How The Web Is Changing The Wine Industry

Like every industry alive today, the internet is changing the wine industry. While selling wine online is difficult, wine has found a number of interesting and unique niche’s in online communities from tasting chats on Twitter to huge Facebook daily deal site’s specifically tailored to wine.

That being said, the wine industry is being changed inexorably by the internet, perhaps in more ways than anyone can count.

Here’s what I see:

Easier Access for Winemakers:

We are undoubtedly in the era of superstar and travelling winemakers.  Perhaps never before in our history has the ease of travel made it possible for winemakers to consult on multiple continents during the same growing season. We won’t even start to talk about the huge number of winemakers spending part of their year in California and the other part in Chile, that’s happening more and more every year.  Part of the ease has come about because the internet allows the instant transfer of information.  Winemakers can now login to their computer from anywhere in the world and not only see a live view of fermentation in action, but also understand the exact measurements of heat, sugar levels and much more from that fermentation.  No longer will winemakers waste time driving to the winery, only to find that fermentation hasn’t started yet and that they should come back tomorrow. That access and information can allow a winemaker to pick and follow fermentation Sauvignon Blanc in Bordeaux one week and then Napa Valley in the next, only to do the same months later when red wine grapes come in.

Cheaper Wine:

We’ve all seen the rise (and usually the fall) of daily deal sites like Groupon.  The wine industry has done well on many of those sites and they are without a doubt, part of the reason we’re seeing cheaper wine.  That being said though, the pressure placed on wine prices by the internet goes much further.  There was a time when a single retailer in San Francisco could put a specific wine on sale, without anyone else having any clue about that arrangement.  Now, because of the internet and sites like Wine Searcher, a single retailer can be responsible for driving down prices of a wine across the entire country.

Better Consumer Choice:

A generation ago there were about 20 nation wide distributors of wine.  Those 20 companies were able to largely pick winner’s and losers in the world of wine, by deciding the wines carried at virtually every restaurant, wine store, grocery store and drug store in America.  After the economic bubble burst in 2007 though, that number has shrunk to 4 nation wide distributors.  Luckily, the internet allows consumers the ability to exchange information with each other, talking about who is making good wine and who isn’t.  If you want information about an obscure vineyard you passed on your last trip to Italy-the internet is going to be the only place to find something like that.  Of course, online you’ll also be able to see the wines available to you locally from that winery and how much they cost.

Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures, an online wine club based just outside of San Francisco.