Feeding and Greeding the Online Wine Community From Roots to Vines


I was so proud to tell my readership about #marcmad last month on my blog. I was even prouder to see a few of my readers place “bets” on the bracket diligently run by Jonathan Wilson and Joel Wilcox. With thousands of tweets over the month long extravaganza is it possible say that no other single event in the wine world garnered as much twitter buzz? I am not joking, think about it. From a blog called www.labeled.ca they caused a bigger stir than anything Parker and Suckling ever condensed into 140 characters. Think I am over estimating? I bet you Gary Vaynerchuk’s Swan song Wine Library TV episode was less tweeted about than #marcmad. The wine world will not be able to ignore what these two hardworking, genuinely dedicated bloggers accomplished. This is exactly the community building success any twenty-first century communicator should aspire to accomplish. Congratulations guys!

 

The goal was to take the pulse of the wine world, and by a process of head to head elimination rounds decide which wine region of the world would wine drinkers like to have an exclusive and infinite supply of if they were exiled to a desert island. The twitter debates were spirited, intelligent, engaging and thought provoking. I was personally surprised to see how many people love Riesling. Sixty-four regions were thrown into the concise arena, and when all the blood had been spilled only one gladiator survived: British Columbia. No, #marcmad didn’t finish with an April Fool’s joke. British Columbia who emerged from the New World Conference trounced the Old World survivor, Burgundy.

 

(Pause for effect, sigh, pause again.)

 

Some loud voices in the #bcwine world grabbed a hold of the challenge and decided to make a concerted effort to bring their product to a more visible place and thought #marcmad was the right place to do so. They certainly understood the value the hard work put in by Joel and Jonathan. And in the end their passion and dedication won the day.

 

Frankly, I am a little pissed off by the self titled and aptly titled #bcwineterrorists. To the point where I think they owe a serious apology to Joel and Jonathan. The success of #marcmad was clearly mitigated by the noisy neighbours from the left coast. The bracket was gaining incredible traction, but the interests of a smaller community high-jacked the vehicle of the greater community. BC wine has incredible potential. But considering they are not able to produce enough of any quality single label to supply an export market in volume, they are a lovable, laudable second tier region, at best. This tournament could have served as a platform to introduce international wine drinkers to BC, Ontario and even Eastern Canada. But when a tree falls in forest…

 

What this selfish group of twerps accomplished was to muzzle casual #marcmad people by muscling their region that was generously ranked thirteenth in the New World bracket into a position where the entire exercise was drained of significant credibility. One of the most dedicated and highest profile #marcmad players, @RemyCharest even put his reputation on the line by inviting some wine world heavy hitters to join in for the #marcmad BC V. Burgundy finale, only to be asked what a BC wine was.

 

(Pause for effect, again)

 

I do enjoy BC wine, in my 80 bottle cellar, I have four BC wines. Frankly I only have one or two Burgundies right now. So I am not a BC wine hater by any stretch. But please let this be an example how a community can choose to build their position greater community, or isolate themselves in an echo chamber of self serving noise.

 

That having been said, I am looking forward to Next Year’s #marcmad and hope that everybody who plays along, plays nicely.

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  • Bradley Cooper

    The bracket concept allows the contest to be hijacked the way it was. I knew the contest was doomed when I saw the region versus region theme. It was adversarial from the start. I was one of the #BCterrorists. And why not? The system allowed it.  I love all wines from all areas. But I make my living on the continued success of my home region. I’d be daft to turn down the opportunity to exploit my immense and powerful social media reach in the service of #BCwine. Next year, in the interest of fairness, make the theme about something wine-related where we aren’t given to drawing lines in the sand (of some desert island).

    • Anonymous

      Bradley,  I certainly understand your point of view.  I would respectfully add that the #BCterrorists were simply better than the NZ terrorists and the Mosel terrorists at getting the vote out.  That having been said I think the greater opportunity for BC wine would have been to be seen as worthy of sitting at the adult table. That simply didn’t happen.

  • Russell Ball

    Isn’t the entire concept a popularity contest? It would appear that BC wine fans are more present on social media than others – or at least cared more. In the end the region that won was the region that should have won – if Burgundy was more popular it would have won, right?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Russell! First of all welcome to both you and Bradley to bottleDJ, thanks for bringing your counterpoints. I will concede that if I lived in a wine producing area, I would have been a cheerleader myself, so on that level I will mark a plus for your side. My point is that two great wine bloggers put their pide on the line, created something from nothing and have had great success.

