Wine in a Web 2.0 World

By Kerry Newberry

Pop icon Madonna gyrated into 1984 with her inaugural album “Like a Virgin.” Fingerless gloves and fishnet stockings took stage as she crooned catchy tunes such as “Shoo-Bee-Doo” and “Material Girl.” Lyrics from the latter song: “Cause we are living in a material world/And I am a material girl” sing veritably today if you slip in the adjective “virtual.” Three decades later and without the fingerless gloves, we are living in a virtual world, and I think I am a virtual girl.

Virtually everything is available online: music and movies, couture and cuisine, love, romance and, now, wine. Yes, it is all a mere mouse-click away. Welcome to Web 2.0, the second generation of web development and design, where dynamic communication, information sharing and collaboration are key. For this new and improved web world, think of sites with user-generated content, web-based communities, podcasts, social networking sites, video-sharing platforms, wikis and blogs.

These rapidly evolving tools are the “Lucky Star”—another Madonna song for the fans out there—for businesses, creating innovative networking and marketing opportunities to new audiences, particularly the coveted crowd: the influential Millennial.

Millennials—born between 1977 and 1998—probably never rocked to Madonna, but that doesn’t matter, because they are rock stars by sheer number—70-million strong—and they are changing the world of wine, one click at time.

Data from the Wine Market Council shows that 40 percent of 21-and-over Millennials drink wine. They are responding and taking to wine in greater numbers and earlier in life than both Generation X and the Baby Boomers. Wine market studies also show that Millenials are willing to experiment and explore new wines and wine regions. About 85 percent of those surveyed by the Wine Market Council said they regularly purchase a wine they’ve never seen before.

Wineries are marketing to this generation in new and virtual ways, and the Millennials, as well as the rest of us, are responding. If you are “Like a Virgin” to the virtual wine world, here are just a few of the vogue ways to sip and swirl in Web 2.0.

Instead of a blog, imagine a ‘vlog’: a video blog or an online journal comprised mostly of video content. The most infamous vlog stars the idiosyncratic and often irreverent Gary Vaynerchuk, Wine Library TV ( ). Vaynerchuk has been ‘vlogging’—yes, this is now a word according to Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary—daily since 2006.

As co-owner and director of operations of Wine Library, a wine retail shop in Springfield, New Jersey, Vaynerchuk found fame as the host of Wine Library TV. Each episode features wine tastings and reviews, advice about wine appreciation and sporadic, orgasmic bursts about the New York Jets. In three short years, he has built a cult-like following of more than 80,000 viewers a day and sparked a wine tasting revolution. The power of this vlog is real. After episode No. 535, “An Oregon Pinot Noir Tasting,” in September 2008, Boedecker Cellars sold out of their featured 2005 Stewart Pinot Noir in a snap. 

For food and wine, check out Wine Dining Vlog ( ). It recently featured Kevin Zraly, the wine director for the Windows on the World restaurant atop New York’s World Trade Center from 1976-2001 and the founder and instructor of the Windows on the World Wine School. And at Eat, Drink or Die ( ), you’ll find a vlogosphere of videos from infinite culinary angles.

For less commentary and more video, check out Wine.TV ( ), a site that launched in 2004. Wine.TV boasts the largest programming library about wine in the world and covers news and stories about winemakers, wine regions and wine critics. Distribution has a confirmed a reach of 96.9 million households. Wine Taste TV ( ) also highlights winemakers with “Wine Talk,” adding features on food, travel and video cellar tours. Wine Peeks TV ( ) targets the MTV-oriented, tech-savvy Millennials, with sleek wine video and audio that promise an inside perspective on the personalities behind the wine.

Wine Spectator Video Theater ( ) also videos interviews with winemakers, vineyard managers and sommeliers. A spirited addition to their site is “My AHA! Wine.” This segment spotlights Wine Spectator magazine staff and invites wine lovers everywhere to share their “AHA! Wine Moment.” See the site for details and your three minutes of virtual wine fame.

Region-specific sites include Ohio Wine TV ( ), which boasts the state’s wineries and its winemaking history that can be traced back to 1823, and In Wine Country ( ). The latter won a James Beard Award for their TV show and features very polished podcasts from California wine country, additionally covering celebrity chefs, gardens, arts, artisan foods and travel.

After virtually and visually exploring wine on the Internet, why not join a virtual tasting group with Must Love Wine ( ). Members sip, then scribe tasting notes to a forum, networking with fellow wine lovers around the world. The site also offers online wine chats, food and wine pairings, guest bloggers and a very comprehensive national wine events listing. The site layout looks like gone wine, so with over 7,000 members, I imagine virtual flirtations abound, too.     

Live online wine tastings take place at Tastoria ( ), and the virtual tasting room is open to anyone with broadband. The set-up allows users to chat directly with the wine tasting panel and other participants while sipping the themed wines. Past tastings include: “World Cup Wines” (from Rugby playing nations) and “Summertime Sip’n’Sizzle” with wines from Cape Cod.

Plan ahead for Open That Bottle Night ( ) to blog or vlog about that special bottle of wine. Every year since 2000, wine lovers worldwide ‘carpe vinum’ and seize the coveted bottle that remains uncorked for a variety of sentimental reasons. Participants in the event sip and relay their experiences through blog and/or vlog. The next Open That Bottle Night is Feb. 27, 2010. It’s a great excuse to celebrate with friends.

Speaking of friends, why not “friend” or “fan” your favorite wines, virtually. Friending or becoming a fan of wineries on the sensational social networking phenomenon Facebook ( ) is an easy way to stay updated on winery events, wine releases and wine lifestyle. Even varietals have accounts. The Oregon Pinot Noir profile has close to 300 friends at this time and engages fans with quirky status updates, including: Oregon Pinot Noir is hanging out in the sun…

After finessing Facebook, add Twitter ( ) to the list for social media mastery. This tool allows individuals to communicate where they are and what they are doing to a wide range of people at anytime. Tweet your dinner, a wine question or links to current events relevant to your network. The fun part of Twitter is following Tweets for status updates on events like the 2009 Portland Indie Wine Festival or from your favorite writers or magazine editors.

As you vlog and Tweet your way to virtual euphoria, remember that as fun and informative as the Web 2.0 World can be, there is no place like the real world for a glass of wine with good friends.

Kerry Newberry is a Pinot-sipping, vineyard-hopping wine and food writer. She resides in Portland.

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