Then my son grabbed my breast!
Libby Brodie left the theatre to encourage us to drink wine
By Libby Brodie
August 29 2023
Wading into the freezing British swimming pool before dawn, my teeth gritted, bottle and glasses held above my head, I realise being a wine influencer may sound glamorous, but behind the low-key sabrage skill flexes and POV reels lies dedication, organisation and a multitude of mishaps. Making life look this fun and spontaneous takes hard work and planning - and no instagrammer worth their following is above embarrassing themselves for the perfect shot.
The typical morning starts with an endorphin hit of messages, likes and comments. This is social media, emphasis on social, so it is all about interaction and engagement. I work with producers and PRs to showcase their wines, highlight key messages and draw younger, more diverse consumers into the world of wine. I check the weather and my scheduled campaigns – you could have a planned shoot about picnic wine coming up and in those few hours the heavens decide to open. Nobody wants to see an umbrella blown inside out on a rainy vineyard (no really, I posted that once and was handed my first twitter trolling - gruesome).
I started with an anonymous Instagram account photographing bottles with my own tasting notes. I was a theatre producer, but I had my WSET qualifications and as my interest in wine grew, I realised I didn’t want to bore my family and friends with endless bottle shots cluttering up their social feeds, so I began a new one. It was meant to be a side hobby, a diary of the wines I liked. I had no idea it could become an actual career.
Connecting with fellow wine-lovers online I was encouraged by this community of winos to include my face and personality in my posts – to show who I was. My first attempt had me blurred from the side in the background, it got three times as many likes and my following grew. At around 2,000 ‘follows’ the invitations started rolling in from PRs and vineyards to join them for lunch or a tasting. At around 4000 there were offers of paid content. The fees got bigger as did my followers.
Authenticity is crucial. When I first earnt my insta-stripes, I was advised by some well-meaning influencers that they got the most likes when they flashed some flesh. Willing to give it a go I posted a photo of myself in a slip and revealing dressing-gown talking about canned wine (Cans, geddit?). I instantly dropped tons of followers. Apparently, the post-breast-feeding cleavage hits a little different to that of a nubile 20-something. How grounding.
Still, unlike a pyjama-day (mainly writing), social media necessitates presentation, although I have been known to only brush the front of my hair – no one sees the back of your head on insta – and more than once there have been comfy pyjama bottoms out of sight too. If I am feeling truly lazy, there are app filters that can apply make-up as I record, but being a technological luddite I end up looking like a cross between a clown and a drag queen with eyelashes that move out of sync.
Leaving the house with my extendable ring light, phone holder, laptop, two chargers, three outfit changes and the wine that I am featuring, I’m loaded up like a pack horse and head to the park hoping that if I angle the camera just right it might pass for somewhere a tad more luxurious than Tooting Common duck pond.
As I leap about in front of my ring light, a grown woman thrown into ecstasy by an unopened bottle of wine, I will often manage to scare off a few dog walkers with proclamations about the joys of Shiraz and once, when on all fours, almost humping a box of wine, a young man came over and asked if I was ok. “I’m a wine influencer” I explained, pointing to my phone and he nodded with the sympathetic confusion of someone who works in an office.
Dining out presents different challenges. If I’m meeting a colleague for lunch, my eye is already sweeping the room for the good tables the best angles. Is it best to sit facing the beautiful room and shoot out? Or best to have it as a backdrop? (Top tip if dining with an instagrammer: Only order food you think might taste good tepid, better yet get the cold ceviche and salad as there is no way you are getting to eat until they’ve pushed the plates together, re-ordered the glassware and stood up for that “birds eye view” of the dishes. Sometimes I’ll even stand on a chair, so maybe don’t book somewhere you want to revisit.)
Afternoon tastings are a blur of bottles, familiar faces, beautiful décor and doubtful looking winemakers being strongarmed into selfies. I’ll often leave with over 250 images and videos which I have learned to whittle down to 15 favourites, which I’ll use to create a narrative, set to music and caption before I’ve reached home.
The other evening I was invited with my son to a theatre press night by an old colleague from my showbiz days. I rarely involve my boy in social media, but this is a show he is going to love so we walk the red carpet and stand in front of the bank of photographers as they flash away. It turns out they were not the only ones as I notice my son had grabbed my breast and removed my bra from my dress. Well thankfully, that one probably won’t make the final cut. I think. I hope.
Then again I guess it depends on how many followers the photographer wants to drop.
Libby Brodie is a wine writer, presenter, judge and City AM’s wine columnist. You can follow her on instagram @libbybrodie