Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wine Sales in 2012

People have just gone through the Great Recession (are still going through?). It wasn't quite as bad as the Great Depression, but I think some of the same trends are going to apply. When you think about people who lived through the Great Depression, they are very frugal people, and they don't tend to spend their money. This tendency came about because they had to scrimp and save every penny they could. Jobs were not readily available (like today), and you never knew when your next paycheck was going to be coming in.

Fast forward to today. We had unprecedented growth and spending power available to us prior to 2007. Not many people thought that what we were experiencing was a bubble, and that it would all come crashing down. We all thought that the growth and prosperity we were experiencing was just the new normal. Then the bubble burst, and the spending ability we took for granted disappeared, and we had to re-examine what we spent money on. What has happened is similar to what happened during the Great Depression. People have gotten much more careful with their spending, and they are expecting the greatest value they can get out of every dollar.

So how does this factor into the world of wine? There are two ways to provide value to wine customers, the product in the bottle and the service you provide. Obviously, the product in the bottle has to be good to great. Wines across the board are getting better and better, and if a winery is not keeping up with quality, they will be left in the dust. Also providing a good Quality Price Ratio (QPR) can help provide value, but not every wine needs to be a great QPR wine. As long as the product in the bottle is good to great, and is priced appropriately (not many people can pay $200 for a bottle of wine), then you're providing the value you can with the product.

The other way to provide value to customers is through service. This includes not just normal customer service (returning phone calls and emails, processing orders quickly, etc), but also includes things like newsletters and social media. Customers want to know what is going on "behind the scenes" in the wineries they like. They want to share in the story and understand all that goes into each bottle of wine. This is where many wineries have an opportunity to provide value to customers but miss the mark. Not every customer contact (or "touch") needs to be about selling. Customers are bombarded with offers and sales all the time, so it begins to become a bit of a blur. By providing value through communication, wineries can build a very loyal following, which will then increase both their number of customers and dollars spent per customer.

I get that this isn't easy, especially for smaller wineries, but it is absolutely critical, even if the ROI is hard to capture. You can't depend on getting a great score from a critic to drive sales, because there are 20 other wineries next to you getting those same scores. A big score means less now than it did 10 years ago. Customers are now more digitally connected than ever, so wineries need to tap into this. Posting bits of information about what is happening at the winery on Facebook or Twitter only takes a few minutes, but over time a winery can gain a significant following by doing so. Sending out quarterly newsletters will provide some of that same value. Creating a mailing list and keeping them up to date on what is happening around the winery is critical to creating a following. Doing these things will also keep your brand in front of the customer, so when they decide to buy wine, your brand will be one of the first they think of.

Wine sales in 2012 is all about providing value. If you're not providing significant value, then the customers will go elsewhere. There is a lot of good wine in the market today, so the key is to find a way to stand out. Providing superior value for a customer's dollar is the best way to do that.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Year in Review

I can't believe its been almost a year since my last blog post. Its been a pretty crazy year, a year where I have had notions of blogging almost daily for at least the last 6 months, but just haven't been able to get around to it. Here's a rough rundown of 2010:

1) Had a fantastic trip to Idaho (via Walla Walla) for a friend's 30th birthday. Then went to Hawaii for the first time. Within one week I was in 3 ft of snow in a mountain resort town and in 80's on the beach in the middle of the ocean.
2) Got laid off from my job in March, with 60 days notice (wasn't a suprise).
3) Got a new job (with a much more stable company) after 62 days, meaning I didn't have to actually get unemployment, though I did fill out the online forms. Filled out the forms on Monday, got a job offer on Tuesday.
4) Opened a tasting room at a winery, and spent the weekends during the summer pouring and talking about wine.
5) Got married in August, which means I was planning a wedding while dealing with the prospect of unemployment.
6) Spent 3 days fast-tasting through Walla Walla on our honeymoon, and found my second favorite wine region (behind Willamette Valley), along with some really fantastic wineries and winemakers.
7) Went back to Walla Walla in November for Fall Release, and honed in on the wineries we really love there (and realized a good portion of my yearly wine budget will be going there).

