SpitBucket https://spitbucket.net Diary of a Wine Student Fri, 12 Feb 2021 17:08:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 https://spitbucket.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-grapes-512-32x32.png SpitBucket https://spitbucket.net 32 32 116302530 One-Click Drinking https://spitbucket.net/2021/02/12/one-click-drinking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-click-drinking https://spitbucket.net/2021/02/12/one-click-drinking/#respond Fri, 12 Feb 2021 14:08:40 +0000 http://spitbucket.net/?p=9866 I’ll be honest. The ongoing pandemic and isolation have really done a number on me. It’s incredible how the world feels so jumbled and out of place while also static and frozen at the same time. It’s been tough working up the urge to write, so I’ve spent my time more as a consumer rather than commentator. But that tour of just making due, day by day, has ushered in an appreciation for how screwcaps…

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I’ll be honest. The ongoing pandemic and isolation have really done a number on me. It’s incredible how the world feels so jumbled and out of place while also static and frozen at the same time. It’s been tough working up the urge to write, so I’ve spent my time more as a consumer rather than commentator.

Mac Forbes Pinot noir

But that tour of just making due, day by day, has ushered in an appreciation for how screwcaps so brilliantly encapsulate the mood and needs of wine consumers right now. Now this isn’t going to be a post extolling the virtues of screwcap versus corks. But rather I want to give you a little microcosm on motivation and how that impacts the consumer buying journey.

Plus, as the wine industry continues to dig itself out of the rubble of the pre-digital Stone Age, it’s worth wondering how often we “taint” the process in various ways.

Because, frankly, we’re all tired right now.

Mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Even physically. Sure, some folks are handling things better than others but it may be that they’re just better at hiding it. And this sense of tiredness impacts everything.

Even when we initially have the impetus to do something, it’s easy to get derailed. Anything that gives a modicum of stress can be enough to sap the desire to continue whatever journey you started, whether that be the buying journey to discover a new bottle or even the start of the re-buying journey that begins at the consumer’s home staring at their wine rack.

So many times this past year, I’ve gone to that rack, searching for something to drink only to feel the pangs and hesitations of “Ugh, do I really want to deal with this?”

Do I really want to muck around digging out the corkscrew? Do I want to fuss with the foil or fight with some blasted wax capsule that only makes me angry that I bought this wine in the first place? Is it worth the time or effort to enjoy this bottle of wine?

Often, the answer is yes because I’m an “engaged enthusiast.” But sometimes the answer is, indeed, No.

No, it’s not worth it.  And if that is the case with someone who is in the minority of consumers that are engaged enthusiasts, how often do you think “Nah, it’s not worth it.” comes up for the majority who are just looking for something to drink?

How often do they look at their wine rack and think it’s not worth the time and effort to enjoy a bottle of wine?

Of course, this goes far beyond packaging.

wax capsule

Seriously though, fuck wax capsules.
Even with the “good” wax that you can drill through with a corkscrew with little mess, they’re still a colossal pain if you want to use a Coravin for just a single glass.

We do so many things as an industry to keep piling on the effort we expect consumers to endure to enjoy our products. How much thinking do you want to do at that wine rack while picking out a bottle? Which pairing will work? Do I need to decant this? Is this wine ready to drink? Will this be sweet? Tart? Tannic? Earthy? What grape is even in this bottle?

Sometimes you don’t want to do any of that. You don’t want to think. You don’t want to work.

All you want in this godforsaken crazy world is to simply enjoy a glass of wine.

That is the intent. That is the desire. Now, how many obstacles are you willing to deal with to get to that goal? In this day and age, not many.

Sometimes, all you want is just One-Click Drinking.

Copper Crew Rose

Perhaps this is another reason why canned wine is taking off? Less fuss and thinking, more fun and drinking.


Last night, the perfect antidote to that “Do I really want to deal with this?” mood was a bottle of 2019 Mac Forbes Yarra Valley Pinot noir sealed under a screw cap. I was alright with the thinking part of the equation, but I really didn’t want to mess around with finding a corkscrew. Pure, simple laziness but damn if that wasn’t the exact place I was in.

I didn’t care about the romance or traditional “pop” of a cork. I wanted the romance of less fuss and nonsense in my life. Give me the swift motion of a simple click–a smooth consumer journey from bottle to glass. No interruptions. No gadgets. Just me, my intent, my desire, and the easy achievement of that goal.

Why can’t everything in wine be as easy as screwcaps?

At every step of the consumer journey, there will be multiple opportunities for that “Ugh, is this worth it?” to pop up. It’s the “cork taint” of sales–able to spoil an entire basket with a single drop. And it’s both systemic and endemic. While you can’t always account for everything going on in a consumer’s head, there are still many things under a winery’s control–especially at the beginning of the buying process with DtC sales. From poorly designed and hard to navigate websites, impersonal and joyless shopping experiences, to even unexpectedly high shipping costs–you want to limit as many of those hiccups as you can.

You want the buying experience to be as smooth and simple as opening a screwcap wine. No need to jump through hoops. No hesitation arising while digging around to find things–whether that be a particular wine on your site, shipping details, or a corkscrew. Don’t make consumers have to cut through the foil of multiple clicks and pages to get to their end goal–that glass of wine. That only increases the chance of bugs & site errors nicking their fingertips like a bad foil cut.

The one thought I want you to leave with is to remember this time that we’re living in now. Be mindful of the scars and habits that are being engrained. People may still want your product. They may still desire it and initially seek it out.

But there’s always going to be opportunities for that “Ugh, is this worth it?” cork taint to seep in. Identify those trouble spots and put a screw cap on them.

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Ending the Year with a (Wine) Bitch https://spitbucket.net/2020/12/31/ending-the-year-with-a-wine-bitch/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-the-year-with-a-wine-bitch https://spitbucket.net/2020/12/31/ending-the-year-with-a-wine-bitch/#respond Thu, 31 Dec 2020 18:05:40 +0000 http://spitbucket.net/?p=9839 In a year of so many surprises and scandals in the wine industry, maybe I shouldn’t be shocked to see it end with a brand trying to torch any goodwill or bridges it had left. That’s 2020 for you. So let’s give a toast to The Wine Show for putting on a masterclass in crisis management gone awry. Now I don’t really want to rehash the gory details of the Great Wine Bitch Saga of…

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In a year of so many surprises and scandals in the wine industry, maybe I shouldn’t be shocked to see it end with a brand trying to torch any goodwill or bridges it had left. That’s 2020 for you.

So let’s give a toast to The Wine Show for putting on a masterclass in crisis management gone awry.

Now I don’t really want to rehash the gory details of the Great Wine Bitch Saga of 2020.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons in the Public Domain.
But I know that many Americans (the bulk of my readership) aren’t familiar with the scandal that roiled the UK wine scene earlier this year. So I will point you to a couple useful summaries published on Tim Atkin’s site from Anne Burchett and Peter Pharos. Vinka Danitza of Bottled Bliss first broke the story on her site with a post taken down after threats of legal action. On Power and Privilege, her follow-up post, gives a good sense of the fall out–even if the details were muzzled.

