Francois Druel spoke at the Université de la Vigne et du Vin in 2011 in Ferrals-les-Corbieres. This is a synopsis of his talk and my reaction to what he’s saying. This is one post in an ongoing series about the Universite de la Vigne et du Vin.
francois druel, michel smith & christine ontivero
Francois introduced himself as a consultant who has been working on the Internet since before the web existed. He gave a very brief glimpse of a few simple tools and included some of the usual impressive statistics. Over x-hundred messages per second on Twitter, and if Facebook were a country it would have the third largest population on earth, that type of thing.
He showed us a graph of the diffusion of innovation curve. He talked about how mobile was now the #1 way to access the Inernet.
I was hoping that this presentation would be an amazing call to action that inspires winemakers to use free online tools to communicate their stories with the entire world. I’m afraid I came with the wrong expectations.
Branding is about communication and instant recognition. And brands tend to be community-owned. Once you put a brand out there, it will be co-opted and that’s a powerful tool.
Dialogue is about listening to what’s being said, involving clients in the conversation, and hoping that your efforts go viral (?).
Prospection is about presales, creating buzz, communication (I thought that was for Branding?) and it is generally less suited to wine. He cites examples like every time a new generation of iPhone comes out, there are months of speculation, waiting in lines, etc.
He has a slide about the wisdom of crowds. Another slide about information sharing, using coyote as a prime example of how quickly good products spread on the web.
So then he did a “case study” of Chateau Leoube. Unfortunately, I guess he was pressed for time because he didn’t really get to conclude this. He explained Leoube’s goals to triple sales by making good wine, developing their brand, and doing premium branding. But I don’t really know which online efforts resulted in the tripled sales. Or any metrics they used to know how much of it was traced to their internet efforts as opposed to their conventional efforts. Or even the nature of the internet effort according to Druel’s three options. Was it branding, dialogue or prospection (Francois’ own methodology?). I left this talk a little confused. Which is a shame since you know I get excited about this subject.
At the same time, it should be mentioned that Francois has a difficult job. A lot of people in the audience have no idea what he’s talking about and the sort of news headline statistics like the ones I mentioned above might be the best way of getting people interested. So he can’t appeal to everybody in the room.
But you know it might have been much more effective to just look at a few individual case studies from the region and show what they do online. Obviously, I’d like to flatter myself and say that I’m a decent example. He could talk about other wineries that use the Internet effectively in the region. Or alternatively, if you want to stick to delivering statistics, at least make them relevant to wine. Does that make sense? It’s obviously impressive that tons of tweets go out every second. Maybe it’s more impressive to mention how many specifically mention a wine brand name each day?
Maybe I’m too harsh because I’m jealous! I wish I could have spoken to a room full of winemakers and shared my hopes and dreams. Of a region united and represented online! Think if just 1 percent of our winemakers and grape growers wrote something online once a week, we’d flood the Internet with Languedoc branding. We’re such a big region that we could accomplish nearly anything with a little collective effort.
Oh, incidentally, Chateau Leoube, the case study in this talk, is in fact using a lot of internet tools. Follow them on Twitter for constant updates about their own wines. Or get your groove on to youtube videos about the domaine:
It was pretty cool. The Uni is a real home-grown event where some very motivated people in the region (namely Nadine Franjus-Adenis) have organized a conference that addresses issues facing contemporary viticulture.
Nadine Franjus-Adenis hosts the Universite de la Vigne et du Vin
Being local, the conference has a lot of personality and is a bit quirky (which you know I am a fan of). The organizers interrupt speakers every time they use anglicisms. There’s a lot of occitan thrown around between presentations. The whole event is clearly taking place in the Languedoc.
And it also feels a lot less pretentious than other more International events. And the speakers are easily as good here as the ones I see at larger conferences (Wine Futures comes to mind). You don’t need to be a big wine celebrity to be thought-provoking. Which is funny because the theme was actually about being a big wine celebrity.
2011’s theme – Riche et Celebre
The theme was “Riche et Celebre?”, a playful choice because virtually all of us in the wine business know how impractical it is to think that all winemakers could become rich and famous.
Essentially, it was about the importance, for wines and wineries, of being known, of having an identity. In French, the process of being first “connu” and then “reconnu”… there was a lot of talk about the need to work together as a group and have a collective identity. Lot of debate about whether to promote under the banner of terroir, of cepage, of appellation, of brand (eg. Sud de France)… and so on.
People presented on a variety of subjects linked to the theme of notoriety. There were a number of things I disagreed with, but that’s healthy for a real exchange of ideas. I hate those conferences where everybody agrees.
Actual speaker synopsis
I started writing these up and some of them got very long so I’ll give them their own posts. Follow the link to read my thoughts on any particular speaker.
I had the pleasure of hearing Jacky Rigaux speak at the Université de la Vigne et du Vin in 2011 in Ferrals les Corbieres. This is a synopsis of his lecture and my reaction to what he’s saying. This is one post in an ongoing series about the Universite de la Vigne et du Vin.
