Tag Archive - communication

Losing the plot

?????

It seems so obvious from the outside. Winemakers and wineries in a region should cooperate to promote the region and give consumers a clear idea of what that region offers to encourage them to give their wines a try. Yet in practice, when you delve into any region or country, what you see are arguments, divisions and recriminations.

It is something I saw a glimpse of recently during a trip to the beautiful region of the Langhe in Piemonte (thanks to Berry Bros & Rudd), but I stress that this was only the latest example of something I see everywhere.

The conversation started as “How can we (all) make people more aware of the Nebbiolo grape” … but quickly turned into a discussion about who should or should not be included, how “there’s really nothing else in the world like nebbiolo, and everyone should realise this”, and about the classification of vineyards.

Italy is already famous for its complex regional boundaries and multi-layered wine classifications. So how is it that wineries can possibly rationalise “making things easier/clearer for the consumer” by creating further sub-divisions of wine regions and new DOC’s?

I felt the odd one out when I implored the wineries to spend time finding what they have in COMMON that is unique instead of worrying about local matters, but how to explain this view?

Wine and Movies

Winemakers, their wines and their wineries are all great characters. On their own, each one is different, has its own background, personality and role to play in this world. Yet, individually, they are walking biographies, of interest only to the already devoted fans. They lack a context & excitement. They lack a narrative.

To quote an interesting article by Caro Clarke:

“Plot is what happens. Narrative is what the reader sees and hears of what happens – and how he sees and hears it.”

Movies NEED great characters, but they also need a narrative, a story that affects not just what we learn, but HOW we understand what it is all about. There has to be something that brings these characters together, gives them a way to express themselves, makes them interact, highlights their brilliance … and their flaws.

  • Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) needs Los Angeles, computers, satellites, guns and terrorist threats to make sense as a character, otherwise he might just be a moody, aggressive law-enforcement officer with a sadistic streak and a knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • King George VI (Colin Firth) needs the pageantry and social norms of British Royalty and threat of war of 1930′s London to make us care about his fight with a speech impediment, otherwise he’d just be an unfortunate toff who wouldn’t make much money as an after-dinner speaker

Ultimately, there has to be something that engages the viewer and consumer and keeps them in their seats. THIS is what the region should be providing. But just like every movie needs its actors to play the parts, it also needs directors, screen writers and camera operators (and many more skilled folks, including Best Grips, whatever they are). A great movie only emerges when all of these people, and their skills, come together.

The same is true for wines. There are great wine makers, great wineries and amazing wines, but they make a much greater impact when they are put into a context that consumers care about and understand. EVERYONE needs to play their part in promoting the region, and the individuals involved need to learn to think of the overall effort as well as their own objectives.

Consumers are looking for ways to understand wine, so let’s give them the stories they need to convince them to bother paying attention, and then spend their hard-earned money on our wines.

In response to this, Vrazon is planning on running workshops for wineries and regional bodies to help them develop this concept for their own situation. Look out for announcements for dates and locations in 2011 and 2012 but we hope to have one up and running in conjunction with the 2011 European Wine Bloggers’ Conference

Let’s hope that in future we can tell more interesting, unique stories that make sense of the great wine characters that do exist out there.

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Access Granted

Last week’s Access Zone activities at the 2011 London International Wine Fair (LIWF) were not only great fun and a way to spread the word about social media in wine, but they seemed to strike a chord with the wine trade present.

Gabriella, Ryan and I were very pleased with the buzz around the fair and online about the range of events, seminars, projects and announcements that Vrazon helped to make happen on the relatively small space of the Access Zone. After all, that was the idea. This wasn’t intended to be another “theatre” for presentations, but an interactive space where we could start discussions with a presentation, then have as much participation as possible. As Ryan Opaz observed:

“The only way this will work is if the audience interrupts a lot.”

Every major announcement was well attended, with participants filling the aisles and following on the livestream. We are extremely grateful to all those who took the time out to listen, ask questions, answer queries and generally make the experience of the LIWF as useful as possible.

The archive of the live access zone video and interviews can now be browsed; more polished videos will take a little longer, but BIG thanks to MadCatMedia for making the magic happen

Day 1 – Tuesday 17th May

The Access Zone really kicked off with two big events on Tuesday – the social media Q&A sessions with ourselves and other volunteers, and the launch of the Disrupt Wine (you will be able to learn a lot more about the Disrupt Wine on the dedicated site being built).