Finally, we have the words of the Wine Bitch himself, Joe Fattorini, in the public apology he posted.

So how did I get dragged into this mess? Oh lordy! Read on.

I’ve been a fan of The Wine Show for quite some time. I enjoyed watching clips and TWS @ Home series on YouTube until I moved to a country where my Amazon Prime account finally let me watch the full shows. I was also a fan of Joe Fattorini, one of the first influential wine figures on Twitter that I regularly interacted with. I’ll admit that I was quite tickled and even fan-girly when I got the chance to work with him earlier this year (Pre-Wine Bitch) on a couple panels for ARENI Global’s Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines conference.

I found Joe to be quite charming, insightful and, to me at least, a gentleman and generous mentor. So when the Wine Bitch scandal broke out, I was disappointed and disgusted at seeing this side of him. My heart ached for the women (many of whom I follow on social media and highly respect) he slandered. Not only did these women feel the sharp sting of his words, but they had to endure these wounds in public with their names attached to Joe’s vile depictions of them.

So I thoroughly supported the voices that called him to task–and I still do.

But one area where I wasn’t critical was with The Wine Show continuing with Joe Fattorini. And I’ll tell you my reasons.

I firmly believe that to enact change, we must always push for change–pushing for justice, pushing for accountability (even with ourselves). However, that change will never happen unless we also give those offending parties a chance to show their growth.

The gravest ill of “Cancel Culture” is that it wants the scorched earth of accountability to be the endgame. Yet a lesson that those of us in the wine industry know all too well is that the wake of devastation following a scorching wildfire is not a period. It’s an ellipsis.

It’s a new chapter with fertile earth that has the potential to become…something. Something new, something different and, hopefully, something better.

Now, of course, there’s a chance that all that emerges are weeds and thorns.

Old habits with no contrition nor growth. But we’ll never know if all we do is keep lighting matches.

Those of us who strive to hold people like Joe Fattorini accountable, and push them to be better, need to allow them a chance to do just that. To grow and show that growth. There is no victory (moral or otherwise) in banishing them to live like a troll in a cave—just loss.

In a private conversation, which she’s given me permission to share, diversity consultant Kirsten MacLeod perfectly sums up this point and the opportunity that The Wine Show and Joe Fattorini have in front of them.

To help move the Diversity and Inclusion dial forward, there is a need for active allies in the form of white middle-age men, often occupying positions of influence and power in the industry. These advocates with a voice, sitting at the decision-making table, need to be onboard to make change, not ignored or constantly berated.

— Kirsten MacLeod (@TheKirstenMac)

We live in a world that is still profoundly influenced by Salty Old White Men. While we should never overlook or excuse away their misbehavior, if there is a chance that in the fertile earth following a scorched “canceling” that wisdom earned and lessons learned produce a better ally, then we need to see if that’s the case.

So, like many other industry folks & viewers of The Wine Show, I was watching.

Watching to see how this next chapter would proceed. How will they address this? What overtures and amends would they offer to the women and other figures hurt by Joe’s actions?

With such an immense platform in the UK and growing global reach through YouTube and streaming services like Amazon Prime & Hulu, think of the good they could do. Think of the spotlight they could shine on issues of sexism in the wine industry and those faced by POC and other underrepresented communities.

Even if the Wine Bitch missives were not published under The Wine Show banner, they’re inextricably linked now to Joe’s name and persona. So a platform like The Wine Show, which aims to not only profit from but project that persona, is inextricably linked as well. It’s unavoidable and inescapable. That is why The Wine Show needs to step up to the task. They owe that to their viewers–viewers like me who were willing to give them and Joe another chance.

But, sadly, it doesn’t look like The Wine Show wants to go down that path.

Instead, they seem to want to burn bridges and keep the embers of the Wine Bitch controversy alive.

The latest gasoline pitch came a couple of days ago when a wine writer based in Italy, Sarah May (@naturalwinerome), noted that both The Wine Show and Joe Fattorini were blocking voices that had been critical of them during the Wine Bitch saga.

While I didn’t take issue with the private account of a public person blocking people, I was quite bewildered as to why a business account like The Wine Show would think this was a great idea. What could they possibly gain beyond scoring petty points? Was that something worth stirring up more animosity towards your brand?

Sarah May wasn’t the only one.  And while I wasn’t blocked at that moment, I woke up this morning to find that that tweet above had earned me my own kiss of derision.

(Note: Hours later, after the outcry, I was no longer blocked by the TWS account. Though many others still are. We’ll see if any of that changes.)

That’s one hell of a message to send to your viewers.

That’s a message that says, “No, we don’t care what our viewers think.”
No, we’re not going to learn from mistakes–even mistakes originally made by someone else. No, we’re not going to use the power we have–the power that viewers like you give us–to make a meaningful difference.

Even more bizarrely, for a business, this is a message that says, “We want more controversy.”
We want to pull the plug on any goodwill that might still be in the reservoir. We want to alienate voices before they even get a chance to speak in our favor.

And it is a masterclass in burning your brand.

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Three Lessons Learned After 7 Months of Virtual Wine Events https://spitbucket.net/2020/12/01/three-lessons-learned-after-7-months-of-virtual-wine-events/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=three-lessons-learned-after-7-months-of-virtual-wine-events https://spitbucket.net/2020/12/01/three-lessons-learned-after-7-months-of-virtual-wine-events/#respond Tue, 01 Dec 2020 19:34:15 +0000 http://spitbucket.net/?p=9806 Today marks the 7 month anniversary since the launch of VirtualWineEvents.com. Despite still being a very young site, I’ve been thrilled with its growth. We’ve had more than 7400 events featured with over 5700 unique site visitors. Additionally, more than 400 folks have created accounts to submit events. But the most exciting part is seeing the data from the site about what kind of virtual events consumers are seeking. It’s one thing to have anecdotes,…

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Today marks the 7 month anniversary since the launch of VirtualWineEvents.com. Despite still being a very young site, I’ve been thrilled with its growth. We’ve had more than 7400 events featured with over 5700 unique site visitors. Additionally, more than 400 folks have created accounts to submit events.

Image by Pixabay

But the most exciting part is seeing the data from the site about what kind of virtual events consumers are seeking. It’s one thing to have anecdotes, but the hard numbers about what people are actually clicking on are deeply fascinating.

So today I’m going to share some of these insights gleaned from seven months of data from VirtualWineEvents.com. As I said when I first launched VWE, my goal has always been for this site to be a tool for the wine industry to help reach consumers. It’s why I have no interest in monetizing the site with things like sponsored listings or ads. I want to keep the richness of organic feedback–something that anyone can see, anytime, in things like the Trending Events and Trending Video Replays sections.

Though first, some caveats.

