Pinot for nothing and fiano for free….

I do think that we continually devalue our industry in a slightly odd apparent desire to be liked.

We give wine away at a rate of knots, and some of the time this is a good thing. Sometimes it is fun. And sometimes it is necessary. But if every event and opportunity to taste wine comes as a gift, what are we teaching the consumers?

That wine has no price, and an associated nebulous value.  The number of people who become genuine wine lovers is tiny. And we should foster them, educate them, encourage them. We should make the ranks of wine lovers swell, but according a perception of ‘free’ to our industry, we are doing EVERYONE a disservice.

So. Is there an answer? Or have we progressed so far down this path that a switch could be nigh on impossible?

The quandary
We as an industry need to reach the consumers. This is done via trade sales, reviews (to a certain extent), and events, in addition to cellar door sales and direct marketing events. The consumers want to see value for their investment in the day/visit/event and if a perceived value is offered in one space and not another, the consumer may rebel against the brands showing such a lack of largesse, and revert to the more openly generous producer. Regardless – utterly – of quality or of how much the wine is enjoyed. The generation of immediate gratification expects wine to be provided sans cost NOW!

Case in point: great sporadic event which charges a fee for the wine glass on entry, but leaves all sales to the showcased wineries. Wineries are instructed that they are to pour only sales of glasses of wines, not tastes. Fair enough, and most of us did pour a couple of tastes to genuinely interested people wanting to know if they liked something before they forked out money for it.

But no-one told the consumers. The attendees expected the fifty-odd wineries to act as if it were a cellar door, as most wine event attendees are wont to do. Glasses were shoved under noses, and ‘tastes’ requested, and occasionally demanded. Some wineries tried to explain the ‘concept’ – to little or no avail. We all sold a little bit, but with fifty wineries on site, there were a lot of tastes, oodles of tipsiness, and few actual sales.

So. Some marketing issues there, but the concept is roughly sound. But perhaps a tad too big. A cellar-door-in-the-city type venue rarely works in and of itself, but if we made it smaller, more regular, with a rotating line-up of exhibitors, and possibly even some varietal/regional theme days, then we have a concept. Add food, music, art, SOMETHING, and make it a destination. Prioritise wineries without a cellar door facility. And make the terms clear to the attendees. This is about building the knowledge base: education, but fun. Find something rarely seen, and put a price on it.

Answers? Or more questions?
Become the idea, the destination, and bring the people in.

Caveat on entry:
Everyone here gave up their day – often their family time – to come and show you some wines. Most drove significant distances. All paid for marketing material, branded stuff and order forms. They took time out the day before to get organised, and to go to the bank to get a cash till sorted. Some pay staff to attend. All their wines? HAVE A VALUE. The fact that they are choosing to be HERE to talk to YOU is wonderful. Give them the time of day. Ask them questions. Learn something, maybe. Buy a glass or a bottle. Engage.

The fact that they are right here, on your doorstep, pouring wines? Comes at a price. Possibly not to the consumer, but a price nonetheless.

If you want them to be here next week, or next month, come along. But do not expect your pinot for nothing and your fiano for free.

Our wine industry is brilliant, but it needs our support. Wine events? OUTSTANDING. Wine events you know are just swim-throughs, however, are great for neither consumer nor winery.

So how about we stop them? And put a value back on our wines?

But how do we do this?

A. Be sensible. If wines are offered only for sale, not tastes, offer them in a couple of sizes. Offer to split a glass between two people, or more. Tasting fees redeemable on purchase. Add-ons. Hijinks (Dan Sims – I’m looking at you and your impeccable taste in events with hijinks in-built!). Not gimicks – because that rarely works, but find a channel to engagement.

B. Be proud of our wines and their worth. Maybe we form a coalition of wineries offering to engage our consumers. Set a price, but offer incentives to join up/sign up/engage more regularly with our potential customers. Interact with our retailers and restaurant clients, and send potential customers their way. Oooh, maybe a club with membership which entitles regular cellar door visitors to a something extra. A taste of something for free, a barrel room visit, a something to draw them in. Membership fees for consumers shared by wineries. Hmm. Shall work on this…

C. Look at what else we might offer. Adjuncts to the business of tasting wines which actually resonate with customers. Be vegan-friendly, kid-friendly, beer-friendly. Become a destination, not just a never-ending glass. Ask your existing customers what would being them back more often to your cellar door, or to wine events more frequently.

D. Be accessible. Charging for your wines does not put you out of reach. Because if the customer does not want to pay for a tasting, what makes you think they will pay for a bottle? But don’t be silly. Charge a bit, not the world.

E. There is nothing to lose here. Nothing. That which we spend our lives building has value. If we don’t put a price on it, why should anyone ever pay for it?

There will always be some pouring lakes of wine for nowt. There will be people who see freebies as a path to sales, and growth. But this is competitive market. And it is a buyers’ market. And if we keep giving it away, we erode our own futures.

My wines have value. Do yours?