Tag Archive - wine

What 1% increase in spending will sell you more wine?

Ironically, the answer is probably not by increasing the quality of your wine.

A vineyard tractor

Will this sell wine? (by @ryanopaz)

With the one exception, moving from a Parker (or other pointillistic) rating of 89 to 90, there is very little chance that you can find any benefit to a 1% increase in wine quality leading to a measured increase in wine sales. Yet wineries will spend thousands and thousands of dollars/euros every day to try to make it happen. They spend on things such as: a new bladder press that presses the grapes even more gently, a consulting winemaker to come in and tweak the style of their wines, or maybe a whole set of new fermentation tanks just because the current ones are not quite the right shape to attain maximum extraction. I’ve seen all of these implemented by wineries who were struggling to sell more wine. Each time the winery was looking for a way to get more people to buy their wine, but from what I can tell, all that was achieved was a larger bank debt and the same amount of wine being sold.

I’m talking about wineries with established markets and established ways of doing things. A new winery might quite rightly need to upgrade the materials they have as they begin to grow, but even in that case, measuring the quality of the wine in relation to the wine making gadgets’ fixed costs is a VERY difficult thing to do. As we used to say in the kitchen I worked in: “It doesn’t matter how fancy your knife is if you don’t know how to use it.”

The irony is that so many wineries are already full of fancy wine making equipement with shiny wineries and fancy bottles, and yet they have either forgotten to invest in a website, or the website they currently have hasn’t been updated in years. Today the website is not an option.

So what 1% increase in spending might help these wineries to sell more wine, if not by making the wine better?

If poor wine quality is stopping you from selling more wine then you will need to spend a lot more than 1% of your budget to improve the wines. If you’re selling wine already and you want to sell more, a new tractor is not going to make difference to your sales. The problem is, buying a tractor is easy to understand. It’s a physical object that you can touch and you know it’s there. Marketing, websites, and PR are less so. You can’t physically touch them and, like a ghost, that can be scary! “New wine press, no problem, I can see that and touch it and all is good! New online social media campaign? Well, I don’ t think that that will help much, plus I don’t understand it”.

Not understanding how something  works does not mean you don’t need it. 

I don’t understand how the hard drive in my computer remembers what I put in it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need it. I buy it, and use it, because it is useful. Social media, and a functioning website, are not optional winery tools, they are as essential as your destemming machine.

That is if you want to sell more wine.

I believe that a 1% budget increase spent on your winery’s sales, marketing, or online engagement will make a small difference to your bottom line. Quite often a very large difference. If you have the courage, I dare you to try.

An example: What is your annual operating budget for your winery? 250,000 euros? 500,000? More? Less? Let’s start with the first one, where 1% gives us 2,500 euros. Take that money and go out and hire a professional, not a relative who took a weekend class in web design, but a trained professional, and have them sit down with you and teach you about Twitter, Facebook, or even help build your first blog. For that 2,500 euros, and a bit of shopping around, I bet you could get a new website and some in-house training. Maybe not the fanciest website, but you could trade that in for a Facebook fanpage, some Twitter help and more in house training. Now you’re set. Just remember to ask questions and get involved; this stuff won’t run itself.

Then spend 1% of your time each week engaged with it. That’s just 15 minutes a day.

2,500 euros of social media education and initiatives + 15 minutes a day = more wine sold. Guaranteed. Or rather you won’t sell any less wine. You can only gain.

This won’t happen overnight. I bet you didn’t learn to make the perfect wine your first day in the winery. It probably took some time to learn how to do it. That’s ok. It didn’t stop you from trying though, did it? No, you wanted to make better wine, so you went and did it no matter what. Next thing you know, you got the hang of it and pretty soon it became easier and easier. The same goes for social media.

By getting out there and talking to consumers and promoting yourself online, you will sell more wine. The social part of getting out there won’t be tangible, but your selling wine will be. What have you got to lose? With the crisis here in Europe impacting sales, wineries can’t afford not to try. Make 2012 the year you try something different.

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Wine labels done right, a discovery at VinCE

A couple weeks ago I found myself in Budapest for the VinCE wine event – An event that is more consumer focused than trade, but a place to discover new wines and meet new people. I have to admit that I rarely find myself discovering  a wine label, or bottle design, at such events that makes me stop and say, “hey, now that is a great idea!” The wine world is full of copycats and formulaic marketing that usually bores me or fails to reflect the wine that it is supposed to represent. The wine inside a bottle is often either represented by a horrific label with a fancy font and ridiculous food pairing suggestions; or the opposite, by a label that is itself a work of art, meant for a museum, while the juice inside is second rate at best.

