Wednesday, May 6, 2020

And Suddenly There Was Life! Winery Video Genre a Work in Progress - with New Game Changing Network-ability!

March 30 - yes, just a month and a week ago - I posted that we were finally living in the Golden Age of Online Tastings. Suddenly, with Zoom lowering everyone's standards of the level of video production that was required to be seen in public, wineries, even the ones still in the dark ages, were able to find cameras, tripods and more and whip into action.


As this new genre unfolds, it's exciting to see. It's exhibiting the same kinds of stumbling steps that early day movies or talkies did. The first thing the movies did was film theater productions, until they discovered that didn't translate well. Talkies were a similarly transformative transition.

Today's winery video genre is no different. It has started out by imitating a show it already knows how to put on: the winemaker talking about the wines in the tasting room, or, gosh, for real excitement, in the vineyard.

The Wine Show TV Show Air Dates & Track Episodes - Next Episode
Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys, cast as wine newbies in The Wine Show
Contrast these videos with my other pandemic staple - The Wine Show, a fantastically watchable and incredibly instructive show (on Hulu here in the States) with two knowledgeable wine hosts and two stellar actors - the two Matthews - who play the role (sort of like reality TV, sort of not) of interested novices. Big budget, high production values and some very experienced television hands at the helm here. This must have cost a fortune, and I would say, it's probably the first wine series that didn't suck.

Compare that with the wineries' videos. Now yes it costs more, but winery tasting rooms and staff also cost a lot. Why so stingy with the video budget when that's your new lifeline? And your tasting room is c l o s e d.

Right now some online tastings are incredibly boring, some are filled with food and cooking and dogs in an attempt to be some kind of home based reality series. Some are hosted by humorous characters - I'm thinking of Frog's Leap and Tablas Creek. Frog's Leap's generally humorous personalities shine through in their father son duo. Two characters ARE better than one.

Tablas Creek's videos features the winery's shepherd Nathan in conversation with the winemaker Chelsea. (When I saw Nathan present on the topic of sheep at the 2019 Ecofarm conference, I thought he had missed his calling as a standup comedian. Now it looks like central casting has recognized his prodigious, native talent.) Having an expert and a non-expert play off of each other is a good format, as many a producer will tell you.

Sadly some video tastings just expose how male dominated a lot of wineries are. When you see the four guy lineup in their individual Zoom squares, it can just feel odd that there are no women.


Part of this was well captured in Amber LeBeau's blog post How Can We Make Virtual Wine Tastings Less Sucky? that really struck a chord. And while wineries search for better ways to film stuff (ask your teenager kids, please but don't let them involve models and makeup and a ton of Insta selfies), we can ask them to improve their game. We want to keep watching as wineries host these week after week.

LeBeau published some tips in her post for wineries on how to make better videos. Hallelujah. Having made PBS docs for 5 years (including with Peter Jennings and Joseph Campbell) and more than 50 films for Apple and written a bestselling book on how to make videos (before had even launched), I am grateful. Guidance is needed.

There are people who are actually professionals who can help you and they are very cheap to hire. Wineries CAN have fun drone footage for very cheap. Wineries CAN have restaurant somms come and talk about their wine, their region, their varietal. Wineries CAN have better backgrounds and maps and diagrams.

Singer Johnny Legend with
 Jean-Charles Boisset
If I were still teaching this stuff, as a first step, I would recommend that wineries watch The Wine Show.

While you don't need to hire a great actor or Hollywood celebrity (although some, like Jean-Charles Boisset have, doing tastings with Johnny Legend), but you can do better than you are now.

Look for the characters within. I used to cast documentaries - you meet a 100 people and pick 10 for the hour show or 5 for an Apple product intro on how people are saving the world with Macintosh. We used to look for people who were a little over the top, because when the pro camera went on, most people deflated. But that's no longer the case as everyone is used to video cameras on phones today.

Create little segments to break up the video. Have video roll-ins - i.e. little videos you can bring in to add variety to the show. Interview your pruning guys. Add a chef or a somm or a wine critic or blogger or super fan. Who is your oldest wine club member? Who is your youngest hire in the winery? Where is the furthest place where people are drinking this wine - Japan? China? Stories are everywhere, not just in your tasting room and not just about how your wine tastes. That's how you sell in a tasting room, but not on TV.


Today LeBeau announced that her partner, Beth, a former Googler, has launched a new platform for finding online wine tasting events.

Bravo. is a fantastic aggregator for online tasting events all over the world. Sort of like the YouTube we all need to find just the winery tasting videos.

It is free to the wineries to participate and also saves the links to archived tastings in a searchable database. What an incredible resource for anyone researching wines!

It also divides events into tastings versus webinars - a useful distincion.

You no longer have to rely solely critics scores or questionable consumer reviews or the faking it description from a newbie wine store clerk. (There are also great wine store clerks who generously share their knowledge. - find them and keep them!) But now you can go directly to the source. This is world changing for global wine - the sewing that can stitch the quilt together.

I look forward to checking out the scene and seeing how this new genre evolves.


Thanks to Virtual Wine Events, I'm now looking forward to these online events this week:

• In the Bordeaux Vineyard (at 10 am today)

• The Dish on Dirt with the Society of Wine Educators

• Matt Stamp (MW) on Napa Valley terroir with the Napa Valley Vintners

• Taste with Karen - The Great Wines of Oakville

And about so many more.

Sorry, gotta go! I have to join Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW and "dive deep into the Bordeaux vineyard, exploring the climate, soils and grape varieties planted....and look at traditional vineyard practices and how these are evolving and how they shape the styles and quality of the wines produced." (Update: The webinar did not actually deliver on this premise, though).

Bring it on.

See: how it went.

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