By: Kathy Kelley, Abigail Miller, and Dana Ollendyke (Penn State Extension Associate)
As we have done in the past, we are taking this opportunity to share results from our wine marketing research study, an effort involving researchers at Penn State, Rutgers, Cornell, and New York University. With approximately “81% of [Pennsylvania wine] sold directly from wineries” (Dombrosky and Gajanan, 2013; http://bit.ly/1LygxFl), one of the issues we investigated in last year’s survey was what a winery could offer to encourage winery tasting room visits, and increase the frequency of these visits.
While, in some cases, we investigated broad categories and factors, we have plans to delve deeper in our upcoming survey into what could motivate consumers to visit a winery tasting room and barriers survey participants feel prevents them from visiting.
Just as a reminder, data were collected through a 15-minute Internet survey (22-24 October 2014). Participants residing in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania were screened for not being a member of the wine industry, being at least 21 years old, and for having purchased and drank wine at least once within the previous year. A total of 977 participants qualified and completed the survey.
Interest in winery activities and events
Today’s visitors do much more than just taste the wine at a tasting room; rather, there are opportunities to tour the vineyard and the wine-making facility, participate in classes, attend festivals, and much more (http://bit.ly/1JtOEHK).
But should a winery go through the process of planning, implementing, and evaluating an event or activity?
Data from a study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University and Sam Houston University showed that, for Texas wineries, there was “a positive correlation between wineries that offer services such as tasting rooms and tours and gross sales… [thus] the more tourism services a winery offers, the higher their potential for gross sales” (2008; http://bit.ly/1NSBgRx).
OK, so, with all that could be offered – what activities and/or events might garner the greatest consumer interest?
Though not an exhaustive list, we focused on activities and events that were more commonly found when we investigated wineries online and also based on popular press articles. As an example, an event that has been offered at some wineries and restaurants is a “Paint Nite,” during which attendees paint a certain picture by following an instructor while enjoying wine or other alcoholic beverages (https://www.paintnite.com/). We were interested in learning if this activity appealed to our participants, and, if so, how much. Below is a table with data pertaining to the level of interest our participants expressed based on the seven activities/events that we tested.
As you can see, “tasting events,” “tour of the winery and vineyard,” and “food vendors from local restaurants,” were the three activities that had the highest level of interest (86.3, 83.0, and 78.9%, respectively), and are often interdependent of each other.
It makes sense that if someone is going to visit a winery tasting room that they would be interested in tasting the wine, but there are opportunities to offer “tasting events” that go a beyond the norm – perhaps they could be based on a theme, focus on your new release, be an exclusive tasting with limited seating, or your winery tasting room could be one of the stops on a local food tour.
And, although separate categories in our survey, winery tastings and tours are a natural pairing. Most likely you already offer a tour, and subsequent tasting, but can you take your standard tour and split it up into several? The goal of this strategy would be to encourage even more frequent visits.
Château Élan Winery & Resort, located in Atlanta, offers six different tour options, five are private and one is offered on a regular basis. While all six tours end in a tasting, each is unique with a different focus (http://www.chateauelan.com). The private tours focuses on each of the following: 1) the vat room, 2) the wine making process, 3) the vineyard, 4) an experience with the wine maker, and 5) a session on other Georgia food products.
In addition to what is described above, there are other opportunities to make connections with local restaurants, cheese mongers, bakeries, chocolatiers, etc. For example, might one (or more) of these businesses create a small tasting plate that could be included in your “premier tasting option?” Or, could it be purchased separately for visitors to enjoy along with a glass of wine they purchase and consume at your tasting room? I’m sure that some of your visitors would appreciate the opportunity to try a regional cheese with your wine.
Or, you could substitute the crackers you provided each taster with a few slices of bread from a local bakery. This is another great way to cross promote with other local business. While in Paris, this last May, I participated in two separate tasting events at O-Chateau Wine Tasting & Wine Bar (o-chateau.com). Along with a breakdown of what my tasting fee would include (five still French wines and one Champagne, a two-hour session with an English speaking sommelier, and a private tasting room for no more than 12 participants), the description also alerted me that not only would bread be included, but that I would be tasting baguettes from the bakery that supplies items for the president of France. Though some participants might not consider this as being a benefit or anything special, others might find it appealing.
