David Lowe of the blog, Big Pinots, has successfully merged his two great passions: wine and technology, into a unique blog and career. After earning his WSET certification, he decided to combine his love of wine with his knowledge of social media and technology to create a unique platform for both winos and techies alike. He dishes about wine tasting iPhone apps, users experience on a website, and how the traditional world of wine can benefit from the latest technology.
As a speaker at the 2012 International Wine Tourism Conference and a member of the Blogger/Media Fam Trip in Italy, we caught up with David and asked him a few questions about the benefits of social media for the wine industry, who is doing it right and what he hopes to learn at the conference.
1. The 2012 Wine Conference takes place in Perugia, Italy, how do you view Umbria as a wine destination?
That Umbria is often overlooked in favour of its neighbour is something of its charm. I think of it as a region for people in the know; although I suspect that it would rather be like Tuscany. I got married in Umbria because we love the place so much: all the wine served at the wedding was from a vineyard near Panicale in Umbria [La Querciolana] and was superb. Unfortunately, we only managed to bring a couple of cases back with us and it’s all gone now.
2. Wine is usually associated with tradition not technology; in your opinion, how can technology benefit the wine industry?
I’m not a wine-maker, so I try not to get sucked into the tech vs nature debate in terms of production. But, as consumers, we are benefiting more and more from technology. Social tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, are allowing us to discuss wine with people which would have been prohibitively difficult in the past; it just wouldn’t have been possible to engage people like Tim Hanni, Randall Grahm and Jancis Robinson in conversation until these came about. Although many businesses claim to be using these technologies to benefit their customers, only a few truly are. It’s these businesses that will see loyalty and business growth in the future, whilst others will struggle.
Another noticable advancement, which I think is changing our interaction, is apps. I can now record a full tasting note using a bespoke tasting method, get recommendations for wines in a specific restaurant, and loads more, all on my phone. I think the future for lots of companies is augmented reality. This is where your phone’s camera shows you the image you’re looking at, but additional information is laid over the top of it. The wine industry has yet to get a handle on this, but I see huge potential, especially in terms of wine tourism.
However, I can’t stand it when companies jump into technology without considering what they actually want to achieve. They just end up with nonsense which makes the whole industry look bad.
3. On that note, which wineries, retailers or other companies in the wine industry are doing it right with regards to technology? Who should we watch and learn from?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the one company in the UK that stands way out in front of others is Naked Wines. They have a fantastically loyal customer base that feels part of their venture because they nailed the social aspect of their business right from the start. I’ve got involved with them on a few occasions as I’m so impressed. They are truly innovative.
There are many other companies that have a good handle on social media, such as Bibendum and Majestic, but Naked is pushing technology through every pore of its business and is benefitting as a result.
4. What are you hoping to gain from the wine conference in Italy? What are you most excited to share?
I have managed to persuade one of the major brands that I work for to let us build some tour proposals in a workshop, and they have promised to review them upon my return. There are many companies offering wine-based holidays and tours, but I’m hoping that we can create something truly innovative and special for their customers. My dream is that the brand starts to offer wine-based tours as a result of what we produce at the conference. I’ve got some ideas of my own, and I’m very excited to see what we can generate in Perugia and how we can get it implemented afterwards.
5. Which Italian wines do you hope to see in the Jane Hunt MW Grand Wine Tasting Wines of Italy?
I’m always happy to drink Barolo, Chianti, Prosecco, etc, but I’m hoping for something new that I’ve not drunk, or maybe even heard of, before. In 2006 I had a glass of Prosecco Passito that knocked my socks off – but I’ve never seen it since. It’s that kind of discovery that I’m hoping for. But, failing that, I’ll take a glass of Sassicaia!
Join us at the International Wine Tourism Conference to network with David and 300 other attending wine professionals.