This is Real Innovation In the Wine Biz
You know that digital and internet technology has thoroughly taken over sales and marketing in the wine industry when you can point to the simple act of pouring a glass of wine for someone, asking them if they like it, then selling them a bottle of that wine, and call this an innovation.
Yet, consider the innovation of the San Francisco Vintners Market. Now follow me here. This might get tricky.
Get a whole of bunch of small, artisan wineries together in one big room…in real time. No holographs of vintners. No Skype-present vintners. Real humans. And they are all pouring wine for you to taste. Real wine. Not digital representations of wine. Now get this…if you like the wine the real human being has poured for you and that you’ve tasted, then you can buy it right then and there and take it with you.
I know. Sounds crazy. No “likes”, no “friending”. No Email. No digital wallet. Just pour, taste, buy, move on.
On April 12 and 13 at Fort Mason in San Francisco, scores of mainly small, artisan wineries will come together at the San Francisco Vintners Market to pour and sell their wines. Meeting them there over these two days will be 6,500 wine consumers who have qualified themselves as such by paying between $80 and $150 to enter what is essentially a wine faire for real buyers. I have to reiterate, this is innovation in the sales and marketing of wine.
It’s important to point out that normally this kind of Vintners Market for wine buyers and sellers would not be allowed due to state laws. However, Fort Mason is a federal facility on federal land that regulates sales of wine on a different basis from California.
Behind the Vintners Market is Cornelius Geary and Jeffrey Playter, Founders of Wine 2.0.and publishers of Drink Me magazine. In fact, the Vintners Market has been a regular, twice-a-year event since 2010 when Geary and Playter realized that in the midst of a recession, wineries needed a way to interact directly with customers. Since 2010 the Vintners Market has grown and evolved into two of the best wine buying opportunities of the year for consumers.
But consider the opportunity it provides to wineries. For $300-$450, you get a booth for the weekend and access to 6,500 wine consumers who have already paid between $80 and $150 to enter the building where they know the point is to buy wine. If you sell wine at an average of $35 per bottle, you need only sell a case to make your event fee back. If you sell one bottle of wine to one-half of one-percent of the buyers that walk into the event, you’ve sold three cases of wine, NOT TO MENTION the new customers and the residual mailing list members you will certainly sign up. It’s a little bit of a no-brainer.
For the wineries, however, to succeed at this event, they need to re-calibrate their thinking. Most events of this sort are mainly promotional. There is no selling. So, it’s talk, talk, talk. Make friends. Tell your story. Send the new friend away with a piece of literature. At the Vintners Market it’s about selling. About asking for the order. About efficiently making a sale, boxing up the wine and taking care of the next person. Wineries attending will want sales people in the booth as well as your best spokespeople.
But the real winners at this kind of event are the consumers. They are walking into the ultimate tasting room where scores of wineries and hundreds of wines are there to discover. The wineries are primarily small and artisan in nature from up and down the state who make their wines in small batches. The prices of the wines will run from the teens into over $100. Nearly every type of wine you can imagine is there for the tasting and for the buying and for the taking home immediately. Surely, the wineries will take an order and ship the wine if that’s what the customer wants (and this may even be most efficient), but the immediate gratification factor—so important to wine consumers—is what make this event unique.
For all the benefits that come with social media and new technology including the new ways to connect with people, stay in touch and communicate, these new developments in communication all attempt to bridge a divide and even admit to a plastic quality and disconnectedness between buyers and sellers. Hence the unusually potent value of having a wine tasting room in this day and age.
This condition also points to the real value of something like the San Francisco Vintners Market where a winemaker can look a wine lover in the face and explain how the rocky soils in their vineyard help uncover the unique character of a wine being swallowed at that very moment. Or how a wine lover can take an afternoon to expand their horizon and palate by laying their hands on the wines they covet rather than running their eyes over a screen.