Before being social online, the Demarie Winery is sociable in real life. And before "tech-connecting," they are anchored to their territory. This does not mean they don’t invest in online communications, but that they start at a grounded, non-virtual point with face-to-face relationships. And finally, they hold clear ideas about attracting and accommodating wine tourists in wineries.
Paolo Demarie, owner of the Demarie Winery in Vezza d’Alba (CN), tells Wine Pass his personal experience as a wine communicator, a role rooted in his history with the land. Above all, however, he is a wine producer; a font of knowledge of the Roero hills; and a passionate advocate for all the locales and places he loves here. “So much so that the vineyards have been accomplices to my love life,” he jokes. He tells us how he met his Bolognese wife, Monica, during a barbeque at his house one year. Monica had always been a fine wine lover, and her friends would often remark, “Just imagine if you married a wine maker…”
“And so she did,” says Paolo. “From that day on, both ensnared by the beauty of the hills of Vezza d’Alba, we’ve been together.” Monica and Paolo, with their son Matteo, represent the third generation of Demarie Winery, where they continue to nurture their love of the hills and its wine with a relaxed, almost breezy style of communication.
“When I decided to dedicate my life to the family winery in 2000, I had a small wine-production revolution,” says Paolo. “We sold vino sfuso (bulk wine) for the most part up until then, but with the new millennium, we decided to begin bottling our wine.
“We had the right quality of wine to make the change. Gino Veronelli wrote an exceptional review of our wines in 1972, particularly of the Nebbiolo from the great Vigna Varasca – the oldest vineyards we have. They were planted in 1946 by my father’s older brother, and they’re the apple of the eye for Demarie Winery. We decided to send Veronelli some more wine in 2000. He tasted it and wrote, ‘They’ve renewed the excitement, and two of their wines – the Nebbiolo and the Arneis – are incredible.’”
It was an auspicious moment, and Paolo began to travel the world in promotion of his wines. “Communication has always been in my camp. But I began wanting to strengthen the brand outside of traditional communication paths. I believed in the potential power of the internet right away, and revamped our site. It was 2005 or 2006, pretty early as far as internet popularity goes. I was aiming for a strong corporate communication and identity, from which we could later set up our social networks.
“And in fact, in 2012 my wife and I took a course on new media and opened Twitter and Facebook. At the time, those particular social networks were flourishing in Italy – but practically no one in the Roero was doing it, and even fewer in the Langhe. It was like pulling teeth.”
But time proved the contrary, and his efforts with social media were successful. “Today we use social media daily, mostly Twitter. We dedicate several hours a day to following updates, taking a few photos, and writing posts. We discovered the pleasures of communication without intermediaries, which is what we do in the winery, and saw that the authentic sincerity that it allows had the potential to open many doors.”
Indeed, tweets and posts were read and shared in America, Japan, and Korea, giving Demarie Winery the chance to meet new wine lovers. “Social networks have now become an integral part to people’s lives in these countries. They’re a means to knowing people, involving them in discussions, and – in the case of wine – learning which labels we need to invest in. We formed relationships online with journalists, wine merchants, buyers, and wine lovers that we were able to consolidate, later, when they visited our winery.” And it was as simple as that.
Paolo Demarie strongly believes in the value of his territory, in actual visits to the winery, and in direct contact between wine maker and wine consumer. “Being online is good, but it’s not everything. Many times, wineries are missing all the rest. In Italy, for example, we need to study a system for gratifying the consumer or wine tourist that comes to taste wine, while the producer takes advantage of this by presenting them their wines and labels. The moment has come for winery visits and tastings to be categorized as paid services. We need a standard for the producers to extract the wine tourist from the obligation of buying bottles, and the subsequent complaints of a lost sale when they don’t. It’s got to be more of a “Teutonic” system that yes, may feel a little more removed and cold, but which will definitely be more transparent.”
Do investments in social networking really have a good economic return for a winery? “You have to think of social networking like a little, tiny flea in your ear. It must be a non-invasive way to get consumers’ attention. For example, we published the opening of our new cellars through social media, and had good results. Or, today we’re promoting tourism packets in collaboration with restaurants and spas that take the tourist on a winery visit and then to another activity related to this area. For Demarie Winery, social media is the means to an end, that end being a face-to-face encounter. Once the consumers know the hard work and passion behind your company, you’ll be hard-pressed to find them indifferent to your products.”
Translated by Diana Zahuranec