Who Gets Free Wine Today?

I spoke with a fine gentleman yesterday about a new website they are developing that will review wines from the perspective of a real consumer. That is to say, reviews with less wine speak and an emphasis on value. Do we really need another website to review wines? Sure, why not. Yet, the prospect of one more review panel brings up an important consideration for the small and medium sized winery: Is the potential marketing value of a good review worth the cost of the wine and the cost to send it out?

If it were only up to me, I’d advise my clients to send free samples to anyone with a pen, printer or website. But of course my firm isn’t paying for the media samples. So, I end up offering a hierarchy of media that should get samples based on a number of criteria, including budget.

What is that criteria? It depends. As I mentioned, budget is one. Each clients has a different budget that usually is based on the amount of their overall production. Another criteria for determining who gets samples is whether or not the wine will sell out without the help of the media. Example: Screaming Eagle needn’t send any media samples. However, that Sonoma winery making 5,000 cases of Chard at $15 a bottle is sending lots of samples.

Then there is the issue of the reviewers’ palates. Are they likely to enjoy this unoaked, small batch, single vineyard Chardonnay that emphasizes structure and acid balance and notes of citrus over vanilla? I know a number of reviewers who would LOVE this wine. They’ll get some. I know others who will wonder who in their right mind would make such a shallow, unstuffed drink. They’ll get none.

But I don’t know much about this new organization that will be reviewing wines on the net. Nevertheless, they’ll get samples from all my clients that have the budget. It’s about supporting sincere efforts to educate the consumer and promote a broader view of wine. They have my best wishes. I just hope my clients have the budget.

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