One, the data is deliberately very limited to protect the privacy of users. Not only do we respect GDPR on the site, but I have no interest in demographic details of users or what they do elsewhere. It’s only what they do on the site–which listings they interact with–that I care about. So if you want details about age, gender, income brackets or other interests, then you’re not going to find it here. The only data is from people who intentionally allow cookies and even that is limited to just very general details like location. Thus, the data below reflects the actions of only about half the nearly 6000 users of VWE.

Finally, the current audience for VirtualWineEvents.com is significantly biased towards the US.

After that, a good segment of our audience comes from the UK and South Africa and then Australia, Canada and India. While we’ve had visitors from over 70 countries (including growing traffic from New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, France, Netherlands, Brazil and Sweden), the US’s influence will still be highly reflected in these numbers.

In future posts, I’ll dive deeper into buzz ratings–highlighting events that have seen the most interaction on the site. In October, I did a lengthy Twitter thread about the Top 10 most popular listings ever featured on VWE. Since then, that Top 10 has shaken up a bit as video replays become an even more significant buzz generator.

But now, let’s get to the three biggest insights that have emerged about virtual wine events.

Lesson 1 – When is the best time to host virtual events?

Answer – It depends.

Overall, the time slot that has seen the highest number of pure interactions is 19:00 GMT (2 pm EST, 11 am PST). This is prime time for the UK, Central Europe (8 pm) and South Africa (9 pm). It also overlaps with viable US times (especially on the weekends). But I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is the most popular time slot. While that time has had the greatest cumulative number of interactions (clicks, bookmarking, calendar adds, etc.), users only interact with an average of 2.4 events that are scheduled to start in that time slot.

Instead, the overwhelming leader in terms of average event interactions is 0:00 GMT–midnight in London but entering prime time for the US from 7 pm East Coast to 4 pm Pacific. Users interact with an average of 6.1 events during this time slot, followed by 23:00 GMT (average 4.5 interactions) and 22:00 GMT. Again, significant US-bias at play here. Below I have a chart of each time slot ranked by the average interactions they see from users. In blue, I’ve highlighted the “prime time” hours of 5 pm to 9 pm (4:30 to 9:30 pm in ACST and India) when most events are held.

Engagement times on VWE by interaction

AUS Central is ACST, which includes South Australia (Adelaide, Barossa Valley, etc.)

Another time slot that jumped out to me was 17:00 GMT (Noon EST, 9 am PST) when many trade webinars are held. Many individual events in this time slot have generated a fair amount of buzz ratings (often through video replays), though overall it’s not a big hour. But the near-even distribution between US and UK users does seem to bear out the value of these times for industry events.

17:00 GMT interaction

Takeaways:

Be mindful of your audience and err towards the prime time hours when you can. (Though I’m curious about that 8 pm drop in the West Coast US. Dinner time conflicts?) This is particularly true if you’re doing an event that involves tasting. Because let’s face it, not many folks want to drink wine at 9 am. But for more educational and informative events, the 17:00 to 19:00 GMT slots make a lot of sense to maximize overlap with engage audiences in Europe, South Africa & the US.

Lesson 2 – Virtual Tastings or Webinars? What is more popular?

To some degree, this is a question of who the audience for virtual wine events really is. Is it “regular” consumers who tend to gravitate towards tastings? Or is it more industry folks and highly engaged “winos” who tend to look for more educational events?

On VWE, I allow submitters to self-categorize their events as Virtual Tastings, Webinars, Social Events, IG Lives and Other. I leave the definition of the event up to them, but in the FAQ section, I offer this guidance:

Virtual Tastings– Events focused on specific wines to be tasted, usually with an expectation that participants have pre-purchased the wines ahead of the event.

Webinars– Events focused on a particular topic (such as Old Vine Zinfandel or the Wines of Rioja) that may include tasting specific wines but are structured to where participants don’t necessarily need to have those exact wines in order to enjoy the event. This would also include master classes and other educational events.

Social Events– This is a broad category that includes trivia, quizzes and other wine games, virtual happy hours, yoga, painting and cooking classes, book clubs, Twitter chats, movie viewing parties, etc.

Instagram Live– Due to the growing popularity of these events, we’ve created a separate category to highlight them. IG Lives often incorporate elements of Virtual Tastings, Webinars and Social Events with the common link being the convenience of being able to easily drop in on them while they’re happening.

While the popularity of Social Events & IG Lives ebb and flow (both were way more popular during lockdowns but still have some legs in the US), virtual tastings and webinars have shown remarkable staying power. And it’s pretty darn even between the two.

Virtual Tasting Engagement
webinar engagements

Takeaways:

Obviously, we’ll need to keep watching these numbers whenever things hopefully, someday get back to “normal.” While it’s easy to envision webinars still going strong post-COVID, I know many folks have been skeptical about the long term viability of virtual tastings. I don’t think we can pull any concrete takeaways from the data just yet. However, after seven months, there’s enough here to suggest that there will be some sustained interest in VTs.

Lesson 3 – Free or Paid events?

Outside of the “When should I hold my event?” question, the topic of whether an online event should have the cost of wine included upfront or be a free BYOB (bring your own bottle) event is one of the most frequent queries I get. This was the subject of another lengthy Twitter thread I did last month while looking at the data for the top 100 events based on buzz ranking.

That was more back of the envelope extrapolating. But looking at the hard data, events categorized as “Free” do get significantly more engagement. The average user engages with 3.6 free events compared to 2.3 engagements with all other events. However, as I noted in the Twitter thread, it does seem like that trend is changing with more consumers having their interest piqued by paid events.

Free events on VWE

Note: If an event lists a cost range like $0-20, it is not categorized as a “Free” event.

From Impulse to Intent.

In the Twitter thread, I shared my suspicion that one of the drivers of this change is that the mindset of consumers looking for online wine events seems to be shifting. At the beginning of the year, with the COVID pandemic and lockdowns freshly sprung upon us, folks were looking for an escape, for entertainment. That search for distraction played well with the novelty of virtual tasting and easy to consume options like IG Lives.

But as we settle into our new normal with (hopefully) more entertainment options opening up, wine consumers aren’t necessarily looking for distractions anymore. Instead, the ones who continue to seek out virtual events are looking for particular things. It’s more active engagement instead of passive consumption. We’re moving from a mindset of impulse (Hmm, is there anything to do tonight?) towards one of intent (I want to do ________). And consumers are usually more willing to pay for something that fits what they are explicitly seeking versus what strikes them on a whim.

This relates to another trend I see on the site.

The average user is spending a lot more time on VirtualWineEvents.com, clicking and engaging with listings. Right now, the average engagement is 3 minutes and 6 seconds. But compare the numbers from our first two months (May & June) with those of the past two (October & November).

May June engagement time

Oct Nov engagement time

Not only is the overall average engagement time higher but the average per session is also nearly a full minute longer (1m 06s to 1m 53s). And it’s not because there are more events to look through each calendar day. On the contrary, May and June were the two most prolific months with nearly 2600 events. At the other end, October and November only featured around 1200 events.

