Jacques Berthomeau - Wine is social, not elite, perfect for online communication
Jacques Berthomeau 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.
In his typical way, Berthomeau presents a rambling but cohesive message about the opportunities the Internet provides to winemakers and wine drinkers alike. It’s hard to take notes or outline this speaking style so just consult the video above if you want the most accurate portrayal of his talk.
If you’re short on time, here are some notes:
Starting with a joke about not being a tribun (somebody who gets on their soapbox frequently) like everybody from the Languedoc, Berthomeau sets the stage for a talk about identity. Where is Berthomeau from? And who is he? For many people in the wine business, he’s the author of a famous report on French wine that was published about 10 years ago. Often times, people talk about “le Rapport Berthomeau” which drives the man to say “My first name isn’t Rapport”. So for many people, he’s just this old report commissioned by the ministry of agriculutre. This report made him pretty unpopular because he and his colleagues made crazy claims like “women will drink wine too” and “we should adapt our communication and branding to new export markets”.
The Ministry pulled him off of all wine related projects, stuck him in a closet and put his report on a back catalog of some obsucre website on this thing called Internet. Jacques started a blog and discovered that the closet he’d been placed in actually had a pretty far reach.
He goes on in his talk to explain that his blog works because he doesn’t cater to the wine elite. He just tells fun stories peripherally related to wine, and lots of people want that. People who aren’t obsessed with wine and who have no idea what mineralité means.
Berthomeau then agrees with a point in Juarez’s talk about how some winemakers will have to be at the head of the charge to bring notoriety to the Languedoc. Previously in his presentation, he speaks about Embres & Castelmaure. Toward the end, he mentions me and my little camera (very flattering). And I would like to think I’m one of the lucky ones who carries the burden of representing this region to uninitiated (read: normal) wine drinkers.
Jacques Berthomeau, Ferrals Les Corbieres 2011
There’s a digression about how wine drinking habits are shifting. Even if French people drink less wine than they used to, there are different drinkers now that provide new opportunities. Women. People getting off of work and having a glass at a cafe to relax. These ideas weren’t that common twenty years ago. Wine has new ways of infiltrating our daily routines and it’s presumably up to the aforementioned leading voices to make sure that people think of our region when they’re looking for wine.
Berthomeau takes a moment to address the previous talks during the day. Namely, noting that the new world didn’t invent industrialized or branded wine. The French have been doing it for a while. He talks about how young drinkers or new drinkers often start with simpler wines. But he also mentions that even children are intelligent. You often see kids playing incredibly complicated games or memorizing entire pantheons of pokemon or superpowers, so complexity in and of itself isn’t intimidating to people. But wine has to capture the imagination before people are willing to learn all the complexities.
The Internet, to Berthomeau, is a cheap way to communicate with the grand publique and capture their imagination in a way that a Paris Metro billboard can never replace. His advice quoted from Michel-Édouard Leclerc, “Durez, durez, durez”. Tell your stories, create original content, be happy, be colorful, and little by little you’ll leave the closed community of wine professionals to reach real drinkers!
So don’t just listen. Speak up! If you’ve got an issue and you don’t want to start your own website, ask Berthomeau to publish your thoughts on his website, an espace libre!
This is my summary of the conference speeches I heard at Vin 2.0, the conference on wine and the Internet organized by Vinternet. It was a good group with some solid presentations. The organizers motivated a lot of people who don’t normally speak in public, and it’s interesting to see your friends on stage for the first time. And a keynote by Gary Vaynerchuk is always worth sitting in on. I’m really looking forward to his new book.
Qu’est-ce qui a changé en 15 ans?
A top notch way to start the day. The panel started with James de Roany’s presentation of a study on where the wine world will be in 2050. Then Jacques Berthomeau, who is often given sole credit/blame for the CAP2010 report (often called the “Berthomeau report” or the “Bordeaux plan”), talked about how things have progressed since his commission dared write what they wrote. And then Bernard le Marois and Lionel Cuenca each delivered a testimony from a trade point of view. They talked about changes wine merchants have felt in the world of wine economics.
James de Roany from the CNCCEF (I’ll give a bottle of wine to the first person who can tell me what the hell that stands for without looking it up) spoke to us about a recent wine report that focused on where the wine world would be in the year 2050. Lots of interesting statistics. The numbers that seemed to impact the audience the most were related to how many non-drinkers France has now. A big untapped youthful market. There was also a neat section on economic projections for various countries that showed the US economy stagnating along with a lot of western Europe while China, India, Brazil and Russia all grow. This allows de Roany to suggest that winemakers should be focusing export efforts on countries with growing economies.
