Author Archives: Ryan Opaz

About Ryan Opaz

I am cofounder of the European Wine Bloggers Conference, Born Digital Wine Awards and run fun things like: The Access Zone at the #LIWF. Contact me if you want someone to speak about where the internet and wine intersect. I am a Liquid Agnostic.

Wine Business Innovation Summit

#WBIS – Wine Business Innovation SummitThe WBIS, Wine Business Innovation Summit, returns with a new location this year, and Vrazon will be taking part again. The WBIS is a welcome addition to the wine landscape and a perfect complement to the Digital Wine Communications Conference held each autumn. Both events are working to make sure the online sphere of wine is taken seriously and that the people behind it are rewarded for their work.

The first edition of #WBIS was held on 19th January at the Les Ateliers des Tanneurs in the Marolles quarter of Brussels. Organised by Marc Roisin (CEO and founder of and Faye Cardwell (freelance organizer of international wine events) the duo were supported by Jens De Maere (founder of and a team of highly enthusiastic members of the Belgian wine scene.

I was there that year as a speaker talking about how to improve the “press trip”. Being a one-day event it was a good chance for me to meet new people I hadn’t met before, many just getting started in the wine world as well as many long time veterans. Mark and his team had created a spark of energy and while I think there were questions about the viability of the event going forward, one of which was whether wine geeks could endure another cold winter event, overall people left with a bit of a ‘spring’ in their step.

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EWBC12 – Tech Tools

Every year at the EWBC, I conduct a workshop on tech tools that you may, or may not, be familiar with. Some are right off the innovation line, while others, have been around for awhile but need a reintroduction as to how they’ve grown or changed. I try to make it as jam packed as possible with tips and tools that might help you break out of your routine and try something new, as well as providing advice on how to use your current tools better.

Below you will find both the video (sorry for the quality) and slides. You can watch them in two windows if you want to follow along.  If you have any questions, leave them in the comments or send me an email. You can contact me here if you want to do some one on one consulting about your online presence or if you want to discuss bigger projects. Just shoot me an email: [email protected].

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Public Service Announcement: Passwords Protect All of Us

Under Lock and Key

Under Lock and Key (Photo credit: Pulpolux !!!)

Hacked. All files lost. Computer hard drive wiped. Phone dead. Twitter account hijacked.

Think it couldn’t happen? Think again.

Listening to the frightening details on this podcast about being hacked that made me realize every niche community needs to hear a few basic facts on passwords.

In a world where we all are supposed to remember details for every connection we make, most of us are failing to protect ourselves. I say this from very personal experience. I get calls daily from clients and contacts about their websites, Twitter or Facebook accounts and am VERY often given their root password so that I can go in and see what is wrong. These passwords are usually as effective at protecting their identity as a glass balaclava. I won’t count the number of times I have received passwords like: password1, p@ssword or pinotnoir or worse.

You need to realize a few simple things about passwords:

  1. Password strength is NOT primarily about protecting you against someone guessing your password. They are to protect you against computers attacking you by brute force and attempting to guess what your password it by running millions of combinations till they get it right! Any password of fewer than 10 letters is not going to take long to hack with this method. Just look at this example of how password strength works.

LESSON: Making a password short and hard to remember is less effective than making an easy to remember password that is extra long.

  1. Passwords NEED TO BE DIFFERENT for as many sites as you have. One password to rule them all equals one password to steal all you own. Fortunately today I use a tool called LastPass. There are many of these, but LastPass is my favorite. It gives every site I have a new password, and then remembers them for me. Plus it remembers notes, and other seekret details about my life. Then I have to remember only one VERY LONG password to get into LastPass. Mine is a 7 word sentence. Now I am doubly protected, plus all these passwords are available to me at anytime from my  computers, my phone, my tablet, or any computer I use in the world.

LESSON: Use tools to make the process of remembering multiple passwords easier, don’t stick with one password

  1. CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS. Not all of them, and not all the time. But if you are not changing your banking PW at least quarterly, if not preferably monthly you are asking for trouble. Set a reminder in your electronic calendar to remind you to change them. It just makes sense. And with LastPass you don’t have to worry about trying to remember each change. It will generate an automatic secure PW when you need it!