But even though the number of events has waned since the pandemic-induced frenzy of virtual tastings, the overall quality of events has improved. And accordingly, the seriousness and selectiveness of the consumers looking for these events have risen in response.

So what comes next?

While there was a lull in events during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, activity has definitely picked up in the winter. It surprised me to see already 412 events submitted for December and another 91 for January. Typically that number slowly builds throughout a month as events get submitted on average 3 to 7 days before they happen. Quite a few only get submitted the day of or day before.

I hope this trend is pointing towards hosts being more proactive in scheduling events with enough time to promote them.  We really need to move beyond a “fly by the pants” mentality of throwing things together and just hoping people show up. Allowing more time to promote gives events a chance to build buzz and reach more consumers. As people move from what’s happening now? to actively searching for events that they want to attend, you want to show up in that search even if your event is still several days or weeks away.

And you want them to find you after the fact as well.
Add past event

Even if your event wasn’t originally featured on VWE, you can still add a video replay link.

I can’t overstate the value of video replays–especially webinars and winemaker events. That archive of quality content is truly the future of virtual wine events and where folks can find their most significant ROI. This will be another area that I’ll explore more in future posts as I keenly keep an eye on what’s popping up on the Trending Replay section.

Another thing I’m working on is categorizing the buzz rating data by keywords in their descriptions to compare events. I want to see how events with things like cooking class, blind tasting, cheese pairing, etc., fare in generating engagement. Which grape varieties or wine regions generate the most buzz? Does featuring a well-known moderator, Master of Wine or Master Sommelier help set some events apart? Tons of great stuff to sink my teeth into.

Of course, folks are welcome to ping me (amber@spitbucket.net) anytime about virtual events. As I said above, my goal for VWE is to be a tool for the wine industry. So if there are ways that this data can help wineries, wine shops, restaurants, educators and influencers better reach consumers, I’ll do my best to share it freely.

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An Apology to the Pretty Influencer on Instagram https://spitbucket.net/2020/10/30/an-apology-to-the-pretty-influencer-on-instagram/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-apology-to-the-pretty-influencer-on-instagram https://spitbucket.net/2020/10/30/an-apology-to-the-pretty-influencer-on-instagram/#respond Fri, 30 Oct 2020 13:28:02 +0000 http://spitbucket.net/?p=9786 I’m sure you don’t know me and probably will never read this. I don’t follow you because I never bothered to learn your IG handle and I doubt we share the same social media circles. But we once shared space together attending the same Wine Spectator Grand Tour at the Mirage Hotel back in 2017. You were gorgeous. Wavy brown hair falling below your shoulders and an emerald green top which matched your eyes. Slender…

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I’m sure you don’t know me and probably will never read this. I don’t follow you because I never bothered to learn your IG handle and I doubt we share the same social media circles. But we once shared space together attending the same Wine Spectator Grand Tour at the Mirage Hotel back in 2017.

Selfie image by https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49829170

Image by By Anders Lejczak – CC BY 2.0

You were gorgeous. Wavy brown hair falling below your shoulders and an emerald green top which matched your eyes. Slender tan legs peeking out from a modestly short dress skirt and heels. Dangly gold earrings that you would repeatedly hit as you brushed your hair back to bend down towards the spit bucket. I admit you were a sight to behold.

And I hated you for that.

I remember the first table that we “bumped” into each other. It was a Super Tuscan producer that I was eager to try and wanted to ask questions about the blend. But the charming Italian man at the table only wanted to speak to you, barely looking my way to give me a splash. It wasn’t long before I was butted out by other attendees–men, of course–who similarly wanted a taste and to ask the pretty lady next to them what she thought of the wine as well.

It was at a California Pinot producer’s table that I overheard you say that you were an influencer, prompting an eye roll behind your back.

Dear god, she’s actually using the term influencer!

The winery rep was eager to get your card and got out his phone to make sure that he followed you at that very moment. When I finally worked up the nerve to nudge my way towards the table for a pour, I didn’t bother staying to ask any questions. The rep wasn’t going to give me any time. After all, we were standing in the presence of an influencer!

Similar scenes would play out at other tables that we kept bumping into. There were over 200 exhibits but damn if it wasn’t my luck that we kept hitting the same ones. There were times that I would turn the corner towards a desired destination only to see green and then “noped” my way to another section of the floor–trying to get away from the pretty Instagram influencer that was fouling my night.

I was sitting near the food table with my wife, when you paused to grab something yourself.

It didn’t take long for another man to approach you for a chat. Picking among the charcuterie and cheeses, I overheard you mention that you just started as a sommelier at one of the hotel restaurants in Vegas. I made a crack to my wife that we should mark that restaurant off our list of places to play the Somm Game at.

By that point, in my mind, you were a caricature of everything that was wrong in the wine industry. The influencer who takes more selfies than bottle shots–more tits than tasting notes. The ones who keep feeding into the mantras that “Sex Sells” and “Horses for Courses“–making it difficult for all the rest of us women in wine to be taken seriously.

Never mind that likely none of that was true. You were an easy target to funnel my internal anger and jealousy towards. Though I never approached you or spoke a word of snark your way, I still did you a grave injustice. And for that, I’m deeply sorry.

I thought about you when reading The New York Times yesterday.

Reading the words of the brave women featured in Julia Moskin’s piece, I couldn’t help but put you in there. As a young somm starting out in a place like Las Vegas, how much of their stories is yours as well?

Thinking of that made me cry.

I cried because in the same breath that I ardently wish for things to be different and despair that they’re not, I know that in my own way I’m complicit. I may speak the right words and do the right things to build up other women, but I know in my heart that I’ve also torn them down.

While that makes me feel immense guilt, there’s also immense rage when I think of the perverse privilege at play. No, I’m not talking just about male privilege.

But rather my own as a “not pretty girl.”

Outside of one handsy customer during my retail days, I’ve been fortunate in my wine career to have not encountered anything close to the kind of harassment and compromising positions that other women have been put into.

The pain of being violated or having your entire career depend on whether or not you give in to a man’s advances is one that I’ve never had to deal with. While I’ve chafed and burned with jealousy at the access and attention that the “pretty girls” get, it was my own privilege of not having to deal with unwanted attention from men which kept it from dawning on me that there was a price to pay for that access. Sometimes a very terrible price.

And the mere fact that something like that is a privilege in this world is a whole other level of fucked up shit.

It’s fucked up that we live in a world that encourages this “Mean Girls” dynamic among women–of the haves (Access & Harassment) and have nots.

It’s fucked up that we live in a world that still tries to tell us that sex sells. Or that we shouldn’t balk when our industry seeks to leverage that.

This should be the funnel for our anger. This fucked up dynamic that divides us and puts women of all shades in terrible positions. The pretty girl. The mean girl. The outgoing girl. The shy girl.

When all that we really are are just tired of this fucking shit girls.

