Wine Blogger Julien Miquel Interview | Meet The Man Behind Social Vignerons
Attending my first wine bloggers conference this past summer afforded me not only the opportunity to get acquainted with a new wine region but also to get to know some of the most influential people in the world of wine writing. Julien Miquel requires little introduction to my fellow wine bloggers, but for my non-blogging readers, he is a talented, accomplished wine blogger and a social media powerhouse.
A former winemaker in his previous life, he has made wine in Spain with Michel Rolland, at Islander Estate with Jacques Lurton, at Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma and even the world-renowned first growth Chateau Margaux estate. Today he counts over a quarter of a million followers on Twitter and nearly fifty thousand followers on Instagram.
Yet you would never know to meet him! At one of the wine-soaked poolside after parties, I had the opportunity to get to know the incredibly modest Julien over a glass of wine. At first quiet and reserved, he opened up as he shared his fascinating journey to becoming a wine blogger. After he reached out to interview me recently, I thought it would be great to return the favor. I’m happy to report that I got him talking again!
Q: Can you tell us about who you are and what your blog, Social Vignerons, is about?
I’m a qualified winemaker from France turned into a wine blogger, brand ambassador, and, as many would probably consider me: a bit of social media nerd.
Social Vignerons is about sharing passion and knowledge around wine in a relaxed, often approachable way.
From my experiences making wine around the world, I have learned that there is an enormous amount of passion, hard work, and also science going into making wine. Most vignerons (the French word for winegrower) spend their entire life working incredibly hard trying to understand their land and vines, and aiming at making better wine each vintage. Many of them get very good at it. What most don’t do so well, however, at least in Europe, is communicating about their passion and work, and broadcast their positive message to the world, especially using social media which is where most wine drinkers are these days.
So, SV broadly aims at being an outlet for passionate wine people to share what they know, and their positive energy around wine.
More practically, I share knowledge about wine (e.g. the Top 7 facts about Sulphites in wine or Calories in wine), wine people interviews, winery profiles, wine reviews and scores, travel destinations, etc. 😊
Q: How did you get into wine? Was there a particular bottle or experience that did it for you?
I was at university studying biology, and particularly fond of plant physiology and microbiology, when I realized that wine was a potential career path, especially in France, and one that could be quite in line with what I loved: science and nature. I did an internship during vintage in a local wine region and also realized something that I didn’t know or expect: wine people are great people!
After graduating in biology, I decided that wine was what I wanted to do, so I studied viticulture and winemaking at Bordeaux University in the early 2000s after which I made wine around the world, in 7 different countries I think. 10 years later, I thought that what I had learned about how much work and passion goes into making wine, regardless of the country or continent, needed to be shared more broadly. So, I transitioned into the digital wine space.
Q: Why did you begin blogging?
Early in 2014. I was then living in New Zealand for one of the world’s leading wine websites. A great job where I learned a lot but it was getting too narrow for me. The corporate world sometimes isn’t positive about passion and enthusiasm, even at the highest level curiously. I needed a more open and accessible outlet to share my passion for wine and knowledge with real people. So, I started to build the Social Vignerons website and launched it in December 2014. From a blogging hobby, it’s become a lifestyle, sharing wine content and passion every day on social media and other digital platforms.
Q: Before you became a well-known wine blogger and social media influencer, you were a winemaker. What can you tell us about that transition and how your previous experience has influenced what you do now?
So, after graduating in winemaking from Bordeaux University in the early 2000s, I spent about 10 years making wine in 7 countries. I wanted to learn and understand what some of the best wines in the world were made of, and how, from the first-hand experience. I also cared about acquiring a deep cultural knowledge of not only the terroir and wine chemistry but also the lifestyle of the makers, often speaking their own language. Again, I got lucky enough to learn from some of the best winemakers in different countries.
But after going deep into understanding winemaking, I wanted to go broad about sharing the knowledge. That’s when I realized digital media was the best way to share with many. I got a job with a leading wine website for about 6 years before launching my blog.
My previous experiences influenced my writing firstly by bringing in concrete knowledge of wine. Beyond that, I think I’ve learned from winemaking that wine is best understood and enjoyed with humility. I’ve found good winemakers often to be humble because they work with nature and cannot control everything. A bad vintage or a fermentation turned sour, keeps winemakers in check with their ego which I think is a good way to approach wine. A complex natural product.
It’s the same thing with sharing wine. If it’s about listening to yourself talking about it, it is not enjoyable for anybody. Wine appreciation is, in essence, subjective. Therefore humility works best for sharing.
This seems to work for wine blogging too.
Q: You have built a huge social media following. How did you do it? What’s your secret?
I spent quite an enormous amount of time on it (ask my partner!), posting and engaging, sharing.
I’ve shared a combination of thorough yet approachable and useful knowledge, with a fun and entertaining approach to wine. It was very natural to me from my experience and personality, but I seemed to be one of the first to do it this way in the social media space that wasn’t overcrowded yet. So, many people engaged with my content very quickly.
Having a blog as a platform to bring actual value to the community, and demonstrating certain credibility as a wine professional helped a lot. People these days are able to get followers on instagram by using a social media app that can get if for them for free, media has changed a lot over the years and our consumption of it.
Q: Do you have a favorite social media platform?
Twitter was where I found the biggest audience a few years ago. There’s so many great people on it and it’s easy to share with everyone. There’s no secret, it’s all open and available to all. You can only be the best of yourself to the benefit of others!
