This last weekend’s Wine Bloggers Conference has opened the door and shed light on the state of the wine industry when it comes to connecting with wine lovers, consumers, wineries and their marketing approach. As the few major wine publications writhe through the disintegration of their influence on the wine industry and it’s consumers, the blogosphere is abuzz with possibility, opportunity and , well, wine love.
There is not a tremendous amount of research for online wine buying practices and the online wine-community, (it is growing, but lagging behind other industries) but the fact is online buying trends have been growing at an impressive pace, and I think it is fair to say that buying wine online is also growing in popularity, accessibility and reliability. The challenges for some states (and therefore wine buyers and wineries), include state laws that limit quantity or don’t allow any wine to be shipped across their borders, shipping costs, and the consumer’s ability to connect with a product or brand to be able to trust their purchase. Buying towels, computers, flowers, etc. online is one thing, but without the ability to taste a wine or know more about this intricate product, terroir, winemakers, wine & food pairing, etc…what is a wine lovers to do? Let’s face it, for some, buying wine online is a risk.
Enter the wine blogger: Like Siskel and Ebert, or the Rolling Stone for music, or your local newspaper for performances, the wine-blogosphere has great value to offer to the serious and the casual wine drinker alike. You can take a couple of minutes to see what Gary Vaynerchuk is enjoying today for under $20, or you can subscribe to any of the wine bloggers in the right column of this blog (and there are hundreds more!) and find a voice that speaks to you, your tastes, your style. The knowledge, experience, stories and humor these passionate wine lovers have to offers is unparalleled. It is free and the range of focus is as varied as the 900+ wine bloggers internationally.
Which brings me to the shift in influence: Thus far, wine bloggers have been left to their own devices. That is, until the Wine Bloggers Conference, the WITS (Wine Industry Technology Symposium), the OWC (Open Wine Consortium) and Wine 2.0. These organizations have worked to connect people in the wine world, both trade and consumer, online, in person and in conference and event settings. The results are exciting and the possibilities are great. The bloggers are a critical, influential thread that connects wineries, wine tech companies and the consumers. With so much to navigate through (the complexities of wine, buying wine online, a wine club, wait! Now there are wine social sites too!?) it can be overwhelming for your average wine lover. The wine bloggers, fortunately, spend a good deal of their time sifting through the online wine world and then blog, review and write about, i.e. filter what they experience.
For wineries, this means their possibilities for communicating and connecting with wine consumers has opened up exponentially. How can wine bloggers, wineries and consumers connect through this network to increase value/experience for all? While (many of ) the wineries have been around for a long time,and have traditional marketing programs, the wine bloggers have been doing their own thing on the side, or rather, online without much interference, interaction, inspiration even, from the established wine industry for some years now. The wine bloggers also have a serious concern with maintaining integrity and credibility with their readership. However, I think there is a possibility for a collective, or a loose affiliation of wine bloggers that wineries can learn from and seek to open a conversation with as wineries look toward increasing their online presence. Remember the old fashioned model for TV stations? Their commercials are neither an endorsement of the station’s programming nor is the product necessarily endorsed by the TV show during which it runs. I think there is opportunity for bloggers and wineries to support each other with respect and without compromising any values or integrity.
Ultimately we all share a common passion for wine. And maybe similar goals: increased connectivity, better wine, for more people, at great prices, and more conversation about it. The tubes of the internets are only getting bigger The number of wine bloggers grows weekly if not daily. Our experiences online: purchasing, connecting and researching wine are bringing more value to our lives and we’re spending more time and money doing it. I see only amazing opportunity for making all those experiences more meaningful by connecting a few more dots. What do you think?
Images courtesy of e-commerce.com & PhotogDan on Flickr User Group