There has been a certain hashtag floating around that has stirred up quite a lot of controversy in the online wine world recently.
Now, I'm not going to go into detail about it, because it's already been covered extremely well here and here, but I will touch on it briefly and try to lend a new(ish) perspective.
This hashtag was seemingly born out of a desire to make wine more approachable for the masses and to remove the pretentiousness surrounding it. A noble goal to be sure, but the execution of it has left a sour taste in the mouths of those who hold wine as sacred.
Prominent among those people are farmers and winemakers who have poured their souls (and sometimes their life savings) into an often heartbreaking and under-appreciated endeavor.
It's not that farmers and winemakers don't want to make wine more accessible, they do; it's that they are seeing their wine being bandied about on social media by people who didn't take the time to appreciate the insane amount of work that went into it. They feel that many of these influencers are cheapening the wine they worked so hard to make, and after scrolling through the posts under this hashtag, it's not hard to see their point.
The words, "It's just wine" is what really got me on one person's post. Because, it's not just wine. It is so, so much more. I know many winemakers and wine growers personally, I worked among them for several years. I know how hard they work on that wine, I know that they have families who depend on them to make that wine year after year, and I know that they have lost sleep over that wine.
So, I offer up my own opinion on how influencers can make wine more approachable, without reducing it to "just wine":
Tell the stories of the people who made it.
Show photos not only of the bottles, but of the hands of those that picked the fruit and watched over it as it fermented. Tell your followers about the tasting room attendant who is going to school to become a vineyard manager. Talk about the woman you met on your winery tour who is not only the enologist for the winery you are visiting but also has her own label on the side.
To make wine more approachable you first need to humanize it.
When you tell the stories of these people, you are doing so much more than bringing value to your followers, you are validating the people who worked so hard to make the wine you enjoy. In the last nine years, I have worked in tasting rooms, cellars, and vineyards. I have been yelled at by customers. I have cried about mistakes I made that could have ruined the very product I depended on to make a living. I have worked until the skin on my hands were literally cracked and bloodied.
My point is that there are living, breathing people connected to the wine in your glass. If you are writing about that wine, you have a responsibility to share that connection with your readers. Because it's not just wine.
Heather Daenitz is the founder and photographer of Craft & Cluster, a wine & beer photography and social media marketing company based in Santa Barbara County, California.
When she isn't photographing and assisting wineries and breweries with their social media, Heather can be found hanging out with her husband, two dogs, and three chickens in their backyard garden.