With 70.2% of our participants responding that they would be interested in visiting a winery that offered “holiday events,” consider occasions that might be a good fit with your wine. Commonly celebrated holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, New Years, and religious holidays might come to mind quite easily, but don’t forget local events that may appeal to your tasting room visitors. For example, the neighborhood of Bloomfield (in Pittsburgh, PA) holds an annual Italian heritage festival called “Little Italy Days” (http://littleitalydays.com). A winery tasting room could partner with a local Italian bakery to pair wines with Italian pastries.
While a “painting party/class” and “book clubs” were of less interest to our participants, it is possible that such events and activities might still be of great interest to your visitors. As with any new marketing idea or change you make, it is essential to make sure that “it” is a good fit for your business, then trial “it,” and finally evaluate “it.”
Just a few things to think about as you plan your future winery tasting room activities and events. You may want to even consider planning an event to celebrate Wine Tourism Day on November 7th (http://www.winetourismday.org). In its third year, the day is planned to encourage wine tourism businesses, including hotels and restaurants, to offer events as a way “to celebrate the importance (and fun) of wine tourism.” Another opportunity to raise your glass and celebrate!
Additional Research & Thesis Advisory Team Members:
- Jeffrey Hyde, Professor, Agricultural Economics, The Pennsylvania State University
- Denise Gardner, Extension Enologist, Department of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University
- Brad Rickard, Assistant Professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
- Ramu Govindasamy, Professor, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Rutgers University
- Karl Storchmann, Clinical Professor, Economics Department, New York University; Managing Editor, Journal of Wine Economics
- Rob Crassweller, Professor, Professor of Tree Fruit, The Pennsylvania State University
The project “Developing Wine Marketing Strategies for the Mid-Atlantic Region” (GRANT 11091317) is being funded by a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant, whose goal is “to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.” For more information about the program, visit http://www.ams.usda.gov.
By: Kathy Kelley
Even when on vacation, I’m sure that you make it a point to visit tasting rooms to get an idea of the local “winescape.” I do this as well and I thought I would share some images from a few wineries I’ve been lucky to visit, as well as a few things that attracted my attention. Some of the images and ideas might appeal to you and be applicable for your tasting room. For now, I’ve focused on four different wineries, with more images and examples to come in future blog posts.
Schlumberger, Vienna, Austria
I just returned from a trip to Austria. While in Vienna I made it a point to visit the Schlumberger tasting room (http://www.schlumberger.at/en/home/) where I was able to sample a variety of sparkling wines (at 3 euro for each three ounce pour) produced using the “traditional method” since 1842. The tasting room provides a true educational experience by offering formal cellar tours as well as a free smartphone app (if the visitor doesn’t have a smartphone they can obtain a “player” that they can listen to) that leads visitors through several stations where they learn about the history of the winery, what is involved in making a sparkling wine, how the brand has evolved, etc., followed by a tasting.
There was a true theme throughout the tasting room. Though the space of the sales area (where bottles and gift items, a small tasting bar, and the cash register were located) was rather “cozy,” the décor was well coordinated with the overall “fairy” theme. Why a fairy? Because, as I was told, sparkling wine has bubbles that are light and airy – and there lies the connection.
From the color of the flooring/walls/ceiling as well as the furniture, lighting, music, wine label design, accessories (lots and lots of wine bottle gift packaging options, jellies made from their wine, and fairy shaped cookie cutters), etc., they all supported the concept of opulence and luxury with a hint of whimsy.
The Brotte Wine Museum, Chateauneuf du Pape, France
This entire museum is devoted to helping consumers learn about viticulture and enology. After the 45-minute audio guided tour, which leads visitors through 30+ stations, visitors can sample three wines. But, before reaching the tasting room, there is quite a lot to learn: 1) which grapes are grown in the region; 2) the history of the Valley of the Rhone appellation; 3) terroir (including a discussion of the rocks and pebbles that contribute to this phenomenon); 4) harvest and bottling processes; and much, much more (http://bit.ly/1DUpvD4).
