Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wine Reviews, Scores, and Competitions, Oh My!

It has been busy the last month doing wine events, peddling wine, drumming up sales, as well as working in the cellar. It has been a while since my last post, but now I have something on my mind to put down to digital paper.

It is hard selling wine when no one knows who you are. As as a rookie, you have to prove to the fans that you have something special and worth seeking out. Thus wineries participate in wine tasting events and promotions. At a recent event we participated in, we poured our wine, and the event patrons could purchase the wine at a local wine store. However, the wine store only committed to 2 bottles of each of our products. I felt this was due to being an unknown winery. Needless to say, we were a popular winery with tasters coming back for more, bringing friends, and asking where to buy the wine. At the end of the event, we went back to the wine store to see that all of our wine was sold. The store purchased 3 more bottles of each of our varietals, but that seems a bit late after the event is over.

I have noticed from our short history, and this is huuuge, that when doing a tasting event you HAVE to make the sale. Be it wine, like us on FaceBook, become a fan, etc., otherwise, customers tend to not actively seek you out after-the-fact. I mean we have had follow-ups, but not as many as you would think for the amount of people who come by the table and taste (yes, I am aware they might not like the wine). For this reason, we try to only do tasting events in wine stores or at venues where there is the ability for customers to purchase the wine from a sponsoring wine store. We can use the sales information as a barometer of success.

Now this gets me to a strong thought reviews, scores, competitions. I read a lot of wine reviews, blogs, critics, people who think they are all of the previous mentioned and share ridiculous information on every digital medium available. I see a pattern of consumers (and other winemakers for that matter) who thumb their noses up at scores, reviews, and competitions. Okay, I understand that if you are an established winery and you have 50 billion medals and every vintage all your products gets reviewed by a major publication or whatever..some consumers and critics may say that your brand is getting diluted from all of the medals and scores. It can also be interpreted as this dude knows how to make wine and wants third party reviews to validate.

As a new winery, I find that competitions, submitting wine for critic reviews, etc. is very important to building our brand and generate awareness of our winery. Criticism helps products/people get better and lets them fine tune what works and what doesn't. I am just blown away by the amount of consumers who turn a blind eye to scores, reviews, and medal thinking that they are meaningless, when the winery drops a lot of wine to get that validation.

I recently was on-the-fence about submitting wine to a major wine critic, but in the end: I learned to stop worrying and love making wine :-P.