This year, one winery did stop me in my tracks to exclaim, “Yes, now that is what I’m talking about!”

Dénes Pécsi-Szabó, a young man from the Janus winery in Villány region of Hungary came up to me after the Gary Vaynerchuck masterclass and asked me to try his wines. Needing a reason to roam around, I found his table in the back corner of one of the main tasting halls, and within minutes I knew it was a good idea. Dénes, having very little time left in the day, quickly showed me his wines and the new labels that he was in the process of switching his wines to. Colorful and patterned I thought nothing of it at first, another pretty label. After tasting one of the wines, I remember noting that at least the pretty label contained some good fruit.

It was at that point that Dénes started to explain the story behind the label and I proceeded to inspect it closer. Turns out the patterns on the label had meaning. I’ll let Dénes explain in his own words how he worked with a designer to create them:

We created them with Marton Kenczler, Art Director of Kirowski Isobar. I used to work with him in film productions, and I wanted to bring a designer to create our logo and labels from an outsider world. Marci…had no knowledge or experience in the wine business.

We thought, that the old label is a little boring, as it was created to try to please all consumers and also family members of Janus Winery. We wanted to do something, which we feel[sic] closer to us, looks nice and sticks out of the Hungarian label crowd…

We both felt that the long label hugging around the bottle is a good form for what we want to do. Then I said one or two words about all of our wines, and Marci reflected with the symbols.

Rosé: Fresh, girly
Portugieser: wine for everyday
Cabernet Sauvignon: royal grape
Cabernet Franc: King of Villány Wine Region
Merlot: soft
Syrah: eastern influence, Big body

Using Icons as the base of the design the two decided that each grape would receive its own, unique icon. Therefore, each wine could reflect what was inside the bottle with a few visual cues. By playing with the quantity of each icon, they could give the consumer an idea of what the final wine might offer.

What’s interesting is that this winery was not only branding grapes, but branding them in a visual way that overcomes language barriers. Combine this with fun, lyrical label messages that play with the character of the grape, leaving out any silly food pairing suggestions, and they’re onto something fun and different.

Now I’m not saying that Janus solved all major problem, or that these are the most innovative label designers and marketers I’ve come across, but they took a risk to think differently. They realized that people do shop by grape, and by relating these to visual cues, can create deeper branding. Additionally, they stepped out of the wine bubble to consult a designer who is able to see their world differently. Objectively.

Yes this is a moot point for the first time wine buyer. They are not going to know the “system” when they first pick up a bottle, but it is the “plastic bull” idea – where the consumer, if they like the wine, has an easier route to brand loyalty [Back in my wine shop, if a buyer couldn't find a wine for their pizza on friday night, they defaulted to the one with the plastic bull around it's neck]. These symbols, when first noticed, can create enough curiosity for the casual buyer to connect with them, and possibly seek out new combinations. Beyond that, they represent what is inside visually, and thus go much further than most wine labels who rely on fancy art or funny fonts.

I have yet to taste the full range of Janus wines. This will be remedied soon, but I will say that the couple wines I did taste at the end of a long day were showing great potential. Wines that I would buy, without a doubt.

Wine marketing is a challenge in a sea of copycats. Thinking ‘different’ can be hard to do, but the rewards can be great. Congrats to Janus on their efforts.

Cheers!

Note: This label shown here has a music note icon. This icon has been added as this wine is the official wine of the Pannon Filharmonics Orchestra. In their mind the wines grapes blend with the music so they are shown together.

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A re-telling of a wine fairytale

This story has been put together in a sustainable way from recycled & organic tales collected from around the world, and  its morals are entirely a product of indigenous references. Consume in moderation

Illustration from The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Illustration from The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time, there was an old man who had been a respected winemaker, but his intended bride had pricked her finger on a screwcap in her youth and fallen into a long, deep sleep. In his depression, the man had fallen on hard times. Few liked any of his wines any more and he was down to his last basket of grapes. All seemed doomed.

He went to bed that night, dejected. Unbelievably, he awoke the next day to discover that a magic elf flown in, and had been toiling all night and transformed his grapes into delicious wines using a “micro-oxygenation” spell. The man was overjoyed and with the money made selling that wine, he bought more grapes which the elf would transform, … and business boomed.

