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Chief of the Week: Tyler Balliet and Wine Riot

Published:  21 November, 2014

Now fast talking young American dudes are not totally original when it comes to breaking through in the wine trade. Anyone who has come within half a mile of Gary Vaynerchuk could vouch for that.

But this week's Wine Vision unveiled a new US wine hipster - well to UK and European audiences at least -who you would do well to take notice of.

Tyler BallietTyler Balliet

Can I introduce you to Tyler Balliet, the one man publicity machine behind a new consumer wine tasting concept that is creating quite a storm over in the US. Or should that be riot.

The Wine Riot events are different because of the kind of people who go along to them. Young hip folk who are not that interested in wine, but are out for a good time.

When they do they can expect a wine event with live music, DJs, tattoo artists, photo booths, Instragram stations, stand-up comedy style crash courses in wine, and a shout out to "grab a glass and hit the floor".

If people want to know more about wine then it has a Wine 101 booth where you can pick up eight easy to learn tasting terms to help differentiate between what you like and don't like, and find out key wine facts like what oaked and non-oaked means.

Wine Riot does not host wine events as such, but gigs as part of a tour across the US with up to 500 people turning up at each one. So far over 20,000 people have gone along and its impact is growing.

What's more the majority of attendees are female, aged 29.5 years, and 95% have a university degree.

Balliet said Wine Riot started out as he was just so fed up with how established, traditional wine events were held. "How do I take a huge room full of alcohol and make it boring?" was how Balliet dismissed most US wine events.

He certainly charmed this week's Wine Vision conference in London with a hugely entertaining and thought provoking talk on why the wine trade is missing out on potentially millions of pounds, sorry dollars, by not having a clue how to talk to young drinkers. Or those darn millennials out there.

As Baillet said: "In six years time there will be 70 million millennials between the ages of 21 and 41 years old  and they're going to buy wine."

He added: "Nobody is going after them, and the ones that are, are missing the boat."

Baillet said the wine world needed to wake up to the fact that there is now a young generation of people who do not know a world without the internet, or even a world without a smartphone.

You have to plug in to how they communicate and talk before you have any chance of selling them any wine.  "Milennials - we're not that special, we're just different," he said.

Which is why Wine Riot events are full of opportunities for guests to take photos, upload to Facebook and Instagram and share with their friends.  When people tag themselves they then get access to thousands of Facebook profiles of similar Wine Riot visitors.

It has built an app that allows people to rank the wines as they taste them with thumbs up or down, and posts the results on screens in real time around the room so that everyone can see which are the hottest wines at the event.

Visitors can then go back to the app after the event to see which wines they did like with 80% of those that use the app going back within a week to a month to check out their choices.

So if you have not come across Tyler before, pour yourself a glass and check out Chief of the Week.