Who influences what consumers buy?

Is it the sommelier, the “established critical media”, the hand-selling of fine wine retailers, or producers?  I recall one of the earliest pieces I read regarding the value of wine – and implied salability – came from a UC Davis AIC (Agricultural Issues Center) report in 2003 that used empirical data to assign values to wine attributes such as vintage, grape varietal, appellation and Wine Spectator scores at release.  In that study, the price of an average bottle of California wine increased by 5% for every Wine Spectator point. 

In today’s rapidly changing world, such studies are archaic.  Today, wine sales are driven by word of mouth in the form of social media.  At the Ecowinegrowing Symposium in Mendocino this month, Wilfred Wong of Bevmo, a 98-store chain in California and Arizona, being connected to social media like Twitter and Facebook  IS social commerce.  It works because humans are social by nature and social media is interactive, cheap and real-time.  According to Wong, the established critical media is geared towards Gen X and Baby Boomers whereas the most important buyer base of twenty-something Millennials “don’t even know who Robert Parker is.”   The Millennials’ media consumption is online, social networking, blogs, mobile/texting, radio, etc. 

So gone are the days of downplaying bloggers as armchair critics.  They are influencing the influencers!