This week, we’re shining the spotlight on Grapefriend. What started out as a wine blog has blown up on Instagram. We appreciate the way Grapefriend finds balance between interesting, beautiful wine images and meaningful info about the wine on display. Beyond that, Alyssa Vitrano, founder of Grapefriend, does a fantastic job interacting with her followers when they comment with questions. To learn a little bit more our friend Grapefriend, we gave Alyssa a call.
FTC: What were you doing before Grapefriend, how did it start?
AV: I’ve spent my whole career producing content one way or another. I started as a screenplay writer and an entertainment writer for magazines, and I spent five years in the MTV News department. After MTV, I started working in agencies to learn about brand strategy, and I really missed having the creative outlet of writing.
I really loved wine so I had this idea to write a book where the lead character worked in the wine world. I wanted to research what I was writing about, so I decided to take a course at the American Sommelier Association. It was so much more intense than I ever thought it would be – I was the lone person who didn’t work in the wine industry in the class but I loved it! At that point, I went completely down the rabbit hole and got certified in Viticulture & Viniculture and Blind Tasting. Really, that’s when I got deep into what wine is really about.
Most of my friends drink wine all the time but don’t know anything about it. So, as I was learning all of this stuff 7 or 8 years ago, I would be getting drinks after work with my friends. They would sit down and just automatically order a Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir and I’d say, ‘You didn’t even look at the wine list.’ And they’d just say they knew they liked that one grape but not about any of the others on a list, so that’s what they’d just order.
So that’s when I started wondering why people my age don’t know about wine. They drink it every week, but don’t know anything about it. At the time, there was no outlet to go to learn about wine in a fun way. Information was really technical, really granular, and not very entertaining. So I thought about what I knew: pop culture and wine. That’s when I thought, ‘Let me start something where I can talk about wine and make it cool and fun.’ I started my Facebook page and blog, where I wrote about things like What wine did Jay-Z give Beyoncé for her birthday? I just show wine in the real way I drink it, keeping it really upbeat and casual.
This was at the very beginning of Instagram, so I developed a very strong following there. I was in the right place at the right time, because there really weren’t many wine people on Instagram. Those who were typically just showed bottle shots and label shots, and I was doing it more in the context of: ‘Here’s what I’m doing and here’s what I’m drinking.’
FTC: How do you decide what is too much detail with wine? Not enough?
AV: It’s based on the post. In social media I rarely get too technical, frankly, because there’s not enough room. Two sentences max. Usually I just say what the varietal of the wine is and maybe show what I’m pairing it with. I try to at least mention the grape or region, but that’s pretty much it. My followers don’t always want a ton of detail on Instagram, it’s more of an instant gratification, quick-look visual channel. I very intentionally keep the technical aspects light so that anyone feels like they can jump into the conversation, and they don’t feel intimidated to ask me questions. That’s why I love social media as a platform, because people can just ask you questions right there. If they see me answering other people’s questions on Instagram, then they feel like they can ask questions, too. I’ll answer people every single time because it’s such a great way to educate people and show wine isn’t intimidating or snobby.
On a blog post, the level of detail depends on what the post is about. If it’s a typical pop culture infused post, I’ll include just a little technical information. If I go on a trip and I went to all different wineries, I’ll give more details about the region, the soil, some of the different wines we tasted. I include a lot of photos to make the post fun and immerse people in the experience.
FTC: What wines are you into right now?
AV: It’s the end of summer, I live in Manhattan and it gets muggy. I’m always into rosé in the summer. It’s really refreshing, low-acid and kind of the perfect summer sipper. I especially love rosés made from Pinot Noir – still very light, but they have a lot of strawberry flavor to them, and a hint of minerality, especially the ones from the Willamette Valley. August gets super muggy and I tend to drink a lot of Pinot Blanc.
FTC: What is going to be the next big trend in wine?
AV: I just got back from Sicily where they’re really starting to up the quality of their wines. I loved learning about their indigenous grapes and now trying to get people to try Nerello Mascalese, a really light and herbal red. People are already putting Sicilian wines on their lists and talking about them a lot in the wine world. I like regions where they’re improving and growing – it’s so interesting to see the evolution and you find amazing values.
FTC: Last question, where should a new Grapefriend reader start? What will they find unique about Grapefriend?
AV: Start with Instagram, not just because I have a large following there but because a big following means you can be part of better conversations. People comment and tag other people in the photos and I love seeing people have those conversations with each other in the comments. Hopefully that bottle, or that grape, or that region makes an impact on them and they’ll remember to try it.
Grapefriend is truly about having fun and learning about wine. Most outlets tend to be one or the other. I went deep studying wine, but my main approach is to make sure that everybody is having fun with it. My slogan on Instagram is Have as much fun finding out about wine as you do when you’re drinking it.
Preach! That’s a slogan we can definitely get behind. To learn more about Grapefriend and Vitrano, follow here: