Influencers or Wine Writers? The View From Wine Future 2023

At the recent Wine Future 2023 conference, successful wine influencers and podcasters discussed the way in which producers and retailers should communicate with their consumers.

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What role does social media play in wine communication? (Photo: STOATPHOTO/
What role does social media play in wine communication? (Photo: STOATPHOTO/

Of all the varied topics discussed at the Wine Future 2023 conference in Coimbra, Portugal, one of the most controversial was wine communication – or more specifically, the relationship between the industry and Instagram, TikTok, podcast and YouTube influencers. A panel led by US-based Cristina Mercuri who has 20,000 followers on Instagram (@cristinamercuri-wine) included Luke Flunder (@lukeflounder) who has 10 times that number on TikTok, Georgia Panagopoulou (@Wine.Gini) bringing up the rear with 120,000, and Delphine Porte who is responsible for digital and influence at Gérard Bertrand, who collectively revealed how far the wine world has changed since producers relied on traditional wine writers.

Today, Mercuri pointed out, young consumers care a lot less about regions than about health, sustainability and social diversity — none of which have featured highly in the writing of many old-school writers. This age cohort also has something else in common: wherever its members live, they are all online. At least 5bn people today have at least one social media account that is likely to be getting more of their attention than any article or lengthy blog post.

Going pro

The key to the influencers, it was agreed by the panel, was their professionalism: these are men and women who understand the audiences they have built and work to maintain and grow. They choose their topics and their language with care. As Flunder said “I don’t use words like acidity or tannins,” that aren’t going to resonate with TikTok users. The aim has to be “alluring not alienating” and to pull out the most important bits of what one has to say. Attention spans are short, so he created a series in which he gives key wine advice and information in under 30 seconds.

The wine business often fails to identify with people in terms of gender identity, for example, and to understand that wine education has to be fun.

Panagopoulou addressed the thorny issue of commerciality head-on, describing herself as a creator and digital strategist, working on several brands. “We,” she said, speaking for many influencers “help brands with tailored campaigns” that connect with audiences. The wine business, she continued, lacks "social listening". It often fails to identify with people in terms of gender identity, for example, and to understand that wine education has to be fun. “Our content is more real,” she said, and, “our audience trusts us in the same way they trust a personal recommendation from a friend."

Another panel member, the Argentine Mariano Braga, launched his MeLoDijoBraga. podcast in 2022 and has used the platform to become a leading wine communicator. 

Older industry members, he said, do not appreciate how, for Gen Z, listening to audio has become a popular way to relieve stress. Podcasts, he went on, help to break down barriers.

Speaking for the industry, Porte said that influencers are now a significant part of the marketing strategy for Gérard Bertrand, one of France’s most dynamic producers. But to benefit from using them involves a certain amount of effort. “You have to know who you want to talk to and what you want to communicate" — and to work with the appropriate influencer who will help you to achieve that objective. Trying to tell them what to say or how to say it won’t work, she said. Good influencers know their audiences better than you ever will.

Tracking the impact

Talking to them over coffee after the session, some more conservative audience members seemed to struggle with the notion of switching focus from supposedly impartial wine writers to ones that are frankly commercial. What, one wondered, is all of this costing a company like Gérard Bertrand? — as though the previous model of sending out samples, and hosting meals, tastings and visits had not made a hefty dent in any company’s marketing budget. Porte may not have revealed any figures but she did make a very telling point. With today’s communicators and the available methods of following what happens on social media, she said, we have a very good idea of what and who is helping us to achieve our objectives. She didn’t need to go as far as to contrast this with the ‘good old days’ of waiting weeks or possibly months for a wine writer to get their words into print and the challenge of quantifying its impact.

It is unlikely that a brief discussion at an event like Wine Future is going to change the way an entire industry as going to look at communication, and there is no doubt that the old model of well-informed, independent wine writing will still have a considerable role to play — especially among wine drinkers who may spend less time on social media and have more of it (and more cash) to spend on choosing and buying premium bottles of wine. But it’s not a subject that is likely to go away, and Wine Future did well to raise it.


The recent Wine Future 2023 conference brought together a wide range of industry professionals and leading speakers, and raised controversial issues. It took place from 7 to 9 November in Coimbra, Portugal.

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