The digital revolution is spreading across the wine world — whether the industry is ready or not.
More than 450 wine-related applications are now available on the iPhone and other mobile devices — more than six times the number that existed only 18 months ago, according to a recent survey.
Last year, people on Facebook, Twitter and other social media had 14 million online conversations about wine, providing recommendations, reviewing vintages and suggesting the best wineries to visit, said Paul Mabray, chief strategy officer for VinTank, a Napa consulting firm.
Social media and mobile technology, which have garnered widespread coverage for playing a key role in the Arab uprisings, are now quietly usurping the wine industry's traditional marketing powers and fueling a revolt among the hordes of casual wine drinkers.
"As an industry, we can no longer ignore digital," Mabray said. "We now live in a Google economy."
Mabray and others are pushing wineries to develop strategies that incorporate the widening arsenal of digital tools such as social media, data management and company-wide integration of workflow technology.
Some wine executives, such as John Jordan at Jordan Vineyard & Winery in Healdsburg, are already more than two years into implementing their digital strategies.
"It's a constantly evolving, messy thing," said Jordan, the winery's chief executive officer. "But technology makes it possible for a company to really become customer centric."
Some executives are struggling to adapt to the fast-changing online landscape, a place that increasingly influences everyday consumers, Mabray said. But they don't have a choice: this is the future of the industry, he said.
People can now use their phones while standing in a grocery aisle to research the best wine to purchase. Mobile applications make it easy for them to read online reviews, watch videos of North Coast winemakers, or get recommendations on what wines to pair with the cheese already in their cart.