Host a Twitter TastingBy Alyssa Rapp, Founder and CEO of Bottlenotes, the premier online wine community where wine enthusiasts come to learn about wine, share tasting notes, and buy wine. Alyssa is also the author of Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips. Article originally published on Forbes.com
Only if you’ve been living under a rock, you've missed all the recent buzz about the micro-blogging platform Twitter. Put simply, Twitter is a tool that people from all over the world use to express their thoughts at any given moment, on any subject, in 140 characters or less.
Limited as that might sound, it's actually the perfect medium to talk about new or interesting wines with other like-minded people. Because of the limitations of the medium, everyone's comments are short and to the point; all voices are at the same volume; there's no apologizing for spilling wine on someone else's rug; and, best of all, no one has to drive home.
There's no shortage of wine-obsessed Twitter users and, because of that, already there's no shortage of Twitter tasting groups. And there's always room for more, whether it's tasting and talking about organic wines, ports or even different tequilas and mezcals if spirits are more up your alley.
However, there are a few things you can and should do to get the discussion--about a particular wine or group of wines--going, as well as keep it lively and educational. There's a bit more to it than just opening a bottle of wine and plopping down at your computer and starting your Twitter account.
First things first, get in the groove with Twitter for a few weeks. Start posting your thoughts and ideas regularly (about wine and other subjects), and start building up your network of followers as well as start following other people and their tweets. Organically, in a very short time, you'll have a solid group of people you connect with regularly.
Once you have an idea of who should be in your tasting group, set up your own Twitter account so the relevant tweets are all aggregated together. Keep in mind, Twitter is like a large room with thousands of people shouting in it, so it's up to you to filter out what's not important to you.
In other words, you don't want to start a wine tasting and have every relevant comment about the wine followed by dozens more unrelated ones--about anything from how great the weather is in New Orleans right now, to what Obama should do about Guantanamo Bay or why someone's putting off emptying their dishwasher--before you get to the next relevant tweet.
You can do this using a simple search, such as Search.twitter.com. So let's say your tasting involves using one of ten particularly affordable, such as Geyser Peak sauvignon blanc from California. If you set up a search just for that wine name, you'll only see tweets related to that wine.
Or, you can use what's called a hash tag (e.g., #GeyserPeak). Hash tags allow you to use a tool such as Hashtags.org LINK to aggregate the tweets of the theme. Make sure that your hash tag adequately reflects the theme of your group or tasting, but is also unique enough to appropriately aggregate all the right content.
Another method is to create a Twitter account just for your wine-tasting group (e.g., www.twitter.com/WineGeeks), and everyone else in the group follows the Tweets under that name. If you tweet everyone's comments on the wine or wines being tasted--say, low-alcohol wines --all the followers of the tasting group, whether present or not, can follow the group’s thoughts on the tasting whenever they want to.
If you truly want to learn about new and different wines--and other people's impressions of them--it's important to keep your Twitter tastings focused. Otherwise, it might as well be an online party, which sort of defeats the purpose. Organize the tastings either by theme or by setting up specific topics in advance.
Both have their advantages and drawbacks. A thematic tasting such as, say, the existing #winesofChile group, is a streamlined, ongoing feed of dialogue by the tasting-group participants about any wine from Chile that a group member happens to be tasting at the moment. These types of Twitter tastings are more of a free-for-all and are, for that reason, easier to orchestrate and even jump into and out of. They don't, however, offer as much of a personal touch or connection between the individual participants.
If that's a bit too free-form for you, a pre-determined Twitter tasting might be the way to go. These tend to be organized by commercial wine purveyors (an e-commerce site, a winery, etc.), and are the sort of thing you can easily set up yourself. Either way, the idea is that one wine or set of wines of particular interest to the group are tasted by all the group members at the same time, with everyone tweeting their notes, ideas and impressions about the wines in an organized fashion.
The beauty of this type of setup is that it allows for a structured wine tasting to be conducted with everyone participating from wherever they want to. The downside, however, is that it could get dull after a while, just tasting one or two wines, sharing thoughts, and packing it in until the next time. To pick up as much knowledge, insight and tasting experience as possible, think about joining or setting up both types of tasting groups.
Just remember, wine is meant to be shared in a social setting, so Twitter shouldn't replace any of your other wine-tasting activities. Instead, add it to the ones you engage in already since, no matter how much you may learn or how many friends you might make through a Twitter wine-tasting group, it can't replace a good, old-fashioned gathering.