What do Winemakers Blog About? - How to Choose Your Blog Content

I just realized that my long post about how to build the perfect winery website is really very very derivative of a post on the Top 10 Winery Website Mistakes from Catavino dating all the way back to 2007.

Catavino’s Top 10 Winery Website Mistakes:

  1. Hard to find email address
  2. Flash
  3. No information about wines
  4. No logos
  5. No RSS
  6. No physical address
  7. Incomplete bio section
  8. No images/videos
  9. No English
  10. Inconsistent posting

So ya.  On the one hand, my recent post was informed mostly by Never Said About Restaurant Websites, Jefford’s recent Decanter article on Missed Opportunities, and The Oatmeal’s recent comic about crappy restaurant websites.  On the other hand, I obviously read Ryan Opaz’s post back in 2007 and it’s been floating around in my head since then.

While his top ten list has a few items focused on winery blogs (5 No RSS, 10 inconsistent posting), the majority can be applied to all winery websites.

What we have in common

And I agree a lot with him apparently.

My list of things every winery website needs:

  1. Contact information
  2. Location
  3. A list of wines (with photos of bottles or labels)
  4. History

Strangely, our number 1’s and our number 3’s are actually identical.  The most crucial thing is contact information.  A simple email address.  And not a jpg of an email address that is impossible to copy and paste.  SPAM filters are really good, so there’s not a lot of risk in putting your email address online.  And also make your physical address and location in the world available.  Wine is extremely related to place and terroir.  People who visit your website will usually want to know where you make your wine.

My number two is his number six. My number four is his number seven.  But ultimately, Catavino said everything I said, and they did it like 4 years ago.  Which goes a long way to explaining why they’re in such agreement with me. :D

Again, it’s very safe to assume that I read this post in 2007 and forgot about it until now.  So thanks for being ahead Catavino and Vrazon!

Where we differ

Use of logos – I basically forgot about this.  I mostly agree with them.  If you have a nice logo, you should feature it prominently on your website.  How have I gone so long without featuring the O’Vineyards logo on our website?  It used to be really prominent.  But ever since the last major redesign in 2009, it’s almost nowhere on the site.  What I did in that redesign though was put my face on every page of the site.  One could argue that I’m more recognizable than the O’Vineyards logo.  I’ll think on this.  Will adding a logo make the site feel too commercial?  Is it more effective to have people recognize my face or a logo?  Good questions.  Will consider more.

No English -While I personally choose to blog in English (and regularly receive flak for it), I think it’s more important to get people blogging at all than it is to make them blog in a specific language.  There are advantages and disadvantages to blogging in English.  But the most important thing I think I can do is get more people in the Languedoc Roussillon to blog at all.  If they do that in English, French, Occitan, Catalan, or whatever is entirely up to them.  But writing nothing is worse than writing in a rare language.  To an extent, I actually encourage people to blog in more obscure languages.  While the Vietnamese wine blog market seems pretty inconsequential today, if you really love writing about wine in Vietnamese, you will have very little competition and you’ll be able to create a community around your passion.  If you force yourself to write in English, you might just struggle to post simple, forgettable stuff that can get lost in the mass of other english language content out there.

Inconsistent posting – I agree partially here.  It’s better to post regularly.  And it’s good to warn your audience if you’re taking a hiatus.  But these are just good suggestions to improve your blog.  What’s primordial is that you blog at all.  Don’t get worried about posting too frequently.  Don’t get caught up in the inertia of a dry spell.  Sometimes you go two weeks or a month without posting and you think you have to make a really good post to do a comeback.  Or draft an apology.  Don’t.  Just post something. Anything.  Don’t worry if it’s too short, or not that good, or in a weird language.  This is the Internet.  People know that your winery blog is not a polished, edited magazine.  They will forgive you.  It is not your day job to post on a blog.  So just do your best to post anything and get out of the rut.  Don’t get too hung up on intermittent posting or you’ll psych yourself out all the time.

No RSS – I agree that every blog should have RSS tech.  It’s just really useful, free, and unobtrusive.  But whatever.  It’s not a huge deal. And I don’t bring this up anymore because RSS confuses the hell out of farmers.  And most Internet users for that matter.

Some people say that adding your website to relevant directories will help Internet surfers find your website. Not only can they find you through the directory, the links can also help search engines figure out what your site is about. This second part is only true if you use really relevant directories.

I’ve previously written about regional directories. I might add a few wine specific directories.

Well curated directories like AllTop are divided into dozens of highly specialized blog categories. I’m really honored to be included in the top wine blogs. The directory has very few winery blogs and TWO of us are Languedoc producers (the other winemaker is Iris).

O’Vineyards was also featured in the World Wine category of TripBase’s blog directory. Another honor. A quick look at the other blogs mentioned makes me feel like I’m in very good company. This sort of well-curated blog directory or award listing is very helpful.

WineBlogger is a project that has very specific categories for different wine blogs. This sort of specific categorization means that search engines (and users) will know a lot more about your site. Not only is my site about wine, it is commonly associated with these other websites that use the same types of words (typically in a winemaker’s vocabulary).

Vinography tries to keep a list of all the wine blogs out there.  You have to be running for a while with regularly updated content.

