Twenty years ago, long before terroir was considered anything more than a typically mad French idea, microclimate was the thinking wine lover’s buzz word. Back then, terroir was perceived, even by serious wine professionals, as invoking an image of a French vigneron grabbing a handful of earth and telling you: “Zees is what matters in ze wine, not ze grape variety”. Terroir certainly wasn’t a concept that anyone used in marketing a wine. Microclimate at least was explainable.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s as a Master of Wine student (I did pass the theory part, if not the tasting), and when I first started teaching wine appreciation classes, microclimate was something to be examined from all sides and presented thoughtfully. When it later transpired that we were actually wrong all along to use the word microclimate for a small wine area within a region, and that the accurate term should be mesoclimate (dig out your Jancis Robinson Oxford Companion at this point to check on the differences), it was really quite distressing; mesoclimate, even if it is the correct term, has never caught on beyond the realms of wine academia.
However, when microclimate was a buzz word just happened to coincide with when back labels started to appear, initially on New World wines, but soon after on most wines sold in supermarkets. The term was ideal for the novice wine lover in that they could guess its meaning (unlike terroir, which still has many confused). To the consumer a back label reading: “Thanks to the microclimate of warm days with cooling breezes coming in from the sea, this delicious white wine tastes crisp and fruity” was actually believable.
That is what the novice wine consumer needs: a story about a wine, but a believable one. Much has already been written on the importance of social media for the wine industry in the USA if apparently still questionable in the UK wine trade. However marketers and commentators alike should be well aware that it is of course ‘how one tells a story’ that is at least as important as the content of that story.
Blog posts vary in length and each blog has its own style. Some bloggers are wordy (me for instance, both here and on Wine Travel Guides blog) writing posts not dissimilar to magazine articles. This is dangerous as it will only attract a limited audience of real wine nerds, or perhaps I should say, aficionados. Other bloggers give a quick blast of information in each post, whether it is to focus on one particular wine tasted or perhaps just a hint of a story, more often than not one that has broken as a news story in countless other places. The very best wine bloggers manage to combine the two styles on their blogs.
So, let’s think of the long blog post as climate, worth expounding on at great length and detail, and to continue the analogy, let’s consider the quick blast – one wine focus or story expounded elsewhere – as mesoclimate, the immediate influences around a particular subject, equivalent of climate within a relatively small, defined area – succinct, but not the whole picture.
Inevitably, that leads me, if you’re still ‘buying’ this analogy, to equating microclimate with microblogging – something very particular, the unusually unique climate of a tiny area, equivalent to a few very well chosen words of true widsom, if you’re very lucky. Microblogging, aka Twitter or Facebook for most users, for me verges on an addiction. It suits my work day to post a tweet or a Facebook update daily or several times a day, whereas writing a blog post daily simply doesn’t work for me. Microblogging has brought me fans and followers for Wine Travel Guides and some good business contacts as well as new friends, so presumably I must occasionally say something interesting. But how is microblogging good for wine in general?
More wine than ever is purchased on the internet and more travellers go to places recommended on the internet. Many decisions for purchases and for choice of travel destinations come from word-of-mouth or, increasingly, word-of-mouse recommendations. Just as writing about microclimate on a back label 20 years ago helped paint a picture of a wine to consumers, so today microblogging can bring the customer or potential customer much closer to a wine. If you can’t get your head around Twitter (and I know some can’t), then try Facebook, especially Facebook ‘Business’ pages (also free). Instead of having to dream up a long blog post regularly, you can simply disseminate short blasts with perhaps a link to a picture, or series of pictures, a video, an article you liked or simply an update on wine life.
Whether it’s Twitter or Facebook, with microblogging, you can share a thought quickly and succinctly. It could be a glimpse into the wine business (e.g. “xyz wine bar has taken on our new release Sauvignon Blanc”, or “the Chardonnay vines have reached veraison, picking will start mid-September”), a brief tasting note, or an attempt to involve and engage your followers. The process can soon become Public Relations and Customer Relations all rolled into one, and once you’re confident, you can add Market Research to that list, and eventually perhaps actual Sales. You’d be amazed, there are plenty of interested people out there, all potential customers or friends of those who might be. They are today’s equivalents of those wine drinkers you used to see peering at the wine shelves turning the bottles around to read about microclimate on the back label before they made a purchase.
Coming soon, a new blog from me, which will incorporate this one and my personal site, where I will expound more on social media for the wine business (I’m available for consultancy too), interspersed with posts on Jura, Savoie, other thoughts on wines or occasionally mountain activities. In the meantime, check out the latest, long post I wrote about Wine Travel in South Africa and a guest post I particularly enjoyed writing for David McDuff about food and wine along the Tour de France stage that came past my chalet in the Alps.