Did social media save a winery from bankruptcy?

Facebook and Twitter may contribute to toppling regimes these days. But can social media save a winery from falling into the abyss?

A case study is unfolding in France. On January 1, a small wine producer going by the name of “Olivier B.” announced on his web site that he was hanging it up. He makes a range of reds and whites from the Côtes du Ventoux appellation that sell for about 12 – 30 euros. He put a picture of his bottles in the shape of a cross, with the hat that adorns the labels of all his wines in the middle, and said it had been his cross to bear for the past few years and the dream was over. His love was lost, both the winery and his parter (simply, “elle”) who said she could not support him any more in this venture. The warehouse where he made his wine was for sale and the bank wouldn’t grant him a line of credit to buy it.

The French blogosphere then turned Olivier B. into a cause celebre for the misfortune of small vignerons. Many rallied to his cause (see a summary). Two bloggers organized a public tasting of his wines in Paris. The big breakthrough appears to have been when the Miss Glou Glou blog at lemonde chimed in. Then a local paper, La Provence, picked up his story. Then AFP ran a story. The media tsunami continued with TV channel Canal+ and radio stations from France, Belgium and Switzerland running stories. Traffic to his blog took off. But more importantly, sales started flowing, and he had 20,000 euros of sales in two weeks.

He wrote in a posting on his blog that making “Parkerized” wines was never his objective but during his deepest, darkest moments, he did think that if he got a 95-point score from Parker that all his problems would be solved. But now, he says, thanks to the blogosphere he has “hundreds of Parkers” to thank for the turnaround.

This fascinating story isn’t over, of course. Check out Olivier’s blog for the latest. One interesting aspect is that despite the apparent globalization of the internet, this story hasn’t reached the English language blogosphere or media. Another is that the blogosphere rallied in an advocacy mode. Whether and how many times it could be repeated is an open question. But certainly Olivier B. is glad it has worked so well this time.

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12 Responses to “Did social media save a winery from bankruptcy?”

  1. I wanted to interview him personally before posting something. I’m afraid the press really ran away with this story which, as you accurately point out, is still unfolding. Olivier still has a long way to go to attain sustainability and it’s going to be even more work to help ALL the good winemakers struggling to pay the bills in underappreciated regions like the Ventoux (and Languedoc 😉 ). Thanks for covering the story though. Your attention is appreciated!

  2. Bravo! Another great example of the democratization of wine…or is it socialization?

    I did a double take when I saw the striking profile…we were fortunate to share a bottle of Les Amidyves here at our little office in VT about a year and a half ago. My business partner was living abroad with his family in Burgundy and he had met the man and brought with him this bottle, among others, during one of his trips back here. I remember it being a savage tangle of earth and brambles on the nose and on the palate…totally unique and it went through a mesmerizing evolution in the glass, where bunches of berries would appear ,be consumed, and the bramble bushes would close in again.
    He’s back full time now, and he’s catching the last runs up at Killington today. I’ll show him this and see if we can get more detail out of him via a post at the blog they’ve kept:

  3. Merci de répercuter l’information, mais vous auriez pu citer les bloggers qui ont travaillé gratuitement au sauvetage, provisoire pour l’instant.
    So sorry but I’m french…

  4. Nice, Ryan! Yes, it would be good to catch up with Olivier directly and hear how things are going.

    Todd – interesting. Glad you have tried the wine.

    Christian – Vraiment? J’ai mis des liens a huit blogs dans mon post–suivez-les et me dites si il y en a plus que j’ai ratés. // Really? I have links to eight blogs in the post–follow the links and let me know if there are others that I missed.

  5. Thank you very much for your post and your links 🙂
    Olivier B will begin a wide France Wine Tour at Beaune April 23 2011 for thanking everybody who helped ! We will interview him again to know about his future

    Sorry for my poor english…

  6. I like both the story and the new window opened on a world of non-English language wine blogs. Let’s hear something similar from Spain or Germany, shall we?

  7. Looks like this story has spread beyond the French borders. As the first phenomenon of its kind, it was definitely an interesting couple weeks, during which the French blogosphere (“bloglouglou”) and Twitter was littered with Olivier B social SOS messages.

    I get the feeling that this episode is really about the French bloggers gauging their influence. Without taking away from the generosity of this movement, one can only wonder “why this guy?” and other hardworking winemakers or wine lovers on forums such as la LPV have voiced this as well.

    Personally, I haven’t tried the wines, but I will mostly remember Olivier B. as the neo-vigneron who couldn’t sell his wine. Nothing wrong in helping out a dreamer, but I find it more saddening to see long established families pull out their vines.

  8. […] Dr. Vino, Tyler Colman brings attention to a French winemaker, “Olivier B,” who may be saved from bankruptcy by social […]

  9. Hi Vimpressioniste,

    I agree, it is somewhat odd that this Olivier B captured the collective attention of social media. Do you have a theory as to why?

  10. Right place, right time? 🙂

    Seriously though, if I were to take an educated guess, I would say that it might have been the first time there was an actual blog post about shutting down the winery. Something tangible to base the movement on, whereas most vignerons go out rather anonymously. I could be wrong though, as I’m really not a big follower of winemaker blogs.

    From there, I think a couple well connected bloggers really set out on a mission. Some were familiar with the wines and the man, but one can’t help but think they were out to prove something, maybe subconsciously. Or maybe I’m just a curmudgeon 🙂

  11. […] While it’s not a news story in France since the drama surfaced in early January, the Oliver B story of love, bankruptcy, and social media is just now getting its air time with the U.S. social media wine […]

  12. […] http://www.drvino.com/2011/04/07/olivier-b-ventoux-social-media-save-winery-bankruptcy/ […]


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