      I sincerely believe that social media works better when it is inclusive, not exclusive. I suggest that if the universe was in balance BC wine would have been better served if people had voted with their brains and not their “postal code” as Meg Maker puts it. The headline in the Bourgogne online journals about Burgundy squeaking out a vitory against BC would have cast a brighter spotlight on your industry/culture.

      And on another level, the two guys that do all the heavy lifting in Marcmad would have gotten more credit for their immense effort.

      You might think that #marcmad was a one off event, but people in high places have noticed it, and they are less likely to take the BC community seriously or invite them to be part of future online “popularity contests” which in the long run helps nobody.

      I have nothing but respect for BC wine and the incredible beauty of the parts of the province I have visited. Lilooet BC captured my heart years ago.

      • Russell Ball

        Ah, I see the point now – the idea that BC wine fans were voting disingenuously out of regional pride, rather than personal preference.
        Unfortunately there is no way to prove that idea either way, suffice to say
        that my own vote was based on the contents of my own cellar, and all the
        amazing BC wines I have enjoyed, and look forward to continuing to enjoy
        (desert island or not). If anyone did attempt to “hijack” the vote by voting in
        opposition to their personal preference then they deserve to be chastised – I
        agree – but I don’t know anyone in the local industry who would have done so; people make wine in BC because they honestly believe it has a special quality, otherwise they wouldn’t invest their entire lives doing so.

        What it comes down to is that you’re calling a lot of people liars, saying that those who voted couldn’t possibly love BC wine more than Burgundy. But what if you’re wrong, what if the many wine lovers in BC sincerely favour the local product? It should come as no surprise then that some people are a little offended at your accusations, hence the replies thus far to your post. In the end, if people are “unlikely to take the BC community seriously” because we are enthusiastic and passionate, well that’s their loss. I don’t think the BC industry needs to apologize for sincerely loving their own product.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Steve, 

    Great website! Never been here before but as a musician working in the wine industry, the idea of pairing wine and music is extremely interesting to me and I will be following your blog regularly. However, I can’t seem to wrap my head around your comments above, some of which are insulting, about BC’s #marcmad win. 

    I am not a diehard #marcmad follower. I actually found it annoying last year and only kept a tired eye out for it this year. I tweeted a few times for BC this year but never really felt the urge to cheer on any particular region where I didn’t really have an interest. There are more interesting things on Twitter to be honest and there are only so many hours in the day. 

    As you said in your article, “The goal was to take the pulse of the wine world, and by a process of head to head elimination rounds decide which wine region of the world would wine drinkers like to have an exclusive and infinite supply of if they were exiled to a desert island.” The bracket system is competitive and that’s the point. Someone is going to win. It’s a system for sports and it seemed odd to me last year (and probably why I tuned it out) because in my years in the wine industry, I haven’t really met many wine lovers, wine makers, or wine enthusiasts who were competitive with their wines. Wine people share their wines and their love of it. It’s about sharing the joy of wine, not seeing who can guzzle the most of it. (It is Beer Pong after all, not Wine Pong.)

    Perhaps we were both looking for something different to result from #marcmad. Clearly you were angered by the result and this is where I loose your train of thought and felt compelled to respond to your post. By name-calling – “noisy neighbours” and “selfish group of twerps” – and belittling a wine region that was “generously ranked thirteenth” and is not able to “produce enough of any quality single label to supply an export market in volume”, you summarize BC as “a lovable, laudable second tier region, at best” and that needs “to be seen as worthy of sitting at the adult table.”

    Ouch. Perhaps your criticism is directed to a small group of people on Twitter rather then at the BC wine industry, but #marcmad aside, it would seem that your opinion of BC (and to a point, new world) wine in general is pretty clear cut. True, it is a small region. The Okanagan is currently  riding around 10,000 acres of vines and there are single vineyards in California and Australia that are larger. Gallo has a single tank that can hold more wine that BC can produce in a year. But what we do have here is a vibrant wine community and culture that enjoys locally produced wines. We don’t export very much because we like drinking it and don’t depend on huge volumes of bunker fuel to get our products to a market on the other side of the world to sustain our industry. Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton are the largest and closest markets that we can supply.

    If you really do wish that social media be as “inclusive” as you say, then you’ll have to accept that there will be people there who may not agree with you or share your tastes. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that the result you were looking for when you ”suggest that if the universe was in balance BC wine would have been better served if people had voted with their brains and not their ‘postal code’” is that you wished that the people voting for #marcmad had voted according an accepted hierarchy of wine regions based on historical and Eurocentric axioms where a 1ere Cru Bordeaux will always be a better wine than a 3eme Cru (or Mozart will always be better than Glass) to everyone as demonstrated by its rank. When a few noisy wine drinkers argue counter to this, they are simply shouting out “in an echo chamber of self serving noise.” I agree that social media is inclusive but it also democratic, which can be at great odds with such established hierarchies. 

