Monday, February 15, 2010

Wine and Web 2.0 in Germany

We had a couple of snow storms in Washington DC the past few days. The TV stations were constantly updating viewers about the changing conditions around the region and were inviting viewers to communicate with the TV station via facebook, twitter or Ustream. tv. Just having spent 2 months in Germany, I thought, where facebook and twitter are only now starting to take off.

But social media are taking off in Germany and this is, among others, affecting the wine industry. I reported on the use of twitter by German winemakers a few days ago. See here. Today, I will report on 4 web wine shows.

Patrick Johner ‘s, Twitter, Skype Wine Tasting

Patrick Johner organized a twitter wine tasting on with a Skype connection to his father in New Zealand on February 8, 2010. The next twitter wine tasting is scheduled for later today, at 8:30 pm CET. Father Karl H. Johner and son Patrick Johner produce wine both in Baden, Germany and in New Zealand, and this at the highest level, as indicated by their 3 Gault and Millau Grapes.

Picture: Patrick and Karl H. Johner in Germany and New Zealand during the show

First, there was Patrick Johner sitting in the office of his winery in Baden, Germany, behind a monitor and with a head set on his head. He was orchestrating the whole show and broadcasting through, established March 2007, is a website which consists of a network of diverse channels providing a platform for lifecasting and live video streaming of events online. It is not yet well known in Germany, but during the 2008 United States presidential election, the website was used by nearly all the main candidates to help their campaign. is one of several life video sites that exist now, including, Livestream and Blogstar. Ustream's basic service is still free and supported by advertising revenue.

Second, Patrick was connected via Skype with his father Karl H. Johner in New Zealand, who was also on-line. During the show, with his lap –top, connected to via Skype , Karl H. Johner was first walking in the vineyard showing us the grapes, then showing us his cellar and finally also drinking the wine, while commenting on questions and remarks. Amazing pictures!

Third, there were the viewers like me. Many of the viewers had ordered the wine before the show and were tasting with Patrick Johner and his father the Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. The viewers were watching and hearing the father in New Zealand in one window of the screen and Patrick in Baden in another window. Next to the window on, there was a box to send text messages. But most viewers used their twitter account . They were all in their twitter accounts and sending out notes and questions via twitter with the hashtag #twv , which means in German twitter wein verkostung. We were all reading the tweets, including Patrick Johner. He would select the more interesting ones and share them with his father. Then, his father would answer from New Zealand or Patrick would answer from Germany.

Fourth, I was one of the viewers, currently in Virgina, US. I saw and listened to Patrick Johner in Germany and Karl H. Johner in New Zealand. I found it fascinating to taste the wine and then be able to interact with the wine maker who himself was moving around in the vineyard and wine cellar, where the wine was made, many thousand miles away from me. The Twitter/Skype/ set up allowed an intensive dialog with the winemakers on the wine and any other question. You just had to tweet it.

This was a real-time, one-man show, low-budget and truly international through the Skype link to New Zealand.

Weingut Karl H. und Patrick Johner

Hendrik Thoma and TVINO

Hendrik Thoma, the former wine sommelier and now one of the leading German wine journalists, in collaboration with the wine retailer giant HAWESKO, has launched the internet TV series TVINO a few months ago. TVINO is the German version of Gary Vaynerchuk’s show. There are on average three shows per week. With the backing of HAWESKO, they are very professionally done. In contrast to Patrick Johner’s show and Dirk Wuertz’s show (see below), Hendrik is just the show master – but a very entertaining one - and everything else is taken care of by the HAWESKO crew. Also, TVINO is produced ahead and then broadcasted, it is not real-time streaming.

Picture: Hendrick Thoma

He either does the show by himself, reviewing a couple of wines or he has guests and tastes wines with them. The guests have always been very interesting and have included such giant wine makers as the Antinori brothers from Italy, the German top wine maker H.O. Spanier from the Battenfeld Spanier Estate in Rheinhessen, and even the French actor and super star Gerard Depardieu, who also produces wine. As a backdrop, the show is not interactive. However, what one can do is to buy the wine (and this is the main purpose of the show) and taste the wine by oneself, letting the video stream again. TVINO is a marketing event, but Hendrik Thoma does it in a very civilized and entertaining way.


Hendrik Thoma and Smile2 Wine Tasting

Hendrik Thoma has also launched a Smile2 wine tasting, which is inter-active and real-time, a bit like the Johner show. You were able to send text messages and Hendrik would read them and comment on them. You could watch Hendrik with his head set and the very helpful power point slides he had prepared for the show. He would react to the text messages, when the tweets came.

This show, like the TVINO, is backed by a professional company. Indeed, the show was introduced and orchestrated by a show master of Smile2. You had to sign up with Smile2. This time, they did not charge anything, but I suspect that if the show continues it will not remain free of charge. Smile2 GmbH is a German company that specializes in internet seminars and meetings.

The tasting was a live, real-time online event with one of Germany’s top wine experts, who is always fun and knows so much about wine.

smile2 with Henrik Thoma

Dirk Wuertz and 100 Grade Oechsle

Last but not least, Dirk Wuertz launched 100 Grad Oechsle in January 2010. This was the first private internet TV show on wine in Germany.

Dirk Wuertz is an enigmatic wine maker from Rheinhessen in Germany. In his wine cellar, he is focused on sustainable agriculture. The wine making philosophy is one of minimal intervention by means of fermentation with natural yeasts and limited pumping, fining, or filtration. Wuertz – Weinmann export a large part of their production to the US. Inter alia, their wine is served at the New York City top wine bar “Ten Bells” in lower Manhattan. I have reported about this here.

Dirk Wuertz is also one of the leading figures in Germany’s wine blogger scene and the second most active tweeter, in terms of followers, after Johner.

Dirk Wuertz has produced one show so far and the second one is already scheduled. This was a major undertaking, a great, traditional 90 minutes TV show, but homemade at the winery by Dirk Wuertz himself and a couple of his friends. Like in a traditional TV show, there were special guests talking with Dirk - a prominent TV star and a biodynamic farmer; there was an audience that also at some point was asked to participate in the show and review a wine.

Picture: Dirk Wuertz

This was obviously a major undertaking by Dirk Wuertz and his friends. They all did it for fun, to be there when the internet is taken to new heights. It was not interactive with the viewers, but I imagine that this can be done easily. It was like a TV show we know from traditional TV on wine, but homemade, with a low budget and lots of enthusiasm of the producers.

Conclusion and New French USB Stick

We are in the early stages of understanding which of these digital wine ideas will catch on and which not. Time will show.

In the meantime, I suggest that you, Johner, Thoma and Wuertz look into the new world that is opening up with a new, revolutionary USB stick developed in France, which allows to integrate the Web 2.0 with the actual delivery of wine. See the (funny) video here.

Schiller Wine - Related Postings

Germany's wine makers and twitter

In the Glass: Wuertz 2007 Rheinhessen trocken at Ten Bells in the Lower East Side in Manhattan

Wine Video Blog: Hendrik Thoma with Tim Froehlich, Germany's wine maker of the year and and Helmuth Doenhoff, Grandmaster of German wine

German Top Wine Maker Gunter Kuenstler interviewed by Hendrik Thoma

Wine video: Hendrik Thoma and the Antinori brothers

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