Online Wine Commerce Seminar at the EWBC 2010

–This is part of an ongoing series about the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference

The European Wine Bloggers’ Conference is full of really cool panels and seminars. SO many that you have to make some tough choices about which to see. I opted toward seeing panels that were not being filmed figuring I’d be able to enjoy the more mainstream ones from the comfort of my computer chair. And I got a wonderful surprise!

The online wine commerce seminar had three people talking about some of the different ways to monetize wine on the web.  Evelyn Resnick, author of Wine Brands and wearer of the technicolor dreamcoat, Andre from Adegga, and Rowan from Naked Wines.

The nice surprise is that O’Vineyards was mentioned multiple times by multiple panelists!  So this post is going to be a little narcissistic and personal, but you can watch the video and form your own nerdy academic impressions this time.  Instead, I’m focusing this post on my emotional rollercoaster and the birth of a humorous comic book rivalry between me and another winemaker!

Yes, you heard right, this exciting post will reveal the secret origins of The Winemaker.

Evelyn talked about how few wineries try to communicate directly with their clients with the Internet.  But she did include a slide about some winemakers who are doing it right and O’Vineyards was on the top of the list.  What a nice surprise. 🙂  Very good to see Evelyn recognize my family’s work as she’s a point man (point person?) for wine branding.

And then Andre got up and talked about different solutions he’s found to monetize his wine-based social network, Adegga.  I was enjoying hearing about some of the cool projects underway in Portugal.  Adegga is doing event promotion and finding ways to feature wines on the site in a way that is a lot more engaging than a banner ad.  And just as I was coming down from the high of being mentioned by Evelyn, Andre starts talking about AVIN codes.

Now I think AVIN codes are awesome.  They’re like an ISBN number for wines.  The dorky librarian in me thinks this is great and even indispensable for the cataloging of wine.  One day, we will not understand how wines went so long without having numeric codes.  And Andre mentions some wineries that have AVIN codes on their labels, and BOOM, O’Vineyards get mentioned there too.  Look at that!  You cannot talk about wine commerce online without mentioning O’Vineyards.  Pretty flattering!

Now I see Rowan get up and I think to myself… oh boy… my importer.. I’m gonna get a hat trick.  I’m going to get three references in a row on the same panel.  I feel it in my bones.  Rowan’s progressing through his slides, explaining his amazing business model.  Naked Wines is devoted to real innovation.  They constantly try out new ideas, they embrace their clients’ opinions, and they aren’t afraid to stumble now and then on their sprint down the road to greatness.  And they have cultivated a clientelle that understands the way the company works.  It’s all very cool to be a part of it.  And then Rowan gets to it.  A slide where he explains how Naked puts wine lovers (photo of pretty wine drinkers pops up) in touch with wine makers (DRUMROLL AS I AWAIT MY GLORIOUS PORTRAIT TO APPEAR)… JOCK HARVEY?!   YOU’LL RUE THE DAY YOU CROSSED ME, JOCK HARVEY!!

haha, okay so Jock is a Naked Wines star.  And he deserves it.  I tasted three of his wines while touring the UK and he makes some really interesting wine with a sort of exuberance and joie de vivre that is typically new world.  But I’m getting distracted…this post is about our newly born rivalry!  The best kind of rivalry, one where the other person doesn’t even know I exist!  Bwahahaha

In the coming weeks, events would unfold to fan the flames of this one-sided rivalry.  But I don’t want to spoil it all at once.  Part 2 in the saga will come soon enough.

–This is part of an ongoing series about the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference

I don’t know why I spent so much time talking about wine, keynote speakers and workshops.  What we all want to see is evidence of wildly debaucherous EWBC parties (drinking wine in moderation all the while) and video montages of Michael Cox getting his boogey on.

Well, without further ado:

And some photo albums from the attendees of the EWBC conference:

Feel free to add your photo albums in the comments or by mailing them to me.

–This is part of an ongoing series about the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference

Evan Schnittman spoke to us at the EWBC, sharing a really deep knowledge of the contemporary publishing scene.  I think he gave a really good, succint history of digital publishing and highlighted some of the bigger differences between digital publishing and conventionally printed books.

For now, let’s talk about some of my personal highlights.

The iPod moment

Schnittman suggests that the Amazon Kindle was a revolutionary moment for ebooks and self publishing.  For once, the hardware was awesome and competitive with books for long reading sessions.  For once, the selection of what you could read was massive and mainstream enough to make the e-reader competitive with books.  He compares it to the iPod which was a piece of hardware that offered a large selection of mp3s at the iTunes store.

And Evan didn’t mention it, but the Kindle and iPod both made it easy to enjoy pirated content.  Any stolen mp3 could be played on an iPod.  Any document can be converted to a txt and added to a Kindle.  We also talked a bit about the development of “the cloud” and how important that was to making an approachable and usable ebook reader.

To Print or Not to Print?

