Winemakers shun social media grapevine

Leslie Gevirtz, Reuters Life!

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

When it comes to social media, most winemakers prefer to drink alone.

More than 80 percent of the 532 French winemakers surveyed by online marketing company mysocialwinery.com said they did not blog or use Facebook, Twitter or other websites that allow consumers to comment, recommend, track or question wine producers.

Although Old World winemakers prefer to stay offline, their New World counterparts in the United States, South America, Australia or New Zealand seem to be sensitive to social media's impact.

Five of 11 winemakers at a Moet-Hennessy gathering admitted they used Facebook. They were from Argentina, California, Chile, New Zealand and surprisingly Spain.

"Well, I'm just past 40 and I did spend a great deal of time in Argentina before coming to Numanthia," explained Manuel Louzada, who makes some of Spain's most highly rated reds. Numanthia's website is still a work in progress, but he does have a seldom used Twitter account.

New World winemakers may not tweet much, but they do read wine blogs.

"Wine is a social beverage and with the social media, I want to be part of the conversation rather than being talked about," said Cloudy Bay's Ian Morden, a 41 year-old winemaker who has worked in Australia and New Zealand who read bloggers.

His colleague, Nicolas Audebert, 34, a winemaker for Cheval des Andes, is amazed by how extensive social media is and appalled by how intrusive it can be.

"My whole life is online, even before I was online," Audebert said. "On the blogs they knew, 'Oh Audebert. He is leaving Krug and coming to Argentina' almost before I did."

But Laura Bianchi, who is the third-generation winemaker at her family's Castello di Monsanto, famed for its Chianti Classico, and Andrea Felluga, chief winemaker for his family's Livio Felluga in Lombardy, have no time for social media.

Old and new world winemakers try to avoid Twitter and relegate social media to marketing departments.

California's St. Supery hired Rick Bakas, a sommelier, to not only tweet and use Facebook but also to host virtual wine tastings.

Other California wineries, such as J.Lohr, weave the web, Facebook and Twitter into their marketing, while smaller U.S. wineries see social media as critical to their success.

Napa's Swanson Vineyards has a set schedule of daily Twittering, and weekly posts to Facebook and YouTube. But getting the winemaker to participate is tough.

"Very few winemakers are actively/personally engaged in social media," said Swanson's marketing manager Chris Cutler.

"They like to focus on wine making," he added.


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