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Blog Hiatus till November https://spitbucket.net/2020/09/21/blog-hiatus-till-november/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blog-hiatus-till-november https://spitbucket.net/2020/09/21/blog-hiatus-till-november/#respond Mon, 21 Sep 2020 14:10:54 +0000 http://spitbucket.net/?p=9775 Hey guys, Sorry that it has been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy learning first hand how difficult it is to move countries in the middle of a pandemic–and I’m far from done yet. Earlier this summer, the wife accepted a new position in London. While I love being in Paris, I’m super excited about this move as London is the heart of the global wine trade. It’s also the base of…

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Hey guys,

By Mikescottwood11 - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11597030

Sorry that it has been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy learning first hand how difficult it is to move countries in the middle of a pandemic–and I’m far from done yet.

Earlier this summer, the wife accepted a new position in London. While I love being in Paris, I’m super excited about this move as London is the heart of the global wine trade. It’s also the base of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust which will make finishing my WSET Diploma easier, followed by (hopefully) applying for the MW program.

But even though the UK is just over the Channel from France, trying to coordinate a move and working through visa applications is a doozy. As an American, I can’t really blame Brexit but I’m sure the looming uncertainty there has not helped when it comes to finding French and British lawyers/banks/companies, etc that are willing to work together to help us get from point A to point B.

Then, of course, there’s the inevitable drag and delays driven by COVID. Even setting foot in the UK to look for a permanent place to move to is stipulated on first a 14-day quarantine period. So looks like it’s going to be a temporary Air B&B dwelling with our stuff in storage for god knows how long.

All of this is just a long way of saying that I’m putting the blog on hold till at least November. I’ll still be maintaining VirtualWineEvents.com and posting things on my social media channels of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook–albeit less frequently.

My goal is to hopefully get settled by the end of this year and be raring to go at the start of 2021. Thank you to all my subscribers and readers who have sent notes and messages. I really appreciate hearing from you. I’ll be back, I promise!

Take care and stay safe,

Amber

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The New Wall of Wine & Why Some Wineries Aren’t Even Making it to the Shelf https://spitbucket.net/2020/08/16/the-new-wall-of-wine-why-some-wineries-arent-even-making-it-to-the-shelf/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-new-wall-of-wine-why-some-wineries-arent-even-making-it-to-the-shelf https://spitbucket.net/2020/08/16/the-new-wall-of-wine-why-some-wineries-arent-even-making-it-to-the-shelf/#respond Sun, 16 Aug 2020 18:31:42 +0000 http://spitbucket.net/?p=9750 By now, I’m sure a lot of folks have heard about the viral video of two brothers reacting to hearing Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’ for the first time. If Tim and Fred Williams want to continue their tour of 80s hits, one song that the wine industry could certainly use a blast from the past of is Lionel Richie’s 1983 classic ‘Hello (Is it Me You’re Looking For?)‘. That’s because as we stare…

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By now, I’m sure a lot of folks have heard about the viral video of two brothers reacting to hearing Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’ for the first time. If Tim and Fred Williams want to continue their tour of 80s hits, one song that the wine industry could certainly use a blast from the past of is Lionel Richie’s 1983 classic ‘Hello (Is it Me You’re Looking For?)‘.

That’s because as we stare into a future of more consumers beginning their buying journeys with online searches, many wineries have no clue of how to win the hearts (& wallets) of those consumers.

Even before COVID, a new Wall of Wine was being built that wineries needed to adapt for. But it’s not what we find in brick and mortar settings. It’s the changing way that consumers approach shopping for products to buy–as well as places to travel and visit.

Sleep on Search and Digital at your own peril.

Smartphones have changed the way we live and think about everything. Having a world of knowledge at our fingertips has fundamentally reprioritized how we approach information–what’s important to remember vs. what we can search for on the fly. And while, as a wine geek, I hate to admit this, for a lot of consumers, “wine knowledge” is pretty low on the totem pole of things worth remembering.

Wine Intelligence has noted this trend for some time but points out that this, interestingly, coincides with greater overall consumer confidence in buying wine.

Why?

Because a consumer doesn’t need to fret about knowing the difference between Pinot noir in Burgundy compared to Oregon when all they need to do is Google it. The answer is right there–or at least an answer good enough to satisfy their query. While “serious wine people” may quibble at things like Wikipedia and Wine Folly being top results, regular consumers sure don’t. This is the future, so we need to be paying attention to it.

Think of how many wine sales begin with a question. What’s a good Napa Cab to give as a gift? Are there vegan-friendly wines? What’s the best wine to have with chicken marsala? Even at restaurants or wine shops, consumers are just as likely to Google the answer as they are to ask a sommelier or steward. Maybe even more so.

Now think of how many wine sales are missed by wineries not evening trying to be the answer to those questions.

Do you have a spot on the digital Wall of Wine?

Come on, Lionel! People are searching. Are they finding you?

Don’t just Google yourself. Google what you do, what you make and where you are. Think of questions that consumers might ask that could lead them to you. Take a look at this search for California Zinfandel.

California Zinfandel Google Search

BTW, if you’re doing a virtual tasting/webinar, these questions in the Google results box would be great titles & themes to use.

The wineries mentioned in first page results (particularly in the very click-coaxing starred articles) definitely have a shelf spot on the digital Wall of Wine. But even if you’re not showing up in results for a high-value search term like “California Zinfandel,” hope is not lost. You could still show up on the first (maybe second) page of results for things like spicy Zins, Zinfandels that aren’t sweet, bold Zins, sustainable Zinfandels, Cheap Zins that don’t taste cheap, etc. While you may not be at prime “eye-level” placement on the digital shelf, finding yourself at least somewhere is better than not being stocked at all.

And don’t forget to check out YouTube as well. More and more people are incorporating video search in their buying journeys. This is an area that is only going to continue to grow–especially with the integration of voice search and smart TVs into our lives.

The importance of this extends far beyond just online shopping.

Even if you don’t want to bother with that “digital stuff,” the digital stuff is certainly going to bother you if your winery is built around tourism and tasting room visits. It’s very likely that one of the long-term impacts of COVID (as well as growing concern about the carbon footprint of traveling) means that folks are going to be more selective about where they go. If people are traveling less, they’re going to be researching more to make those fewer trips really count. And where do you think they’re going to be doing this research?

Picture a Zin-loving consumer at home, sitting on their couch, thinking about taking a trip to Sonoma. They turn on their smart tv, go to YouTube and start researching “Wineries with old vine Zin in Sonoma.” What are they going to find? Is it you they’re looking for?

Old vine Zin Sonoma YouTube

Mostly product reviews with really only one winery-produced video in the top results.

Do you remember me talking about wineries needing to think BIG about Virtual Tastings and Online Wine Events?

Folks, it was never about selling tasting packs as a short term revenue gap. It was never about trying to replace tasting rooms or just making due until things “got back to normal”. The wineries that took that approach are no better off today than they were before lockdown.

