The actor-singer-turned-wine writer Oz Clarke once told me about a conversation he’d had with the producer of a play he was in. Clarke had asked for a few free tickets for his parents and friends, and the producers had refused, on the sensible grounds that “if the people who know and love you won’t pay to see you perform why should anybody else?”.

That conversation sprang to mind when I looked at the number of views recorded by some of the wine videos on YouTube. My friend Damien Wilson drew my attention in particular to a set of films produced by the Center for Wine Origins.

The Center’s “many activities [are] aimed at educating [US] consumers, policymakers and the media about the importance of keeping wine labels accurate.” and “offering better resources for consumers so that they are able to make informed choices when selecting their wines.” It is funded by the producers of Champagne and Port, two regions with plenty to say for themselves, and by the governments of France and Portugal and the EU. 
Some of its funds – under $60,000 per year, apparently – go towards lobbying. Some – quite a lot, I’d guess – is spent on making professionally produced video clips with titles like “why origin matters”.

Presumably origin really matters to the Center and the people who work for it. The films might also matter to the people who made them, and the ones who feature in them.

Except that, to judge by the number of people who’ve actually viewed these films on YouTube and Vimeo, it seems as though they don’t.

The – frankly miniscule – viewing figures revealed below are actually higher than they might have been. They include Damien Wilson and myself, and the audience at the EWBC conference to whom we showed them. In fact, of the 24 people who have watched “Why Location Matters” on YouTube in nearly a year, half were directed to it by us.

Now you might like to compare these figures with this:
Some readers of this post may of course prefer the Center for Wine Origins style of video; taste is subjective after all. Our audience at the EWBC hated it; they loved Paso Wine Man and were cross with us for cutting it short (yes, we’re responsible for some of those 89,727 views too – just not quite so high a proportion of the total).

There’s a lesson here for anyone who wants to learn it…

  1. Hi Robert,

    Nicely put. I'm such of a fan of the Paso wine man's videos, they never fail to cheer me up & make me feel great about wine. I swear he could single-handedly recruit thousands of apprehensive wine novices overnight. When I first saw his ads for the Paso Robles Zinfandel festival, I'd never seen anything like it, laughed loud with joy & felt like I was (hopefully) watching the future.

    Tyrone: @winesonlyadrink

  2. There's a reason for everything.

    Maybe they have not promoted the videos yet….?

    “Port-style wine made elsewhere tend to be more about the brand”. Indeed. We feel the depths of the Taylor, Sandeman, Grahams, Cockburn type terroir when we drink the true ports, don't we.

    Quite curious too, the ominous background music.

    (Come to think of it, it's a bit like the 'natural wine' pitch (or presidential campaigns): promoting yourself by being negative about the others.)

    Like a wine, a video should perhaps tell a story. Not make you squirm because you're ignorant…?

    Our own most popular video? How to make a wine barrel. Why? No idea.

    Second most popular: On foie gras. For obvious reasons. Just look at the comments.

    (The popularity list: )

    More seriously, you don't necessarily need a big budget, as the port and champagne people did, to make a good video.

    But you can have different objectives.

    The Origin people are on a crusade and want to explain to people why they are wrong.

    The Paso Robles man want to sell wine and entertain people. (or possibly the other way around) Interesting, though, that his video was very long for an internet clip. Either they didn't think of it or they thought that “what the H, we want to do it like this so we do it like this, no matter what internet marketing principles say”.

    We, generally, want to tell stories about what happens in the vineyards.

    All of it you can do in different ways.


  3. Oer, well done! 53k views for your barrel movie! But maybe it's not that surprising. How barrels get made is actually a thousand times more puzzling and interesting than most of what one can say about wine – and you tell the story clearly and well.

    Your Barrel-Making movie is educational. Full Stop

    The Origin films are boring. Full stop.

    Paso man is entertaining. Full stop

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