanna make sure that whatever life’s sort of curve ball is, that is the question I always ask, “What am I supposed to be learning from this?” It’s okay to go through some period but I just wanna make sure that I come out of it with some enrichment of obviously, not monetary, but some lesson that I’ve learned. So the question for me is, “What am I supposed to be learning right now?”

1:37:49 LD: Every time I’ve spoken with you, I’ve noticed how central you put the art or the act of tasting wine to your dialogue about learning, and it almost feels like somewhat of a personal journey. It feels like something that you wanna mentor to other people, so I feel like it’s probably a lot more significant than maybe I might assume about a lot other people. We all enjoy to drink wine, we all taste wine, a lot of people taste wine professionally, but for you it seems to be a real keystone. Are there particular moments in your own evolution as a taster that were standout moments for you? Particular moments where someone said to you or did something that were key, and what were they?

1:38:29 AG: Yeah, but it’s never been about me. What I want to do is help people figure out what they like, to make that light bulb go off. I have a lot of friends who are not wine people, they’re finance people, they’re my friends from business school, they’re whatever, not serious wine people. And when they come over to our house and I open a Cedric Bouchard Champagne or a Dauvissat Chablis or a Littorai Pinot Noir, or a Bartolo Mascarello Barolo, or a Sine Qua Non Syrah, the wines that nobody ever sees because they’re not available basically, unless you really are in the know, and what I love is watching that light bulb go off for people. That moment when somebody says, “Wow, I love Chablis.” Or “This is an incredible Syrah.” What I like is basically seeing… Giving pleasure to other people with wine and seeing that light bulb go off. Pierre Peters Les Chetillons, What is that supposed to be? What is Dom Perignon supposed to be? And what Vinous is all about, is making that light bulb go off for millions of people all over the world.

1:39:36 AG: So, yes, there are seminal moments, but they’re really not about me as much as they are about understanding, how do we get other people to figure out what they like? I don’t care if you wanna drink a $15 Chianti or a $1,500 bottle of Screaming Eagle. What Vinous wants to do is give you the information to make a decision that you’re going to be happy with, so yes it’s about learning but ultimately it’s about empowering the end person. So this era of the wine critic as this expert on some pedestal, like it was in the generation of Clive Coats, or Bob or maybe even Jancis’, where there’s the critic and then there’s all of us people below, those are values of another generation that are not the values of today. Today you can get anybody’s email if you want, you can email Tim Cook if you want. You can get his cellphone number, you can communicate with anybody that you want to today in a very flat way because that is the value of this society and Vinous is created for it today.

1:40:32 AG: And my view is, I wanna talk with our reader and our hopefully our potential readers who are many more than our current, obviously, I want to have that conversation across the table. I’ve never viewed myself as being on some pedestal, because when I was starting out, I didn’t wanna be spoken to that way, so why… I knew something about wine. I grew up in a family where there was wine, I wasn’t a total ignoramus, and I started with the assumption, because Vinous is a positive real force of positivity, I started off with the assumption that people are smart, that they have a good palate, and they just wanna learn a little bit more. I do not take the assumption that people are stupid, need to be spoonfed information and can’t figure stuff out for themselves.

1:41:15 AG: I assume that people, we’re all on a journey, people want to just increase their learning. The thing about wine is that it’s forever, you’re never gonna know everything. We wanna give people the tools to make their own decision and we’re gonna speak to people across the table. We’re not on some… I’m not on some pedestal. Yeah, sure, I get to taste a lot of wines that other people don’t but you know what? As I was told, as I was taught very early on, there’s always somebody who knows more about any given wine than you do, and [1:41:44] ____, so whatever. I’ve got friends who drink DRC Montrachet like it’s San Pellegrino, God bless their soul. Or friends who drink Monfortino, like it’s coffee, in the sense that they have all the time, they’ve been buying it since before it became that ex… Very expensive.

