THE BOOZE BIN
By Pia Mara Finkell (@piamara)
Wine is by no means the only industry playing in the social media sandbox (for more on this, read any of the Buzz Bin posts below), but it may very well be the one deserving the ‘Most Improved’ award. Formerly stodgy and proud, over the past few years, wine has followed (and occasionally lead) the social charge, shifting its voice online to the hands of the young(er…think Gen Y and Gen X vs. Boomers).
It makes sense if you think about it. The enjoyment of wine is, at its core, as social as it gets. It’s lovely on its own, but without the trifecta of good conversation, good food and a good bottle, it’s just fermented grape juice offering up a nice buzz (not that I’m judging).
One vocal advocate for social media in general – and as it relates to the wine industry in particular – is the well-known and respected wine blogger, educator and consultant, Ryan Opaz. Ryan is one of the main voices and co-founders of Catavino, a popular wine blog worth reading if, in his words, “you like Spanish and Portuguese wine, with a healthy dose of wine business sprinkled on top.”
In addition to running the now well-known European Wine Bloggers Conference, Ryan spends his time consulting and speaking internationally on the subject of wine social media. As a keynote speaker at the influential WineFuture conference held in Rioja, Spain, Ryan pointed out:
The real truth is that the consumer is tomorrow’s critic. And in the end if they don’t know where Tempranillo comes from it doesn’t matter. They do know whether or not they like the wine. As a group they have an aggregated voice that is powerful and broad. These consumers may never be the educated WINE GEEKS we all wish they were, but they will be the ones to buy your products and share their thoughts with their friends, just like they always have. If you do not listen to them…you lose. If you choose to engage with them…you win.
Recently, my colleague Cassandra Bianco (@cassandrabianco), who guest pens the occasional Booze Bin blog post on the mixology world, struck up a conversation with Ryan. Here’s an excerpt from their discussion on social media and the wine industry, with some good advice for small wine and food businesses just hanging up their shingle:
What do you predict the social media and the wine industry landscape will look like in the near future?
Catavino: We see social media becoming more and more accepted as we go forward. In the end, wine has always used social media to sell itself, whether it be a conversation in a bar or a familiar bantering at home. The difference being that now the conversation is online.
Wine is a social beverage, and wineries are finally realizing that social media is not a fad, but instead something that is necessary if you hope to find new markets and consumers. It’s a means to an end, where loyalty and trust is built through the dissemination of information and the quality of conversation.
Which wine industry events do you find to be the most professionally fulfilling?
Catavino: We love consumer events that are true “social media” gatherings, where people can meet and enjoy wine the way it was meant to be. Online, however, you’re starting to see some cool events based around Twitter, like the International Grenache day last September. It was a great event that really did a phenomenal job of showing people around the world the many faces of this amazing grape.
What do you consider to be the most satisfying aspect of working in the wine biz?
Catavino: Educating people and sharing experiences. For example, the European Wine Bloggers Conference attracted 200 individuals from 30 different countries who were passionate about studying new wine regions, exciting new grapes, and pressing issues that affect the industry as a whole. I suppose the key attraction for us is how wine helps to lubricate conversations and build relationships.
What advice do you have for wine stores and restaurants that are just setting up shop?
Catavino: Talk to your customers. With Facebook, Twitter and others, this job would not only be easier, but more lucrative. If you have a store or restaurant and are not using social tools to connect with and inform your customer base, you’re losing out on an invaluable set of free tools to increase sales.
Thank you to Ryan and Gabriella Opaz for the opportunity to chat with Catavino!