Where else would you get the combined talents and different perspectives of Wink Lorch, Louise Hurren, Andre Ribeirinho and Ryan O’Connell on a roundtable? It was a lot of fun for Ryan and me to moderate and be involved in. The overall message from these discussions could probably be summed up a:

“Be yourself, and good stuff will happen”

It was also amazing to be able to create a blend of three different varieties from three different winemakers in three different countries – and made on the stand! We are very grateful to Thierry’s who took the brave step of returning to exhibit at the LIWF by investing in a stand that would sit alongside the Access Zone. Most importantly, they also agreed to the concept of developing a pan-European wine blend on the stand in only three days. It was a privilege to work with Markus Huber (of Weingut Huber in Austria), Emmanuel Laurent (of Rodet in Burgundy) and Giorgio Flessati (of Viña Falernia in Italy) on this project. Evidence, if any was needed, of their own commitment to doing something different and offering creative, fresh thinking to the UK wine trade.

We ended the day with the visit by Naked Wines and their archangels, learning about their latest developments and watched them select a range of new wines. Naked Wines are now also listing the Disrupt Wine on their new marketplace – do check it out and get involved.

Day 2 – Wednesday 18th May

The Wednesday was time to showcase Vrazon‘s other main projects, the Born Digital Wine Awards (BDWA) and the European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC). Congratulations to all the winners and runners up in each of the 5 categories of the inaugural BDWA, many of whom, like Wink Lorch, Tim Atkin, Richard Ross and Mark Ryan were on the stand to hear the results. The response was wonderful, particularly as there were some very deserving finalists in the spotlight, including both new names as well as established writers. Congratulations to all of them!

For more details and a full list of finalists and winners, visit http://borndigitalwineawards.com

We also took the opportunity to announce the overall theme for the fourth edition of the European Wine Bloggers Conference, which will be “Storytelling“, and that George Taber will be our first keynote speaker. Of course, this was all accompanied with a delicious glass of Franciacorta from our host sponsors for 2011. Please visit the EWBC site for more information, and if you are thinking of coming, please do book your tickets soon as the number of tickets is fixed and we anticipate them selling out early again this year.

But it wasn’t all about us, it was also a chance for Ryan O’Connell’s to give hints and tips for wineries looking to take advantage of social media, and to hear more about what Palate Press is up to to help wine bloggers make money from their blogs – check them out!

Day 3 – Thursday 19th May: The final day

The final day was once again dedicated largely to Disrupt Wine - selecting the delicious winning blend (50% Gruner Veltliner, 40% Falanghina and 10% Macon Chardonnay) as well as unveiling the label design incorporating the audience’s own tasting note contributions.

We also had great discussions on blogging by David Lowe (@bigpinots) and another general Q&A with Ryan Opaz. Lots of great content there for reference.

On top of all this there were dozens of great interviews with bloggers, publishers, retailers and winemakers, open tasting sessions and PLENTY of networking, much of it brought to you live but also recorded to watch again.

We hope all those who made it to the stand got something out of it. Not everyone at the fair will have seen the value of Social Media in wine, and it certainly is not a tool to replace everything that is done to sell and promote wine, but it is a great complement for the best brands and people, and we hope to see more great stories being told after this event.

These were three intense days, but with the help of our many friends listed here, as well as the organisers of the LIWF, and Thierry’s, we feel it was all worthwhile for all those involved.

See you next year!

Robert McIntosh, Gabriella Opaz & Ryan Opaz

Honest about being Craggy

I was lucky enough to be invited to a tasting of prestige wines held at the marvellous Corrigans restaurant (I was too busy enjoying the food to remember to take any photos, sorry).

Craggy Range Tasting

Craggy Range Tasting

The occasion was a tasting of recent vintages of Craggy Range, one of the exponents of really top class wines from unique terroirs from the new world, in this case New Zealand. Whilst many wine drinkers might think that the concept of single vineyard, terroir-driven wines might be the preserve of the ‘old’ world, this is really not the case. I am seeing more and more of this style of wines reach the UK consumer from places like New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and, of course, California which might finally be starting to make people notice – but will they believe it, and more importantly, pay the difference?

I have not been a great fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc recently (I feel that many have lost subtlety and have become hard to drink and enjoy rather than taste) so it was really refreshing to taste some absolutely wonderful crisp, mineral Chardonnays from single vineyards such as Gimblett Gravel, and earthy, dark fruit and herbal Pinot Noirs, such as that from the Calvert vineyards along the famous Felton Road.

What stuck with me was the straight-talking (sometimes achingly frank) style of the winemaker Rod Eastman which was captivating, particularly since it was clearly combined with great wine knowledge. This is exactly the kind of voice I would love to follow online on a blog, or vlog, to educate me about his wines, about this quality of wine, and about his country. Rod was able to give his wines context, which included some critical assessments of particular vintages, grapes and closure decisions (he happens to really hate cork).

You rarely hear brand spokespeople making any such admissions, and it reminds us that as well as being the winemaker, he is still a wine drinker himself, and therefore “one of us” – and someone we can trust. In fact many of those whose views I trust most have managed to combine a professional view with an honest, personal opinion too.

