Monday, March 29, 2010

Social Media: Changing The Way We Drink

As social media continues to grow as a valuable marketing tool bringing customers and companies closer, I decided to learn how to navigate more websites dedicated to social media. Being fluent in Facebook, it felt awkward leaving that comfort zone for the likes of Twitter, but I decided to revisit my idle Twitter account. I dove right in and participated in a Tweetup. This is an online conversation centered on a chosen topic. Last week's topic was Washington Merlot hosted by another blogger. The idea is to have everyone tweeting while drinking a Washington Merlot, talking about wine through updating one's status. The tasting was set to start at 5pm and last till 7pm. This was definitely overwhelming at first. It was stressful following up to 100 tweets in under 30 seconds, trying to respond to some individuals and remembering to add #WAMerlot to your status in order to be added on the conversation string. There were some complaints of not being able to keep comments to under 140 characters as Twitter is setup. But I say, if you need more than 140 characters to describe a wine then you aren't drink enough. Stop thinking, start tasting. Once I learned to navigate the process it was an amazing experience that lasted longer than the 2 hours.

Here is a run down of the event. People from at least 5 different countries participated including; China, New Zealand, France, Mexico and the USA. There were over 500 people posting 2000 tweets and 3000 bottles of Washington Merlot being tasted. In addition, there were over 80 wineries, hotels and wine bars hosting events involving vertical and barrel tastings.

This is phenomenal in my mind. Social media is affecting the way we drink and taste wine from our living rooms to our wine bars. Think about the opportunities these virtual tastings have. Wineries could host virtual tastings for customers across the country and around the world. This is also a powerful tool for staying connected with wine club members. For example, club members who live on the other side of the country could set up a time with a winery to taste through the wines of their last shipment together. Social media is also changing the way we run our tasting rooms. The possibilities seem endless and are really going to help change the face of the wine industry for the better.

Social Media is not only changing how we interact with customers but also the way we taste and talk about wine. I look forward to more Tweetups and seeing just how the industry will change from open conversations between customers, producers and all wine lovers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

RueLaLa of the Wine Industry

Many shoppers are familiar with RueLaLa (www.ruelala.com) an online shopping experience offering large discounts on designer clothes, jewelry, bags etc. These sales are usually timed and only available for two days or until items are sold out. Launched this week was The Winery Insider, (www.wineryinsider.com). A similar concept to RueLaLa, which sells fine wine at discounted prices. Started by two wine industry entrepreneurs with access to hundreds of labels offering timed sales on highly sought after wines sold at a discounted prices.

At first, I thought this is just another way to buy wine but once I created my free log in, I started to look around at the sales. The discounts are significant, as much as 40%-80% off. Right away I recognized some of my favorite labels. I am not a huge online shopper, especially when it comes to wine. There is something about the experience of going into a wine shop, touching all the bottles and asking questions. However, this website is a great way to get deals on your favorite labels or even try something new without paying full price.

On the flip side, I've been thinking a lot about wineries who are having trouble moving inventory due to lower sales during the tough economic times. The Winery Insider provides a unique opportunity for wineries to connect with wine enthusiasts and devoted customers. For wineries this is another avenue to sell to customers who may be sticker sensitive and are spending less on the average bottle of wine. The great potential for wineries is the ability to discount their wines and stay connected to their customers. Take for example, a customer who is a devoted fan of a winery who sells their portfolio ranging from $40-$75 a bottle. This customer has recently started to spend less on the average bottle of wine in order to save money. They have changed their spending patterns to wineries with a portfolios priced between $25-$45 a bottle. The Winery Insider provides a platform which allows the more expensive winery to sell their wines and still be a part of this customer's life. With the discounted prices once again fitting into this customer's budget, the winery not only moves inventory but the label remains fresh in the customers mind and continues to establish brand loyalty with this customer. This customer remains loyal to their favorite winery during and after the recession because the winery took into account that they were spending less per bottle and accommodated. Once the economy turns around there may be fewer sales but this customer recognizes the winery accommodated to their lifestyle and stuck with them through tough times so they remain loyal throughout their lifetime.

As much as a "sale" may not sound attractive to wineries now, I think it is imperative to remain the featured label being poured at the dinner table. This is the time to be creating strong brand loyalty that will pay off later. The Winery Insider is a great platform for wine enthusiasts to have access to their favorite wine labels and for wineries to remain connected to their customers. The model for wine sales is changing and this is just one of the ways.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wine Quote

"Wine prepares the heart for love, unless you take too much."

-Ovid

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chile's Rattling Wine Industry


When I heard the news of the Chilean earthquake my heart sank. At 8.8 magnitude, it is one of the strongest earthquakes the world has seen. My heart goes out to all of those effected and I hope the recovery process happens quickly and efficiently.

Being the wino that I am, I also thought about Chile's wine industry. Situated in the Southern Hemisphere means fall harvest will be starting soon. With reports of hundreds of thousand gallons of wine already lost in bottles and barrels, in addition to damage of winery facilities, I wonder how the wineries will recover? With the supply of past vintages destroyed and less equipment to deal with the upcoming harvest how will the wineries recover their loses and regain profits? Will there be less wine on the market and will that increase the price of Chilean wines? Will consumers stop buying current vintages, afraid that the wine will be a product of tragedy and just write off the vintage as a wash, especially at higher prices? I know, I will be buying more Chilean wine in order to support the industry and help the producers and grape growers get back on their feet. I hope that other consumers feel the same. Just because a significant portion of last years vintage was lost by uncontrollable circumstances doesn't mean the quality is any less.

Time will tell the real damage on the wineries and quantity of the upcoming vintage. I hope prices remain reasonable, (one of the factors that makes Chilean wine so appealing,) and consumers will continue to buy at the very least in the form of support.