    The most revealing part of your comments is when you say that “if I lived in a wine producing area, I would have been a cheerleader myself” when in fact, you do, or at least near it. Quebec is one of only a few wine-producing provinces in Canada and you are closer to it in Montreal than many of the #marcmad #bcwine tweeters in Vancouver are to the Okanagan. There is an industry in Quebec that needs support the same way that Ontario and Nova Scotia need local support. Once there are people there supporting the industry, then they will feel compelled to talk about it and share it with their friends just like the #bcwine lovers are doing through Twitter and other social media. 

    I hope to continue reading your blog and am glad that I was directed to it (from a #bcwineterrorist). I very much agree with your pairing of the Sandhill Chardonnay with the 4th movement from Beethoven’s 9th. What would you suggest with a sparkling wine from Le Cep d’Argent?

    • Anonymous

      Hi, Thanks for taking the time to pen such a complete, well thought-out and fact filled reply. We certainly have some agree to disagree points, but I will offer you the same high level of respect you have shown me. You are graciously invited to continue to leave your comments on any part of the website!

      BTW. Please share some of your music with us!

      With three passionate comments from folks who disagree I do not see any argument that refutes my points. I also feel I was fair with my assessment of BC wine, I did not assail it’s qualities and I focused my ire on those that chose to pump their tires by stealing the wind form the sails of the good ship Wilson/Wilcox.

      I am impressed by your mention of the Cep d’Argent. I am a townshipper by birth and I realize the work it must take to keep that vineyard viable.

      I am a paying consumer of good Canadian wine, as well as wine from all over the world. I have even blogged positively on Tunisian wine!

      I genuinely thank you for your comments, complaints anc critisisms.

      • Anonymous

        The elitism that you are suggesting regarding #bcwine sullying the name of the “good ship Wilson/Wilcox” is only a sad denoument of a dying breed of wine cogniscenti who think they still steer that ship. Social media is not a quality game, it’s a quantity game, which is an environment toxic to elitism since it will always be outnumbered. In a contest like #marcmad that is a twitter equivalent of a shouting match, the one screaming in their own “echo chamber of self-serving noise” will be obvious.

        I wish you luck.

  • http://twitter.com/SandraOldfield Sandra Oldfield

    I suppose the #BCwineTerrorists comment and hashtag was directed my way as well (even though I did not invent it or use it more than one time).  I, like Bradley Cooper, 
    make my living in BC.  I even moved from a higher seeded region almost 18 years ago–to make wine in this region. My love for Canadian wine is not shallow. How many other can say they left the heart of Sonoma County, a forth generation Californian, for a job in a new country with virtually no wine industry at the time. I have done more on twitter to promote BC wines locally, to fellow British Columbians, to Canadians and to the world than many others and I have done it because I believe in it.

    What was I was supposed to do when a vote about which wine we want to have on a desert island comes up and it’s BC against something else?  Was I supposed to have voted for the other, more well-known, higher seeded, region even when I don’t feel that way?  Why don’t you tell every one what your expected outcome would have been so that we can vote that way next time?

    I have always thought that the passion was low with respect to Canadian’s support of our Canadian wine regions.  I will not apologize to you if I let mine come out and blossom in a forum such as #marcmad with other wine enthusiasts.  

    Talk like this makes me want to go back into my shell again and stop vocalizing why I think we are doing a great job here.  If you say that I owe an apology to the organizers of #marcmad then  I will give them one (although they’ve not intimated to me that they require one) and I will sit out on #marcmad next year and the year after that.  

    >>Dear Jonathan and Joel,
    If I hijacked your competition this year I am truly sorry.  I will not do it again.  I will not show my love for what we have built in Canada.  I will not promote your competition to my twitter followers.  I will not participate.  In short, I will go back to making wine in our “generously ranked thirteenth” corner of the world and leave the passion for the other regions.  The ones I was supposed to have voted for, evidently.
    Sandra<<

    Like I said on twitter…You can call it hijacked, but there are worse things in this world than a Canadian showing pride for Canadian wines.  

    • Anonymous

      Great points Sandra. Canadians still aren’t sure how to toot our own horns sometimes.