In time, the old man became so successful that he built the most fantastic winery, designed along Feng Shui principles with fermentation tanks fashioned after Dragon’s Eggs. His winery kept attracting more and more elves to make, design and package his wines, and the wines became hugely attractive, sought-after and collectable.

This posed a problem for the old man. All the wines being made now were  fantastically bejewelled, exotically styled and devilishly expensive. His regular customers could no longer afford to shop from him, so he turned to others for help.

The old man was canny. He decided to engage the services of wine merchants Rump & Stiltskin to sell the wines with the slogan “we turn your wine investments into gold”. He also hired Fay Reega, of the PR firm “Mother”, to invite the right sorts of people to a lavish annual Ball that was to be decorated and stage-managed by a couple of weavers whose incredible new material only fools could not see.

Success was guaranteed … as long as people would come.

Fortunately for them, a young piper from the Land of Mary came passing through town. He not only had a magical tasting instrument, but was also well versed in numerology. His magical instrument could turn the merest sip of wine into a charming song, and anyone who heard his number chanting would follow him wherever he went.

And so it was to pass. The date of the Ball was set for early April. The stage was (apparently) decorated. Other musicians and entertainers from all over the world came to lead the procession behind the Piper, and the old man and representatives of Rump & Stiltskin awaited, haggling over the future spoils, in their castles by the river.

The procession wound its way slowly around the castles of the region, picking up more and more of the rich and powerful as it went, heading towards the main event, whilst spectators, too poor to afford the gowns and the wines, and not in possession of the golden tickets, watched on, bemused from the sidelines.

At the stroke of 12, more specifically 2012, things started to go wrong.

The famous Piper decided he’d had enough and threatened to stop and rest. The other musicians from around the world tried to keep the procession moving, but it had only been the Piper’s magic number chant that had enthralled the crowds. The stage, it turned out, had not been decorated after all, Fay Reega’s magic golden tickets changed back into mere RyanAir vouchers, and people woke up and starting demanding the names behind Rump & Stiltskin in order to get their money back.

The fantastically expensive wines were locked in a vault, untouched, undrunk, unloved.

And while everyone was distracted, a handsome young writer appeared from behind a computer and kissed the sleeping beauty, who awoke from her long slumber and decided that she too wanted to make great wines, … but this time, with no elves.

Someone, somewhere, lived happily ever after.

The End?

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A golden opportunity for all wine

You may have heard us talking about some exciting projects on the horizon, so we are very excited to announce Vrazon‘s latest project which will be officially launched at the 2012 London Wine Fair Access Zone, Wine Gold 2012. As we will be recruiting for ambassadors for the launch we thought we might give our friends and followers an early “heads up” so that you can get involved.

Willi Klinger promotes Austria in Portugal

Willi Klinger promotes Austria in Portugal

The European Wine Bloggers Conference is very grateful for having received the support of sponsors such as ViniPortugal in 2009, Austrian Wine in 2010, Franciacorta in 2011 and of course Wines of Turkey in 2012. The conference hosts have gone a LONG way to helping wine bloggers and wine lovers to learn about their wonderful wines and broaden their drinking horizons.

However, we became very excited when two of these sponsors, having met at the EWBC 2010 in Vienna, decided to cooperate.  The result was that the incomparable Willi Klinger was invited to give a keynote presentation to Portuguese wineries and the international Press at the Wines of Portugal International Conference (WoPIC) by their Portuguese counterparts.

Two regional generic bodies cooperating to promote great wines. A dream come true!

We are excited to be able to announce that Vrazon will be taking this to the next level with the support of generic wine bodies from all over the world in the Wine Gold 2012 action plan.

In the spirit of the 2012 London Olympics, UK based wine promotion bodies will team up on a ‘sporting’ agreement to promote ALL wine and not just their own narrow interests for the year.

Instead of campaigns to get already confused wine consumers to switch from one region to another, the objective of Wine Gold 2012 will be to promote the enjoyment and appreciation of all good wine. We hope to convince more drinkers that by taking more interest in wine, they can discover amazing expressions from places they’ve probably never even considered or heard about.

Just as the Olympics introduce us to new sports with unique attractions, such as beach volleyball and kayaking, without detracting from the ‘classic’ track, field and pool events, wine consumers can also look forward to a more varied wine experience.