Its been a good year overall. I've spent the last month or so really thinking about what I want to really be doing, and what I should be spending time doing. I fell like I waste a lot of time, which could be put to better use, which is what I'm planning on doing next year. More time at the gym, more time meditating, more time with friends, and more time blogging.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Appreciating Good Stemware

On our recent trip to Maui, we made the decision to bring a case of wine with us instead of buying wine or beer there. This was a great decision, except for the fact that the stemware in the place we stayed was horrendous. Olive Garden has better stemware. They were small, maybe holding 4-5 oz total, and very heavy and durable. I probably could've thrown one of these on the ground and had it not break, which was probably the point. There was no opportunity to swirl or sniff, unless I wanted to refill my glass after every taste. At one point, I even poured some wine into a keg cup to see if it was any better. It wasn't.

The trip really made me miss good stemware. Good stemware (like the Riedel Oregon Pinot glasses we have at home) really changes how a wine tastes, and definitely alters the level of enjoyment derived from drinking the wine. We took 3 bottles of Archery Summit Premier Cuvee with us. Drinking it out of the little glasses provided, it tasted like box wine, and was almost undrinkable. There definitely wasn't any enjoyment derived from drinking it, and you couldn't decipher any of the depth or complexity that the wine has. As soon as we got home, we opened a bottle of wine and drank it from our glasses, and there was an immediate reaction of "now this is how wine is supposed to taste."

Going forward, unless I know there is going to be at least adequate stemware, I'm not going to be bringing wine on any trips we go on. I'll just have to be satisfied with either beer or a cocktail. It just doesn't make sense to take a good bottle of wine and not enjoy it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Maui Trip

We're taking a week-long trip to Maui starting tomorrow. Because of the limited wine scene there, we've decided to take a case of wine with us.

What we're taking with us:

2 - 2005 LaVelle Pinot Gris
2 - 2006 Sokol-Blosser Pinot Gris
1 - 2007 Chamisal Vineyards Edna Valley Chardonnay
1 - 2008 Archery Summit Rose
3 - 2007 Archery Summit Premier Cuvee
1 - 2006 Archery Summit Red Hills
1 - 2007 Purple Hands
1 - 2006 Pine Ridge Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

We've got a deep sea fishing trip planned, and have thoughts of going snorkling at some point. Is there anything we can't miss while we're there?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wine & Philosophy

I've started reading a book that combines two of my great loves: "Wine & Philosophy: A Symposium on Thinking and Drinking", by Fritz Allhoff. After reading the introduction, I felt like putting my thoughts down, and this is going to be a good medium for that. It is a collection of essays, organized into six general themes: The Art & Culture of Wine, Tasting & Talking About Wine, Wine & Its Critics, The Beauty of Wine, Wine & Metaphysics, and The Politics & Economics of Wine. The first essay, Wine in Ancient Greece, will be the subject of an upcoming post.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sharing Wine with Wine Geeks

I'm finding that it is much easier to pick wines to drink with friends that aren't big wine drinkers. They're easy to please, and knowing that my palate is more experienced than theirs, I know that anything I've liked enough to purchase is probably going to taste just fine to them.

On the other hand, picking wine to drink with our wine geek friends is much more difficult. I'm constantly critiquing myself on my selections, and always feel like I need to impress them with what I bring. If its not old, foreign, or a cult wine, it just doesn't feel like its good enough.

Now, I'm sure that this is pressure I'm putting on myself without reason. When I think about it logically, it makes no sense. My wine geek friends aren't a judgemental group, and its not like I'm picking Yellowtail or Two-Buck Chuck (which have their place in the market). I guess its just that I've been impressed enough times with what I drink when in their company, that I want to be sure I bring the same amount of "thunder" to the table.

To alleve this pressure, maybe I should bring some "secret" bottles to share. Wrap them in paper so what they are cannot be deduced before tasting, and see what kind of reactions I get. Maybe that's the way that wine should be shared between friends, with only the wine speaking for itself and my palate, not the label or reputation.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Focus

I've gotten back into reading through the various wine blogs that I've been neglecting the past year, and I'm noticing a trend that many of them focus on reviewing wines. Now there's nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, I think there is a huge opportunity for blogs of that nature to provide feedback to wineries and consumers from perspectives different from the Spectator, Advocate, and Enthusiast.

I'd like to take this blog in a different direction. I want to focus more on the experiences of being a wine drinker, especially from the perspective of a pair of 20-somethings. I think this can be a place to share our observations and thoughts about wine and the wine lifestyle. There will probably be a review of wine here and there, but overall the voice of this blog will be a bit different from the typical wine blog. I also want to discuss topics and news about the wine industry in the Willamette Valley, and what I feel the impact will be. I haven't found much of that perspective around the web, so I hope to try and fill that need.