A blog set inside the world of wine public relations--where the media, the culture and I are different words for the same thing.
HOW THE BP DISASTER IS LIKE EVERYTHING I CAN THINK OF IN THE WINE BUSINESS
1. The BP oil spill is exactly like the Three Tier Distribution System. In the brief history of the United States, a history unlike the history of any other country because no other country borders Mexico and Canada at the same time, the BP oil spill is the worst ecological catastrophe ever seen. Similarly, the Three Tier Distribution System sucks too. All of us bear some responsibility for the BP disaster. We insist on using fossil fuels to power our vehicles, heat our homes, run the gigantic Google servers that bring you this important, pioneering blog, and blow leaves from our driveways. If there were no demand for oil, there would have been no BP disaster. I imagine you hadn't thought of that. Compare that to the Three Tier Distribution system as it now stands in this great country that borders both Canada and Mexico, where, by the way, there are no Three Tier Distribution Systems even though, supposedly, they are countries more backwards than the United States. Perhaps all of us bear some responsibility for the Three Tier Distribution System as well. We allow it to exist when we know it's wrong. So just as we need to clean up the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, we need to eradicate the oily mess that is the Three Tier Distribution system. The oil companies own our government just as the liquor distributors own our state legislatures. It's time we take them back, return government to the people it belongs to, the ignorant masses. I predict that the Three Tier Distribution System will be dismantled about the same time we give up our cars and squeegee all the seagulls clean.
2. The rise of wine bloggers is like the rise of oil from the ocean floor. Wine bloggers have changed the wine environment in similar ways to how the oil from the Deepwater well has changed the Gulf of Mexico. Where once there were clear waters and smooth sailing, now there's all sorts of crap floating around. When I invented wine blogging several years ago, and created the Wine Blog Awards, I confess I didn't know how important it would be to the wine business. I could not have foreseen how important I would become. Now, just as the Deepwater well has sprung a leak spewing unfathomable amounts of goo and crude from one location that has spread all over the Gulf of Mexico, so has wine blogging spread all over the world. And despite the efforts of many to try and stop the wellspring of bloggers, nothing has worked. Just as thousands of gallons of oil emerge from Deepwater every day, so hundreds of new wine bloggers emerge, unleashed from the bounds of traditional media just as the oil has been unleashed without the use of traditional wells, and with much the same results. The waters of the wine business will never be the same. And even when the flood of wine bloggers is capped, if it's capped, the effect will be felt for generations. Just like the BP disaster, we have yet to see whether it's a good thing or not.
3. Wineries had better learn to embrace Social Media in the ways I tell them to or they face their own BP disaster. Just as British Petroleum had all the resources to avoid a catastrophe like the one in the Gulf of Mexico, a catastrophe that has brought them to the edge of financial ruin, so do wineries have the resources to hire a person for Social Media. Those that do not face the same dire consequences as BP--their names besmirched, their company boycotted and despised, and huge profits for their executives. I advise my winery clients, who will remain anonymous because that's what they hired me to do, to use wine bloggers and Twitter and FaceBook even if it means they divert resources from vineyard management and cleanliness. The only thing that matters about wine is how it's promoted. Had BP had the foresight and planning to promote their oil spill in a positive light, the company would be in fine shape. What if BP had mounted a campaign to emphasize that the Deepwater spill brings oil discovery to the people? The people who walk the beach, the people who fish the Gulf waters, the people who are birdwatchers. Would people still be as outraged? What if BP had blamed Al Qaeda? Just carefully insinuated through a series of carefully orchestrated Tweets and FaceBook quotes that it was Osama bin Laden working with a team of divers trained at a school in Florida who were responsible for the spill? Suddenly the whole country would be rallying to help the poor folks at BP. Rudy Giuliani would be giving inspirational speeches and Bruce Springsteen would write a song, "I'm Gonna Miss Tuna, Miss Tuna, How's About We Plug Your Well." Wineries need to use Social Media in the same way corporate giants use FOX news, and, believe me, bloggers are more than eager to oblige. The ones who aren't already marketing people (aka, Wine Blog Award Winners) are for sale, and cheap. It behooves wineries to spend their money where it should be spent, on marketing. If you're paying a winemaker more than you're paying your marketing people, you're making a terrible mistake. Wineries that make that mistake will end up with the kind of disaster on their hands that BP has.
4. Traditional wine writers are going the way of marine life in the Gulf of Mexico. A few will survive, those that are able to withstand the most oily residue, like Jay McInerny who has had years of hair gel as practice, but most will perish under the wave of noxious slime that is wine bloggers. This is just how it goes, get over it. The landscape changes, and what changes it the most is natural disaster. And so it is with the wine business. No one could have foreseen that winery owners would have to move from kissing the diamond-tipped drill bits of James Laube and Robert Parker to greasing the palms of a giant school of wine blogging barracuda, but that's just how it goes. All wine bloggers are wine writers because I say so. And so wine writing has much in common with the Gulf of Mexico.
We're going to miss them both.