Berthomeau’s follow up was entertaining (the guy is a great story teller) and it was poignant as he is a main author of a report that dared to look forward (similar to the CNCCEF report we had just heard about). His team put together opinions as bold as “women are going to buy a lot of wine” and “maybe France shouldn’t try to directly compete with mass produced wines from the New World.” But Berthomeau didn’t just dwell on his glory days. He’s still got a lot of fire in his belly, and he exclaimed that there are still important lessons we have yet to learn.
For example, we need to think less about wine and more about grapes. Small fine wine producers are sort of in the minority around the world. When we talk about macro economics and global trends, it’s much more useful to think about grape production. Interesting stuff. Also, he reminded us that we need to get outside baseball. We’re too insular. A lot of online communication only reaches other wine professionals while the vast majority of the public stays in the dark. And this is one possible explanation for the growing number of nondrinkers in France. We are losing our base by playing omphaloskeptic games (staring at our belly buttons). He made a colorful comparison between American indie films and French indie films. The latter are frequently characterized as art house projects without plot or driving force. While American indie film still strives to reach an audience with a story (just less hollywood gloss). I don’t know if it’s a perfect comparison, but I like it.
A lot of Bernard le Marois’ presentation was lost on me as it dealt with more retail-oriented info. But he served up some juicy information about how he thinks the business has changed in the past 15 years and that is the topic of this panel after all.
Lionel from idealwine gave a great presentation. He’s very charismatic and acted well on his feet. I get the impression that Marois said a lot of the things Lionel was planning on saying. So instead of repeating that, he sort of flowed through his slides and talked about various projects that he’d seen rise and fall since idealwine entered the online retail game back in 2001. The company has an interesting story in that they’re one of the older online wine retailers in France (and the world) and they made it with remarkably little capital and a very small team.
Le Blogueur va-t-il détrôner Parker?
I enjoyed this panel but I feel like they largely ignored the main question: will bloggers dethrone Parker? Sylvain Dadé from SoWine moderated and he didn’t really get people to address the question… but he did get them to talk about interesting stuff. And the talkative Fabrice le Glatin never spoke for more than six or seven minutes at a time, so I’d say the moderator did an amazing job. ;D
Emmanuel Delmas and Fabrice le Glatin were both there as popular French bloggers. While neither totally addressed the main question of the panel, they showed their respective paths to blogging and their rise to popularity. And I’d say they were recognizant of the idea that no single blogger was going to dethrone anybody. Their blogs are just fun ways of interacting with a world they love: the world of wine.
Antonin from Vindicateur and Marc Roisin from VinoGusto also got to speak and they were representative of a new type of wine guide. Vindicateur is sort of like Rotten Tomatoes in that it weights scores of various professional critics along with amateur ratings to give agglomerated meta-scores to a wine. VinoGusto is a lot like snooth but less pitch-y and much French-er (I believe Marc is based out of Belgium). Marc came the closest to actually answering the question of whether somebody will dethrone parker. His answer was plainly No. The Wine Advocate and eRobertParker are both useful tools that add value to wines and make purchasing decisions easier for their readers. And they have a huge audience. He argued that blogs could also benefit the wine world in this way, but they don’t necessarily supercede any wine guide in existence. He also coyly made an argument that VinoGusto was just as good as the Wine Advocate and actually has a larger viewership than eRobertParker but he didn’t try to make this out to mean that he was gunning for Parker’s role.
Pourquoi changer? by Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary spoke about a lot of stuff. He gave a little intro and then went into Q&A. He has a sort of wandering story telling style that works very well for him. It was fun to watch. I guess the first thing I’ll say is that he defended Parker. In reference to the panel that preceded his, he mentioned that Parker never made a play to control the wine market in the US or anywhere. The dude just delivered an honest and helpful opinion about wines. And the real criminals, if there are any, are the retailers and suppliers, according to Gary. And I agree. If anybody gets credit or blame for the ubiquitous nature of Parker’s scores, it’s the gatekeepers who are heavily influenced by him and the shopowners who post WA scores on their shelf talkers instead of handselling wine. But this sort of blame game is not very constructive, so I won’t dwell on it. It was more of a passing moment in Gary’s myriad stories.
Another really interesting thing to me was that Gary had an out in his book deal. Although he signed a 10 book deal, there was a clause that said he was free of contractual obligations if he ever exceeded a certain amount of cumulative sales. And the real kicker is that he exceeded that amount with the very first book. Wow.
He also gave me a shout out while talking. He was arguing that people enjoy wine more if they know and like the winemaker and he used a couple examples from the audience including Beaucastel and O’Vineyards. Good company. 🙂
I really can’t do his speech justice as it was the longest and had no central unifying theme. It was instead an awesome collection of high-quality reflections. Watch a couple of the video recordings of his various keynotes and you will get a sense of what I mean.
La prise de parole sur les réseaux sociaux – la communication conversationnelle
This panel was more workshop-y and how-to than most of the other panels.