Instead of just providing text that explains that Grenache is the primary grape grown in the region, that Mourvedre is the second most commonly grown grape, followed by Syrah and Counoise, a visual illustrates this point, with the size of the “grape cluster” correlating with the amount of acreage devoted to growing the variety.
An entire history is presented, including how the industry in the region has developed overtime and how bottles and labels have evolved. At first glance one display gives the impression that the bottle is quite old – due to the “dusty” appearance and the misshaped glass bottle – but the shape and appearance were purposely developed by Charles Brotte in 1952 for a local contest. Whether it is the perceived “age” of the bottle or the actual story, most likely all who see the display (and, hopefully, taste the wine) will remember it well after they return home. A bonus for the winery as the bottle can be easily picked out from the massive lineup that crowd liquor store shelves.
Scarborough Wine Co., Hunter Valley, Australia
From the time arrived at the property, until I departed, I noticed a great bit of attention to detail and thought given to guest comfort at Scarborough. Well before guests step into the tasting room they are surrounded by well planned gardens and entryways – pretty much setting the stage for the experience that awaits in the tasting room. With individual seats placed around several tables in the (rather large) tasting room, we were able to have our own space, taste at a leisurely pace, and discuss the wines privately. While they do have the advantage of a fair amount of square footage to place tables and chairs, a smaller space could include a few “two top” or “four top” tables (seating for two and four visitors, respectively) and a more “space efficient” tasting bar (without chairs in order to maximize the number of visitors that can be served).
During my tasting at Scarborough Wine Co., I was provided with five wine samples at once (three Chardonnays, 2007, 2008, and 2010 vintage, and two different Semillons). This system could very well be cumbersome for the tasting room staff; however, it was well managed. After they seated us they provided the schematic (in the image below), a written description of the wines, all five samples, and a complementary tray of cheese, meats, crackers, and dried fruits. The tasting room staff stopped by frequently to answer questions and assist us in selecting the wine that we subsequently purchased. While some tasting room visitors might like each sample to arrive individually and have a continuous conversation with the tasting room staff, others might prefer the pace and “freedom” of this tasting.
Gibbston Valley Winery, Queenstown, New Zealand
With three different tour options (wine cave tour, $15.00 per person; cave tour select, $30.00 per person: and prestige wine tour, $175.00 per person), two different wine making experiences ($225 per person and the other based on participant experience), a full service restaurant, chees shop, wine shop with a variety of accessories, and more (http://www.gibbstonvalley.com/), there are quite a few things to encourage consumers to visit Gibbston Valley Winery and keep them on the property for more than a quick tasting.
The basic wine cave tour took place mostly in the vineyard (with a three sample tasting in the wine cave afterwards) and focused quite a bit on how and what grapes are gown in the region, the use of yards and yards of netting to minimize bird damage, a bit of history about phytophthora in the region, and the importance of terroir.
Though the discussion included a description of what to expect from each glass and appropriate food pairings, a great deal of effort was made to educate visitors about the actual production process in order to convey that what we were tasting was truly unique. Even between samples we were reminded that what we were tasting was influenced by the “200 million year old landscape,” as noted on the plaque on one of the walls.
While each of these tasting rooms are unique and may have some advantages that your tasting room might not have (e.g. ample space for several individual tables, authentic wine cave) it is possible to enhance your visitors’ experiences by implementing some of these ideas.
While you may not have the budget to purchase museum quality displays, you probably know an artist who could take text that explains a process or wine component (e.g. residual sugar) and create an engaging and informative image to hang on the wall (e.g. a drawing of a scale that helps explain residual sugar and how the concentration differs between dry, off-dry, and dessert wines). You may not have an overall theme for your winery, but if developed could this enhance the overall “sensation” that a visitor gets when at your tasting room? Perhaps fairies are not appropriate for your winery and tasting room, but another object, destination, or feeling might serve as the basis for your planning and tie all the tasting room components together. The possibilities are endless.