Many are now posting all sorts of things about wine in all sorts of ways without actually backing it up with actual value, so it’s got a little crowded. Still, I find that when a piece of content is good, it’s a fantastic way to spread the word rapidly as it’s an open and simple platform to use, with a great quality audience.
Instagram is nice too and gone big on wine lately. A little like Facebook however, I find their content distribution algorithm a little confusing, and you can tell their prime aim is monetization which is felt in the app.
The wine-only app Vivino is actually a very nice social platform to share comments and impressions about individual wines as you and your network taste and rate wines. There is an incredible amount of wine people on it sharing loads of wine reviews and exchanging all the time. Enormous engagement, loads of shared knowledge and passion happen in there. Great community to be part of.
In all transparency, I’ve been writing for the app for a while. We’ve developed an authoritative yet approachable content about wine, how to enjoy it, which ones to pick, what you should really know, etc. so it also brings value to the community this way. If that’s of interest, you can find me on Vivino here.
Q: At which wine events are fans most likely to spot you?
Since I just returned to live in Europe one year ago, after over 6 years in New Zealand, I haven’t got a regular calendar in place quite yet.
Vinexpo in Bordeaux every second year is a must-go. I’ll be at Vinitaly this year too. Vinisud in Montpellier. I will probably go to witness (not run, not as much into running as you are Ryan 🙂 the Marathon du Vignoble in Roussillon (where I live) which is becoming a very popular event among wine lovers just like the Medoc Marathon has been for a while.
Q: Like me, you’re a father of three. I know blogging allows me to maintain my sanity at times (if my kids would let me write!). What do you do to relax?
Not a lot in all honesty outside of wine and family lately!
My third daughter was born 2.5 years ago during which time I’ve had to change job in New Zealand, develop Social Vignerons and consulting activities, do a 15 thousand-mile relocation from one side of the Earth to the other, settle back in France and rebuild everything here, change nappies, and try not to get mad when the kids are screaming!
But I’ve just signed up to the gym again 3 weeks ago 😊
Q: I know you somewhat recently moved back to France, where you’re originally from. What’s it like being back home after spending years in New Zealand? Do you miss it there?
Yes and no. New Zealand has outstanding people. I miss the people and how friendly and respectful everyone is there. It’s also quite dynamic and innovative as a society. As everyone knows, it’s also a beautiful country with great wines.
That said, I’m happy my kids have grand-parents now. The wine industry in Europe is enormous and there’s so much to discover here it’s amazing as a blogger. It’s great to be able to live European wine from the inside and share the experience with the world.
Q: Outside of wine, what else are you most passionate about?
Q: Let’s say you’re unwinding after a long day. Are you pouring yourself a glass of wine? If so, what is it?
It would often be my favorite wine out of whichever wine-reviewing session for the blog I would have done that day or the day before.
But if I had to pick it myself, I would go for the type of wines that fascinate me the most and that give me the most hedonistic pleasure. That’s also the type of wines I was best at making as a winemaker, no surprise I guess!
Relatively big and complex reds, preferably with some age complexity in them already. That would be a good Bordeaux, Rhone (e.g. Châteauneuf or Cote-Rôtie). I like a good Rioja too and there’s loads of great reds in Italy as well.
I’d love to get more access to Australian and American wines (North and South), but they’re a little hard to get hold of in France unfortunately.
Had a bottle of 1999 nothing-particularly-fancy Burgundy Pinot Noir from the relatively modest Savigny-Les-Beaune appellation recently. It was simply very enjoyable. This reminded me that I need to explore Burgundy and Pinot Noir more as well. It’s not all about structure and tannins unlike what I learned as a winemaker in college.
Oh, and I love a good glass of Champagne, always sooo satisfying 😊
Q: What’s the most special bottle of wine in your collection?
Yes, a bottle of 1996 Château Margaux that was given to me when I worked there back in 2003.
I also have a bottle of Cinq Cépage by Chateau Saint-Jean, Sonoma (1998 I think it is) that was my reward from working vintage there in 2002.
Those are very special because I had the most amazing times in my wine life working at these places, and they’re good wines!
Some of the wines I made as the winemaker are also dear to my heart. They’re my little baby bottles spread around the world 😉
Q: Do you have a holy grail bottle? That one you’ve never tried but dream of tasting one day?
One, no! Dream wines I’d love to taste, yes.
There’s many cult wines I’d love to try: 1954 Petrus, some of the 1982 and 2000 top Bordeaux, Penfolds Grange, Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Sine Qua None stuff, Champagne Krug and Salon, to name a few of the very top ones. I’ve never had any of those, and I’m curious. If so many say it’s good, I’d love to understand why.
That said. I’ve always thought, as a winemaker, that knowing a wine is more complete if you make it rather than ‘just’ tasting it once.
So, I’ve dreamed about spending a vintage at DRC (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) one day if they’d let me.
Q: Lastly, any advice for new wine bloggers?
There could be many advices obviously, and OMG have I already been very talkative here!
I guess the most important thing is to keep writing or creating, and to keep sharing, whether the short-term rewards come or not. Probably more important even, before that, is to keep experiencing wine, because what can you share that’s interesting if you haven’t experienced it yourself?
Experience the wine world as deep into the Earth, as deep into the cellars, and as deep into great wine people’s minds as you can, not just cellar doors and glamorous wine tastings!
That’s how I see it anyway.
Make sure to visit Julien’s blog Social Vignerons!