Jacky Rigaux, Université de Bourgogne – Terroir is the best way to promote French wines.
A rather professorly lecture that reminded me of my political science days at Tulane University. The main message was that France can only maintain/increase wine sales by focusing on terroir. Rigaux drew a clear line between “vin de technologie” and “vin de lieu”. Other dichotomies included “mineralité” vs “sucrosité”. And finally “culture” vs. “business”. And the speech concludes with the notion that wine should be marketed to illuminated niche markets. He has this beautiful notion of a multitude of niches creating islands of resistance against homogenized, industrial wine.
I felt the presentation was engaging and full of good quotes and anecdotes (“Cepage is a first name, but terroir is the family name”), but it was slightly reductionist. I tend to overcomplicate things and I shy away from people who try to explain things too simply. 😀 In Jacky’s view, industrial wine and the notion of blind tasting were sort of invented in the 1970’s, mostly by the new world. As Berthomeau would point out later in the day, the French have mass produced wine, sold it by brand, and deviated from terroir since long before the 70’s. And actually, Rigaux himself concedes that Bordeaux’s chateau denomination has been promoting personal brand over geographical origin for quite some time. (He’s from Burgundy so he can’t help but slam Bordeaux at least once in his speech. :D)
Another thing that bothered me a bit was that the pairings of culture and business are not mutually exclusive. You can create a wine that preserves and champions culture all while doing great business. I know that Rigaux is smart enough to realize that. But he really seems to believe that we should favor terroir to the detriment of everything else, and I’m not sure that’s our only option. I think terroir/lieu/place is unavoidable and can stand above everything else. It’s not terroir vs. technique. It should be technique services terroir. Similarly business can serve terroir and wine style (minerality/sucrosity) can serve terroir. It’s never an either/or issue. It’s usually an issue of the relationship between all these parts. And ultimately, I’d even say that good wine is an end in and of itself. And it’s impossible to create a single monolithic standard for what makes wine good. It’s about context and enjoyment, points which would come up later in the day!
blind tasting is part of the scientific method’s effect on winemaking
cepage est un prenom, le nom de famille c’est le terroir
does Bordeaux’s classification system count as terroir or branding?
The largest Aussie producer has more hectares of vines than ALL of Burgundy
is it silly to fuss over terroir when most French drink wine out of ridiculous, unsuitable glasses that hide all the wine’s traits?
I really hate manifestos. I think that most of my favorite movements start to die the day they write down what they’re really trying to do… like defining the movement is overly restrictive and dogmatic. But I was busy writing up a general presentation of Love That Languedoc, and I found myself falling into this militant prose that sounds a ton like a manifesto. Well, if I go around saying “no manifesto” all the time, then I’m still being just as dogmatic and restrictive as if I had written down my goals. OH WELL. Here it is:
I refuse to leave our fate in the hands of the global press who are, at best, mildly curious about our region. And, at worst, totally oblivious to it. Aside from a few rare examples, the world’s largest wine producer is also the world’s most ignored beauty.
Well this is the part of the movie where the downtrodden Languedoc takes off her horn-rimmed glasses and lets her hair down and the popular kid (or Henry Higgins, depending on what age you are) suddenly realizes that the coolest girl he knows was there under his nose all along.
Love That Languedoc is my personal project to show the world what it’s missing and now it’s developing a new branch. I want to teach our winemakers how to communicate (without relying on journalists or critics or ME) to a world that is ready to hear them.
I guess I’m thankful that the region needs me. But the day I’m unnecessary will be a great day indeed. We have an amazing advantage in sheer number of winemakers. And our wines are distributed globally as both prestigious cult winesand large volume convenience store wines. So people are already talking about us and our wines.
The next step is responding to that conversation. We need to start training our winemakers to check email and set up a google alert for every estate in the Languedoc-Roussillon. If only 1% of our winemakers spoke up every time somebody mentions their wines online, we would flood the Internet with our voices. We could show our consumers that we appreciate their drinking habits.
And once winemakers start communicating successfully with the consumer, it’s much more likely that they will be willing to adopt more advanced online tools like a blog or a twitter. And they’ll be much more likely to “get it” because it’s part of an authentic foray into communication and not some contrived business effort with no ROI.
And on that day, I’ll just be a happy little winemaker who runs a video blog for the fun of it. And who will laugh about the old days when he would accidentally write a manifesto while trying to explain why he blogs.
There. So I guess the conclusion is nice because it points out why this manifesto is silly. I only blog because it’s fun. I’m happy that it’s increasing my exposure and wine sales and I’m definitely finding ways to maximize the synergy between my blog and my website. But ultimately, the blog is for fun. And sometimes I get these lofty goals to sign everybody up for Google Alerts or whatever. But ultimately, even those initiatives are an attempt to make my blog redundant. One day, when everybody does their own online promotion, I’ll be useless. And it’ll just be for fun again.
Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387
Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing
North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910
Best by GPS.
Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.