Mélanie Tarlant, maker of amazing brut Champagne, talked about how her family has approached the Internet… and I’d follow her advice as they’ve got like 10,000+ followers on facebook and a devoted network of fans who regularly share their story…some fans have even translated their website into various foreign languages. The thing that struck me most about Melanie’s presentation is her notion that the website/blog is really a secondary or tertiary tool. The short posts to twitter or the little uploads to facebook and youtube are just as crucial to their online presence.. if not more crucial. And I have to say that I believe that. I almost never go to their website proper. But I always check their updates on twitter and facebook. Intriguing. And she had picked out a few tweets, retweets, facebook shares, etc. to illustrate the point (all messages from the past few days). It was a pretty impressive case study that I’ll certainly steal from in the future when I’m trying to convince people to get online.
Miss Vicky presented her journey with a lot of humor and no pretense. She described how she very quickly became a reference in French wine communication thanks to a series of happy accidents and following her gut.
Francois Desperriers from BourgogneLive talked a bit about their short journey and its resounding success. And again, what strikes me most is this similar idea that the site is secondary to conversation tools like twitter and facebook. Francois’ updates on those “satelitte” sites receive much more feedback than the actual posts on the website proper. Another point of interest was when somebody in the audience brought up that-which-will-not-be-named “MONETIZATION”. Yes, tough question. Hope Francois and Aurelien figure out the answer to that.
Yair Haidu got up and did a good job presenting his project without sounding too pitchy. Although I’ve already seen the project presented several times so I’m less interested in this presentation. I instead key in on the more recent developments. The magazine elements… the API for bloggers…
Anyway, it’s clear that this panel has a lot of tools at their disposal for communicating online. And I’m glad they shared their knowledge. They also did a good job of referring to each other in their presentations. You can really see interactions between these people. Although sometimes it seemed like we were a little TOO interactive… the fine line between clever allusion and blatant mis en scene. But I’m being picky here. It was a great panel.
Développer ses ventes avec les réseaux sociaux – le e-Commerce de proximité
Philippe Hugon from Vinternet moderated my panel. I started things off with one of my wacky presentations about marketing wine online. Before the conference, I was a bit worried that I had too much ground to cover in 15 minutes… but people said a lot of what I wanted to say during the day and laid the foundation for my real arguments… so I got to be a bit of a provocateur, suggesting that folks stop blogging about their own wine. It was fun. And I talked a bit about other more conventional forms of marketing like salons and scores… and my fellow panelists took it the right way: in stride.
Jean David Camus followed me with a brief presentation on how Hospices de Beaunes has used the Internet to further the already outstanding brand of that location and its signature wine auction. It was good timing because my presentation was a bit big picture and Jean David presented some hard numbers to make it more concrete and real.
Rowan gave a great description of his business at Naked Wines, tailored to the audience to show them how Naked is one of the truest examples of a Web 2.0 business… where the clients really do have control in the way the company is run, what wines are imported, and how people interact on the site.
Thierry Desseauve had an excellent presentation which I felt was addressed directly at me. I was sort of worried that I might upset him with my talk, but he took it perfectly. Very tongue in cheek, responding excellently and showing that salons and ratings still have a very active role to play in wine alongside with all this cool Internet stuff. He’s an interesting figure because he and Bettane have both shown an amazing commitment to exploring the Internet while pursuing conventional wine journalism, wine criticism, and wine events. Their Grand Tasting is happening as I type the first draft of this document and I’m sure they’re having a great time.
Wine Library TV live episode
This was a WLTV episode where Gary tasted four wines. I don’t want to spoil it before he posts it on his site, but I will let you know that my wines do not appear. . . this time. 😉
Ces nouvelles technologies qui changent notre rapport au vin
Okay, I’m gonna admit my memory is a bit fuzzy on the final presentations. And the camera was out of batteries… And I was nursing a glass of Chateau Palmer‘s 2000 Alter Ego… and so… I don’t really remember everything. My bad!
We heard a bit about Taste a Wine which is cool software to file away tasting notes. . . ZeVisit did an amazing presentation on a sort of virtual ebook app they made for the Beaujolais region.. and they told us about their plans for augmented reality apps where you hold your phone up and it describes whatever is in front of you. It makes me really jealous that we don’t have that kind of project brewing in my region. And the guys they were working with said they saw tripled sales and tens of thousands of downloads of the app since it went public. Pretty cool.
Grégoire Japiot and Miss Vicky talked about the VinoCamps. More on that soon.
And Philippe did a wrap up of the whole day, citing tons of different tools like Adegga, Cellartracker, tweetawine, everybody who was present, etc. It was pretty solid. I liked his slides.
Excuse the lack of videos. I left my computer’s power cord in Paris and cannot access the videos until that gets sent to me or somebody bails me out. :-ç
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
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Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
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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.