wine industry

French vineyards blow dust off the barrels and embrace a digital revolution in wine

Digital-media tools such as augmented reality, apps and online games have a vast potential to reinvigorate communication about wine.

Most commonly associated with notions such as tradition, authenticity and terroir, the French wine industry doesn’t instantly jump to mind as a leader in innovation. But its deep traditions are no impediment to finding new ways to showcase the sector’s know-how, enhance its reputation, and promote engagement with and exchanges about wine.

For France, the challenge is both commercial and cultural. While the wines of the Champagne and Burgundy regions were granted Unesco world-heritage status in July, the European single market is structured to empower the “free movement of goods and services”, with all the risks and opportunities that entails. To meet this challenge, in July 2014 a French senator proposed a bill emphasizing the importance of the wine industry’s shaking off some of its dust:

We must empower the important actors in the wine industry to better promote this patrimony and culture via new technologies, so as to not compromise its future. Such promotion has become urgent … in a context of global competition and conflicts between winemaking practices that are starkly different.

The text concludes by noting that the responsible enjoyment of wine and its culture requires knowledge and education – and today, its communication is necessarily digital.

The use of digital tools for purely commercial purposes has its place, of course, and it’s growing quickly: Just this year, more than 500 e-commerce websites accounted for more than 10% of the wine sold in France. Still, even double-digits sales increases can be offset by unforeseen events in a unpredictable and highly competitive market.

In the digital vineyards

The challenge is thus how to use digital media to convey the essence of wine itself. Many foods and beverages have leveraged digital communication, but wine, with its distinct character and evocative force, occupies a unique place in our society. Online tools must not only faithfully convey a wine’s image, but also create an experience that is every bit as vivid as the real thing, if not more so.

Here augmented reality has the potential to allow aficionados to interact with both physical and virtual environments – vineyards, cellars, exhibitions and catalogues.

One example is Bordeaux’s Cité du vin, which promises a “unique experience” with immersive interactive displays, virtual settings, fragrant environments and more. These experiential features are also part of the Cité des vins in Burgundy (Beaune). Both sites harness digital technologies to support three phases of the wine experience: awareness, exploration and appropriation.

By fully immersing us in the world of wine, digital media can enhance our subjectivity, and enable a kind of rediscovery of magic – “the willing suspension of disbelief“, as Coleridge put it. For example, virtual tours can be created through the use of drones, which capture aerial images of vineyards that are then remodelled. This opportunity to live in the present yet rediscover the world in new and wonderful ways is the promise of digital media.

Narrating the story of wine

While sensory immersion can open new doors, digital media is at its richest when it plays a narrative role. The most striking example of this is seen in the context of wine tourism. Already more than 10,000 vineyards, wine cellars and other facilities welcome more than 8m visitors annually – and the best is awarded the distinction Vignobles et Découvertes. Many regions have already developed digital apps that allow users to tour vineyards (Smart Bordeaux), follow wine trails and learn about local events (GeoVina Languedoc-Roussillon), or get involved in wine tourism (Œnotourisme Bourgogne). And an online game, Vinoga, combines social networking and e-commerce to put the user in the boots of a wine-maker.

While there’s still considerable room for the improvement of such apps, they make it clear that, when it comes to communication, a traditional website that conveys basic information – where, what, who and how – is no longer sufficient. Certain regions of France have worked to get this movement off the ground: A Nantes-based firm, Komka Vigneron, offers a customisable website adapted to the needs of winemakers and vineyards. Ultimately, effective marketing requires not only digital tools, but also a deep understanding of what a region can offer both nationally and internationally.

Together, such apps, websites and experiences can help build communities of wine enthusiasts. Furthermore, they all reflect a shared desire to be more conscious of the food and wine that we consume, to take back control, and to defend and share it.

Jean-Jacques Boutaud, Professeur en Sciences de l’information et de la communication, Université de Bourgogne

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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As India turns 70, London School of Economics asks some provocative questions

Is India ready to become a global superpower?

