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Wine and tasting options

Wine product range

Here are some tips to consider when developing your product range

Appeal to visitors' tastes

Unlike in days of old when winemakers simply produced wine and people bought it, consumers today are overloaded with choice. And if something doesn't appeal, they'll keep on moving until they find something that does. Consider carefully the product range at cellar door and whether it suits your target market and the range of visitors to your region. Many winemakers overlook the simple fruit-driven styles and sweeter wines that younger consumers, older consumers and many Asians enjoy.

Test the market

Produce small batches of wines to test on cellar door visitors to get feedback as well as sales. This is particularly important if you are considering introducing a new varietal and are looking to increase plantings in the future.

Make it exclusive

Hold something back from the national retail sales circuit. People like to discover something new and to be rewarded for making the trek to the source. Rotating such products regularly can also encourage repeat visitation, especially among the Visiting Friends & Relatives (VFR) market. Take particular notice of what other wineries in your region are offering, and identify whether there's a gap.

For example, if the market is demonstrating a strong trend towards Rose but few in your region are producing one, then you can fill the gap and encourage referral business from other wineries. Such exclusivity can also create a demand that exceeds supply, as is the case for many high profile wine brands, where mailing list clients snap up entire bottlings before they even make it onto the tasting bench.

Museum or library stock

If you can afford it, make a point of reserving some of your best wines to release later as aged wines, perhaps in three or six packs to create vertical collections of consecutive vintages. Make sure it is wine that will improve with age of course! The premium price you put on it should more than make up for the increased storage time.

Tasting options

Wine tasting is the core activity and the primary reason most people visit a cellar door. It is also your primary selling tool, so it's worth spending time getting your tasting format just right.

Your strategy might vary considerably depending on several factors. For example, a well known, but boutique winery with limited production, located far from a major city and in a tourism region that's not known primarily for wine might decide to offer winemaker-hosted tastings on weekends and by appointment during the week. Their primary sales strategy might be built around mail order and restaurant sales.

For wineries in major tourism regions the strategy can be quite different because a certain level of regional visitation is already guaranteed. Especially where many wineries are present, the opportunity to differentiate and cater to a broad range of the market takes on greater importance. In this case it may be viable to offer a scheduled tour and tasting for large coach groups.

There are several methods for conducting cellar door tastings and you might choose one or a combination of options. The choice depends on a number of factors. These include:

  • Space – one main area; separate rooms; suitability of area for dividing into smaller areas
  • Target Market – groups, families, couples, trade
  • Human Resources – availability of knowledgeable, customer focused staff to service relevant visitors
  • Equipment – sufficient tasting glasses, spittoons, etc
  • Location – proximity to other wineries offering similar formats
  • Source of Revenue – commissionable product for tour operators  

Consider the merits of private and structured tastings for specific groups and appropriate delivery formats. For example, a seated tasting format with pre-poured wines may work better for a large wine-interested group than standing at the bar.

A little imagination and clever use of space and dollars can transform a "standard" tasting into a memorable experience.

The tasting experience (PDF)

To charge or not to charge

This is a common question among winery operators and one for individual – or even regional – consideration. Some figure that the tasting should always be free and charging a fee alters the ‘relationship’ from host-guest to seller-customer. Proponents use the ‘obligation’ factor to sell wine, in other words visitors feel obliged to buy as an outcome of their experience and by charging that obligation is removed and the visitor can simply exit without feeling pressured into purchasing.

There’s merit in this way of thinking, but it’s worth arguing the opposite point too. There are very few businesses in the world that give away free samples of their product without an expectation – or indeed a guarantee – of a purchase. And let’s face it, there is a real cost in providing tasting samples at the cellar door.

But it’s not the cost of the wine that’s the issue here (in reality, the cost should be regarded as an expense within the marketing and promotions budget) – it’s the cost of providing the experience. This includes labour as well as fixed and variable costs associated with running a cellar door. Of course, if you’re good enough at what you do, profit from sales will cover all of these costs.

If you’re considering charging for an experience, make sure you’re really offering something of value – a product that’s worth paying for. This means creating tasting experiences that are different to standard offerings. Think about it from the consumer perspective too. Yes, many Australian visitors expect to taste for free – because it’s traditionally been done that way. International visitors, however, are quite used to paying for service.

Many wineries approach it this way: a limited number of wines are available for free; anything beyond that is charged according to its value. This approach has the advantage of segmenting your visitors into those who are serious and those who are not. It also taps into the inherent desire of people to ‘trade up’ to an enhanced experience. It does not mean treating people differently in terms of quality of service! It’s about respecting what their requirements are and catering accordingly.

Another advantage of charging for certain tasting experiences is that you now have a product to offer to tour operators upon which they can earn a commission. This is particularly relevant if you are looking to work with day or charter tour operators who can bring regular groups to your door. And it does cost more to provide dedicated staff to service these groups.

The key is to offer value for money and an experience that is clearly different to that which you provide for independent travellers. If your range is limited and it’s not possible to provide an entirely different experience, consider including a tour or a tangible educational element to add value. Combining tours and tastings is a forte of the great Champagne Houses of France. In fact, many of them don’t even offer access to the tasting and sales area without visitors having first completed the tour. The package being sold is a complete experience, designed to educate, entertain and ultimately result in sales.

 

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