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A global toast

May 19, 2013

sheraton social hourHave you ever been to the cinema on your own? It’s quite nice to sit there undisturbed, in the dark; a guilty pleasure. After the film is over you want to discuss what you’ve just seen. Share opinions. Perhaps you spot someone you know coming out of the cinema; you start to compare notes. You decide to go on for a drink together and at the bar there’s a group discussing the same film. Somehow you join the conversation and there’s a debate about the storyline and whether it was a good or bad experience for you.

This is what I like about Twitter; it unites you in a topline discussion about a topic among people with whom you share an interest. Before Twitter you are sitting in the dark alone with no one to talk to; on Twitter you are in the bar swapping one-liners.

One of the first community events I joined on Twitter was the inaugural Chardonnay day in May 2010 initiated by Rick Bakas.

For the uninitiated, to follow a conversation you use a filter so you see all the tweets with the same hashtag in one place, in this case #chardonnay. I opened a column in Tweetdeck in the morning and watched wine bars in Australia coming on board. By lunchtime the French were joining in, with viticulturists and wine lovers tweeting direct from the vineyards in Chablis, Burgundy and other areas. They were drinking wine for breakfast and I could hardly wait for the end of my day to join in.  I was hooked and have participated in many events both wine related and otherwise (the most nail biting was listening to Nigel’s imminent fall from the roof while watching #thearchers tweets spin like the lemons on a slot machine).

The fun of the events lie not just online but offline as well and I have bent the ear of many people suggesting that Dubai, with all its bars and restaurants, would be a great place to host something. At last the day arrived and this week I went to #sheratontoast – a worldwide happy hour Twitter and instagram event launch #social hour.  The Sheraton Mall of the Emirates describes it as follows: ‘The Social Hour concept is designed to be a catalyst for social interaction, especially important in Dubai’s melting pot where travellers from all over the world meet.’

wine tasting

It was very social from my point of view as several food blogger friends had been invited to Vantage at the Sheraton Mall of the Emirates, Dubai. The name is well-chosen as the wide windows behind the bar frame a view of the Burj Al Arab and other Dubai landmark seafront properties. There’s well-sized terrace too which would be a great place to watch the sunset but it was a bit warm for wine tasting on this evening so we stayed nattering around some cocktail tables as waiters brought tapas and wines. We tried all eight wines as it was the launch event, however normally it’s 25 AED for three tasting-sized pours. For a further 25 AED you can have a cheese board or tapas selection – perfect for an after work meet up or an early evening get together.

JP Kavanagh, the very new General Manager of the hotel (he’d been in Dubai for eight days) joined in; we chatted about concerts in Dubai, golf, rugby and wine among other things and it was refreshing that he socialised rather than ‘networked’. More of this in Dubai please.

wines at social hour Sheraton MOE Dubai

In North America, as well as the standard wines, they have a premium wine menu with eight or more wines by the glass, all rated above 85 points by Wine Spectator with at least four rated 90+. In Dubai there is a selection of wines mainly from the New World. I did ask if there were any with Parker points but the waiter said no. However, when looking up Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2009 to write this up, I see it was given 89 points by Wine Spectator. I will ask if this is served on a regular basis because it was a beautifully smooth wine, well-balanced with a velvet texture. The rest of the wines range from a fruity Vina Sol, a light, dry False Bay rosé to a really well made and very drinkable Peter Lehman Shiraz which is more restrained than most spicy, Aussie fruit bombs.

The live Twitter stream was on a smallish screen and we were having such a good time socialising that the international activity remained in the background. I’m not sure that #sheratontoast or #socialhour had the same unifying effect as the varietal hashtags but it’s an enjoyable initiative. There are many cheese and wine nights around Dubai (more on this soon) but this is the most accessible with the lowest entry-level in price.

Social hour is between 6pm-8pm every day at Vantage in the Sheraton Mall of the Emirates, Dubai. 25 AED for three tasting sizes of wine, and 25 AED for a cheese board or tapas. Social hour is also held in 400  Sheraton Hotels around the world. Follow the #socialhour hashtag.

If you fancy joining in a global wine event online, here are some of the main ones:

#MalbecWorldDay – April 17th

#SauvBlanc Day – May 17th

#Chardonnay day May 23rd

#CabernetDay End of August – follow Rick Bakas on Google + for details

#Champagneday End of October

Have I missed any? Have you been involved in a virtual food or wine experience (or does it sound bonkers to you)? Parker points a good or bad thing? Love to hear your comments.

P.S. Cheers to Fooderati Arabia chums who socialised @The_Hedonista @IshitaUnblogged @BettyBooDubai @CookNPlayGeetar and thanks to @SheratonMOE who invited me as a guest that evening.