Details of participating generic bodies are still under wraps while UK market managers negotiate the pooling of limited individual budgets to create the first truly effective wine promotion resource.

Planned activities include:

  • sponsoring national wine columns in newspapers and magazines that are actually entertaining to read
  • buying-up supermarket promotion shelf space so only UNdiscounted wines at real prices can be shown
  • sending UK pub owners on courses to learn how to select, store and serve wine so punters actually get wine worth drinking; the courses will involve them having to actually taste the stuff they are currently selling
  • funding an energetic campaign to improve the quality and variety of suggested food matches on back labels, taught by film industry sciptwriters. No more “goes with chicken but drinks well on it’s own
  • a seminar by the Dragons’ Den team for website and app developers to stop them wasting money on creating wine tasting note sharing services, and instead focus on something worthwhile
  • funding bloggers who are reaching new consumers by paying them to republish their best content in traditional media around the world
  • creating a ‘wine pioneer’ campaign that randomly rewards consumers for talking about their favourite wines online without making any reference to drunkenness, “shit-faced”, “getting bladdered”, etc. or discussing hangovers and hangover cures
  • establishing a “Castaway” style TV programme where supermarket buyers would have to spend a year working at a vineyard and winery to make wines they then have to sell to UK supermarkets for a profit

We look forward to working with our friends at bodies such as Wines of Chile, Wine Australia, Wines of South AfricaWines from Spain, Sopexa and others to make this happen and to help sell a better range of great wines from all over the world.

If you can think of any further projects that should be funded to promote “Wine” we look forward to hearing your views in the comments, and if you are interested in leading the charge in any of these areas, please let us know.

 

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The tools for wine tasting success

Circuit board of a computerIn a MASSIVE oversimplification, animated largely by its dichotomous elegance, I suggest that there are two different approaches to wine tasting & sharing the experience.

It isn’t really about palate as I believe that pretty much anyone can taste wines. It isn’t background and upbringing, although experience over time does help. In fact, I believe that there is a difference in how people’s brains work that affects how they approach wine tasting.

First, there are the those who remember things. They catalogue, analyse, store, compare, measure and digest. I like to think of this group as the “Hard Disks” of the wine trade. If you’ve been to wine events you will know the type. They taste a wine, analyse it, then are able to compare it to previous vintages (at several stages of their development), tell you how that particular year’s weather may have affected the taste profile, or how a change in the winery’s staff or processes since then might have changed the wine.

These are the type of people who believe they can objectively assess a wine on a rating scale, be it 5, 10, 20 or 100 points.

The other approach, in my black & white universe, are the “Processors“. These people do not store much information, but learn how things work, they look for connections, patterns and relationships. These people are, frankly, fairly useless when it comes to wine recommendations, assessing wine qualities and generally doing the stuff wine people do. This group are more easily swayed by interesting stories, new trends, personal interests and “entertainment”.

The wine business was built by the Hard Disks. Knowing the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ of all  the wines that mattered was not only important, but possible.

However, the massive recent rise in quality of production and international trade has made the all-knowing expert a rarity indeed. The fact that “good” wines can now come from anywhere, and that more consumers are determining what they consider “good”, means that what differentiates wines is not so much the composition of their patch of dirt, but the story around it.

What might make someone a successful wine taster today is not the ability to rate and compare a wine, but to communicate a uniqueness in a wine in a way that matters to a group of consumers. Social Media is all about that communication and interaction, and a place where “Processors” might be at an advantage.

Of course, life is not beautifully, elegantly black & white, but a swirling maelstrom of patterned greyness, where no-one is really one or the other exclusively and we all need a bit of both. I suspect that even those who reached the pinnacle of wine trade achievement, as a Master of Wine, are not one or other (but they are not necessarily both). There are not too many social goldfish or data-crunching automatons walking the aisles of wine fairs, but hopefully you will recognise a grain of truth in these caricatures.

I am definitely a Processor, in fact I suspect my own Hard Disk may actually be faulty. I fail miserably if anyone asks me for a specific wine recommendation, but I LOVE to sit with them to explore what they like, where they shop and what excites them about wine in order to give them some general buying tips that will help them in the longer run. As the old saying (sort of) goes:

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink (wine) all day.

Which are you, Hard Disk or Processor? If you are a wine business, what are you doing to make the  most of this change? Is your communication all about the “what”, or is it about the WHYconsumers should care?

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