Schnittman made an interesting distinction between different types of text.  He explained the differences between books that you read front to back and reference books where you consult an index and then go to a very specific part to just read one entry (e.g. dictionaries, directories).

Then, within those groups, there were a few more interesting distinctions.  For example, some printed editions of directories will be replaced entirely by digital versions while others will benefit in increased sales thanks to their digitalization.  He specifically mentioned the Princeton Reveiw’s Complete Book of Colleges and the OED.

When the Princeton Review’s college directory was first put online, publishers worried that it would hurt sales.  Why would anybody buy the book when it was totally searchable online?  Well, the reputation of the book grew thanks to its online incarnation and sales of the printed version increased consistently over time!  Other books like the Oxford English Dictionary are so cumbersome that it really makes a lot more sense for them to be digitized and they will probably go entirely digital.


Another key part of Schnittman’s talk was about the possibility of self-publishing.  And this is probably the part that affects O’Vineyards the most.  Almost nothing can stop individuals like me from self-publishing now.  Amazon’s new self-publishing model that allows you to sell infinite ebooks and even real world books made out of paper and everything.  They’re printed on demand and they look and feel just like books at the library.  Pretty snazzy world we live in.

I feel like I’m not doing Schnittman justice but you’ll see the videos when they’re all posted.  And in the time being, you can check out the huge number of articles on Schnittman’s blog which is full of insight about the brave new publishing world we live in.

–This is part of an ongoing series about the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference
-David Schildknecht from the Wine Advocate responded to this post here

At the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Vienna, Elin McCoy spoke to us all about the future of the Ivory Tower wine critic. It was a keynote so we all got to sit in for the speech which addressed the rising number of voices in wine journalism and the effect that has on the old guard. Robert Parker got named specifically. (edit: I should mention that Elin knows her stuff. She literally wrote the book on Robert Parker.)

And Jim Budd uncovered an interview that Parker was doing just a week or so before where he shares his own views on the “white noise” generated by Internet wine writers. So this is a topical question being pondered around the world and it’s not limited to 200 wine geeks in Austria.

“”Taste a little less; think a little more.””
–Elin McCoy

Obviously, there was a lot of content to Elin’s speech, but I’ll focus on one key point that I think is getting overlooked in some of the recaps. Elin specifically defines the Ivory Tower critic as somebody who stays far away from production. They sit in a tower and taste. Now, she picks Robert Parker as a sort of icon of this style, but Bob still does travel to wineries (and he did this a TON when he first started). But she harps on him because his style is sort of characterized by focusing on tasting notes and points.

I feel torn because I wholeheartedly agree that the wine world is overly focused on the retail/consumer end of things. But does my opinion actually matter?  I left my life in the states, bought a vineyard, and live and breathe wine all day (as fanatical a wine nerd as it gets) so what I like in wine writing doesn’t necessarily correspond to your average consumer.  Aren’t publications that focus on tasting notes more useful to the average wine drinker?

Most people who enjoy an episode or two of Love That Languedoc aren’t always going to be able to go out and buy the bottles I’m tasting on the show. They might go out and try another Languedoc-Roussillon wine that is available, but my website cannot be considered a useful consumer guide. Instead it’s more of a regionally themed travel rag. Something that gives behind the scenes access and can make them dream a bit. Is this useful? Does this model even compete with the Ivory tower critic or consumer advocate?

Hell, is the Wine Advocate even an ivory tower publication? I understand David Schildknecht (who tastes Languedoc Roussillon for the Wine Advocate) is coming to the Languedoc this December [edit: he’s not coming til spring], as he does every couple of years. So if there is an ivory tower, he’s obviously not in it all the time. It remains to be seen if he’ll come all the way out to Carcassonne to visit me, but the point is he’s visiting somebody.

Elin McCoy got us all thinking when she proposed that the Internet’s many voices will usher in a new era of wine journalism focused on getting dirty and really getting involved in every part of wine. I hope this is true, because I’m like the exact opposite of an ivory tower critic (using her definition). I live in the mud with the winemakers, making the stuff. My writing and videos are unpolished and barely edited. So I hope to god she’s right–that people really want this uninhibited sort of wine story-telling. But I don’t know that I’m in direct competition with more practical published tasting notes and consumer guides. I bet there’s a place for everybody in this world.

And a lot of people will enjoy looking up to whatever towers are erected.  If you don’t believe me, check out Suckling’s new teaser which is literally just a montage of him scoring wines.

But then maybe his “I’m Here” video montage is an attempt to tear down the ivory tower stereotype. 😀

Anyway, there’s room for all styles of story-telling in wine.  And it’s silly to argue over who will be the most popular. Ultimately, the most viewed wine videos will always be of people performing party tricks or getting hit in the face and/or crotch, or sometimes all of the above!

How to find us

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

  1. 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.
  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 curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
  4. At the last juction, bear left. 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.