  • http://twitter.com/Neilisntwitty Neil

    Steve, first off I’d like to thank you for contributing to
    the online wine community. Everyone who takes the time to share their
    exploration of wine with others adds to the whole body of knowledge.  Additionally, as Luke mentioned, adding a
    unique twist re: how you blend your passion for wine and music adds to the
    richness of the whole online wine experience.

    That being said, I took some offence to some of the comments
    in your last entry. A lot of the folks who have taken the time to post before
    me, and who have done so far more eloquently that I could, have made many of
    points that I totally agree with. 
    Russell perhaps captured one of the points I took most objection with;
    that our voting was biased by some intent to hijack the #marcmad process or
    worse, by an intent muzzle casual participants, instead of reflecting which
    wines we loved the most.

    I voted with my palate, my cellar and by proxy, my wallet.
    With a couple hundred bottles in my modest collection, BC wine by far
    represents the largest proportion of my cellar. Auzzie Shiraz, several Burgundies,
    Rhones and various Italian regions, as well as the odd Californian and Spanish
    bottle are present, but usually as one-off varietals I’ve cellared to address
    certain pairings or moods.  As an
    enthusiastic consumer, I’d like to think that my vote was genuine.

    I think one point that you neglected was that many of the
    most vocal #BCWine tweeps also voted every other day, and in many cases
    justified their votes, adding to the online discussion. Most of the BC wine
    community on Twitter is very passionate about wine in all shapes and forms, and
    from all regions. I for one distinctly remember that in one vote for Tuscany I tweeted
    about how I preferred the robust ‘Super Tuscans’ to the more delicate Sancerre
    and Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire. My #marcmad vote didn’t always agree with
    those of Brad or Sandra, but I enjoyed their perspectives anyways.  Again, since I don’t have a blog or a
    facebook account, I’ve tried to share my perspective on wine one-hundred and
    forty characters at a time, and I sincerely thought that by participating in
    #marcmad, this was exactly what I was doing.

    Another point I wanted to address was your assertion that
    Remy “put his reputation on the line by inviting some wine world heavy hitters
    to join in for the #marcmad BC V. Burgundy finale, only to be asked what a BC
    wine was.” I don’t doubt this for a second. 
    However, Jancis Robinson, arguably a “heavy hitter” in the wine world,
    has written about #BCWine on two separate occasions, both in 2004 and 2009 http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/a20090819.html.
    Does every wine journalist know what diverse kinds wine BC makes, or of the amazing quality our wine makers and grape growers consistently turn out? Probably not; but
    with the Wine Bloggers convention coming to the Okanagan in 2013 and the growth of
    the international profile of the Vancouver International (Playhouse) Wine Festival, I’m certain this will
    change. Maybe #marcmad is a portent of things to come?

    Finally, with only 433 total votes cast in the final compared
    the total number of wine enthusiasts on the Internet, Twitter, Facebook etc,
    there’s no doubt that there was a narrow sample size for the whole competition.
    With any narrow sample set, there’s going to be noise and bias, and this is
    probably what happened in the final. Why? My guess would be that
    proportionately, there are more BC wine lovers who have chosen Twitter as their
    social media of choice.  Successful events and initiatives like
    #BCWineChat, #BCWineTweetup, and #EastDrinkTweet have created a vibrant
    community of passionate wine lovers in western Canada on Twitter.  Compare the number 433 with the thousands
    fans that the 3 Wine Guys had on their first Facebook page before they
    announced on their podcast that the page had been shut down. If a fraction of
    those wine lovers had participated, or (for example) if cellartracker had promoted #marcmad to its members, the sample size would have increased and
    the results would likely have been very different.  Until then, heck, I’m glad that for once my
    vote actually counted for something I care about.

  • Anonymous

    Luke, Sandra, Neil, Russell, Bradley: I had my rebuttal and you had yours. The last couple of comments were of equal passion and conviction to the earlier ones. At this point folks will start accusing me of high-jacking #marcmad, so I will leave it alone.
    Every spec of sand in this discourse only serves to bury the great project that is #marcmad. So to turn the corner so to speak, I would like to look into my mirror ball and see twenty years down the road…. Imagine if you will a major world wide commercially successful and critically acclaimed BC regional blend, culled from the finest vineyards from across the province called Ruffled Feathers! The anecdotal label on the back would make reference to the wine being a response to the scurrilous written salvos of a certain #wineandmusic blogger… The BC wine community used his diatribe to unify a rag tag lot of laubable and lovable producers to prove to the world they are the perfect Desert Island wine!

     (I hope out-of-work Burgundian producers won’t be ripping out their vines and growing pot to make ends meet!)

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