Let’s Start a Wine Club!

Over the years, it seems that everyone is getting into the wine club business. A friend of mine just received a flyer from Southwest Airlines. The company has partnered (it would seem) with an online wine club and is encouraging him to join. He can get “12 top estate wines for only $69.99…a gift of three very highly rated bottles ($47.97) value and 2,000 Rapids Rewards points,” The Reward Points will be added to his Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards account. If my friend stays as a member of the club he will receive a case of wine every three months and have an additional 1000 miles added to his Southwest Rapid Rewards card for each shipment he takes.

This is one more way for airlines and others to make having their loyalty cards even more rewarding. In addition of Southwest offer through Laithwaites, there is a Virgin Wine Club, were purchasers are also rewarded with air miles, the Wall Street Journal Wine Club and many, many more. There are many magazines that also run wine clubs, including Sunset, Rolling Stone, Touring & Tasting, The Nation and many more.

Consumers have lots of choices when it comes to wine clubs and the big companies have a lot more money to advertise and promote their clubs than you do. Take an hour and get on the internet to check out what they are offering to promote their wine clubs. You may come up with some new ideas to promote your clubs, offers, and benefits.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Music and Its Effect on Wine Tasters

In last week’s blog we talked about the effects of lighting and color on how consumers perceive the wines they taste. This week we are talking about the atmosphere and perceptions that music creates.

There have been quite a few studies linking the way consumers perceive the wine they are drinking to the music that is being played at the time. A study published in the British Journal of Psychology showed that wine could take on the attributes of the style of music that tasters are listening to. For example the voice of singer Tom Jones was associated with adjectives like earthy and full-bodied when listened to while drinking a glass of Merlot. Another study presented in the same publication detailed the findings when 200 participants were given one of two glasses of red or white wine.

Each of the four groups listened to one of four songs with different musical classifications, while a fifth group heard no music while they drank. Tasters were then asked to rate the taste of the wine using descriptions researchers had used to classify the songs. The majority of the tasters unknowingly chose the description assigned to the song they heard.

Professor Adrian North, a music psychologist who conducted the study, said that he thinks the results could “lead retailers to put music recommendations on wine bottles.”

What you play in the tasting room could also make a substantial difference to the way consumers perceive your wine and how much they are willing to purchase. The right kind of music could change a one-bottle sale into a three or four bottle sale.

Another study of wine purchasing found that consumers bought more wine in restaurants when classical music was being played.

What music are you using in your tasting room and are you checking to see how it affects your customers? The first step is to know who your customers are and what type of music they would, mostly likely, appreciate. Try different styles music at different times and make note of customers’ comments about the wine. Also keep track of sales while different music is being played.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What We See Is What We Taste

My reading lately has consisted of research and studies on what influences wine tasters and what I have been reading is absolutely fascinating. I am just at the tip of the iceberg and already I have lots of ideas about how a winery can create a tasting atmosphere that will improve tasters’ appreciation of the wine and make the wine more valuable to the tasters. More about these ideas in future blogs; in today’s blog I want to reference to a couple of the studies.

Much of the interest in these types of studies started at the University of Bordeaux. In 2001, enology students (54 of them) at the university were asked to describe a wine. They used words such as prune, chocolate and tobacco to describe a white wine that had been dyed red with a dye that added no taste of it’s own to the wine. The students had tasted the same wine earlier before it was dyed and the descriptors they used were honey, lemon, lychee and straw.

These were not average consumers, these were enology students, yet what they saw (a red wine) so affected their ideas of what they were going to taste, and they used descriptors that are used to describe a red wine.

My second example is a study conducted at the Johannes Guttenberg University of Mainz in 2009. In that study tasters perceived that wine tasted better in a red or blue-lit room. The researchers also found that drinkers were willing to pay more for the same wine. The same held true for white wine, with the sweetness and fruitiness of the wine being most highly rated in red light rather than green or white light.

So not only do consumers believe that the wine tastes better, they also believe it’s worth more depending on the lighting color. Additional studies have been conducted since 2009 with the same findings. The largest study of this kind will be conducted in London, UK next month, during the Streets of Spain celebration on London’s Southbank.

Next week’s blog will talk about the affect of music on wine tasters.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

It’s Wine Conference Time!

Last week I was speaking at the Midwest Grape and Wine Conference in St. Charles, Missouri, that also included craft beer and cider. It was interesting to meet brewers and would-be brewers, as well as to discover how many wineries are thinking about adding beer to the mix.

On the first evening of the conference, Vineyard & Winery Management, who produces the show, put on a fun wine tasting reception called the Tour de Vin.  It was nice to catch up with old friends and make new ones, as well as taste some delicious Midwest wines.

This year, Vineyard & Winery Management had added other craft beverages, such as beer, to the mix of classes available. There were production, marketing and finance sessions, for both wine and beer makers, as well as viticulture, presented by a host of speakers from all over the United States.

Following a full day of sessions on Wednesday, Vineyard & Winery Management hosted the Tour de Brew and beer and cider tasting. There were all types of delicious beers. I must admit I am a beer fan (being British I come by it naturally) and tasted some lovely pale ales among other things.  There were also ciders to taste and lots of munchies, as well as the opportunity to talk about beer and meet more new people.