1:42:03 AG: Our reader is a person who is generous, who has an incredible knowledge. One of my readers earlier this year said, “I’ve got every vintage of Don Howell Mountain. Can we do a dinner?” There were a few missing but for the most part it was pretty much almost every vintage of Don Howell Mountain. And we got a group of people together and we put it together. This person could probably teach me about these wines, for crying out loud. So sure, maybe if I go to Napa Valley and spend three weeks there, maybe I have a breadth because I tasted everything that people are likely… Pretty much everything the people are likely to be interested in, and there’s some value in that. But for any wine, there’s always somebody who is gonna know it better than me. There are people who’ve had more DRC, more Cristal, more Monfortino, more Don, more Harlan Estate, more Colgin, more whatever you want.

1:42:53 LD: Gallo Hearty Burgundy.

1:42:54 AG: Or Gallo Hearty Burgundy. So I always say… It is really about learning. The thing about Vinous is we’ve got everything… Like right now if we… Every week we have a wine under $25. So this week is a Fiano di Avellino, Ciro Picariello, beautiful, 25 bucks, great, handmade artisan wine. And then we have the de Vogue Musigny. So it’s kind of all things wine. Everything from… The idea is that wine does not have to be collectible or expensive to be good, to be delicious to have really good values. And so we try to cover the whole spectrum, but for me it’s really more about the idea that today’s world is very flat and what I’m… What keeps me up at night is thinking about empowering the end person.

1:43:36 AG: That is… We have a lot of ideas that are in development now about how to do that. Because we’re just an 18-month-old company. This is just the very, very beginning. If people think that Vinous is just because we bought you know the IWC that Vinous is meant to sort of replicate The Wine Advocate or something like that. People have… It’s just that though that would be a very incorrect assumption to reach. This… What we wanna build is a transformational life-changing company that uses technology and media to bring scale to people, to bring this information on a scale that has never really been done before. That’s why we do so much video. We’ll be doing more. That’s why we do a lot with technology but ultimately we wanna reach millions of people. Not thousands or tens of thousands. So we’re obsessed with trying to figure out the keys that unlock that for people.

1:44:27 LD: So it’s been a few years of events now. How have you tweaked them? What’s worked and what hasn’t worked?

1:44:32 AG: We have found that our preference now is to do smaller events, between 25 and 40 people. I think it’s a more manageable number. That’s something that we’ve learned. I think it allows for more interaction with people. What we’re moving towards is a model of doing perhaps more events but smaller and then more diversified. So at the beginning it was really focused on Italian wine mostly because… While we’re not gonna do a Burgundy event… I have no… That’s really Daniel Johnnes’ milieu and nobody does it better. So there’s no… I don’t have any interest in… Also in doing something that’s been done before either too much.

1:45:10 AG: So we started off with Barolo and then you know, Tuscan Wines but now we’re gonna start to do Napa Valley in the spring. I’d love to do something with champagne. But to me what I’ve learned is one, we wanna keep it small where possible. Festival de Barolo is kind of an exception. But that has now kind of a… Its own following and we don’t have enough seats for people. So yeah, I can’t see that becoming smaller. But there’ll be other things that will be more thematic. We’re gonna do a 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet tasting. That’ll be probably be 40 or 50 people but a lot of really great wines. I’d like to do something with champagne. And I’d also like to do something that’s more… I’d like to find ways to work more closely with chefs to create things that are really experiences.

1:45:54 AG: Because ultimately, I think that’s what an event really is. People now, there’s a lot of wealth in the world, so money is no longer really a differentiator. So the question is, well what is? And one of the things that it can be a differentiator if we do it right is a memory, an event. My preference is definitely towards creating experiences. So there’s educational dimension is across multiple levels. It’s the public. It’s sommes who maybe don’t have an opportunity to travel as much or taste these wines necessarily all the time. There’s lots of different layers to the educational component. The producers themselves that don’t often taste their own colleagues wines. So it’s educational for them as well. And I want that point to really be hammered home.

1:46:35 AG: So that’s always a key component in any tasting that we do. There’s got to be some value. Otherwise, we’re just like anybody else who does dinners and events. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not differentiating and it’s not our mission. Our mission is, “I want you to taste every vintage of Monfortino back to 1970, from Magnum altogether.” That’s historic. It’s educational. It’s culturally enriching as on top of being just a hell of a lot of fun. But that’s a theme for us is the educational component.