The wine businesses that hit home runs as virtual wine events were taking off were the ones that realized the value in the content they were producing. Content that shows up on searches.

In the last few months, hours upon hours of new wine content have been added to the digital Wall of Wine.  And it’s still coming as wineries, wine shops, influencers and educators find more ways to leverage these digital tools. Some of it’s great with strong keywords (not ‘Virtual Tasting May 14th with the Winemaker’ stuff) and captions containing more relevant search terms. Some are pretty blah, showing the half-hearted effort and short-term thinking of the people behind them.

The really savvy folks find ways to use the content from an online event in multiple ways.

Maybe that involves partnering with a digital marketing firm to add a professional flair and slice it up into easily digestible 2 to 4-minute nuggets like what Pour Agency and Outshinery do with their productions. These could be uploaded to places like YouTube and Vimeo where they’re prime to show up on consumer searches–giving you more opportunities to reach consumers.

Plus, don’t forget winery websites (many of which could use some love and touch up). Think about how much more alive and humanized a product detail page could be with a short video clip of the winemaker talking to real people about the wine at a virtual tasting.

Heck, I’m sure that even the most blasé virtual tasting or Instagram Live has at least two to three sound-bite moments. Why not mine these for 20 to 40-second clips that could be used on social media? Lord knows that wineries are never short in need of fresh SM content.

Sonoma Zin VWE search results

On VirtualWineEvents.com, we’re seeing a lot of traffic move towards people looking for video replays of past events. So it’s clear that this content has the potential to keep delivering results long after the event.

The digital Wall of Wine is only going to get more crowded.

If there is any lesson to be learned from COVID, it’s about how tenuous the old marketing playbook can be. It all works great, up until the point that it doesn’t. Tasting rooms, restaurant sales, they can all be gone in a snap. And retail is certainly not going to get any easier.

With DtC sales the lifeblood of many wineries, it’s never been more critical to keep the blood pumping. It’s not enough to rely on impulse and influence to make a sale. You have to cultivate intent.

Your consumers are already searching for their next bottle to buy or tasting room to visit. Is it you they’re searching for?

And, most importantly, is it you they’re going to find?

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What’s the Future of Virtual Wine Tastings? https://spitbucket.net/2020/07/28/whats-the-future-of-virtual-wine-tastings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=whats-the-future-of-virtual-wine-tastings https://spitbucket.net/2020/07/28/whats-the-future-of-virtual-wine-tastings/#respond Tue, 28 Jul 2020 18:02:21 +0000 http://spitbucket.net/?p=9732 While the present is still grim in some areas (such as South Africa), many wine regions have open up their tasting rooms even in a limited, socially distant capacity. That’s been sure relief for cash-strapped wineries and a welcome respite for wine lovers who need to digitally detox. (Provided they feel safe and welcomed.) But make no mistake. There is still a lot of value and a healthy market for online wine events. The folks…

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While the present is still grim in some areas (such as South Africa), many wine regions have open up their tasting rooms even in a limited, socially distant capacity. That’s been sure relief for cash-strapped wineries and a welcome respite for wine lovers who need to digitally detox. (Provided they feel safe and welcomed.)
Photo by Sarah Stierch (CC BY 4.0). Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons
But make no mistake. There is still a lot of value and a healthy market for online wine events. The folks that have gotten used to finding wine edu-tainment from the comforts of their couch aren’t melting away in the summer heat.

Since launching VirtualWineEvent.com in early May, I expected things to get quieter as places opened back up. But if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been writing as much, I can tell you that those expectations didn’t play out. Running VWE is turning into a full-time job with managing listings as well as counseling wine businesses about their events. (Though we’re still committed to keeping this as a free resource for the wine industry.)

Now I will say that the number of online wine events featured on the site each day has certainly decreased from a high point of 60-70+ a day in May/June to about 30 to 40 a day. (Though, to be frank, that high point was a bit much.) However, our site traffic keeps rolling on. A big reason, I suspect, is that even though the number of events have gone down, the overall quality has gone up.

Sure, there’s still the smattering of sucky virtual tastings.

But the number is much lower as those wineries putting on those lackluster events likely didn’t see many results for their efforts. Maybe they had a little bump in the first few weeks but probably soon saw attendance and enthusiasm fizzle. However, the wineries, wine shops, educators and influencers that got it–that figured out how the game was to be played–are the ones we see still investing and putting out quality online wine events.

Now, of course, there isn’t a magical formula. However, there are definitely some common threads that have emerged. First among them was the initial approach. As I told Jess Landers of SevenFiftyDaily in her article, How Wine Brands Can Successfully Utilize Virtual Tastings to Drive Consumer Sales, trying to replicate the tasting room experience virtually is a nonstarter. Those who tried usually failed spectacularly.

The wineries that viewed virtual tastings as nothing more than a revenue stopgap were always thinking too small and too limited. Meanwhile, other wineries, like Ridge Vineyards and the many who have partnered with 67 Pall Mall, approached these events as brand-building opportunities instead of wannabe tasting room experiences. These are the folks who nailed it from the get-go and will continue to see results.

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about this and more as part of Outshinery’s On the Spot – The State of NOW in the Wine Industry panel.

Outshinery Promo

You can save your spot for the event here.

I encourage my readers to save a spot and join us at 10 am PST/1 pm EST. I’ll be sharing many of the insights that I’ve learned from managing VWE.

I’m not going to give them all away here, but I’ll leave you with this thought.

In a crowded marketplace, you can’t always rely on impulse driving a sale. Think of a label or bulk stack catching a consumer’s eyes. The sign on the road saying “Tasting Room Open.” That interesting name and just right price on the wine list. All the things that we used to rely on encouraging a wine lover to give you a shot.

As the COVID shutdown has shown us, relying on impulse is tenuous. Instead, you need to drive intent. You need to give consumers a reason to look for your wines, to want to go to your tasting room or visit your website and social media.

The ease and global reach of digital video is a powerful seed planter and intent driver. The future of virtual wine events belongs to the wineries and wine businesses that understand this.

And that future is now.

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60 Second Wine Review – Domaine of the Bee https://spitbucket.net/2020/07/24/60-second-wine-review-domaine-of-the-bee/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=60-second-wine-review-domaine-of-the-bee https://spitbucket.net/2020/07/24/60-second-wine-review-domaine-of-the-bee/#respond Fri, 24 Jul 2020 11:56:48 +0000 http://spitbucket.net/?p=9725 Note: This was a sample wine. A few quick thoughts on the 2017 Domaine of the Bee red blend from the Côtes du Roussillon-Villages AOC. The Geekery Justin Howard-Sneyd is a Master of Wine who, after a long career as a wine buyer for Safeway/Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Laithwaites, founded Domaine of the Bee with his wife, Amanda, and friend, Philippe Sacerdot. From the first vintage in 2007, the flagship red is a blend of…

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Note: This was a sample wine.

A few quick thoughts on the 2017 Domaine of the Bee red blend from the Côtes du Roussillon-Villages AOC.

