Direct-to-consumer wine sales have become a very important component of wineries’ success. The centerpiece of these sales is a winery’s tasting room, where visitors are more likely to purchase the wines they are sampling and join the winery’s wine club.
But visits to winery tasting rooms are down from last year, according to the 2023 Tasting Room Survey Report, produced by Wine Business Analytics’ Wine Analytics Report. The full report will be published in the July issue of Wine Business Monthly.
As a result, wineries will likely reevaluate and refine what they offer in their tasting rooms.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a webinar hosted by Wine Business Monthly offering a preview of the report’s findings and recommendations from insiders to wineries about how to change the wine tasting room experience to meet the challenges they’re facing. Here’s what I learned.
1. There Will Be More Personal Outreach During and After Your Visit
One change to expect in your wine tasting room experience is that the winery is more likely to ask for your contact information so it can keep in touch.
“[Wineries] may be losing out [on sales] because people are not on [their] email list,” warned Erin Kirschenmann, Managing Editor, Wine Business Monthly.
One winery that has adopted this strategy is Stoller Wine in Oregon. Its tasting room staff fills out visitor profiles, which include where visitors are from and the goals of their visit, according to Tracy Timmons, Vice President of Consumer Sales for Stoller Wine Group. The winery will also touch base with customers simply to check in, which was very popular during the pandemic. Stoller has even used Facetime to “walk” people to their favorite places in the vineyard when they couldn’t visit.
“People like the connection to the brand,” Timmons said.
2. Wineries Will Expand the Amenities Offered
We’re likely to see wineries hosting more online and in-person activities to entice consumers to participate. Some of these may be pretty innovative. For instance, Stoller is experimenting with virtual reality and augmented reality in the tasting room to educate people about the wines they’re tasting, said Timmons.
“It’s been a fun addition for interaction. It’s also unique, and makes people want to come out [and visit]. We’ll pull on that thread and see where it takes us,” she said.
Wineries may also provide services to make visiting more convenient. For example, Foxen Vineyard and Winery in Santa Barbara County, California is installing electric vehicle chargers so people can juice up their cars while they’re in the tasting room, according to Riley Wathen Slack, the winery’s Vice President of Operations and Finance.
“We’re in a canyon setting and 16 miles from anywhere. This provides a reason for people to visit, and club members can charge for free,” she said.
3. Wineries Will Allow More Walk-In Visitors
Many wineries had moved to a strict reservations-only format during the pandemic. Now that the public health emergency is over, more wineries are once again accepting walk-in business to accommodate visitors.
That doesn’t mean that they’ll all forego reservation seating. “We’ll keep reservations [as well] because people want to know they have a guaranteed table,” said Timmons.
4. We’ll Have More Wine Club Options
Consumers often like the wine in the tasting room so much that they consider joining the winery’s wine club. However, some consumers don’t have as much disposable income these days so they're not joining traditional wine clubs, said Slack. As a result, another change to expect in your wine tasting room experience is the opportunity to join a more customized and flexible wine club program, she said.
Wine club members considering dropping their memberships may also find more wineries willing to put the membership on hold for a period of time instead in order to retain the customer. Offering a hold will help wine club members who have paused gift-giving and/or have economic anxieties, said Andrew Adams, Editor of Wine Analytics Report.
It can also help wine club members who need to whittle down their current inventory.
“[People may want to suspend shipments] because people accumulated so much wine in their cellars [during the pandemic],” said Kirschenmann.
5. Wineries May Offer More Elevated Tasting Experiences
While wineries won’t be giving up their regular wine tasting experience in their tasting rooms, we may be able to sign up for more elaborate ones, such as tours of the winery, sampling of reserve wines, lunches, and barrel tastings. Many consumers want this more extravagant experience, and are willing to pay for it. According to the report, wineries charge considerably more for elevated tastings, in some cases more than double that of a basic tasting, so it’s worth their while to offer both kinds of experiences.
6. There Will Be More Tipping in the Tasting Room
Wineries are having problems staffing their tasting rooms. As a result, you’ll see more of them adding tip lines to their credit card receipts in order to recruit and retain tasting room employees.
“Tips are a significant part of team members’ motivation overall. Team members work hard to increase their knowledge and provide a good experience,” said Timmons.
7. More Wineries Will Open Up Satellite Tasting Rooms
Since not everyone wants to travel far for a wine tasting, wineries are adding auxiliary tasting rooms in more urban areas.
“It’s a huge advantage when consumers don’t have to trek out to the vineyard [to sample the wine],” says Slack.
We hope you find this information on changes to expect in your wine tasting room experience helpful. Are you already seeing any changes? Please let us know. Cheers!
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