Friday, Gary Finnan from GFC and I presented an eight hour session that covered a full range of topics connected with branding, product development, sales, marketing, experience mapping, customer relationship management and more. We had a great group of people in the session and were able to relate the topics directly to individual businesses from large wineries to very small ones.

I always enjoy my time in the Midwest, although I have to say it was a mite cold in Missouri this last week. The warmth of the people more than made for the cold weather. Now we are off to Texas for the TWGGA show and looking forward to tasting some Texas wines and visiting with the passionate Texas winegrowers. I do love this time of year!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Gift Items Should Your Winery Carry?

The great majority of wineries carry gift items and I can understand why. Gift and non- wine items are beneficial to wineries:

  •             A positive influence on bottom line profitability;
  •             An additional reason for consumers to visit your winery;
  •             Mementos that remind consumers of wineries they have visited and liked.

These are just a few of the reasons why wineries want to carry items in addition to wine.  Gift items may bring in local people to buy holiday gifts or displays for their holiday dinner tables, as well as wine for their meals, and they can add interest and color to your winery.

Think about the types of gift items you want to have in your winery. Do you have a theme (such as cooking or gardening), do you want items that are fun and whimsical, wine related tools, or glassware, or logo items? All these can be good choices that suit that image of the winery, the perception you are trying to present to the public, and will reinforce your brand.

It is always important to create the right balance between the wine and the gift items.

It’s also important to assess how you want consumers to visualize who you are. This is important not only for gift items but also if you serve food or have other attractions that may entice consumers to visit. Do you want to be seen as a restaurant that serves wine or as a winery that serves food? Focus on your vision and stay true to that vision of how you want your winery and your brand to be perceived. Serve food that works well with your wine and select gift items that connect people with your wine, the brand and the image of your winery.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


Motivating and Encouraging Staff to Sell

Working in a tasting or retail room is hard work. From the outside it seems like a lot of fun (so many visitors will tell you how they wish they worked in a winery) but despite the perks it can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when the season is upon us.

As things get busier, it is harder to engage and connect with visitors and introduce the wines in ways that will interest them. Many times what’s forgotten is taking time to encourage visitors to buy and creating that need to buy. Just as visitors need to be motivated to buy, your staff needs to be motivated to sell.

There are lots of ways to motivate staff to sell and to focus them on the sale. It helps, of course, to have a plan, so here’s one idea:

Begin by choosing a different wine each week, fortnight or month on which to focus. Talk about the wine at the weekly meeting you have with staff and open a bottle of that particular wine, so everyone tastes it. Give the staff written information on the wine (more than the tech sheet), including reasons why buying this wine will enhance visitors’ lives. Remind your staff every day of the focus wine for the time period.

Include a game as a motivation. For example: Take the cork from the bottle of the focus wine you opened for the staff to taste and mark it with a red X or some other distinguishing mark. When the first person sells that wine, they take the cork. When the next person sells that wine they take the cork from the first person. The game goes on until a pre-selected time. The person left holding the cork wins.

At that time you can reward the person who has the cork with a prize, or you may put their name into a drawing for a bigger prize that will be given when that particular wine is no longer the focus. You may do both, with a smaller prize on a daily basis and a bigger prize later on.

Use prizes that are meaningful to the employees (and don’t discount the fact that even though these people have access to wine, they still enjoy getting bonus wine). When you try this, please let me know how it works for you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

More About Using Volunteers

At the beginning of May I wrote a blog about volunteers being used for winery outside events (festivals and the like) and got an email response from Pete Johns, the Managing Partner at New Kent Winery in Virginia. Mr. Johns encourages, as do I, that all volunteers are trained, and in his winery only uses trained employees who are ServSafe certified.

In Virginia,” Johns says, “our ABC laws are very clear. All patrons within 15 feet of the serving station are the responsibility of both the pourer and the winery they represent. If a volunteer is not properly trained and serves someone who they should not (underage or already intoxicated), and the person leaves and drives his/her car into a pole, the server and they winery they represent are both liable.

He also went on to say that the Virginia ABC and other states are taking a very good look at this exposure and, in time, will re-write the ABC rules regarding the use of volunteers.

It’s important that, when you use volunteers, you are aware of the laws in your state, county and any other government entities that pertain to serving or selling alcohol. From a business stand point it’s also important that you provide your guests with the best service you can, and this means using people who are well trained.

The people pouring your wines during winery special events, or at outside tastings or festivals, should be knowledgeable about your wines and used to working with people. The servers need to be aware of the people they are serving. They should be checking identification regularly for anyone who may conceivably be underage (if they look under 35 card them), or notice if the guests may have over imbibed already. You must have information available for servers on the signs of intoxication, and make it part of the training material. I have information on signs of intoxication. If you want it, drop me an email and I am happy to send it to you.

If you need extra people and rely on volunteers to help you out, there are lots of jobs that they can do for you that do not entail pouring wine. And, of course, drinking anything alcoholic while working is never acceptable.

Thanks Pete for you taking the time to write!

A tip of the glass from me to you!