French vintners slowly make friends with Facebook

Fri Mar 9, 2012 12:12pm EST

File photo of a computer grab showing wine bottles in the tasting room at the Arnaldo-Caprai vineyard in the virtual world Second Life May 16, 2007. REUTERS/Suzanne Miller

File photo of a computer grab showing wine bottles in the tasting room at the Arnaldo-Caprai vineyard in the virtual world Second Life May 16, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Miller

(Reuters) - French wineries, like over-tired children, are kicking and screaming but slowly making their way onto social media, a survey released this week found.

The survey of 528 wineries in the United States and France conducted by ABLE Social Media Marketing found that while 94 percent of U.S. vintners were on Facebook, only 53 percent of their French counterparts were.

But the French are coming online, albeit slowly. A similar study by ABLE's corporate predecessor mysocialwinery.com conducted in 2010 reported less than 20 percent of French winemakers were using the social network.

Figures for vintners' use of Twitter were similar, according to the survey that was conducted in December, a relatively quiet month for wineries north of the equator.

Meanwhile as the use of social media has climbed, France has seen its wine production and consumption decline.

Since 2006 production has decreased from 52.1 million hectoliters (1.4 billion gallons) to 45.7 million hectoliters (1.2 billion gallons) in 2011, a U.S. Department of Agriculture report found. Some of this is attributable to shrinking profit margins and growers being paid to uproot their vines.

The report also noted a steady slide in wine consumption by the French, which it said could be traced to a combination of government anti-drinking campaigns and adults substituting other beverages.

During the same period, exports of U.S. wines to Europe saw fairly steady growth, rising from $876 million in 2006 to $1.4 billion, the U.S. Dept. of Commerce said.

And U.S. wine consumers have been steadily sipping more as well, the Wine Institute in California reported.

A little more than 70 percent of winemakers on both sides of the Atlantic have websites, the survey found, but less than half of the French wineries use them to sell wine.

"The wine industry has been one of the slowest industries to adopt Internet-based technologies, barely edging ahead of pawn shops, bowling alleys, and dry cleaners in having web sites, e-mail addresses, and actually using them both," Alder Yarrow noted on his blog, Vinography, last month.

The full survey is available here

(Reporting By Leslie Gevirtz; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)