I’m astonished at how much has changed in the past two years. One particularly conspicuous example is twitter use in and around Vinisud, a big wine fair that happens every two years.
Twitter at Vinisud
Two years ago, there were a handful of people tweeting at Vinisud. I actually got multiple journalists to visit the O’Vineyards stand just because we answered their tweets and invited them to come by. That’s a pretty big score for less than 140 characters. 🙂
This year, in the days leading up to the event, there is a massive flow of tweets about Vinisud, including the tweets of winemakers, interprofessions, syndicates, and the official @vinisud twitter account. Six people have tweeted about the wine fair in the time it has taken me to write the first three paragraphs of the post you’re reading. That’s a big change in just two years!
More Twitter Users at Vinisud
In fact, this shouldn’t be surprising at all. In January 2010, there were an estimated 127.4K twitter users in France based on a study conducted by Sysomos. By October of 2010, that number had almost doubled. And in January 2012, we’re seeing about 5.2 million twitter accounts in France.
- January 2010 – 127,400
- October 2010 – 225,000
- January 2012 – 5,200,000
That’s incredible growth. It also explains why there’s so much more chatter this year. There are 40 times as many people to do the chattering. Plus when you think about it, the first 127,000 to adopt are generally in the tech & communications field. There are 700,000 informaticiens in France. So the odds are the winemakers don’t really join the conversation until those guys all do it. ;D
How useful is twitter at Vinisud?
And we come to the question, what use is tweeting for winemakers or anybody else at Vinisud? It’s not Fukushima. It’s not Arabian Spring. It’s a wine fair. Who cares what you’re drinking right now?
Well, two years ago, it was exceptionally useful. As I mentioned above, we got tasted by the Wine Enthusiast and several blogs solely because of a tweet. We were on the Cité de Carcassonne’s communal stand and all the other producers were shocked at how busy we were. We were also rather shocked! In 2008, before social media (and before we had developed much of a reputation at all), we had virtually nobody come by the stand.
So Twitter was useful for drawing attention back then. It was pretty easy. Look who is talking about vinisud. Tweet them an invitation to taste your wines. The end.
But now that there are more of us, it’s harder to stand out from the crowd. Is this the point of diminishing returns?
The point of increasing returns?
Interestingly, more users also means more listeners! Sure it takes more time to stand out of the crowd. But the crowd is bigger so you get more return for your work too.
So all we have to do is figure out how to stand out from the crowd. So let’s take a look at the crowd.
Promotion of a group – A lot of the tweets are coming from organized groups like AOC syndicates, winemaker collectives, and PR agencies.
This strategy commonly involves tweeting out the stand of the collective group or the stands of individuals who belong to the group.
For example, the AOC Saint Chinian account seems to have been created very recently and specifically for the purpose of tweeting about their presence at Vinisud and similar events. There are only a few tweets and they’re generally self-promotional invitations. They only have a handful of followers, so logically they are not tweeting to those few who already follow them.
They are probably hoping to get the attention of folks who don’t already follow them on Twitter. And to the extent that they’re mentioned here, I guess that works.
This strategy is relatively common. You can find it again in the AOC Limoux, Groupe UVAL, and others. Limoux is notable for being more about social interaction most of the time (but they do this “list every winemaker routine” at conferences like Vinisud and Millesime Bio).
While I think a minority of people use this strategy, it tends to be highly visible because it fills the entire vinisud stream with short bursts of messages from the same people. As seen in the screenshot to the left.
Some groups like the Outsiders (which I belong to) separate these messages by several hours so that they don’t look quite as spammy.
Conversational Use – I think a lot of people are having simple conversations on Twitter. Like a form of broadcast text messages. It can be pretty hard to follow the stream of conversation, especially when multiple people get involved. But it does allow lots of people to get involved in the same discussion, and that is nice. Much of the conversation at this point is just “@soandso Are you coming to vinisud?” But there are more intricate dialogues too.
During the event, I anticipate this form of use will increase as Twitter just becomes an effective way to communicate with large groups (largely thanks to Twitter’s tiny data burden). This is often the kind of use you hear about in the news whether it’s in the context of vapid “I’m eating a muffin” posts or natural disaster and political upheaval articles. People use the tool for first hand communication/conversation.
Curatorial Use – Curators use Twitter to present things that they find elsewhere on the Internet. Obviously I am a big fan of this school (as should be apparent since we’re getting to the end of a lengthy listing of different uses of Twitter at wine conferences). For an idea of what this looks like, you can look at Andy Abramson, a blogger who is visiting the region in the time leading up to the conference.
I should note that there is a fine line (or no line?) between curatorial use and the group use mentioned above. In fact, groups are trying to curate their group members. But it just feels different. I can’t really put my finger on it. Maybe some other day.
