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Wine Goes High Tech

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How two vineyards used crowdsourcing to promote their wines

If you can crowdsource decisions about your next vacation, the job you should take or what to name your kids, why not crowdsource wine? Two winemakers asked that same question and are getting the answer.

The internet is intertwined with pretty much everything these days (even the Pope tweets!) so it’s not a surprise to hear that it has made its way into the wine world. But beyond vineyard websites, mail order wine and tasting blogs there is a new trend in the world wine web: crowdsourcing. Two vineyards have recently taken the journey into using crowdsourcing to promote their wines. Here are the unique ways each has approached this new frontier.

La Crema (California, USA) – Wine lovers can hop on over to La Crema’s website to not only learn about winemaking, but also take part in the creation of their next wine through their Virtual Vintner Experience. After taking a quiz on basic wine knowledge you will be asked to vote in the weekly decision that needs to be made about the wine. The current Virtual Vintner is a Pinot Noir and until September 22 participants can vote on how long it should be aged. The next step will be to determine the toast level of the barrels.

The types of input given are within traditional decision-making for a Pinot Noir so there is no chance that choices could produce a bad wine, but it does give drinkers something to share with their friends when they invite them over for a bottle they helped produce.

Columbia Crest (Washington, USA) – The winemakers at Columbia Crest have put aside five acres of cabernet grapes in order to produce their Crowdsourced Cabernet – a 1,000 case batch of cabernet that will be sold to those making the decisions and the general public. Anyone can participate by signing up with an email address. Weekly updates include education about winemaking, the weekly question (currently it’s what type of fermenter to use), webcams of the vines and conditions of the vineyard.

All decisions, as with La Crema, are within the ideas of producing a cabernet so the wine won’t be a dud, but choices do influence flavor.

By inviting drinkers into the process La Crema and Columbia Crest are giving ownership to their consumers and sharing their love of not just good wine but also the steps that go into producing a good wine.

Another option for those who want to play a role in winemaking but can’t afford to quit their day jobs to grow grapes? Check out Naked Wine, a California-based company. Members pay $40/month to help support startup wineries in California. Currently, with over 50,000 participants, there is a waiting list to join the club which includes an online shop to purchase wines from the supported wineries. There is also a UK branch of Naked Wines which currently has 12,000 active members.

The next time you’re looking for a bottle to share with friends consider taking part in one of these great online projects and being a part of not just the fun of drinking wine, but making it.

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