The Winery Website Report has a “complete list” of wineries, but their submission form requires you to put a US state so I guess it’s not for wineries outside of the US.

Of course, I also curate a listing of Languedoc Roussillon winemaker blogs.

I want to change the way winemakers think about participation in social media. I want them to stop treating twitter and facebook like some alien ritual that just goes against the grain of their character. I need them to start thinking about social media the same way they think about every other kind of social interaction.

If you drop in on an independent winemaker, they will generally greet you and offer a tasting of their wines. I’m pretty sure this is standard expectation. When somebody calls you because they read about your wine somewhere, you are expected to do a tasting with them. And you don’t just quietly pour. Most winemakers who acknowledge this expectation to a tasting will also take the time to talk about who they are, why they make wine, and so on. If I’m way off base, let me know in the comments. But I’m pretty sure this is standard fare. If one or two people drop by the winery while the winemaker is there, a large majority of winemakers will take some time with those visitors.

How much time? Even if a single person comes by, I’ll often spend over an hour with them showing the winery, the vines, and talking about winemaking. Even the speedy “gift shop tour” where I just taste bottled wines with them will generally take a good half hour. And I think most independent winemakers are happy to spend this time. 30 minutes for one dude.

Having a little facebook fan page that you update a few times a week will also take about 30 minutes here and there. But a well-groomed fan page will receive hundreds of visitors per week. You see where I’m going with this?

analytics
This O’Vineyards website, which consists of a few photos and some sporadic thoughts from the winemaker probably takes me a solid four hours per week. It received 1461 unique visitors in the last 30 days. So for about 16 hours of work, I got to communicate my message to 1400+ people.

Now a significant difference is that these web visitors aren’t necessarily buying wine. The normal expectation is that when you spend 30 minutes with “avertis” wine lovers who swing by the vineyard, they will buy some wine and make it “worth your time”.

But it doesn’t make sense to give up 30 minutes just for a few small 6-bottle sales. Our time is worth more than that! The real benefit of those people who take the time to visit us is that they go home and tell everybody else how wonderful their visit was. It’s good old fashioned social networking. Sans internet.

Some winemakers are shocked at the amount of time and energy I put into the Love That Languedoc wine blog (and to an extent this website). I sometimes spend whole days traveling and filming. And even the off days, I frequently spend 1-2 hours reading other cool stuff on the Internet to be on top of the buzz. It’s a huge time commitment. So why do it?

Because people want me to and it’s pretty fun.

We all have a chance to get thousands of people to visit our websites and facebook pages and twitter accounts and everything else. That’s an amazing opportunity. If I called a winemaker in the region and told him I had a group of 150 people who want to visit tomorrow, that winemaker should naturally want to make some time for them. The Internet is no different. 150 visitors deserve your time. Hell, 10 visitors deserve your time.

So stop saying that the Internet is not for you! Get typing. A few minutes per day just sharing your thoughts and developments around the vineyard might get you a steady flow of visitors. And that has a lot of value.

Agree or disagree? Please feel free (obliged to?) comment!

On the tail of posting the “winemaker drinks dirt” video, I’ve been having lots of conversations about how I choose my content.  Between O’Vineyards and Love That Languedoc, I’ve done very silly videos, very informative videos, straight documentary, and very casual “slice of life” videos. And people weigh in all over the place.   Some think that I should only do the goofy stuff that goes viral. Other people think that it’s demeaning and that I would be better off focusing on serious things.  Some people think I should do more tastings, and some other people think I should avoid becoming “the French Gary Vaynerchuk” or “the French other-famous-wine-guy”.

I think that a fair amount of wine blogs tend to focus on vineyard/weather updates or promotional stuff that the winery is participating in.  There are some local event posts.  I want to have all of that too.  After all, my readers are here for a vineyard blog (not a personal blog).  You’re not here to read about my pet dog’s eating habits or my relationship status.

So there are a lot of choices on blog subjects and I have to decide what to post.

How do I decide what to post?!

I really don’t know.  I guess it’s a careful balance of entertainment, education, and narcissism. Ya.  To some extent, I want to entertain you.  To a great extent I want to entertain myself.  And I’m a huge nerd so I need things to be hyper-referential and very well-informed.  Even my goofy gag videos like dirt-drinking are super-nerdy. Or maybe I’m flattering myself (but that just proves how important a part narcissism plays).

Anyway, if I only wanted to make the greatest number of people laugh, I should run a generic meme blog that just links to videos of kittens sneezing and babies biting their siblings.  But I think I’d be bored out of my mind and sort of ashamed of that blog. I really like wine and I have a lot of access to wine-related content so I blog about wine.  If I get an idea/opportunity, regardless of how silly or serious it is, I try to pursue it.  And there you have it.  That’s my process.

The less I obsess over what to include and what to exclude, the closer I get to just being myself.  Thankfully, it seems people really appreciate that.  Thanks for following all of our adventures at O’Vineyards regardless of how silly or serious they get.

How to find us

Domaine O’Vineyards is just a few kilometres north of Carcassonne. GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387

Domaine O’Vineyards
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910

  1. Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou until the D118 (the last straight road) and the Dyneff gas station on the roundabout.
  2. Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
  3. Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which goes up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire.
  4. At the last juction, bear left at the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
  5. After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.