Italian wine ambassador and podcaster Stevie Kim was reluctant to download another social media app. But when members of the Magnum Wine Club, a network of women who work in wine, started talking about a new site called Clubhouse, she thought it may be worth her attention.
Clubhouse is an audio-based social media app where invited users can sign up for clubs that spark their interest. Those clubs host rooms to discuss topics ranging from meditation to personal finance to oenology. There are panel-style talks where the “audience” listens in and can raise their hands to ask questions, or less formal, free-form discussions. Unlike text-based Twitter, or the images and videos on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, Clubhouse users communicate via their voices.
And so, some wine community members are embracing Clubhouse as a place to discuss the intricacies of the business and ever-changing landscape of production and distribution with both trade and consumer audiences. On the app, wine professionals, hobbyists and consumers share their knowledge, create certification study groups and just hang out to debate which region will be the United States’ next Sonoma County.
The Clubhouse wine community is significant. Holly Berrigan, the founder of MYSA Natural Wine, and winemaker Rob Mondavi, Jr. have launched Clubhouse accounts and participated in panel discussions. Award-winning journalist and Black Wine Professionals founder Julia Coney hosts weekly For the Love of Wine discussions, the description of which promises “no pressure and no judgement of what’s in your glass.”
“The nature of the app, where you can drop in and drop out, is less invasive and more anonymous than a Zoom call.” —Stevie Kim
For some, being able to choose how you engage is an upside to the platform. As a listener, in a Clubhouse room, you can ask questions or just be a fly on the wall.
“The nature of the app, where you can drop in and drop out, is less invasive and more anonymous than a Zoom call,” says Kim. “The voice of a person is also more intimate and revealing; at the same time, less intimidating since nobody can see you.”
Nadine Brown worked in wine for 18 years before the pandemic hit. She spent much of 2020 in Covid-induced isolation, and missed the camaraderie and connection she usually gets from talking to people about wine. When she was invited to join Clubhouse last December, she jumped at the chance.
“I’ve met people from other fields where the common thing is wine, on a spectrum of knowledge and interest but we’re all still in this room because of wine,” says Brown of her Clubhouse experiences. She’s asked to join panel discussions about food and wine, and uses Clubhouse as a networking tool for her other ventures.
“It helps with growth on my other social media,” says Brown. She’s used the app to find interviewees for her Instagram Lives.
Others have transformed Clubhouse conversations into real-world interactions.
“I’ve started a diversity and inclusion series, and I’ve scouted many interviewees from Clubhouse,” says Kim. “It also brings incredible opportunities to meet people because you have listened to them speak in a room and you’ve pinged them via DM.”
Of course, as the app evolves, some express concerns with its functionality and updates. At the moment, you must have an iPhone to join, excluding millions of people worldwide.
Brown also noticed an update where users can see which rooms the people they follow enter. This might seem like a point of interest to some but could feel like a breach of privacy to others.
Additional privacy concerns, like the app having access to your phone contacts, are similar to other social media platforms. Clubhouse also asks that users do not record or share Clubhouse conversations outside of the app, but that has been breached several times.
In February, BBC News reported on a data spillage where several rooms were streamed online. The same article pointed out a study from Stanford University’s Internet Observatory that pointed out many security issues when it came to user data, like the ability to identify proprietary user ID numbers and connect them to public profiles.
Still, users like Brown and Kim believe Clubhouse allows them to share their wine knowledge and to discuss wine with people from all over the world, an especially valuable tool during a global pandemic and periods of quarantine.
While the future of Clubhouse, and the wine and hospitality industries overall, remains unclear, the importance of sharing wine experiences will outlast any technological trend or temporary development.