By Duane Pemberton
If I were paid a quarter (I know it used to be a nickle, but times have changed) for every time I approached the table at a wine event of a winery or visited a winery I’m not familiar with, and they start going into their spiel about: “”We’re a family winery” – blah blah blah – I’d be rich.
Really? That’s the best you got? I sure hope your wine is damn good because the story is all too tired in this day and age of “family-run wineries” – the 90’s called, they want their story back. This upcoming generation of wine drinkers likes things which are faster than ever before – quick updates from their smartphone about the latest Facebook postings, twitter updates, emails, weather forecasts – most data they could want – in an instant – available to them. They’re too ADHD to hear your long, drawn-out story about a “family-business”.
Is there exceptions to this rule? Absolutely but those are wineries which either started back when the story was still “cool” or their wine is winning such high scores that the bulk of their customers are what we consider to be a part of the “old-guard” – you know, the kind of customers who still care about scores. Most 30-somethings and certainly 20-somethings couldn’t give a rat’s ass about a score – they just want to know the following:
- How good is it
- What is the price
It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. – of course there are those who are wine geeks who love to get more into the details such as AVA, terroir, acidity, ph and other technical merits – but wineries need to find a way to come up with an idea that’s simple and doesn’t sound like the old hum-drum.
That is precisely what Charles Smith did – you’re thinking, “oh no he didn’t just say that name” -yeah, I did and here’s why. From day one he made no bones about it, he was purely in the business for money – you didn’t get some boring story from him – it was simply “this is my wine and I hope you like it and here’s how much it costs”.
Where’s he at now? Oh, “only” about $11 Million dollars richer thanks to Precept wines purchasing his Magnificent Wine and Charles Smith brands a few years ago. He did what he set out to do because he found a way to get his wines to simply connect with people. The wines he had made for his brands were tasty and priced at a point where folks were happy to pay for it.
There’s a lot of lessons struggling wineries can learn from his example in regards to marketing and connecting well with the upcoming wine lovers. Just like General Motors’ Buick brand found out – their current customer base already had one foot in the grave. It was time to move on, make their cars more appealing to the younger crowd and now Buick has had record sales for a number of years running.
What would I do if I had a winery? At least the following:
- First of all, if the wine sucks, none of the following advice even matters so make sure it doesn’t suck
- Make absolutely sure that the wine you’re selling is worth the asking price – either subjectively or objectively
- Get a catchy label
- Find some sort of gimmick – Charles had his hair, flamboyancy and good wines. If your story of the family-run-blah-blah is working, great, but if not, do like Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards did (their story involves a brothel) and sell a story of SOMETHING . Folks like stories that’ll make them laugh, is relatable or otherwise intriguing.
- It’s perfectly acceptable to still include your personal story to it but it can’t be only about that when you’re still an “unknown” brand with wines that are’t very memorable
Here’s to hoping more family-run wineries come up with better reasons for us to enjoy the fruits of their hard-work other than just the fact that they’re a “family winery”.
And don’t get me started on the whole “We’re an Estate Winery too!” – sigh…..
Washington’s Fading Wineries