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Wine/11 on Grape Thinking - Part 3

Archive for the ‘Wine/11’ Category

Dining Out?

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Last week New York Magazine ran the special ‘New York vs. London‘, calling London ‘the other New York,’ an honour to be sure, and the article was accompanied with a glowing review of London – the undisputed capital city of Europe.

New York Magazine is obviously regional, and abroad, if one wants to get the pulse of a city there’s simply no substitute for Time Out, which has always been an invaluable resource to me – whether I’m in London, New York, Paris, or Chicago, I make sure to consult with the website and find out what’s going on, where to eat, where to dine and where to hang out. Time Out rocks plain and simple. Whether you’re in Helsinki or Hong Kong, Time Out’s got insider advice and is the Lonely Planet for footloose socialites.

But what about when you stop by to visit a friend in Raleigh-Durham or stop in to Atlanta, or Baltimore, Princeton or any other of the thousands of possible places you may be going? In this day and age, click to enlargeculinary expertise is becoming an international standard, and while Wolfgang Puck, Rocco DiSpirito,Todd English, Thomas Keller, Nobu Matsuhisa and Emeril Lagasse bang out their drum-beat across the international stage of fine-dining, there are many local gems with high-quality and knock out ambience that the outsider will never find. Local dining sites, reviewers and wine blogs are a dime a dozen, but up until now, there hasn’t been a community that embodies the the world within and around restaurateuring, specialty foods, dining, socialising, travel and wine.

Who better to tell you about a neighbourhood, specialty store, restaurant or new wine than someone who knows you? Whilst Amateur Gourmet, Friends Eat, Menu Pages, Chow Hound, Restaurant Spy, CIA, Accidental Hedonist, Amy, Rob, Food Goat, Epicurious and Fork and Bottle are all awesome resources, there’s something missing. My feeling is that these sites all have to be specifically book-marked or recommended, as I’m doing here, in order to be found. So many great , wines or food shops have that ‘we just stumbled upon it’ feel, but there’s something very pre-meditated about going to a blog such that one feels that the blogosphere is preaching to the blogosphere. Food blogs so often miss out on providing wine recommendations, whilst wine blogs seldom mention food and both rarely provide a tool for getting the food or getting the wine.

When I’m on Amazon or browsing the iTunes Store, I often come away with something unexpected, which is why I keep going back. Reading food or wine blogs however, is not much different to reading a food or wine magazine, in that’s it’s a one-way communication channel. Perhaps I’m too juiced up on the current digitial explosion, but the food and wine blogosphere leaves me wanting more: more content, personalisation, interaction, recommendations… more community.

In South Africa there is a word, Ubuntu, and it means ‘I am because we are,’ which is spirit of any community, and is perhaps less succinctly put by John Donne in writing ‘no man is an island.’ Indeed, then, no blog is an island – a food blog needs restaurants or recipes, and a wine blog needs wineries and they all need people to enjoy them. Isn’t it time then that there was a community which embodied food, wine, restuarants, vineyards, friends and wine lovers all in one?

Grape Thinking is working to build a platform to do just that – providing a community that will guide you to anywhere where wine is served, enjoyed, treasured and appreciated for everything it is. Through personal profiles and personal reviews, in the true sense of the word ‘community’, users, restaurants, and wineries will share personal knowledge and reveal the delights of their cities and hang-outs to the world.This is the ultimate goal of Grape Thinking, to bring wine and its surrounds together. We want grapethinkers to discover not only their taste: but to help a world of taste find them.

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Posted in Dining, Food, Travel, Wine, Wine/11 | No Comments »

Do you MOG?

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

MOG is one of the newer communities to have arisen and it’s dedicated to and features profiles of musicians like Ben Gibbard. Unlike MySpace, which has become slightly commercialized and is used by every petty marketer to invite people to parties or sell cell-phones, MOG is strictly for music. What I like about the site is the ability to see as well as listen to what other people listen to; there’s a MOG-O-METER which reads all your most recently played iTunes tracks, and then it makes recommendations of what you should listen to. Better than that, you can actually listen to music on other people’s pages for free, without downloading it.

is a perfect example of how such brand innovation has stepped out of the music-only sphere and can be applied to wine. The formation of a community is exactly what the industry needs, wine people like talking, and so there are discussion boards, there’s information about any California winery you need, and one can even find emerging industry heavyweights such as Pinotblogger weighing in, which makes for a promising and powerful voice to be addressing this emerging wine community. Josh@pinotblogger.com has really opened up communication, with the recently launched Podcast and by going so far as to publish his cell-phone number on the blog, there’s no doubt that such graceful transparency is the future of wine , especially for wines like Capozzi, and Stormhoek, and Vilafonte, which have all made unbelievable use of the online channel in building brands.

However, my feeling is that many California Wineries already enjoy a voice, and it’d be great if the conversation could be expanded and was between California and the world, rather than just California and California. Thinking about it this morning while reading The Pour where Asimov had quite recently spoken about various Natural wines, and linked through to a particular Rioja winery-site which enables you to do a cellar door tour, I couldn’t help but thinking that there’s a bigger picture here. Focusing on California when you have the entire world to talk about is to look too closely at the grapes when there’s an entire vineyard (to plagiarize seeing the wood through the trees.)