  1. May 19, 2013 10:04 am

    Three years ago I would not have followed this post #ilovetwitter. Have a great day 🙂

  2. May 19, 2013 10:10 am

    Brilliant! Thanks for the info Sally, I will definitely be doing #socialhour often! Sounds like lots of fun 🙂

    • May 19, 2013 11:45 am

      We should meet there – I need an excuse to go back and watch the sun go down. It was great fun.

  3. therealgeordiearmani permalink
    May 19, 2013 10:54 am

    Let me know if there is a vodka day 🙂

    • May 19, 2013 11:43 am

      Ha ha. There’s a national vodka day in the US I think.

  4. May 19, 2013 11:30 am

    Isn’t Twitter fabulous? Serendipitously, I’ve just put up a blogpost about our exchange on twitter last week! 🙂

    • May 19, 2013 11:45 am

      Spooky! We’re on the same wavelength.

  5. May 19, 2013 12:14 pm

    It all sounds impossibly zeitgeist and glamorous! I feel quite chuffed with myself if I manage to meet a friend for coffee 🙂 Having said that I had a slightly wine-fuelled Twitter convo about Eurovision and cocktail joints with a local restaurant reviewer, and we are now meeting up at a bar opening next week. PS I will diarise #ChampagneDay!

    • May 19, 2013 12:34 pm

      Were you there for Champagne Jayne’s toast at FBC12? She’s a good source of news for GCD.

  6. May 19, 2013 12:18 pm

    Twitter’s so much fun! A wonderful event.



  7. May 19, 2013 12:22 pm

    The #socialhour seems to be very friendly on the pocket as well… unlike any other Dubai wine experience. I’ve practically told almost everyone about it. Now the question comes what happens after the #socialhour? Do you get into one of the Sheraton restaurants for dinner or manage to crawl, stumble and sway to the MOE food court for a dinner?

    Read the post like a story… so bookmarking October with the #champagneday. And thank you for tagging us in and putting such a lovely picture of us – we are pretty poised and not at all tipsy. Thanks Sally:)

    • May 19, 2013 12:33 pm

      Well I’m sure Champagne Jayne will keep you posted on that :)PS Not sure I could face the MOE food court after the sophistication of Vantage. Actually can’t face it very often. Almaz by Moro, or the Armani Cafe the only non Sheraton options within walking distance. Oh! or Salmontini of course.

      • May 19, 2013 12:37 pm

        Salmontini then! Really had a good time Sally, Very nice write up – love the way you add completely different perspective:)

      • May 20, 2013 8:55 am

        Thanks Ishita – now you know why I jumped at the invite. I’d been building up to this for 3 years!!

  8. May 19, 2013 2:48 pm

    oooh this sounds too good to miss!
    thanks Sally!

    • May 20, 2013 8:54 am

      Good one to go to before Concert Committee

  9. May 19, 2013 3:14 pm

    I think Sauvignon Blanc day was just last wek #SauvBlancDay Its a big Twitter day in the US and NZ … maybe we’ll see the rise of more of this in the UAE over the coming months …

  10. sarahhedonista permalink
    May 19, 2013 4:29 pm

    Its a pretty good deal, isn’t it. And I do love the view from that terrace. And Twitter? Well that’s a given!

    • May 20, 2013 8:53 am

      Yes, something very nice about the situation of Vantage.

  11. May 19, 2013 4:41 pm

    I really should get more into twitter – look at everything I am missing out on.
    Have a fabulous week ahead Sally.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    • May 20, 2013 8:53 am

      Thanks Mandy – So many great things have happened to me because of Twitter.

  12. May 19, 2013 11:32 pm

    Hi Sally!

    Fab post, many thanks (also on behalf of the guys from @sheratonmoe, who certainly enjoyed hosting you)!
    Looking forward to the next adventure 🙂

    All the best,


    • May 20, 2013 8:52 am

      Thanks Martin – it was an honour and pleasure to be a guest but as you know I only accept invitations that strike a chord. This is a great initiative and I will be back to taste on another evening. And yes – always up for new adventures!

  13. May 20, 2013 12:56 pm

    Ahh twitter, the last social media frontier for me. But you make it sound easy, and this post was really interesting, maybe I will give twitter a try!

  14. May 20, 2013 6:08 pm

    What a fun idea! Love D’Arenberg wine…

  15. May 20, 2013 8:54 pm

    Such fun! Living on the opposite side of the world from you, more or less, makes it (sadly) difficult to follow your twitter world. I have a warm spot in my heart for you on twitter, however, as you were one of the first that I followed and chatted with when I finally signed up 🙂

  16. May 23, 2013 9:05 am

    You have confirmed for me that I am not using Twitter to its full potential. I need to get better at that. Off to buy a bottle of #Chardonnay so I can join in today or at least eavesdrop while drinking and watch the tweets scroll by. 🙂 Thanks for setting up the get-together with May last night. Such a pleasure to meet you all and to talk food blogs!


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