LESSON: Change we can believe in! Change we need

  1. I register for so many new things each day that to archive every one, knowing I will dump most of these registrations at some point, makes no sense. Come up with a familiar formula for a password for each site that is easy to use, for example: the last three letters of the site’s URL + an 8 digit standard code you remember. This is something you can use once and dump. When you register for the next twitter competitor, photo sharing site, online survey tool or whatever, you can use this. Then, when you realize you are going to use a new service regularly you change it. BUT REMEMBER TO CHANGE IT!

LESSON: Learn a formula for a throwaway password. It is not foolproof, but makes life easier for the short term.

  1. If given the option DO NOT use your mothers maiden name, birthday, pet’s name, or anything else that could be found on your facebook profile or anywhere else on the web as your password reminder. If given the option, make your reminder something obscure and not related to the answer. Example: Question: My favorite Wine Movie? Answer: Corkscr3w – The question is related to your reminder hint, but is not something a human could engineer. Using a 3 for the letter ‘E’ just adds another glitch in the human guessing system. These hints are for humans, so we need to trick them, more than the computers I mentioned above.

LESSON: In an era of open sharing, old-fashioned ideas of what are “private” details are dangerous. Stay alert!

These tips are for all of you, but they are for me as well. I correspond with many of you, and we might share details that I don’t want public, and if I trust you, I risk being phished too. If you get hacked I get hacked. That is the problem. If you are using insecure passwords, I am a potential target too. Imagine being hacked and having to tell everyone you know? How embarrassing! With some simple tools and simpler actions you can make life safer for all.

Just remember if your password looks like this:


You are not safe! But if your password looks like:


… you are probably not going to have a problem. If you don’t think it could happen to you, think again. Let’s make our community stronger and safer. Friends don’t let friends use weak passwords.



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Blogging is Dead

Blogging can’t die

Blogging can’t die. Take the original meaning of the word blog; it comes from the contraction of “web” as in the world wide web, and “log” as in to log ideas, or journaling. Today, and forever, there will be people logging what they think about all manner of subjects that they are passionate about.

I recently saw the statement on Twitter that blogging is dead. Sorry, you cannot kill an idea (journaling) that has persisted since man first took quill to parchment.

Seeing that we work in wine and discuss wine blogs as part of our job, we should talk about what a wine blog really is.

If you understand the idea of blogging as an online journal and nothing more, you will see that the idea of there being A “best wine blog” is just silly. As is, frankly, any system claiming to rate “best wine blogs”. Who is the best “runner”? Usain Bolt, Haile Gebrselassie or maybe Fauja Singh?

People often accuse wine bloggers of not being professional. You’re right, sometimes they aren’t. We need our industry to understand that there are a variety of types of communicators who write about wine. A wine blogger who writes to tell the story of their personal journey in wine is not the same as someone who writes about wine futures. And they should not be held to the same standards.

Just because you have a degree, MW, WSET diploma, have written a book, or have been awarded every prize for wine literature that has ever existed, you are not a “better blogger” than anyone else. You can’t, by definition, be better. You can, on the other hand, be: More persistent, Better at Wine Rating, Better at Wine Science, Better at Wine Educating, Better at anything you wish to communicate about. But you are not better than another person who wants to discover wine and share that discovery with an audience, large or small, online.

The blog part is only the tool, or the physical means, used to log your content. I do believe Robert Parker would have been the first blogger if the software had existed at the time. He wouldn’t be the best wine blogger though. He might be an influential wine blogger in certain circles, maybe even indispensable to the industry. That said, I could argue that he is the worst wine blogger when it comes to recommending a wine to my parents. He uses language that they don’t understand and talks about wines that my parents are never realistically going to taste.

I happen to be the best wine blogger for my parents. I won an award for it. Really! Ok, so not really, but I hope to one day when my parents finally get around to handing out awards for meaningless family skills.

So, to all you people who think your wine blog is more important than another person’s: Get over it! You’re one of many. You may be the best in your niche, or for your audience, and for that I applaud you. The truth is that a blog is publishing tool. Go find a cool way to use it. Quit worrying about what other people are doing. There are plenty of audiences out there, find your own. Or if you have it, remember to give them what they want, which I assume is wine content. Publish it however you want, wherever you want, whenever you want. Have fun. Or don’t, I don’t care.