Grape Radio
had a fantastic Podcast a while back from a Pinot Symposium, and wine-makers from Peay Vineyards and around were all discussing Pinot Clones and Swan, which had been gotten from Burgundy. However, the same clones have also gone to South Africa, New Zealand and Oregon, and it would be much more interesting to hear a world symposium where top growers held a tasting and related experiences of the same clone in completely different continents, let alone terroir? In real life it would be expensive to organize, but if the discussion were held online, where winemakers could freely exchange comments on a single discussion board, not just wineries from California, but wineries from across the globe, much interest could be sparked and a lot could be gained.
Long term, it is not only an opportunity for foreign wines to get share of mouth in the US, but it’s also for Californian and US wines to get mind-share overseas. The best known Californian wine in the UK is Gallo, and if you want to find Frog’s Leap or anything from upstate New York you simply can’t, whilst you can find wine from Uruguay or Argentina quite easily in any London store.

Capozzi and Stormhoek, though from different countries entirely, have a lot to learn from one another, but at the moment there isn’t a platform to do it on. Grape Thinking, as many of you have guessed by now, will be that platform. In the coming months we’re going to launch an international wine community, where oenophiles will not only be able to affiliate themselves with global wineries, but they’ll be able to purchase the wine and review it themselves. Israeli Wines, a particular passion of mine, amongst others, will be given a platform to not only market themselves on the same platform as Australia and New Zealand, but because its digital there will be no fights for shelf-space or case-displays. Grapethinking will be the ‘digital vine’ connecting global vineyards, winemakers, bloggers, restaurateurs and wine lovers into the first global digital cocktail party where wine, opinions and dreams can be shared.

Posted in Music, Passion, Technology, Wine, Wine/11 | 8 Comments »

Viral Vines: Setting the Online Market Ablaze

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Viral WinesOne of the most common misconceptions I hear as a web marketer is that an industry, product, or web site is just not viral material. That is to say, the content is so boring, so drab, that it would be impossible to muster up any kind of promotion that would harness the attention of the web. I laugh. I laugh because I want business owners to remember what it was like when they first started – that buzz, that , that creativity and excitement. It is still there, it has just been drowned by years of repetition, monotony and struggle.

The truth is, any site with the right spin can go viral. You will have to be creative. You will have to work. But there is always something interesting enough to drum up that can be turned into a fantastic windfall. We have never run a successful viral campaign that did not bring in so much traffic that the client’s site went down. Below, I go through a comparison of the pieces that make a viral campaign work in terms of starting a bonfire. The analogy bares out well, and provides some sage advice (if I must say so myself) in making a campaign truly work.

1. The Matches:
the initial spark
Without any doubt, this is the most important part of the campaign. Sink or swim, blaze or fizzle, your viral campaign needs substance. Luckily, you don’t have to put two sticks together and rub like crazy, there are plenty of ready-to-run themes that greatly increase the likelihood of a successful online viral campaign.

  1. Bad Customer Service
  2. Incredible Customer Service
  3. PopTechnology: Apple, Linux, Ipods, Ruby on Rails, Nintendo Wii, Gadgets
  4. Amazing Stories, Pictures, or Videos

The question for wineries is always how to include “primed-for-viral” topics into something drastically different from wineries and wine in general. Well, here are just a few grains to get you going

  1. Incredible Customer Service: Customer gets a bottle of your wine at a restaurant complains. Complaint makes it back to your winery. You contact the restaurant to find the customer information and send multiple free bottles to their house.
  2. PopTechnology: Include a Free Ipod Shuffle with a case of wine. The shuffle comes pre-recorded with tasting notes by the winemaker, recipes, and romantic .
  3. Amazing Stories, Pictures, or Videos: The next time you get a cold storm that freezes some of your grapes and ruins them, run out there with camera and take some gorgeous shots of ice-covered grapes melting in the sun. Put those up on Flickr and watch the traffic come in.

The key here is value. Make your site something people want to see and read. Now that the ideas are rolling, lets start talking about turning that match into a bon-fire.

2. The Kindling: superficial burning that light the real flame.
Just like any fire, you can’t go straight to the logs. Well, you could, but your chances of success are greatly impeded. This is where the savvy of internet marketing companies really comes in handy. Here are some tips to help the fire get going…

  1. Profiles with Reputation. Most Web 2.0 communities value User reputation. Users who have been at the site and participated at the site for long periods of time are much more likely to be successful when posting stories than new accounts. Use an old, reputable account to post stories to sites like Digg, Reddit, Netscape, etc.
  2. Link to the Story. Make sure that visitors to your site who are reading the story know that they can vote on it at various web 2.0 sites. Remind them by putting buttons below or beside the story. This is always good for a few extra votes early in the running from your most loyal site readers.
  3. Friends. I am not going to say go get all your friends out there to sign up and start voting for your stories. I won’t even go so far as to say that you should tell friends already on the site to vote for the story. I am going to say that you should make friends on these sites (such as the “Friend” function on Digg) so that they will know when your stories are posted. Moreover, feel free to tell your friends about the story. Some of them may already have accounts at web 2.0 sites, and you have now earned an extra vote or two.

