For those of you who have toiled at the coalface of social media, who have created strategies and content for a thousand different subjects, each one of you will have an internal list of things which you long to come under your aegis for whatever reason. It might be passion for the subject, it might be an inside track on a way of engaging with users on it or it might simply be that you love pictures of it. You will also have a list of the opposite – things that you either can’t stand, are tired of, can’t find a way to enthuse people about or simply hate looking at. For those of us who seek to bring the joys of restaurant social media to life there is one particular subject which can combine both – bring tears of joy for everything it represents, yet tears of frustration for its successful (by ones’ own standards) execution. It’s the wine list. As an agency, Me:Mo has had great success in capturing the essence of restaurant wine lists for social media but it is absolutely because there are experts in the field on board that we seek to set the bar higher than other agencies. Pun intended.
So the problem is this: the simple representation of a glass or bottle of wine remains resolutely uninspiring compared to the multitude of flavours within. With food, whether you’re talking about the dirtiest of burgers or the finest haute cuisine, the food is solid and can be as adorned or otherwise as you like. It can be shot from a multitude of different angles, each giving a different result and different way of exciting the tastebuds of the viewer as they eat with their eyes ahead of making their booking. Yes, restaurant social media is no stranger to the lingering shot of a juicy triple-stacked burger, flame-grilled and oozing delightful cheese from underneath its toasted sourdough lid.
Nor is it alien to the unrestrained artistry of a Michelin-starred confection, its components arranged as if by a culinary Picasso to give both a definite and utterly dream-like representation of its potential to entrance in person as well as over social media. It only gets better when you start to make moving images – that burger again, on the grill, slow-mo bursts of flame licking it savagely to seared perfection while its juices drip and excite further flarings. In the Michelin-starred kitchen, the camera pans across the pass as a perfectly created plate of scintillating beauty is placed there, the head chef’s face a picture of concentration as he/she applies the finishing touches to something which has seven different textures of one ingredient and makes the heart sing with delight, even as the wallet starts asking awkward questions.
And yet… What of the wine to accompany it? How to visually represent its manifold charms? To go with our burger, a glass of Malbec perhaps? A refined yet charmingly robust wine is chosen, sourced from the heaven of the varietal which is Argentina. The winery has been creating continuous vintages for more than a century, putting many so-called Old World vineyards to shame and the vines themselves can count themselves as descendants of the first fearless travellers who sought to bring more than just their daily bread to South America, who saw the potential of the unique climate and knew that they could create so much more. The root and vinestock travelling thousands of miles, seeing many of its contemporaries perish in the searing heat and burning cold of the crossing, or else lost in their entirety as ships and their crews founder in the harsh Atlantic. The families who planted and reared these surviving vines proving to be more than survivors themselves but skilled viticulturalists who draw on generations of experience to manage their crops – how do we show this on a restaurant’s social media?
How do we show that the grapes picked in the pre-dawn dark of the Mendoza valley, taken in individual bunches by hands working swiftly, cutting at the perfect angle to take their prize and nothing more, ensuring no infection can reach the plant through its recently-severed fruiting body? Those grapes, placed firmly but gently into the vessels which carry them to the macerator, hard-earned juices squeezed from them and destined for an anaerobic fermentation before the sweetly extended maturing in barriques of French oak whose acorns fell to fertile ground around the same time the ships bearing the vines set sail. How do we show on restaurant social media the aching years of teasing interaction between the wood and the wine, the cellar-master’s sampling visits, using their unmatched experience to know the point at which the boisterousness of the juice is being enhanced by the wood and when it is time to let the changes take place in a new way, as the barrels are racked into bottles to be sent on to their final destinations?
So this wine, this vital product of nature, experience, science and artistry – this perfect accompaniment to the richer end of the food spectrum and shining example of an ancient varietal, how do we do it justice on social media? It is a deep and pleasing russet-ruby red colour and sits nicely in the glass – a thin-rimmed bulbous tulip shape designed to allow it to breath while funnelling its enticing nose straight to that of its drinker but… It’s a glass of red wine, how to show its provenance? The bottle is a striking piece of design itself with a sharply defined roundness to the shoulder and thicker than average glass of deepest darkest green, all the better to prevent any accidental photodegradation of the liquid within.
The label tells many things – its branding carefully constructed to weigh tradition with modernity, to give a sense of the labours which went into its creation but wear them lightly so as not to appear gauche or try-hard. How does this come across in photography? It is a bottle of wine next to a glass of wine. So how do we tell its story? As previously mentioned, video is a great unlocker of appeal and an essential part of all aspects of restaurant social media and there is huge potential to create short clips of pouring, loving close-ups of uncorking, of presentation and that first joyous encounter with aromas and flavours as a drinker get a chance to imbibe. But more than this, to unlock the joys of a wine for a potential consumer we need to access the knowledge held with the house, the vintner, importer, buyer and sommelier.
To use a restaurant’s social media to give full voice to this key aspect of its offering we have to talk to and talk with those who selected and present this wine to be a part of the list – whether it’s in conversational style short videos, extensive tasting notes boiled down to pithy tweets designed to leave those in the know salivating and those who wish to know salivating even more; wines of the week, of the month, of the year – award-winners and personal favourites, it doesn’t matter apart from that it must be personal and conveyed with passion. In the end, a glass of wine can either be a functional experience or a transformational one and both of these outcomes can be obtained from the same wine in the same glass in the same restaurant.
The key is unlocking the next level of perception by teasing the consumer with the manifold delights therein, whether in a beautifully composed Instagram post or in person from one wine-lover to another. Social media, whether for restaurants or any other brand, has to have the knack of offering so much more than a few words and a video or an image – it has to contribute to a greater understanding and credit its audience with the capacity to gain that understanding. It has to be exciting, it has to be personal and above all else it has to be more than a picture of a glass of wine. Hold tastings, talk to the participants and picture their enjoyment. Tap in to the reserves of the winery itself – if there is slick branded material, avoid this like the plague and see if you can get hold of images which represent what genuinely goes into the making – the earth, the sunshine, the early morning and the late-night turning of barrels. Show and tell in the way that only social media can – using a mix of still and moving images, of low-fi and personal snaps mixed with expertise in copy, discoverability and key audience times of day. If all of this sounds simple it’s because it’s not – the concept is but its execution is one fraught with difficulties. Restaurant social media is a constant balance between selling the pure reality of just how good a place is with the sort of curated reality and myth-making which draws even more people in to discover its charms for themselves. This counts double for the wine list but when it comes right, it’s more than worth it. As with all things, if you tell the story right you are just a conduit – presenting the naked truth to those who can understand it and bear it onwards. It’s in the story that we live and provoke that life in others.