Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the Wine Future conference in Rioja last week, as I had already signed up to host a corporate event in, er, Coventry. The good news, however, is that nobody took a video of me talking to lawyers and bankers about moving from a career in London to running a vineyard in Bordeaux, or of me hosting the wine tasting, but they did film some key speakers at the Wine Future conference.
Some very big guns were there and they are worth listening to. Firstly, Gary Vaynerchuk talked about the Internet Wine Revolution. (If you haven’t come across Gary Vay-ner-chuk of winelibrary.tv, Jancis Robinson’s article in the FT makes interesting reading.) I found the last part of his 25 minute presentation absorbing – catch the Gary Vaynerchuk presentation on video here. This is a man worth paying attention to – his business book, ‘Crush it’, is 2nd in the New York Times bestseller list without any advertising, and he’s got 850,000 followers on Twitter. All down to a little ‘caring’, passion and videos of him tasting wines.
“There has been a delusional outlook on business in our industry because of how many layers there are between the people that make the product and the people that drink it”, he said.
Über-critics Jancis Robinson from the UK and Robert Parker from the US were invited onto a panel of leading industry pundits. They discussed the relevance of blogs in wine, but more insightful were their opinions on the biggest challenges facing the wine industry. Both videos are 7 minutes long, although the main attractions are Jancis and Bob – it’s certainly rare to find them both together on film.
“To me, the wine industry is still a dinosaur when it comes to interactive client relationships on the internet,” said Parker. “The challenge for the wine industry is to have active, interactive internet sites…. Gary Vaynerchuk was 100% correct.”
Jancis Robinson made two key points. “The biggest challenge for such a high proportion of people in wine is actually staying in business, when one thinks about the great difficulties that many growers are now experiencing. I agree that the wine business is becoming increasingly polarised between the bottom and the top, but in fact for me, and I suspect for most of us here, it’s the middle that’s the really exciting bit and it’s the middle ground which is overcrowed and underserved by the retailers. So there’s a real problem there.” Spot on.
Back to Vaynerchuk, and his story of the film ‘Bruno’ having a huge opening night following massive publicity, and then seeing the biggest drop off for a second night in Hollywood history thanks to Twitter and Facebook because “the movie sucked”, is food for thought.
“Be good. Care about your customer. Actually give a crap about them. Because I promise you, and I’ve been in this business practically my whole life, one of the last things that wineries talk about is the consumer. They talk about distribution, they talk about having relations with the proper retailers…”
We have (all) been warned. Twitter here we come, and perhaps we should spend more time on Facebook. Not forgeting Linkedin, Youtube, Flickr… and more dedication to the blog. Dammit, I’ll have to find someone else to do my share of the winter pruning and the racking of the barrels.
As ever, your comments, suggestions and ideas are very welcome.