3. Firelogs: keep that fire burning long
The key to long-lasting virals is that they must be RESPONSIVE. While most viral campaigns at least leave up the comments section so that users can state their opinions, a truly responsive campaign will keep folks coming back for weeks. Let’s say that you are running a viral based on gorgeous photography you have of your vineyard. Make sure in your post that visitors know that “more pictures are coming soon”. Ask them if they know any tips for “taking nature shots without getting overwhelmed by the sun.” People need a reason to keep coming back, and setting up a responsive viral will accomplish just that.

4. Suffocation: Preventing your story from burning out fast.
The most common problem with a viral campaign is early suffocation. In the same way that not enough oxygen is getting to your bonfire for it to burn, a viral campaign needs steady or above-steady growth to sustain itself. Once it loses its edge, it becomes very difficult to push through. This leads to several very important, key factors in a successful viral.

  1. Keep your site up: Contact your webmaster / hosting company well in advance and let them know your intent on running a campaign. Figure how much it will costs to keep that web site up when the onslaught of traffic comes. Pay it. If your site is down for 2 hours in the middle of a viral, you can count all your precious efforts good bye.
  2. Don’t over do it: Don’t spam the web 2.0 site with multiple stories on the same thing – I haven’t found a business that could stand more than a viral a week, much less one or more daily. Your site can’t handle it, and users will catch on really fast.

5. Gasoline: Artificial ways to boost your viral campaign
Covering a bonfire in gasoline works. You will get huge flames. And third degree burns. And a felony conviction for starting a forest fire. In the same manner, you can purchase votes from sites, get your friends to all sign up and vote, you can do almost anything you want. You will get caught, it will get out of hand, and you will have huge PR clean up job to handle. Imagine those million potential customers turning into an angry mob. It’s kinda like that. No. It is exactly like that.

Hopefully this will put some ideas into your head about how to use viral marketing effectively for your winery. There is no easier, cost-effective method of developing brand recognition. It is time to join the revolution. Great wines, viral vines.

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Posted in Energy, Technology, Wine/11 | 11 Comments »


Friday, March 2nd, 2007

As many of you may know, we have been working for a while in creating some innovative solutions for wineries to help them reach their customers. One of the elephants in the room is Direct-to-Consumer and Direct-to-Trade sales.

We have recently spent quite a bit of time talking with wineries about some of our new methods, one of which being , and have received some very favorable responses, as well as some opposition.

One of the biggest “fears” expressed by wineries, especially the smaller ones, is they feel obligated to only use their current sales channel. Their fear is: if they were to begin selling direct, their distributors, who are fighting direct sales instead of asking how they can be a part of it, will take it as a slap in the face, and then either: A) refuse to continue distributing their wines; or B) become complacent in the wines because they feel their efforts may be futile if the end consumer purchases the wine online. This is because they are not receiving any commission… because again, this particular distributor is not trying to find a way to become involved in direct sales, and instead is fighting it. (more…)

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Posted in News, Passion, Wine, Wine/11 | No Comments »

Vilafonte’s Online Strategy

Monday, February 26th, 2007


Combine the vineyard responsible for Warwick Trilogy, the California super-winemaker Zelma Long and the marketing genius of Mike Ratcliffe and on paper you have a match made in heaven. If on paper this team is unbelievable, on the palate, their Series M and Series C Vilafonte wines are nothing less than transcendent. The matching of a California winemaker with a vineyard in South Africa puts the term New World at the back of the mind, and suddenly we think New Age. What a great time we live in where travel and communication make it possible for winemakers from across the globe to collaborate and work on foreign soil to create an international icon.
What is most remarkable, however, is the harnessing of the digital age to communicate the magic of a rural setting. Ratcliffe was perhaps one of the first wine marketers to implement a harvest blog and took time off from his business trips to write thoughtful and insightful posts that take you close into the life of a winery. Watch here to see the Vilafonte 2007 harvest; or alternately read their blog; get a closer look into the final phases of the winery’s construction or go to the site ewine.co.za where you can listen to Zelma being interviewed by clicking on the sound file link.

The possibility for consumers to purchase wine online is one thing. But the capability to personally link to homes all across the globe and share an insight into a multimedia rich day-in-the-life of a life less ordinary is nothing short of amazing. Their online effort gives them the tools to demonstrate first-hand a world where farming becomes an art that can express the essence of the land, and can then go on to make impressions on the senses of people around the world. This is unlike anything that has happened before. A year ago, under the guidance of Mr. Ratcliffe, Vilafonte was a brand ahead of its time, but today I am happy to see that they are not only at the forefront of the industry in regards to branding… but in many instances, they’re leading the way.


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Posted in Culture, Stories, Travel, Wine, Wine Review, Wine/11 | 2 Comments »