1:47:04 LD: Antonio Galloni of Vinous Media. He’d like to be the electricity that turns on the lights for millions of people. Thank you very much for being here today.

1:47:11 AG: It’s a pleasure. Happy New Year.

1:47:12 LD: Antonio Galloni of Vinous Media.

1:47:15 LD: Hey, you, wholesale buyer type person. You listen to this show. You know who is making good wine. But how do you keep track of where to buy it? Well, SevenFifty has you covered. Powerful, easy to use browsing tools with all kinds of ways to drill down to what you need. Lots of vendor information including company background, contact info and even a link to a vendor’s Facebook page if they have it. The power to make out tasting lists of wines you’ve enjoyed. You can keep those online for as long as you need them. You can refer to them for years even. And a constantly updated list of tastings in your area. You want to know what tastings are happening tomorrow and which are happening in two months from now, where are they happening? SevenFifty has you covered. Have you checked out SevenFifty lately? You should. It is a wholesale buyer’s best friend. Go to sevenfifty.com for more information and to get signed up.

1:48:12 LD: That was our show. If you’re curious about what we’re up to in the future, check us out on Facebook, give us a like, and you’ll see all our fancy, fancy posts. It’s “I’ll Drink to That! Talking Wine” with Levi Dalton. It’s a Facebook fanpage. Hey, fanpage, yeah. We’re on Twitter, @drinktothatpod. And we’re also up on Instagram. Some pretty artistic shots sometimes, sometimes not, sometimes we get though, @leviopenswine.

1:48:41 LD: And then, I gotta tell you, we also got our own website there. It’s illdrinktothatpod.com, where you can stream stuff off of it, or download direct episodes, so you don’t have to go through iTunes if you don’t want to. I like to give options. We’re about options here. So, lots to do, lots to think about. Maybe you want a T-shirt, maybe you’d like a fancy, fancy, well, they’re not that fancy. But they’re pretty cool, I’ll Drink to That t-shirt of your very own, in a variety of different colours, shapes, sizes. Onesies, even. You can get onesies, you can get tanks, you can get biker tanks, you can get tees, you can other stuff. Hoodies, for God’s sakes.

1:49:21 LD: It’s all up there. You can find the information up on our website if you’d like to check it out, and wear what you hear. And then there’s also that possibility you could shoot us some real support. Shoot us a little dough. Help keep the microphones rolling. We are here because of dedication, ’cause of love, ’cause of interest. But we’re also here because we make the finances work, and we could always use a little help with that. Thanks for your consideration.

The Transcription Service REST API

January 21st, 2015

We have just released the first version of our REST API. Till now, our web interface was the only one could consume our service. With the API, any application can now use it. Please visit the following link for the documentation.

https://scribie.com/docs/api

This release marks somewhat of a milestone for us. When we started working on our transcription service six years ago, in 2008, we had exactly this goal in mind; a transcription service API where you can post your files to be transcribed, with a minimum quality and turnaround guarantee. We actually looked around but didn’t find any. That’s how we started.

In these six years we have built a transcription system which is scalable, repeatable and provides a minimum quality and turnaround guarantee. So after a lot of trial and error, and a lot of engineering, we have finally achieved what we had started out to do. That definitely feels great!

Feedback and comments are most welcome.

Comparison Between oDesk/Elance And Scribie

January 19th, 2015

Feelancers vs Scribie

Eye the difference between two, quality is the Issue!!

Transcription is an indispensable part of your business with unlimited benefits. In this era where businesses are blooming with an edge over their competitors, transcription holds firm ground in market. Now our world is digitalising where we have latest gadgets, tools and techniques which enable you to get your work done in snap of fingers. Same goes for audio transcription. With many open options available in market many people think of getting audio and video transcription done through other hired resources called freelancers.

Freelancers aren’t free of cost as the difference lies in the authorisation; freelancers are people who work independently without being connected to any organisation. Don’t you think transcription through freelancers is time taking and chancy.

