Vinfluencers are a new kind of wine communicator putting themselves front and centre as they spread their wine gospel celebrating pleasure and fun. In this edition of New Voices in Wine, Anais Gschwind meets some of the smart, savvy and sexy women at the vanguard of this movement, and investigates why not everyone is as enthusiastic about them as they are about wine.
“Instagram doesn’t want pictures of your vines, it wants pictures of your face (read, tits).” That’s how a new breed of online wine influencers, or ‘vinfluencers’, are gaining new followers on social media. The sassy purveyors of this style of wine communication are more than willing to spend big on a bottle that suits their mood – and equally willing to then pose provocatively with their purchase. They are young, fun and attractive, self-styled masters of their own taste and unafraid to share their perfectly curated wine-infograms and observations online, often revealing ullage and cleavage in the same artfully posed shot.
The opening quote comes from vinfluencer @downtoawineart, a.k.a. Lorna Moffatt, a British-born wine educator. Her account is tagged “Helping winos learn more about our favourite drop with tips, advice and f*cking fun classes!” She has approximately 3500 followers, including winemakers from some of Australia’s oldest wineries and a who’s who of Australian wine communicators. From her home in Sydney, she uploads daily content, which usually features her holding a bottle of wine as she chats to the camera. She is blonde and charming and offers practical information about how wine is made, and what food will complement the wine she’s presenting. And she is always well presented, often wearing clothing that reveals more than Jancis Robinson would dream of.
“The push-back on influencers is because people see one side of it and think you’re vapid. They don’t see people sharing what they love, spending money, reading up and studying.”
As Moffat explains, Instagram tends to preference provocative content. But that also attracts the detractors, of course, such as wine writer Lisse Garnett. In an article entitled ‘Thirst trap: How ‘vinfluencers’ took over the wine world’ for The Spectator magazine, Garnett observes how one particularly successful English vinfluencer named Georgie Fenn (@winingawaytheweekend) “regularly poses in carefully picked diaphanous clothing, ‘nipple poke’ a specialty”. The article is accompanied by an image of Fenn, meticulously made up, with a hair scrunchy on her wrist, unnaturally posed, and nipples visible through her T-shirt. What irks Garnett most is that successful influencers are invited – she believes undeservedly – to attend events and trips alongside more authoritative wine identities. Garnett says, “When I want wine recommendations, I go for integrity… Overly staged sex appeal should arouse suspicion. If you have to try that hard, there must be something wrong.”
Moffatt’s response to the naysayers is blunt. “The push-back on influencers is because people see one side of it and think you’re vapid,” she says. “They don’t see people sharing what they love, spending money, reading up and studying.” She says the wine world has a lot of great women in it, “but it has been ruled by men who don’t do [posting on Instagram] as much as women do.”
One of these women is Sophia Longhi, an Instagrammer based in London with 10,000 followers on her handle @skinandpulp. Taking a more visually conservative and diverse approach to her posting than some vinfluencers, Longhi’s images riff on a relaxed and beautiful lifestyle, picturing her enjoying wine in the English countryside, revealing a hint of girl power while also featuring more targeted educational content. She, too, hits back at the gender imbalance in the wine communication game. “The community of wine influencers is disproportionately female, and perhaps posting an image to Instagram with a caption is a way for them to be seen and heard in an industry that is disproportionately male,” says Longhi. “People use what they’ve got and they should be empowered to do so.”
“The community of wine influencers is disproportionately female, and perhaps posting an image to Instagram with a caption is a way for them to be seen and heard in an industry that is disproportionately male. People use what they’ve got and they should be empowered to do so.”
Back in Australia, Gabriella Fois commands close to 50,000 followers on her account @thewineabout. Her tagline is “Follow for educational wine content”, and lists her WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) Diploma and FWS (French Wine Scholar, run by the Wine Scholar Guild) qualifications. While some vinfluencers have leveraged their influence without having completed any official training, others, like Fois, cite their formal qualifications as part of their branding, lending credibility to their voice. She addresses some more serious themes about wine, such as wine faults and wine styles, with finesse and candour. In one of the short video montages that have become her signature of late, Fois is sassily swirling a glass of natural wine in her hand, rolling her eyes while detecting ‘mousiness’ – which she describes as “a wine FAULT (pls people it is not terroir)”. She has a flair for making sense of technical wine knowledge while keeping it fun and engaging, which is surely the benchmark for any aspiring or accomplished wine communicator. The svelte brunette shares her expert wine knowledge while featuring a substantial display of chest, and can be spotted in her Instagram gallery alternating between tight bike pants, low-cut singlets or the T-shirts she has designed and sells on her website. Her approach is sexy and playful, featuring light-hearted observations and reflections on her wine learning journey, as well as her experiences at her job in a bottle shop in Sydney. Her videos come with titles like “What working in a bottle shop is really like” and “When a customer keeps going on about the score on Vivino when you are suggesting wine”. Her content often generates spirited feedback in the form of hundreds of comments below her posts.
The world of influencers across the board, not just vinfluencers, is dominated largely by female perspectives. In her article ‘Why women are called “Influencers” and men “Creators”’, internet culture expert and commentator Emma Grey Ellis explores the curious distinction between women and men who create content for social media platforms. According to Ellis, men often avoid being associated with the term ‘influencer’. Men prefer being considered content creators, because the sort of content influencers produce is perceived as frivolous. Ellis says, “the subtext [of influencers being cast as frivolous] is that influencing is somehow beneath producing, and, yep, that smells sexist. But it might point to the actual difference between men and women’s contributions to the internet – not their value or their subject matter, but how the creator thinks about themselves.” Ellis goes on to say that women tend to think of themselves as “part of the product”, as demonstrated by the way in which many vinfluencers incorporate their physical form with their product and educational content – a formula that has proved very successful in terms of gaining an audience, both frivolous and serious alike.
While vinfluencers may not cast themselves too seriously, it does not stop them from making a serious impact in the world of wine communication. They have tapped into a subculture of wine consumers who are thirsty for content that is fun, educational and looks good. And above all, their style represents a playful shift away from the pomp and stuffiness that has long been a hallmark of wine communication. As Sophia Longhi says, “Social media has given voices to a whole spectrum of people in society and, in the context of the wine industry, given us a whole array of voices that speak about wine.”
About New Voices in Wine: Applications are open for New Voices in Wine – our mentoring program to fast track the development of aspiring wine writers and publish their works at younggunofwine.com. The process includes mentoring sessions designed to help develop a piece of writing, as well as provide the opportunity to tap into the broader wisdom of some of Australia’s very best food and wine writers, such as Richard Cornish and Sophie Otton, who were the mentors for this article. We want to find new voices to join the more familiar ones, to give new writers and communicators a chance to provide their own unique take on the world of wine. New Voices, we want you – apply now!
About Anais Gschwind: Anais Gschwind is a self-confessed hospitality tragic who recently returned to her home in the Northern Rivers region in New South Wales after a stint harvesting grapes in Margaret River. She has dabbled with various career paths including sustainable farming, tour guiding and teaching, but seems to always find a way back to the world of food and wine. She is currently undertaking her WSET level 3, and spends too much time on Instagram.
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