Olivier B Cotes du Ventoux Winery Rescued By Bloggers


A wine story rightfully deserving its own screenplay has unfolded in the Cotes du Ventoux. Scripted by French wine bloggers leveraging the social web, then serially turbocharged by social media’s influence on traditional media, the Olivier B Winery has apparently been rescued from the edge of wine making extinction.  Any film highlighting this southeastern Rhone wine producer’s story will easily rival the surrounding “feel good” patina that made “Bottle Shock”, and its centerpiece winery Chateau Montelena, forever mainstream. While it’s not a news story in France since the drama surfaced in early January, the Olivier B story of love, bankruptcy, and social media is just now getting its air time with the U.S. social media wine crowd.

In a post dated January 1, 2011 titled “Because of Love”, Olivier B threw in the towel with this image of his wine in the shape of a cross and a story of personal challenge rife with forlorn tensions of a financially stressed winery, a deep love for winemaking, mounting family pressures, and challenged emotional health.  The story he initially injected into social media spheres with a single blogpost struck a chord with like minded bloggers sympathetic to systemic hurdles facing French dream chasers, wine enthusiasts, and agriculturalists.  Blogposts and discussion boards lit up throughout France, Olivier B wine tastings were organized, and social media extensions of traditional media like Le Monde cemented the campaign’s strength.  Traffic to Olivier B’s website increased exponentially, orders flowed in, and restaurants around France celebrated with the wine’s service; mission accomplished and the Olivier B Winery lives on in new found prosperous fashion.

The story feels good at face value, but the social media marketing underpinnings of the development are just as impressive.  If any small business operator or winery has any remaining doubts about the raw power behind the multiplying effect available through social media marketing, this story should resolve them.  The certain-to-be-written case study of this winery’s social media victory will rightfully point out two unconventional extremes; one involving the business’ disastrous condition and the other a reliance on the winery’s massively appealing emotional dilemma and popular cause; definitely not garden variety marketing messaging or value propositions.

Nevertheless, the Olivier B social media wine marketing case study showcases two dramatically resonant media developments and lessons:

  1. At the winery’s most hopeless moments, Olivier B dreamed about a 95 point score from Robert Parker as a path to resuscitation.  The power of multiple bloggers created the same advantageous outcome as Parker’s Wine Advocate would have if the traditional wine market-maker awarded a mid ninety point score
  2. Twitterers, bloggers, and Facebookers pushed the cause into the public eye, and traditional media like Le Monde validated the blogosphere’s nose for a story, reviewed recent Olivier B releases, amplified the social web’s voice, and became the ultimate turning point in the campaign.  This integration of social and traditional media is a potent and powerful trend.

Success in social media marketing for wineries is a product of hard work without short cuts to meaningful outcomes.  Olivier B found a “needle in a haystack” shortcut in passionate business desperation and massively appealing emotional distress.  Neither are required for any winery or small business that is willing to work their social networks and create a long and never ending string of web based content. Olivier B demonstrated the intrinsic power of social media marketing for moving masses, the equivalency in the power of masses armed with social content tools to a singularly influential market-maker, and the growing influence of the social web for making traditional media take notice.  I can’t wait for the movie.

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