  • For freelancing you need to post a job on various websites like oDesk and Elance that act as a platform for freelancers to gain work then employer finds a suitable freelancer and ask necessary questions and negotiate on rate. Once the rate is fixed freelancer is allotted a milestone to cover and deliver work accordingly.
  • Freelancers are paid according to different kind of files some are difficult to transcribe as they have different accent or may have background noise.
  • You need to send audio files to freelancers and they respond to you with transcripts in documented form. You will check the document to ensure quality and accuracy which will make the entire process an agony for you. It will be worse when you have time crunch and freelancers failed to give you accurate transcripts.

Do you think this entire cumbersome process can make your business efficient, the answer is no!!

The optimum utilisation of resources will always leave you best results. Now there are companies like us, Scribie, who manages the entire process and leave you the quality transcripts and you just need to sip in coffee and see those reports.

Why trust Scribie.com with transcribing, the reasons are as follows:

  • First, with us you need not to spend variable cost or bear differentiated cost, we provide flat pricing.
  • Second in the list is reduced file management like uploading and downloading steps, we provide conference call recording service integrated with audio transcription which makes it ultra-convenient for our clients. We are backed by reliable infrastructure.
  • How great it would be when you can track the progress your transcripts, with Scribie you can actually glean at transcripts.
  • The integrated editor provided to customers helps them check the quality of the transcripts in an efficient manner which saves a lot of time and effort.
  • We have in house professionals who got the right experience and skills for transcription. We have a distinct quality team wherein we have proof readers who double ensure our trademark which is 98% accuracy. Transcripts are delivered only when they are checked by our QA team.
  • We guarantee quality and free-review too if the quality standards are not met.

With modern outlook in business, time is money so working smart is one essential thing to win the race. We will shoulder your burden of responsibilities towards transcription by reducing steps and making the entire process hassle free.

Please find the link below to our latest release of conference call recording service integrated with the transcription service.

https://scribie.com/conference/recording

Please send a mail to support@scribie.com if you have any queries or you can chat with us directly.

Many Eyeballs And Ears Makes All Errors Shallow!

January 13th, 2015

Many earsIn open source there is a saying “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” meaning the more widely available the source code is for public testing, scrutiny, and experimentation, the more rapidly all forms of bugs will be discovered. The same principle applies to the way we process each transcripts and how it helps achieve unparalleled accuracy.

Transcription is of utmost importance today, many companies use transcription to have a share of numerous benefits which it provides. Quality is significant in transcription and can serve you in many ways. With quality comes responsibility of transcribing it with all parameters checked. At Scribie, each file is checked by multiple transcribers. Firstly, the file is divided into smaller chunks. Each transcriber works only on a part of the file. Each of those part files are then reviewed by reviewers who are promoted from our transcribers pool based on their excellent grades. As the entire file is divided among transcribers and reviewers, one may correct a part of file and someone else can fill the blanks as per their own knowledge. These part files are then collated and then proofread once again to improve the quality and remove any inconsistencies which could have been introduced since multiple people worked on it earlier. Each transcript is scanned thoroughly to remove errors and later validated by our experienced proof readers. Once proofread, it is then qc’ed by our delivery experts who assess the quality and deliver only those files which are 98% accurate. Those files which do not meet the criteria are again put back for proofreading. This process is repeated till the 98% accuracy is achieved. We hire experienced and certified transcribers who work professionally and have good skills. We have enough resource to research for technical terms and acronyms required for transcription. Since there are multiple people working on a file, chances are more that some or the other may have an idea about the topic being discussed and might be able to fill blanks or correct mistakes which others would be unaware off. We have formulated the entire process keeping accuracy and quality in mind. We believe that the more revisions the file has to go through, results in more accurate transcripts.

We are highly proficient in interview transcription, webinar transcription, podcast transcription, sermon transcription, group discussion transcription, lecture transcription and video transcription. We provide general transcription services as well as specialised transcription services for academic transcription, legal transcription and business or corporate conference calls transcription. As we have so many offerings, we train people to do the required research on topics mentioned in the files to get it right. We also have in house accent experts who can understand and develop accurate transcription.

Our clients can also order a free re-review if the transcript quality is not up to their expectations after the transcript has been delivered. The re-review order can be placed from your account along with specific instructions, if any. The file will be proofread once more and re-delivered.

Please send us a mail at support@scribie.com if you have any queries or you can chat with us directly.