Domaine of the Bee Red Blend

The Geekery

Justin Howard-Sneyd is a Master of Wine who, after a long career as a wine buyer for Safeway/Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Laithwaites, founded Domaine of the Bee with his wife, Amanda, and friend, Philippe Sacerdot.

From the first vintage in 2007, the flagship red is a blend of Grenache and Carignan sourced from their 4 ha estate spread out over three plots in the Agly Valley just south of Maury. Many of these vines are extremely old such as the WWI-era plantings in the schist soils of La Coume de Roy & La Roque and the 60+-year-old vines of Grenache planted on a streak of limestone at Bac de Genievres.

From the tiny yields of these old vines, Domaine of the Bee works with winemakers Richard Case (Domaine Pertuisane) and Jean-Marc Lafage (Domaine Lafage) to produce just 2500 to 5000 bottles a year.

The Wine

Photo By Roaa amer zatari. Uploaded to Wikimedia commons under CC BY-SA 4.0,

The roasted rosemary and lovely floral notes add depth to the rich fruit of this wine.

High-intensity nose–rich dark fruit (black cherry, plums) with some savory, roasted herbs. With air, a lovely floral note of violets & lavender emerge.

On the palate, those dark fruits carry through bringing chocolate & a creamy vanilla component as well. Medium-plus acidity with some stem character adds cinnamon spice and keeps the fruit feeling lively. Very full-bodied but well balance with no back-end heat from the alcohol. Long finish lingers on fruit & savory herbs.

The Verdict

This is a big wine but very well made, easy to drink and savor. Superbly solid for $50. With such small production, Domaine of the Bee wines can be tough to find, but in the US & UK, folks can buy direct from their site. For $30, I can also heartedly recommend the “baby brother” Bee-Side Grenache as well.

Bonus Geekery

In this excellent 67 Pall Mall webinar, Howard-Sneyd shares more of his story and what makes the Roussillon area so distinctive.

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Wine and Syrup Bottles – It’s time to do more https://spitbucket.net/2020/07/03/wine-and-syrup-bottles-its-time-to-do-more/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wine-and-syrup-bottles-its-time-to-do-more https://spitbucket.net/2020/07/03/wine-and-syrup-bottles-its-time-to-do-more/#respond Fri, 03 Jul 2020 13:19:17 +0000 http://spitbucket.net/?p=9703 There’s been a lot of talk lately about the need for change and diversity in the wine industry. Many folks have stood up to put that change into action–most notably Julia Coney’s Black Wine Professionals resource page and DLynn Proctor, Martin R. Reyes MW & Mary Margaret McCamic MW’s Wine Unify mentorship platform. However, there’s so much more that still needs to be done. The obstacles in the wine industry that hinder the growth of…

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There’s been a lot of talk lately about the need for change and diversity in the wine industry.

Mantra Dist GoFundMe

From Mantra Wine Distributors’ GoFundMe page.

Many folks have stood up to put that change into action–most notably Julia Coney’s Black Wine Professionals resource page and DLynn Proctor, Martin R. Reyes MW & Mary Margaret McCamic MW’s Wine Unify mentorship platform. However, there’s so much more that still needs to be done. The obstacles in the wine industry that hinder the growth of BIPOC are omnipresent and systemic.

Tweets, likes, shares and changing profile pics are nice gestures. But unless there are deliberate actions behind them, they’re just another dressing of “thoughts and prayers.” The digital equivalent of changing the label of a syrup bottle while ignoring the sticky mess inside.

Supporting change means enacting change.

Now there are a lot of different ways to do this, the easiest of which is simply patronizing minority-owned businesses. But, especially in the US, there are barriers that make that difficult. The archaic laws that litter the American three-tier system often suffocate direct-to-consumer options. While, thankfully, those cobwebs are being swept away one by one, the main route to new markets for many wineries or distilleries is still through distributors and wholesalers. And for small wineries, that route is often strewn with roadblocks.

Decades of consolidation have dramatically shrunk the number of distributors that small wineries can turn to. While the US wine industry grew more than fivefold from 1,800 wineries in 1995 to over 11,000 wineries in 2020, the number of distributors available to represent these brands dropped from 3000 to just 1200. Plus, there are thousands of producers from more than 60 other wine-producing countries that are also vying for spots in these limited portfolios.

But as stark as these barriers are for the typical small winery, they’re only magnified for wine & spirit brands owned by minorities.

In the Washington Post, Chanel Turner of Fou-Dre Vodka in Washington, DC, recounted her challenges in finding distribution noting, “I would set up meetings with different distributors, and they weren’t expecting to see someone like myself.” Likewise, Robin McBride of McBride Sisters Wine points out in VinePair that the struggle begins with just getting access to the “gatekeepers” in the first place.

So what are we going to do about this?

How can we, from regular consumers to industry folk, enact meaningful change to help minority-owned brands gain access to consumer markets?

Well, for one, we can put pressure on the Top 10 distributors that dominate the American wine market–all but one of which seems to be led by white men. As gatekeepers, they wield enormous influence on what wines consumers see on the shelves and wine lists of their communities. Sure, several of them put out statements about Black Lives Matter. A few changed their social media profile pics. But we’re going to need more than just syrupy sycophancy.

What we also need to do is support folks like Jonella Orozco and Brooke Lago.

These two young somms are working to put change into action. After many years in the hospitality industry in Charleston, South Carolina, they’ve started Mantra Wine Distributors to answer the lack of minority-owned wine brands being represented in their community.

While the full impact of COVID has yet to play out, Charleston is a thriving and emerging food and wine destination. In the Deep South, the city’s demographics are younger and more affluent than the median in South Carolina. And with nearly 40% growth in population since 2000, the potential of this market continues to expand.

But it’s not going to be easy. Impactful change never is.

Jonella and Brooke of Mantra

Jonella Orozco and Brooke Lago of Mantra Wine Distributors

Orozco and Lago know they have their work cut out for them. It takes a lot of capital to start a wine distribution company.  And it takes a lot of heart to do it in the middle of a pandemic. But heart and hard work is something that both these women have in spades.

While other folks are changing syrup labels, they want to change their community. They want to bring to Charleston wines that the wine lovers and tourists there aren’t getting. They want to share the stories of the many Black, Latinx, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, Women and minority-owned brands that are waiting to be discovered. And they’re willing to put in the time, sweat and tears to make that happen.

The wine industry needs more folks like Jonella Orozco and Brooke Lago.  We need more people willing to chip away at the barriers which limit access, availability and opportunities for minority-owned wine and spirits brands. Projects like Coney’s BWP help increase visibility and amplifies the voices of Black wine professionals while Wine Unify broadens educational opportunities. But we also need to take this fight to the retail shelves and wine lists of our communities.

Check out Mantra Wine Distributors’ GoFundMe page. Contribute, share, help them make this change happen.

If you’re in the wine business and want to help with mentorship and support, contact them directly.

