Tag Archives: social media

Winebits 633: Supermarket wine prices, liquor stores, wine influencers

supermarket wineThis week’s wine news: Supermarket wine prices vary significantly from state to state, plus a study says liquor stores and high crime are related and the FTC is going after social media influencers

Supermarket wine prices: A home product review and renovation site says U.S. supermarket wine prices vary significantly by state, with Mississippi and Georgia selling the most expensive bottles. I mention this not because it’s news to anyone who spends any time on the blog, but because it’s always fascinating to see how non-booze sites deal with wine. To its credit, House Method, which did the survey, doesn’t draw any conclusions about why there is such disparity. (Or explain how it bought wine in supermarkets in states without supermarket wine sales.) The results, at the link, are interesting, if nothing else. Who knew red wine was less expensive in Hawaii than in California?

Less booze, less crime? That’s the approach one study is urging on Baltimore officials as city leaders rewrite its zoning laws, with an eye toward reducing the number of liquor stores and bars in the city. North Carolina researchers used a computer model that took into account homicide rates in Baltimore, as well as previous research that showed one-half of violent crime can be attributed to alcohol access. The result? The study found that cutting the number of alcohol outlets might reduce homicides by as many as 50 a year, as well as generate savings of as much as $60 million annually.

Watch out, influencers: The Federal Trade Commission, which regulates advertising, will apparently clamp down on all those Instagram and social media influencers. The agency wants to know if consumers understand how influencers work; that is, that they are paid to endorse products and that they must disclose paid endorsements. This will matter in wine, given the increasing role influencers play in pushing products like rose.

Winebits 397: Label fraud, direct shipping, social media

label fraud ? Handmade wins one: A federal judge has ruled that Maker’s Mark can call its bourbon handmade, even though it isn’t, because a reasonable consumer would know it isn’t. The Wine Curmudgeon, having reported the opposite result in a similar label fraud case, marvels at the U.S. legal system. If this judge thinks it’s OK to call something handmade when it isn’t, invoking the concept of reasonableness, then why did another federal judge rule that a reasonable consumer would confuse $7 Spanish sparkling wine Cristalino with $200 Champagne Cristal? No wonder my mother wanted me to be a lawyer. It sounds much more exciting than wine writing.

? The cost of delivery: Want to know why direct shipping is still such a tiny part of overall U.S. wine sales? This, from the Shipping Compliant consultancy, addresses the myriad laws and three-tier confusion that hamper direct sales, but also puts everything in perspective with one fact: “When a customer buys wine online, about 20 percent of every dollar they ?re spending goes towards shipping. … In a world with services like Amazon Prime, customers hate spending money on shipping. …” Which means, even if three-tier disappeared tomorrow, direct shipping would still likely remain a tiny part of overall U.S. wine sales.

? Kill all the wine writers? Because, apparently, we don’t need them. A study says U.S. adults 21 and older rely more on peer recommendations and social media than they do on traditional advertising when buying alcohol. Some of you may argue that wine writing isn’t advertising, but I’d point out you haven’t been paying attention. The report was conducted by a company that makes a social media platform and which queried its users, which is what should raise questions about the findings. Still, it claims four out of five consumers said they have bought alcohol they discovered on social media, and almost three-quarters use social media on their smartphone or mobile device when they’re buying booze. I guess I need to tweet more often.

Big Wine and crowdsourcing

Big wine crowdsourcingColumbia Crest is owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, part of a one-half billion dollar company. La Crema is part of Jackson Family Wines, also a one-half billion dollar company. So why is each using a form of crowdsourcing, letting its customers make key winemaking decisions for one of its wines?

Because it’s not enough to make piles of money in the wine business anymore. You also have to be seen as local and accessible, and these multi-nationals (the eighth- and ninth-biggest producers in the U.S.) see crowdsourcing as the way to make them cuddly and artisan-like. Ask your customers for their advice about making wine, and how can they — and the rest of the wine world — not love you?

The Wine Curmudgeon can’t decide if this is incredible marketing or one of the most cynical things I’ve ever seen in the wine business, where cynical things are a dime a dozen. On the one hand, it’s a clever use for social media, which big companies have a hard time doing well. There aren’t too many opportunities for cute pet pictures on a multi-national Facebook page. And the crowdsourcing is certainly no scam — the companies have been honest and upfront about what’s going on.