If you want to stand out from this crowd, you’re going to need to do something eye-catching and different. Be the best curator, the most entertaining conversationalist, the coolest group, or invent a new use!
Normally, this is the time of year when the whole vineyard goes dormant. The leaves change color and fall off as the green vines turn into wood. But this year we’re seeing a lot of unusual behavior in the Syrah vines where many plants are actually growing new leaves!
How vines usually behave
This is a picture of a row of Merlot vines just a few hundred yards away from the Syrah. You can see that these vines are already dormant. They have lost almost all their leaves and have hardened to wood. Although there are a couple traces of green on one of the plants in the far left of the photo, most of the vines are ready to be pruned.
In the detail below, you really see that the vines have hardened to wood and that there is no new growth.
The Syrah’s Unusual Green Growth
Compare that detail of the Merlot to this close up from the Syrah:
Lots of green growth! New buds! And it’s not just that the wood hardens progressively and hasn’t reached the ends of the branches yet. Normally, those are newly grown leaves. In the photo below, you see the clear juxtaposition of a new green bud on a hardened wooden branch. Highly unusual stuff!
And these young buds aren’t isolated to a plant here and there. The whole parcel is showing new leaves as displayed in the photo below.
More photos of the vines in november
Why a November spring?
You’re probably wondering why this is happening. I know I was.
The Chamber of Agriculture supplied a simple answer a couple weeks ago: it doesn’t feel like winter yet! The temperatures have been so mild. Yesterday was balmy 18 degrees outside. We opened all the doors and windows. As a result of the temperature, sunshine and so on, the vines think they have enough energy to start growing new leaves again. I’ve heard that grapevines in Florida give two crops a year for this very reason. There is no winter season there!
In nature, this would benefit them because they could continue to grow through an indian summer. However we need them to take a break and build up their reserves for next spring!
What will we do?
Just wait. In all likelihood the winter temperatures will set in and the vines will take the hint and fall asleep. It’s just an interesting phenomenon and we’ll only know how it affects next year’s crop a year from now. 🙂
2011 has been a very strang vintage and the viticultural anomalies are continuing even after harvest. This is normally the most predictable time of year. Once you harvest the grapes, the leaves all turn fall colors and they fall off. The stems all harden into sturdy wood. And then you prune back before the next spring. But this year, some of the syrah vines got confused and started growing new green growth in October/November!
Well, we knew the warmer weather had to come eventually and our beloved merlot is finally off to the races. I don’t know how familiar you happen to be with “normal” Carcassonne weather but I was telling a local that the past couple years we seem to have only 2 seasons. Sping and fall have somehow disappeared. After a little contemplation I came to the conclusion that this recent climate trend has been benificial to our type of winemaking. We have always harvested later than most in our area and this is especially true for the past 2 years when we found ourselves bringing in the grapes at temperatures between 3 to 10 degrees. We keep the grapes at these low temperatures for a few days and find ourselfs with a fresher fruitier wine. Meanwhile the slower starts we have had at the begining of the growing period seem to have little to no effect throughout the vineyard. On the contrary the slow starts have helped us to keep pace easier and have also limited the number of times we treat our vines. In the year 2009 we treated only 2 times and believe me this is well below the norm. As you can see from the photos we finally got the growth I expected a few weeks back. By next week we will need to lift the wires on the trellis sytem,which are designed to keep the growth going upward. I will cover this in detail next week. Thanks for following
welcome to week 3 of winemaking 101. To begin this episode I would like to apologize for my often inept ability to convey my thougths clearly in writing. It has been brought to my attention that the literary skills, I aquired at U-Mass Dartmouth sometime back in the 70’s, may be deteriorating a bit. I have promised myself to make a more conscience effort from this point forward but what the hell its all about the content N’EST-CE-PAS!
OK back to the vines. There has been no recognizable change in the vines this past week, probably due to the cold weather and SNOW that I wrote about last week. I have never seen such little activity in the growth of the vines at this time of the year but things appear to be back to normal with plenty of sunshine, warm days, cool nights and steady winds.
The winds of the langaudoc region help to keep the vegatation dry which limits the risk of diseases and should limit the amount of treatments (chemicals) used on the vines. By simply following the advice of the local chamber of agriculture we seem to treat half as much, if not less, than other grape growers in the area.
But I digress, and the treatment story should be an entire post on its own. Anyway, although there was limited change visible in the photos this week, I have a strong feeling next week’s photos will show impressive growth. Thanks for visiting and feel free to comment.
note from Ryan: I was just driving back from Montpellier and the vines closer to the cost are like ready to lift wires (i.e. way ahead of us). It’s crazy what a huge difference there is between our medium altitude micro-terroir and the lower plains on the way to the coast.