At this time Craggy Range are not active in social media, but I know it is on their agenda (is it not on everyone’s yet?) and I look forward to learning a lot more about the unique terroirs and regions of New Zealand from them one day soon, and I hope the winemakers’ views feature clearly on whatever they do.

Thank you to Warren Adamson for arranging for me to attend.

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Brain Fail

Human brain - please add comment and fav this ...
Image by Gaetan Lee via Flickr

I’m sad to report that my Brain 1.0 crashed this morning.

I had crafted a beautiful post about Twitter and the business benefits of participating in it, including witty comparisons, links to all sorts of relevant articles, statistics and images, and even made a few quote-worthy inserts that would allow you to pass on the article to your friends.

Unfortunately, I sat down this morning to paste this article from Brain 1.0 into Worpress and I discovered that this well crafted article had been corrupted (possibly by tiredness or even the half bottle of wine I had last night). I even attempted to reopen the article in my now rather dated Pen-N-Paper interface, and the entire thing seems to have become one wordy, garbled, incoherent and unresearched mess.

Unfortunately it means I’m going to have to start again, and this post is an attempt to re-format those thoughts and find fresh inspiration.

For those of an impatient disposition, the gist of the article was:

Twitter is a worthy additional tool in any business communication plan, but there are several different ways to approach it, and you need to better understand not what twitter IS, but how it is USED before you prepare that plan.

You do not need to participate in it heavily to benefit. You can simply monitor conversations and use it to respond to questions, and most importantly, respond to any issues directly and in a timely way. This is customer service “gold dust” and creates a great opportunity for word of mouth benefits.

However, as with all social media, you can really benefit from the twitter platform by getting involved, interacting with other individuals and communicating your (personal and business) personality. This is something that takes time, honesty, and a degree of openness most businesses find hard at first. However, it could be transforming for the business by creating a truly loyal group of friends, much more than ‘just’ customers.

OK. I’m off to turn that into something a little more useful and rounded, and to see if anyone has yet brought out an upgrade or replacement for my unreliable Brain.

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Wine and Photography – some thoughts

Andrew Barrow from Spittoon is, as I have said before, a great photographer of wine ‘occasions’, particularly setting them off against food matches. Check out his photos here. He also pointed me to a friend’s photos here.

He and I have had a brief conversation about this some time ago, and I thought I would share my issues with this subject here in case others have any suggestions.

If you ask someone for a “wine” photo, you will get:

- a bottle shot, with or without props
- a vineyard shot
- a glass of wine (funny angle not required); swirling or dripping extra
- a smiling couple/group at a table with glasses raised

However well executed these shots are (and some are better than others), they have been done before by someone else. What is happening in 2007 with wine that we want to communicate? Is there nothing different today than there was 2, 10, 20, 50 years ago? I think there is, and we need to think about the visual language of how we get this across.

Let me give a comparative example culled from about 45 seconds searching on flickr.com

If wine were … snowboarding, then this is the photo we are using (This photo by Anh Quan). There is nothing wrong with it. It shows boards, the design alternatives and the set up is fine.

However, snowboaring enthusiasts might use this type of shot (Photo by T A K K):

Relevant, active, engaging, atmospheric, fun, modern, youthful, … good!

You might even go so far as saying that if you removed the board from the photo, there are still enough clues for the target market to say “Snowboard!” (or whatever a cool snowboarder actually says).

This is exactly what the perfume business and soft drinks markets already do. Perfumes are all about beautiful people being terribly attractive.

Soft drinks are the same. A can is boring, but Wayne Rooney draining a can after a tough game whilst condensation drips from the can or bottle is not. Of course we cannot, by law, do many of these same things for wine at least in the EU, but the concepts are there.

So, if snowboarding or perfumes were wine, what photos should we be taking to make it relevant, active … and all those other nice words up there?

Now, Chateau Petrogasm has attempted to move in this area, although not directly. Their concept is to link a photo (or an image more generally) with a tasting note. This is radical, and fun, but it is about the taste of the wine. I am still thinking a little more broadly about how photography might capture the essence of a wine brand.

Tom Wark at Fermentation also mentioned a similar issue recently, although relating to the graphics for the entire catalogue and not about a single wine or brand.

I believe that this area is ideal fodder for more creative bloggers who have a decent artistic streak and mastery of a camera.

Question: How would you ‘capture’ a wine brand WITHOUT showing a bottle, a glass, winery or vineyard? Has it been done? Any suggestions for specific brands (polite only please!)?

And then (you knew it was coming), how might we communicate the Wine Conversation and therefore the role of wine in our culture(s) in general using photography (bottles and glasses allowed this time)?

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