Follow them on Instagram and Twitter. Spread the word and help inspire other folks to launch similar initiatives in their communities.

We’re past the point of just talking about change. Now we have to enact it.

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Talking Virtual Wine Events Next Week at FOMENT 2020 and on IG Live with Tablas Creek Vineyards https://spitbucket.net/2020/06/27/talking-virtual-wine-events-next-week-at-foment-2020-and-on-ig-live-with-tablas-creek-vineyards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=talking-virtual-wine-events-next-week-at-foment-2020-and-on-ig-live-with-tablas-creek-vineyards https://spitbucket.net/2020/06/27/talking-virtual-wine-events-next-week-at-foment-2020-and-on-ig-live-with-tablas-creek-vineyards/#respond Sat, 27 Jun 2020 16:05:07 +0000 http://spitbucket.net/?p=9690 It’s been a busy spring and early summer for me since the launch of VirtualWineEvents.com. I’ve been invited to several interviews and panels, mostly to talk about the industry’s adoption of these new digital tools. Two exciting ones coming up is the FOMENT Conference this Tuesday, June 30th, which I’ll follow the next day with by joining Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyards for a chat on his weekly Instagram live broadcast. I’ve posted the…

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It’s been a busy spring and early summer for me since the launch of VirtualWineEvents.com. I’ve been invited to several interviews and panels, mostly to talk about the industry’s adoption of these new digital tools. Two exciting ones coming up is the FOMENT Conference this Tuesday, June 30th, which I’ll follow the next day with by joining Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyards for a chat on his weekly Instagram live broadcast.

I’ve posted the details of these events below which I hope you’ll join us for.

At the end, I’ve also included the videos from some of the projects I mentioned above such as Destinate’s The Future of Wine Tourism Webinar, Pour Agency’s wine marketing series and a couple of The Real Business of Wine panels that I’ve been on.

FOMENT | Wine and Tourism Tech Variety Hour

Tuesday, June 30th – 16:00 ACST, 8:30 CEST, 2:30 EDT (23:30 PDT June 29th)

Broadcasting live from Yalumba’s Signature Cellar in the Barossa Valley of South Australia, FOMENT tackles the future of technology in the wine industry and tourism. While the timing isn’t ideal for Americans, registering for this free conference will get you access to the recording.

A few of the notable guests that I’m thrilled to be participating in this conference with include:

Chester Osborn of d’Arenberg in the McLaren Vale
Lisa Anderson and Max Waterson of Yalumba
Wine writer Max Allen of Australian Financial Review, JancisRobinson.com and many more
Polly Hammond of 5forests and The Real Business of Wine
Wine Business professor Damien Wilson of Sonoma State University

My lovely wife and the tech-brains behind VirtualWineEvents.com, Beth, joined me in our pre-recorded interview. We talked about the need we saw emerging during COVID. Our goal was to create a site where wineries, retailers and wine educators could post upcoming virtual tastings, webinars, Instagram Lives–completely free of charge–so they could be more easily discovered by wine lovers.

We’ve been exceedingly pleased with the response and traffic that we’re having to VirtualWineEvents.com. Even as tastings rooms start to open up, wine consumers are still looking for interesting and engaging online wine events that they can attend from the comfort of their homes. Likewise, savvy wine businesses realize the continued value of platforms that allow them to showcase their brands to consumers across the globe.

Tablas Creek Wednesday Conversations with Jason Haas on Instagram Live

Wednesday, July 1st – Noon PDT, 15:00 EDT, 21:00 CEST

A perfect case-in-point of a savvy wine business embracing digital tools is Tablas Creek Vineyards in Paso Robles. Every week they host a live stream on their Instagram page. While, for the sake of my sanity and phone notifications, I’m glad that the “witching hours” of endless IG Lives have quieted, these online events are still quite popular.

The laid-back, conversational nature of IG Lives is an easy format for consumers to pick up. All you do is follow the person hosting the event. Then when the notification comes that they’re going live, you click on it. You can watch, comment and even ask to participate if the host wants to bring other folks in to join them. It feels spontaneous and unscripted which, for many consumers, comes across as more authentic.

Numerous wineries like Tablas Creek have been hitting it out of the park with these events that they can later upload to their IGTV channel or YouTube. Check out some of the past Wednesday Conversations with Jason Haas featuring guests like Jeremy Benson of FreeTheGrapes.org, Regine Rousseau of Shall We Wine, Patrick Comiskey of Wine & Spirits Magazine, Cesar Perrin of Chateau de Beaucastel as well as several members of the Tablas team.

I particularly liked this one with Elizabeth Schneider from Wine for Normal People.

There’s often a lull at the beginning of most IG Lives while waiting for people to respond to the notification and join. I love that Haas utilizes this time by giving some behind-the-scenes updates about what’s going at the winery and vineyard. In this episode, he talks about some of the viticultural challenges of their Scruffy Hill Block.

So be sure to join us and bring your questions about virtual wine events!

In the meantime, check out the discussions below. I had a lot of fun working with Destinate Travel, the Real Business of Wine and Pour Agency with their panels and projects.

Future of Wine Tourism Session 4: Going virtual

The Future of Virtual Tastings

The Consumer, in Partnership with ARENI Global

How to Get More Customers to Join Your Winery’s Virtual Tasting Room Experience

What Content Increases Winery Followers and Likes on Social Media

What is The Best Selling Point About Your Winery? Hint: It’s Not Your Wine…

What Can Smarter Winery Marketing Do for Your Winery?

How to Increase Wine Sales with Personalized Winery Marketing

This is the full version that the snippets above were taken from. Brandon Lee of Pour Agency gives a breakdown of the key points on their blog.

01:45 – What is SpitBucket and who is Amber LeBeau?
03:45 – Why is it so important for wineries to invest in marketing and what works
04:33 – The power of YouTube and how your winery can take advantage
06:34 – How can wineries reduce the noise and provide more value?
06:44 – Making good wine alone is not good enough to get more sales
07:32 – Wineries are not only competing with their neighbor or other labels
08:38 – What can wineries be doing to capture more attention?
09:16 – Winery video creates connection and engagement in the midst of the shutdown
10:42 – What your winery might be doing wrong with social media and Instagram marketing
12:08 – Make your content meaningful and stop potential customers in their tracks
12:55 – How can wineries incentivize more people to engage with their virtual tasting room?
14:50 – Sell your brand, not just wine. Jackson Family Estates and The Wine Makers on Radio Misfits – The Wine Makers
17:58 – What video would you want to see created to make you take action and buy a winery’s wine?
20:50 – The easiest thing you can do to start winery marketing right
22:34 – Show people who you are, build meaningful connections with everyone within your winery
25:15 – Wineries should be asking their customers what they want
27:54 – Why it’s important to move forward and innovate with marketing even if you have a reputation
30:01 – What is branding and what does that mean for a winery?
32:00 – If you give people a reason to give a damn, they will give a damn.
32:14 – What’s Amber’s favorite wine?

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