I honestly do not remember when I first became aware of Julien Miquel. It must have been on Twitter. He is a very active and friendly social media force in the wine world. I felt honored he even knew I was a small part of the community. Last August at the Wine Bloggers Conference I had the pleasure of meeting Julien in person. He is every bit as kind and engaging in person as he is online. I was blown away when he reached out to me earlier this spring asking if he could feature Rockin Red Blog on his site in an in-depth interview. Therefore, it is a great honor and pleasure to reciprocate by sharing with you this interview with Julien Miquel, a man of the world of wine.
M: Julien you seem to be a man of the world. I don’t know much about you, but it appears you have worked in many different areas of the wine industry. How did you get involved in wine? Please share your journey.
J: Having traveled the world quite a bit for the past 15 years, I do tend to consider myself a citizen of the wine world, but I am French and I did grow up in France. As a youngster, I was passionate about everything nature and science, so I studied general biology at Toulouse University. When I graduated, and looking for a career path, I bumped into the idea of becoming a wine maker. As you know, wine is everywhere in France, from most landscapes to every dinner table! So when I was 20, I gave the wine industry a try with an internship in a local wine region of South West France, and fell in love with wine and its great generous people. From there I went on to study viticulture and enology in Bordeaux, and was lucky enough to learn from some legendary professors of the Faculté d’Oenologie like Yves Glories and Denis Dubourdieu. I consider myself a disciple of Emile Peynaud.
M: You were a winemaker for some time? Please share that experience.
J: Yes, I was a winemaker for 8 years. So, it’s not one single experience, but millions of small but very meaningful ones. Stories of September storms ruining vintages, of grapes getting perfectly ripe and being fancied by the Kangaroos in the middle of the Aussie bush, of blending 10 different grape varieties to make Super Tuscan wines, of meeting, learning from and sharing life with some the most amazing wine people around the world. I worked as a winemaker in France, California, Spain, Italy, Australia, and New Zealand wine country in about 15 different wineries. I wanted to keep learning and to understand how fine wine was made under different growing conditions and through different cultures. I guess I was after being able to speak the universal language of wine. I’m not even quite there yet! This is an endless quest, and that’s what’s great about the world of wine 😉
M: You spent five years working at Wine-searcher, what did you do there? How did your time at Wine-searcher influence Social Vignerons?
J: After moving to Auckland, New Zealand, I got an opportunity to work at Wine-Searcher because this world-leading wine website is actually head-quartered there. I realized then that I could share my passion and wine knowledge to a greater audience in the digital world than by making wine. As a winemaker, you share your passion and skills with the people that taste and drink your wine which is already great. But through digital, the sharing can happen with a virtually unlimited audience.
So I embraced the experience and made it up to the site’s top management, leading a team of about a dozen wine experts from around the world. Together, we tidied up the site’s gigantic database of all the wines in the world, classifying hundreds of thousands of different wines from all countries, and we developed Wine-Searcher’s written content. So we turned the website from a messy search engine into a wine-content power-house and a tool that allows millions of wine lovers to accurately find exactly the wine they are looking for, online and worldwide.
I guess it’s at Wine-Searcher that I realized that the world of wine could do with more knowledgeable people sharing and that I could be part of this, which is what sparked Social Vignerons.
M: What spawned your desire for Social Vignerons?
J: Social Vignerons was born while I was with Wine-Searcher, as a way for me to share passion for wine through my personal voice and expression, therefore through a blog. It was also meant to help the wine community access more and better content, allowing actors of the industry to share their knowledge and passion. An important aspect of it is to help wine growers (vignerons in French) share more of their story and in a better way, through digital and social media, to get more ‘social’. Hence the name Social Vignerons!
I guess some in the corporate world are focused on profit, not always on what’s useful or desired by the community. I created Social Vignerons to share more of my passion and using innovative and fun ways to do so, in particular through social media.
M: You have an impressive presence on many social media platforms. How did you achieve such large number of engagers?
J: I spent a long time on social media, engaging and sharing a wealth of content. I curated a lot of interesting and/or fun content from around the web, and I brought my share of value to the community creating articles, wine infographics, wine reviews and much more content of my own.
I had observed the online wine world rather thoroughly for 5 years, so I guess I had an eye and an intuition for what it needed. The time spent engaging on an individual level with people was also obviously a big factor. Too many people don’t realize that on social media, you’re engaging and sharing with real people, not just talking to a computer or a smartphone, and that it’s a noble cause. Perhaps because I have traveled as much, and I speak 4 important languages of the world of wine, I can emphasize with many people in many countries.
I also realized on the go that my relatively thorough winemaking experience, including at top estates like Chateau Margaux in the Bordeaux region, had brought me credibility which helps being taken seriously even while sharing approachable and fun wine content.
M: So far is Social Vignerons achieving what you had hoped for? Where do you see the future of Social Vignerons?
J: I am not sure. I am not good at planning things in life. So I didn’t have and still don’t have much of a fixed plan or goal. Yes, the site is read and enjoyed rather broadly, and my presence on social allows me to engage with loads of enthusiastic wine people which is amazing and which is one essential part of the goal.
Another goal is to be able to make a living from my skills through this activity. I’m in the process of achieving this, but there’s still much work to do. By the way, any help and good wills are always welcome, reach out 😊 Then I’d like to bring SV to another level, finding more innovative and creative ways to share the wine experience. That’s the next phase which is embryonic at this stage and not entirely sure what it may turn into!
M: You are also involved with the Vivino wine app now, can you tell us about it?
J: Yes, I’ve found in the Vivino team very nice people, very supportive of my work. I think we share the same value of ‘giving’ to the wine community. It’s been another way for me to share knowledge and I’ve been writing a far few of wine knowledge articles on that platform too.
I am also working at spreading the word about the app and how much wine information and engagement there is in it. It’s truly outstanding how many people share rating and wine reviews in it and how much you can actually engage and exchange in it. More than a wine reviews recording tool, it’s become a massive worldwide wine community, pretty much a social media of wine. They empowered the wine world with a powerful tool. That’s what made their success, and it’s great to be a part of it.
M: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
J: Unfortunately, free time hasn’t been much of a ‘thing’ in my life for a while. As you know, winemaking is a full-on activity and I did a fair bit of it for some time. Then I’ve had 3 daughters, the eldest being 9 years old, so the past 10 years have been busy between parenting, having a full-time job and creating my own job from nothing! I do watch some Youtube videos, some vloggers and documentaries, some wine videos obviously too, because I love learning about other human’s stories and lifes, and Youtube is a great platform for this. And I do enjoy sharing good food and good wine with family and friends, without worrying about writing or tweeting about it 😉