I’m back! (So let’s shake things up a little)
The last few years have been interesting (in that “may you live in interesting times” kind of way); my own personal arc goes something like this: backburner the blog to focus on dream job, dream job goes tits-up thanks to COVID, and then? Then there were hackers. All of my websites were offline for about a year, which was awful and terrible and every other bad thing you can imagine.
But things are back up and running, and I even managed a redesign I’m pretty happy with. So now you know why I vanished for a while–and even though my sites went POOF temporarily, I did not (you may have spotted me on Instagram or Twitter in the interim). I’ve been getting back into the swing of things ever since COVID restrictions were eased, making it to a few trade seminars and even attending TEXSOM a little over a year ago thanks to a scholarship I won through SommFoundation.
My day-to-day project has, somewhat unintentionally, been planting and developing a sensory garden that includes the flavors and aromas that echo in a glass of wine. You’ve heard white wines described as having the aromas and flavors of stone fruit or pears, or perhaps hints of white flowers. If you’ve never been quite sure what any of those mean with regard to wine, then step into my garden. I have jasmine and honeysuckle and gardenias and elderflowers. A varied assortment of culinary herbs. I have stone fruit and pomme fruit. I have red currants and black currants and boysenberries and multiple varieties of raspberry. You’ll find blueberries and strawberries (including wild strawberries!). Lavender. Violets. Hyacinth. Many kinds of citrus. Figs (three kinds)! Pomegranates! If those don’t ring any wine-tasting bells for you, then follow along here, because I’ll share more detailed garden updates than the ones you’ve seen on Instagram (it even has its own page here, which you may have spotted on the menu above) and talk about them in context of wine. I also grow a lot of my own vegetables, which is handy for seasonal food and wine pairings (another thing I really love doing, as evidenced by my Instagram page).
Even though I haven’t been able to write about wine while my sites were down, I’ve followed industry developments closely. And what an interesting time it’s been (some things good, some things not so good). At the same time I was following trends in wine and wine influencers on social media, social media was evolving–or perhaps devolving is a better word–into something vacuous and chaotic and more than a little narcissistic, and at a time when wineries have needed more than ever solid organic engagement on these platforms.
I’m going to offer a potentially unpopular opinion before I wrap up this “I’m Back!” post (and then I’ll go into more detail with the problems I see in a separate post later this week): social media is trash. And I say this as someone who uses it daily! I’ll be more specific: influencer culture, and that includes wine influencer culture, is mostly trash. These platforms have inexplicably moved farther and farther away from the kind of functionality that invites real engagement with an audience, reducing just about everything to hit-and-run “likes.” And that focus on likes and follower numbers has just sucked the life (and the joy and the edification) right out of wine social media to a large extent.
There are still plenty of wonderful players on wine social media, but it’s harder to notice them through the influencer-driven algorithm and all the noise that creates. Instead, you get the 500th selfie of an “influencer” and no real info on the wine or the winery or whatever the influencer is pushing, because what they’re really pushing is just themselves. Some do it for clout, some for free wine, some for comped wine events and travel. Believe me, I get the allure. But if I open your IG page and it’s nothing but wall-to-wall selfies, I’m going to judge you (and not kindly) and move on to someone who actually has something to say about wine. It’s gross, and you should consider a little introspection about exactly what you’re doing and what you’re selling. You also owe the wineries you allegedly publicize better content than that. Presumably we all want to hype wine because we love it, want to show others something interesting about it, and want to see the wineries we spotlight succeed in this very difficult business (and during challenging times). As someone who managed social media for a winery, I cannot stress enough how much wineries, especially smaller wineries, need good social media engagement to help drive sales, and we need to think about a better way to accomplish that than lavishing freebies on unserious influencers and then getting no measurable return for the effort and expense.
I’ll go into more detail in the next post, but I do think there are still ways to use social media that sidesteps some of the narcissism that currently seems inseparable from it, but it really comes down to engagement and how we get it (hint: it takes more effort than just firing off a new Instagram post). It’ll also give me the opportunity to showcase some of the “influencers” who’ve been around for a while now who offer really great content and I want to focus on all the things they’re doing right.
I am happy beyond words to have the blog up and running again, and I have a ton of catching up to do with local Lodi wineries (who are still offering some of the best quality for value in wine). Let’s do this!
Bravo, Robin! I could not agree more with everything you’ve touched on from the garden-wine connection to the keyboard lashing on influencers and algorithms. Thank you for speaking my heart – I look forward to everything ahead. Welcome back!
Nice to “see” you again!
Looking forward to your posts.