Meaningful changes have always been driven by the right, but inconvenient questions. As India completes 70 years of its sovereign journey, we could do two things – celebrate, pay our token tributes and move on, or take the time to reflect and assess if our course needs correction. The ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, the annual flagship summit of the LSE (London School of Economics) South Asia Centre, is posing some fundamental but complex questions that define our future direction as a nation. Through an honest debate – built on new research, applied knowledge and ground realities – with an eclectic mix of thought leaders and industry stalwarts, this summit hopes to create a thought-provoking discourse.

From how relevant (or irrelevant) is our constitutional framework, to how we can beat the global one-upmanship games, from how sincere are business houses in their social responsibility endeavours to why water is so crucial to our very existence as a strong nation, these are some crucial questions that the event will throw up and face head-on, even as it commemorates the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.

Is it time to re-look at constitution and citizenship in India?

The Constitution of India is fundamental to the country’s identity as a democratic power. But notwithstanding its historical authority, is it perhaps time to examine its relevance? The Constitution was drafted at a time when independent India was still a young entity. So granting overwhelming powers to the government may have helped during the early years. But in the current times, they may prove to be more discriminatory than egalitarian. Our constitution borrowed laws from other countries and continues to retain them, while the origin countries have updated them since then. So, do we need a complete overhaul of the constitution? An expert panel led by Dr Mukulika Banerjee of LSE, including political and economic commentator S Gurumurthy, Madhav Khosla of Columbia University, Niraja Gopal Jayal of JNU, Chintan Chandrachud the author of the book Balanced Constitutionalism and sociologist, legal researcher and Director of Council for Social Development Kalpana Kannabiran will seek answers to this.

Is CSR simply forced philanthropy?

While India pioneered the mandatory minimum CSR spend, has it succeeded in driving impact? Corporate social responsibility has many dynamics at play. Are CSR initiatives mere tokenism for compliance? Despite government guidelines and directives, are CSR activities well-thought out initiatives, which are monitored and measured for impact? The CSR stipulations have also spawned the proliferation of ambiguous NGOs. The session, ‘Does forced philanthropy work – CSR in India?” will raise these questions of intent, ethics and integrity. It will be moderated by Professor Harry Barkema and have industry veterans such as Mukund Rajan (Chairman, Tata Council for Community Initiatives), Onkar S Kanwar (Chairman and CEO, Apollo Tyres), Anu Aga (former Chairman, Thermax) and Rahul Bajaj (Chairman, Bajaj Group) on the panel.

Can India punch above its weight to be considered on par with other super-powers?

At 70, can India mobilize its strengths and galvanize into the role of a serious power player on the global stage? The question is related to the whole new perception of India as a dominant power in South Asia rather than as a Third World country, enabled by our foreign policies, defense strategies and a buoyant economy. The country’s status abroad is key in its emergence as a heavyweight but the foreign service officers’ cadre no longer draws top talent. Is India equipped right for its aspirations? The ‘India Abroad: From Third World to Regional Power’ panel will explore India’s foreign policy with Ashley Tellis, Meera Shankar (Former Foreign Secretary), Kanwal Sibal (Former Foreign Secretary), Jayant Prasad and Rakesh Sood.

Are we under-estimating how critical water is in India’s race ahead?

At no other time has water as a natural resource assumed such a big significance. Studies estimate that by 2025 the country will become ‘water–stressed’. While water has been the bone of contention between states and controlling access to water, a source for political power, has water security received the due attention in economic policies and development plans? Relevant to the central issue of water security is also the issue of ‘virtual water’. Virtual water corresponds to the water content (used) in goods and services, bulk of which is in food grains. Through food grain exports, India is a large virtual net exporter of water. In 2014-15, just through export of rice, India exported 10 trillion litres of virtual water. With India’s water security looking grim, are we making the right economic choices? Acclaimed author and academic from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Amita Bavisar will moderate the session ‘Does India need virtual water?’

Delve into this rich confluence of ideas and more at the ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, presented by Apollo Tyres in association with the British Council and organized by Teamworks Arts during March 29-31, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. To catch ‘India @ 70’ live online, register here.

At the venue, you could also visit the Partition Museum. Dedicated to the memory of one of the most conflict-ridden chapters in our country’s history, the museum will exhibit a unique archive of rare photographs, letters, press reports and audio recordings from The Partition Museum, Amritsar.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Teamwork Arts and not by the Scroll editorial team.