Update: I was remiss in not crediting the image. Tombstone image courtesy of the Tombstone Generator [Robert]

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A vineyard tractor

What 1% increase in spending will sell you more wine?

Ironically, the answer is probably not by increasing the quality of your wine.

A vineyard tractor

Will this sell wine? (by @ryanopaz)

With the one exception, moving from a Parker (or other pointillistic) rating of 89 to 90, there is very little chance that you can find any benefit to a 1% increase in wine quality leading to a measured increase in wine sales. Yet wineries will spend thousands and thousands of dollars/euros every day to try to make it happen. They spend on things such as: a new bladder press that presses the grapes even more gently, a consulting winemaker to come in and tweak the style of their wines, or maybe a whole set of new fermentation tanks just because the current ones are not quite the right shape to attain maximum extraction. I’ve seen all of these implemented by wineries who were struggling to sell more wine. Each time the winery was looking for a way to get more people to buy their wine, but from what I can tell, all that was achieved was a larger bank debt and the same amount of wine being sold.

I’m talking about wineries with established markets and established ways of doing things. A new winery might quite rightly need to upgrade the materials they have as they begin to grow, but even in that case, measuring the quality of the wine in relation to the wine making gadgets’ fixed costs is a VERY difficult thing to do. As we used to say in the kitchen I worked in: “It doesn’t matter how fancy your knife is if you don’t know how to use it.”

The irony is that so many wineries are already full of fancy wine making equipement with shiny wineries and fancy bottles, and yet they have either forgotten to invest in a website, or the website they currently have hasn’t been updated in years. Today the website is not an option.

So what 1% increase in spending might help these wineries to sell more wine, if not by making the wine better?

If poor wine quality is stopping you from selling more wine then you will need to spend a lot more than 1% of your budget to improve the wines. If you’re selling wine already and you want to sell more, a new tractor is not going to make difference to your sales. The problem is, buying a tractor is easy to understand. It’s a physical object that you can touch and you know it’s there. Marketing, websites, and PR are less so. You can’t physically touch them and, like a ghost, that can be scary! “New wine press, no problem, I can see that and touch it and all is good! New online social media campaign? Well, I don’ t think that that will help much, plus I don’t understand it”.

Not understanding how something  works does not mean you don’t need it. 

I don’t understand how the hard drive in my computer remembers what I put in it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need it. I buy it, and use it, because it is useful. Social media, and a functioning website, are not optional winery tools, they are as essential as your destemming machine.

That is if you want to sell more wine.

I believe that a 1% budget increase spent on your winery’s sales, marketing, or online engagement will make a small difference to your bottom line. Quite often a very large difference. If you have the courage, I dare you to try.

An example: What is your annual operating budget for your winery? 250,000 euros? 500,000? More? Less? Let’s start with the first one, where 1% gives us 2,500 euros. Take that money and go out and hire a professional, not a relative who took a weekend class in web design, but a trained professional, and have them sit down with you and teach you about Twitter, Facebook, or even help build your first blog. For that 2,500 euros, and a bit of shopping around, I bet you could get a new website and some in-house training. Maybe not the fanciest website, but you could trade that in for a Facebook fanpage, some Twitter help and more in house training. Now you’re set. Just remember to ask questions and get involved; this stuff won’t run itself.

Then spend 1% of your time each week engaged with it. That’s just 15 minutes a day.

2,500 euros of social media education and initiatives + 15 minutes a day = more wine sold. Guaranteed. Or rather you won’t sell any less wine. You can only gain.

This won’t happen overnight. I bet you didn’t learn to make the perfect wine your first day in the winery. It probably took some time to learn how to do it. That’s ok. It didn’t stop you from trying though, did it? No, you wanted to make better wine, so you went and did it no matter what. Next thing you know, you got the hang of it and pretty soon it became easier and easier. The same goes for social media.

By getting out there and talking to consumers and promoting yourself online, you will sell more wine. The social part of getting out there won’t be tangible, but your selling wine will be. What have you got to lose? With the crisis here in Europe impacting sales, wineries can’t afford not to try. Make 2012 the year you try something different.

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