Forget web 2.0 — some wineries need web 0.9 (plus some wine picks)

More Americans are drinking wine today than ever before. However, increasingly confident and interested wine consumers are thirsty not just for wine, but for reliable information about the wines they consume. Sadly, winery (and importer and trade association) websites don’t always provide the information we now crave. Forget social media and “web 2.0”–too many wineries haven’t even mastered web 0.9 yet.

Consider the recent discussion about Corbieres that emerged following my post about a wine from the region last week. Readers debated the percentage limits for the grape Carignan in the wine. Since this is a statute of the AOC regulations, you’d think it would be on the AOC/syndicat web site. But it’s not.

Or consider the six wines I was putting together my NYU wine class for last night. I was looking for some basic information about the wine I was serving, the vineyards, the cellar masters, and a photo for the slide show. Here’s what I found:

Philippe Foreau – Domaine du Clos Naudin, Vouvray, brut NV: A chenin sparkler form one of my producers; the wine was surprisingly shut down though and the class wasn’t wowed by it. The winery doesn’t appear to even have a web site; the importer’s undated web page provides only rudimentary facts about the estate. No photos, no further links.

Hermann J. Wiemer, dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, 2008: the class almost unanimously liked the wine from our own Empire State; the winery website provided the basic useful info I was looking for, including photos, history, and tech specs and the wine.

Clemens Busch, “Vom Roten Schiefer,” Mosel, 2008: great wine, richer than the Wiemer but, surprisingly, not as popular in the class. The winery website is a little spare, the “English” button doesn’t work and the’re no information on the “Vom Roten Schiefer” wine. Also, the one photo of the site, I’d be willing to bet doesn’t do the place justice. However, the importer’s site has lots of useful info about his wine.

Roagna, dolcetto d’alba, 2008: an amazing wine for $16 with lovely, intriguing bitterness on the aroma and tannins much more manageable than in my experience with dolcetto. The class really liked it; one person said she wanted to have it for Thanksgiving. gorgeous site with images, tons of information about all their wines, including the one we had last night. Very helpful!

Lucien Crochet, “La Croix du Roy” Sancerre rouge, 2006: quite a lovely wine that, for $26, gives a lot of comparably priced pinots a run for the money. The web site is spare and there’s no elaboration of how this wine is different from the others. Also, only the 2005 gets any discussion. The importer’s site doesn’t offer much more to go on.

Napanook, Napa, 2007: the site is due for an update to the interface but lots of helpful information about this wine is on the site, including harvest dates, percentage of new barrels and blend composition. The wine itself is a gorgeous example of Napa cabernet with complex aromas and a good core of mineral and acidity; for $48 (or less online) it is money very well spent for a wine from this zip code. The class went gaga over it.

Anyway, it’s great to make excellent wines. But I think a lot of us consumers would raise glass to web sites that met some minimum standard of information and presentation for the 21st century. The investment is minimal on the part of wineries and importers and the return would be happier, more informed consumers.

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18 Responses to “Forget web 2.0 — some wineries need web 0.9 (plus some wine picks)”

  1. Bravo! Couldn’t agree more. I also teach classes and often starve when searching for in depth information on European wines. Domestic brands seem to have their act together online but the old world hasn’t quite caught up with the new on this front.

  2. Here’s the deal with most commercial websites: companies put them up; and then forget about them. The site is usually the responsibility of the new hire or lowest-ranking staffer, so turnover is high. As a result the sites are updated so rarely that in the end they’re useful solely as historical documents. They remind me of those OPEN signs so often found hanging in the windows of restaurants that are closed.

  3. Dr. V,

    Great post, I could not agree more. The time it takes a winery to upload this type of information is very small relative to the value it can add to the consumer’s experience. I also find that past vintage tasting notes are also woefully lacking on most sites.

  4. I guess the “traditional methods” of European wineries and importers extend to marketing too?

    My company actually deals with Rosenthal (the importer for the Foreau and Crochet mentioned above) and their rep is incredibly tech savvy. He carries an iPad and I’ve seen him quickly pull up vineyard maps on it to explain the differences between certain Burgundies (an incredibly impressive sales tool), so you’d think a website wouldn’t be that hard to do, but who knows.

  5. I checked out the links you provided and have one observation. The Lucien Crochet website actually has everything you would look for from a site, including information that the wine was hand-harvested, received a full second sorting and destemming, pigeage/remontage frequency, 28 days in cuve, light pneumatic pressing, 50/50 elevage in new and neutral oak and bottling date plus elevage length. Then there are comments on the color, nose and palate, plus serving suggestion. PLUS there is a tech sheet with pictures, soil composition, vineyard exposition, soil maintenance, vine density, training style, vinification summary and suggested aging time. Am I missing something here? This is actually more information that I’ve seen on a site in quite some time.

  6. @Taylor – glad you liked the post! Good luck with your classes.

    @Bill – yes, all too often it feels that way.

    @Boettcher – thanks for the support!

