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How uncorked its community

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Brands & Campaigns

Almost from the beginning, wine and social media have been a match made in heaven, but Craig Drollett, who until this month co-owned the Bin Ends wine store in Braintree, Mass., decided in 2008 that he wanted to bring them closer together. Drollett helped launch Twitter Taste Live that year. The events — which bring wine lovers together from across the U.S. and around the world to taste the same wines simultaneously — have taken hold, and now partners with wineries, retailers and bloggers to host several events each month. SmartBrief editor Liz DeHoff caught up with Drollett to find out what’s next for

How did Twitter Taste Live start, and what inspired you to take it further?

It began with as simple a thought as you can get: Lots of people were talking about wine online, but no one at the time was tasting it.  Our first event was a simple event that took place on Twitter (this was before Tweetdeck or any other third-party apps).  It was a pairing of wines from European Cellars, hosted by Eric Solomon and Ryan and Gabriella Opaz from  It proved the premise that putting people all over the world together to share and taste wine was possible, but it also made it clear that the basic Twitter interface was not the ideal solution.  Shortly afterward, we began to build, which has been continually growing and transforming into what it is today.

What response have you gotten from wineries?

Wineries and trade groups have loved the platform since day one.  It’s an incredibly easy way to create buzz about your wines and interact with a younger, growing generation of fans in real time.  With the launch of the custom winery pages back in November, we’ve essentially turned all of the current and future technology over to the partners for them to use at their discretion.  2010 will see an incredible amount of action — probably close to five times as many events as well as new and evolving event formats.

How have wine bloggers and tweeters factored into your business plan?

We’ve had an incredibly close relationship with the wine blogging community since day one.  They form the backbone of the online wine community, and as their relevance in the general market continues to grow, it’s important that we continue this relationship.  They’re a knowledgeable, open and very fun group; you’re going to see the balance of power begin to shift in their direction very soon.

What role do you eventually hope to see consumers play?

Consumers are also very important as at the end of the day they drive sales for the winery partners.  As social media and online events have become more mainstream, we’ve begun to encourage wineries to create more consumer-oriented events. Tasting room TasteLive terminals, tweetups and wine club events are going to be very important in 2010.

How have you coped with Twitter outages and how do you respond when Twitter changes its interface?

One word: Headache!  Twitter’s stability has been an ongoing issue and back in September we decided that we couldn’t rely on it any longer.  December 1st we released our own custom “TasteLive real time engine,” which now powers the platform.  This has created a faster, more stable system that we have 100% control over.  We did this while keeping the “auto post” to Twitter feature, so we have managed to move to our own platform while not losing any of the reach that Twitter provides.

Do you have any plans to integrate video?

To be honest, I’m not big on video.  Video streaming is a “sexy” term, but I find when most people actually do it, they freeze up as soon as the camera lights up.  TasteLive is built with the ability for each winery to stream live from ustream or post Youtube or other videos, but I always warn to think hard about it and make sure you have exciting relevant content before posting it.  There is nothing worse than a bad video.

How are you preparing for the next evolution of social media?

Social media moves so fast that it’s tough to predict what is going to happen next.  We’ll continue to integrate further with Twitter, Facebook, photo and video sites, and wine note sites, but with the launch of our own engine we really were able to put our destiny in our hands, which allows us to grow based on our partners’ and users’ needs.

Image credit, KLH49 via iStock