This post is going to sound a little strange to people who know me and realize how much time I spend trying to get more and more winemakers online. But I recently read an article and heard a flurry of tweets that have me thinking about an interesting double standard that exists in a lot of people’s minds.
I was following @vintuition and he linked to this article full of generalizations like “Old World winemakers prefer to stay offline” and “New World winemakers may not tweet much, but they do read wine blogs.” While parts of the article address a survey of 500+ winemakers and a small congregation of winemakers at an unnamed Moet-Hennessy gathering, most of it feels like a conclusion that the entire old world has flat out rejected social media.
Now a lot of you might be thinking “Ryan, this is exactly what you say all the time.” But I should clarify. It’s true that we need more winemakers online. But you have to admit, there are some winemakers already using social media. Heck, there are a lot when you stop and think about it. Winemaking is an agricultural profession so let’s stop and think about how many agriculteurs in general have adopted social media. How many corn huskers, cereal growers, and catfish farmers are out there tweeting about the daily grind? On the other hand, you’ve got lots of Languedoc Roussillon winemakers on Facebook, Twitter and Blogs.
I mentioned this on Twitter and @blogyourwine correctly pointed out that winemakers deal with the public much more frequently than those other agricultural fields. But I guess that’s kind of my point. Winemakers are already hugely interested in dealing with the public. And if you say that winemakers don’t deal enough with the public through social media considering how much they sell direct to the public, I think that’s a double standard. And it’s not just between winemakers and farmers. Pick another industry that deals direct with consumers like restauration. What percentage of mom and pop restaurants are on Twitter? They exclusively deal in direct sales, and yet…
Setting the bar higher for winemakers than for other professions is nothing new. Nobody walks into an auto shop and asks for a tour or a detailed explanation of how they work on cars. Or goes to a pharmacy/drug store/chemist and asks to sample the product. Wine is just different. And I mean, hey, that’s cool. I’m glad that wine is generally perceived to be so special. It is special. And I do have a certain amount of time to share with other wine lovers whether they drop by the winery unannounced or read this blog. But I think that when we evaluate the entire profession’s willingness to spend time with its customers, we might remember that winemakers are already some of the most active agricultural producers out there.
Do we need to get more winemakers online? Yes!
Should we let journalists get away with saying things like “Winemakers shun social media”? No. It’s demoralizing, generalized and sort of misleading.
I can’t deny that 80% of the winemakers in this study said social media doesn’t matter to them. Even in an area like the Languedoc Roussillon where we have a lot of people active, these are just a small percentage of the total winemakers. But at the same time, we can relativize this data and say “Oh hey, winemakers shun social media less than restraunteurs, mechanics, dairy farmers, and so on.”