On the other hand, it could be malarkey to make P.T. Barnum proud. Columbia Crest is making 1,000 cases of high-end cabernet sauvignon from its effort, not much when you consider its annual production is almost 2 million cases and it normally does 5,000 of this particular wine. La Crema churns out almost 1 million cases a year; it hasn’t announced how much the project will produce. First its crowd has to decide between chardonnay and pinot noir.

Plus, given the odds that each crowd could decide to make really crappy wine even with the best of intentions, how much input will it really have? Yes, each company says its winemaker will do exactly as instructed, but given how little most of us know about winemaking and how complicated it is, what are the chances of that happening? Because Columbia Crest and La Crema could turn into the wine industry’s version of New Coke if the wine turns out to be undrinkable, and one doesn’t get to be one of the 10 biggest producers in the U.S. by doing a New Coke.

There is one thing I am thankful for, crowdsoucing veteran that I am. At least the companies didn’t ask for cash to help pay for production, which is the most typical use for crowdsourcing — Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and the like. That would have been too much to deal with, even for the Wine Curmudgeon.

A change in my Twitter handle

Want to follow me on Twitter? My new Twitter handle, effective immediately, is @winecurmudgeon. It had been @wine_curmudgeon, so the switch should make it easier for people to find me on Twitter. Because, of course, in our post-modern, 21st century, social media world, everyone should want to find me on Twitter.

It looked like everyone who follows me at the current handle would have to re-follow me at @winecurmudgeon. Twitter, sadly, won ?t allow me (or anyone else) to migrate or merge accounts. But that doesn't appear to be the case — all my followers stayed with me when I made the switch earlier today.

A tip ?o the Curmudgeon ?s fedora to David Black of the Italian Wine Academy (@VinoItalia), who had @winecurmudgeon and gave it to me because he wasn ?t using it. Would that everyone in the cyber-ether was that generous.

Winebits 170: Wine competitions, alcohol ads, wine scores

? How wine is judged: My DrinkLocalWine.com cohort Dave McIntyre has a nicely done description of wine competitions and wine judging in a recent Washington Post column: "For consumers, competition medals can serve as recommendations from a group of wine professionals to try a particular wine, similar to an inside tip from a friend or trusted wine columnist." It's one of the best discussions I've seen about how judging is done, warts and all, and the bit about judges "blitzing through" wines instead of enjoying them is spot on.

? Regulating booze ads: The Federal Trade Commission will study the effectiveness of voluntary guidelines followed by companies that market alcohol, with an eye on advertising in social media — which mostly didn't exist the last time the FTC looked at the issue. The New York Times reports that a key to the current system of self-regulation is that wine, beer, and spirits ads should run only in media outlets which can certify that 70 percent of their viewers or readers are 21 or older. Which, for social media, is an almost irrelevant requirement. How do you certify that 70 percent of your Twitter feed is of drinking age?

? Canadian critic rips wine scores: And good for him. Bill Zacharkiw, in a piece in the Montreal Gazette about a wine promotion run by the provincial liquor monopoly, writes this: "I have long contended that these scores are meaningless, feigning precision for what is essentially a qualitative, emotionally based value judgment. … I will stop now because the subject drives me absolutely nuts." That's a feeling that the Wine Curmudgeon knows all to well when it comes to scores.

 

CellarTracker and the rise of social media

CellarTrackerWhen Eric LeVine came up with the idea for CellarTracker, the on-line wine inventory system, he thought it would appeal to wine geeks like himself and to people who needed to manage sizeable wine cellars. He never envisioned that he would be helping to make a revolution in the wine business

Because that’s what CellarTracker has done. The number of people who visit the site far outnumbers the number of people who use the site to track their wine collections. CellarTracker has about 40,000 registered users, but 90 percent of the site’s visitors are not registered — and it gets a couple of hundred thousand unique visitors a month. Which means people aren’t going to CellarTracker to mark off a wine after they drink it; they’re going to CellarTracker to read wine reviews written by amateurs.

Which is mind boggling, given the way the wine world works. Wine knowledge is handed from the top down, and we’re supposed to drink what our betters — Robert Parker, the Wine Spectator, and the like — tell us to drink. But that’s not what’s happening with CellarTracker. We’re looking for advice from people just like us.

“These are real people, spending real money for a real bottle of wine,” LeVine says. “There’s a much broader audience out there than I thought, and that was my first really big surprise.”

More, after the jump:
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