    @Theo – thanks for sharing–I wish that technology from the Rosenthal sales staff would manifest itself on their site!

    @That Guy – Thanks for your comment. Yes, some of that material is relevant to all vintages even if the wine on the site is the 2005 (I bought and poured the 06 yesterday). The site layout is in need of a freshening up and the photos you mention on the tech sheet are tiny. Does the wine come from a steep, awesome looking vineyard? If so, then show it! Is the Croix du Roy–excellent wine that it is–a selection or from a single vineyard/parcel? It would be helpful to clarify. It’s not the worst site out there, but certainly could be improved. What’s your relationship with the estate? Why the anonymous comment?

  7. I find that too many sites concentrate on eye-catching graphics rather than on clearly presenting information. Navigating them is a big time waster and very frustrating.

  8. hi Dr Vino

    What kind of data do you think is “compulsory to include” about any wine in the winery website?
    In Chile we have the same problem!

    best regards

  9. Interesting read. I experienced the same issues many times, preparing for the wine classes and wine tasting, digging internet for hours for bits and pieces of information. Situation definitely improved over the past 3-4 years, but it is still very challenging to find the right information quickly (as I’m trying to reach next level in Wine Century Club, finding out grape composition in particular wine is even bigger challenge than just general information).
    At the same time, I really wonder, if an average wine consumer really cares to know all the details of harvest and fermentation, to see all the pictures and to learn all the facts? All such information is of a high value to wine professionals and aficionados, but does the average consumer cares about it, or would be quite happy with good glass of wine and little information?
    This would be a good subject for wine consumers survey…

  10. I’m with you 100% Tyler.
    Back when I was writing about wine rather than making wine, the Web was not nearly as deep with good information. Finding details about a wine could be done with time but it was ans still is difficult at midnight with a 7AM deadline.

    I think there really is no excuse to not have a tech sheet available that gives you vineyard, winemaking, and vintage information, as well as MSRP etc. Bottle shots and other materials are a plus but not as critical as the basics about the wine’s origins.

    Post the information before you release a wine and never take it off the site. You never know when somebody might be holding an older vintage and want to know the details of its creation.

    We’ve just started a project to post up to date video tasting notes linked to each wine so you can always scan the barcode and see how the wine is evolving in bottle.

    Winemaker – Cartograph

  11. I love to geek out on wine websites, but I have always though that they were kind of a bonus. Interesting post Dr. V!

  12. Many, if not most, wineries simply do not care about their websites. Information is outdated, links are broken, promotions don’t work.

    Since my job involves checking new winery websites before launch, I’ve started to notice so many things on existing sites. And frequently I notify the winery of their sometimes significant errors and not only rarely hear back, but they rarely fix the errors.

    In just the last week in both blast email promotions and on the websites of both small and big wineries, I found the following:

    1. Email: “Order today and save 30%. Enter XYZ as promo code.” Doesn’t work. Turns out the date of start was the next day.

    2. Email: “Save 25% on all orders.” Savings comes to 15%.

    3. Website: “Click here to see our featured wines.” I click and then “We cannot ship this wine to your state.” However, no specific wine was selected, and the state selected was California. Not likely for a California winery.

    4. Website: “Click here to go to our store.” I click, broken link. No store.

    And there are many others. It’s not hard to verify that links, offers, images, are all in place.

    I may start up a new blog “Mistakes Winery Websites Make”. I have a wealth of material. I could do a new post every single day.

  13. […] – and not a nouveau in sight (Guardian) City of Paris hosts second wine auction (Decanter) Harrods expands wine and spirits department (Decanter) A lot of bottle – by Jancis Robinson (Financial Times) Magnum Force: Big Bottles for Big […]

  14. We face a similar frustration visiting winery websites while searching for labels and tasting notes that are displayed on retailer websites. While common practice, it turns out the larger wineries and importers are ambivalent about this activity. Did it occur to you the winery may have an objection to your showing a picture or label image on your slideshow? The more “corporate” importers and brand owners have Terms and Conditions documents that may require written approval for trade use of their material.

  15. It was taught and re-taught endlessly in school: it is easy to start a database, it is very hard to maintain one. Too bad that too many people in our wine industry did not learn this. But certainly not unique to wine, it is a problem in any industry.

  16. Great post, and I agree – far too often I google a wine hoping for more information and am disappointed. I’ve found it particularly hard to find information on certain German wines, and have even taken to using Google Translate when the English button doesn’t work (or doesn’t exist).

  17. Maybe it is time for a social networking site for wine producers and lovers all over the world…

    What do you say?

  18. I don’t think it’s a networking problem, there are plenty of ways for vintners to get together already, Paso Robles has their wine alliance as an example.

    Taking the time to create that type of content for a website on any topic isn’t easy and wine is perhaps more guilty of not providing information than almost any other industry.

    I do think there are enough younger winemakers and Proprietors that understand the need for information that those types of challenges will continue to lessen over time.


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