Wine Marketing 101–Texas Style

Why don’t you drink Texas wine?

I know you don’t. However, it’s very likely that you drink California, Washington, Oregon, New York and wines from any number of country’s across the seas. But not Texas.

The only people who drink Texas wines are Texans. I know this. I’ve worked within the Texas wine industry.

Texans are often accused of being….well…parochial. That’s no crime. Americans are probably the most parochial of the international-minded world powers. But Texans combine parochialism with more "state pride" and self assurance than probably any other state in the Union.

But here is the thing about their wines: They are very good and very talented winemakers produce them. Still, it has taken that state’s winemakers a very long time to conclude they should make a sincere effort to try to stimulate sales by…telling more people about Texas wines.

This is exactly what is in the works based on a $2 million dollar fund created through taxes and fees. If they use this money well many more people in and out of Texas will no longer be able to sit in accusation of never having tried a Texas wine. The question is, how do they reach new people?

Advertising? There’s no point unless they launch the program in Texas. After all, this is where 95% of all Texas wine is available.

Highway Advertising? Sigh……sure, but see above.

The key to expanding Texas sales is expanding distribution of Texas wines outside of Texas. This is also the key to expanding awareness of Texas wines. You don’t buy Texas wines because there are not Texas wines on your local grocery store or wine shop shelves.

A good chunk of that $2 Million must be spend on trade relations; introducing distributors and retailers in the right states to Texas wines, Texas winery owners and Texas winemakers. The obvious answer is get on the road, go to about 10 different cities and set up your trade tasting, complete with Texas foods, Texas cultural artifacts and the rest of it. But there is a problem here too.

No one cares about Texas wines. The Texans need another hook. What they need are vintners from other states whose wines no one cares about to tag along on this multi-state trade tasting. What they need to create is:   THOSE-OTHER-STATES-WINES-TOUR.

What if the Texan, Missouri, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Michigan wineries rolled into Chicago or Denver or Florida or Los Angeles, all together, telling people, "Open your eyes and stick out your tongues…the New Wine Regions are here"? This kind of gathering would in fact bring out the press, retailers, restaurateurs and distributors…the people that need to be impressed before the wine drinkers can buy the wines. And of course, the cost of the "THOSE OTHER STATES WINES TOUR" would be shared.

This is a tasting you’d go to…isn’t it. You’d make time. Sure, your curiosity might be piqued by a group of Texans pouring wines. And you might go. But you’d surely be willing to taste the wines from 8 or 9 states, including Texas.

Everything is in place in Texas: wine regions, good winemakers and wines, business savvy, the planting of more vineyards. Now all they need is customers. World of mouth doesn’t get wine that isn’t on the shelf into the mouths. Spend that money on opening doors for Texas wineries. Once the wine is on the shelves, then go into the markets and market. But first things first.

Posted In: Wine Business


15 Responses

  1. maggie - January 4, 2006

    Oh Tom, such the naive optimist. It wouldn’t work, because most of the wines don’t deserve to compete on the world market. Yet.
    You want to see parochial, come to Washington state. The wines are (considering we have over 350 wineries) mediocre at best. That’s being kind. But Washingtonians will spend upwards of 30$ for a jammy oak bomb.
    Paso Robles tried your idea. I went to that tasting and was embarrassed for those people. What wines I tasted that weren’t oxidized, corked, or otherwise wrong, were less appealing than a glass of prune juice. The problem is, the public shows up and thinks “oh, these must be the good ones…” and a cycle of miseducation begins.
    What Texas, Washington, Missouri (the MOST promising of states, Norton!), and –yes–sorry, Lenn, New York need….is a visit from someone like Gordon Ramsay in his BBC show, Kitchen Nightmares. They need to be scared straight.
    Because while they’re busy trying to get us to immediately pay for the cost of their entire operations ($30 for a newly released, unproven wine? get bent)….they need to be focusing on the wine. On developing things like, I don’t know….DEPTH of flavor (hint: use vines older than 3 years), less SWEETNESS (seriously, seperate yourself from that alcohol equivalent of the souvenir shotglass Rhubarb wine at least), and lower ALCOHOL (do what you got to do). The biggest problem I see in Washington? Many of those monkeys don’t drink anything BUT Washington wine. They don’t know they suck; they just copy their neighbors barrel treatment, send away the analysis, and set a price point of 24.5 wholesale.
    And yes, I’ve had a ton of wines from these states, probably more than most. (I don’t think Rovani makes the rounds) Don’t even get me started on the Juicy Juice from Michigan and Illinois.
    Thanks for reminding me what a pet peeve of mine these jokers are, Tom!

  2. Lenn - January 4, 2006

    Oh Maggie…sometimes in your drive to be sensational you sound like a snob making grand generalizations and I don’t think you mean to.
    What New York wines have you tasted if you’ve “had a ton of wines from these states”?
    I’m certainly not going to defend ALL NY wines (or from any other region) because yeah, there are a lot of wines out there that are WAY over-priced, made with too young of vines, but these kind of generalizations are ludicrous. You can say the same about ANY region that produces wine.
    You want lower alcohol…most of the local wines I drink are at 12.5 abv. and Long Island makes very few sweet wines (except those meant that way for dessert). And does every wine need to have “depth of flavor”? You don’t enjoy simple gulping wines sometimes?
    Again, comments can be made about ANY WINE REGION IN THE WORLD if we’re going to generalize.
    As for people spending 30 bucks on a bottle of “unproven wine”…if they like the wine and are willing and able to pay that for it, why sholdn’t they? Sure, it may not make much sense to you or me or any other individual, but wine is just that — individual. There is one winery locally that over-prices ALL of it’s wines by at least 20-30% (in my opinion) but they sell out of every single release, so more power to them, right? Supply and demand…capitalism…
    Back to Tom’s post:
    Here in NY, the different wine regions and associations do an awful job even marketing to people who live in the state. I always encourage wineries to saturate their neighborhood before they worry so much about all the “new markets” that have been opened up with new shipping laws.
    Do you know if the same is true in Texas? I’m guessing that there are quite a few people who know little about the local wines there as well.

  3. Tom Wark - January 4, 2006

    You are being silly.

  4. Mike Duffy - January 4, 2006

    Here’s a statistical picture of Texas winery Web sites from The Winery Web Site Report database, which may interest you all.
    There are 73 Texas Wineries in our database (7th largest state in terms of wineries). 57 of those have site scores (the difference is mostly wineries without Web sites). The mean (average) score for those wineries is just under 42, compared with just under 48 for all wineries in our database. The TX median is 44, which is below the overall median of 48. Without calculating a 95% confidence interval, it’s not ironclad, but it looks as though Texas winery Web sites are below-par.
    The top scoring winery in TX is currently one with 60 points out of 100 (vs. 83 overall), placing it in the top 11% of all wineries surveyed.
    Given that a winery’s Web site is frequently the first point of contact for potential customers, Texas wineries should probably focus some attention on their sites. Driving traffic to a Web site that doesn’t satisfy a visitor is pointless.

  5. Pattie - January 4, 2006

    I’ve had some Wisconsin wines and I really liked them. I was on vacation and thought it was quaint to buy a bottle of wine from a small Wisconsin vinyard. I bet there are others out there in this big world who aren’t wine snobs who would like the chance to try some wines from America that aren’t Californian and might actually enjoy them. Or perhaps I’m just a parochial MidWesterner who knows nothing since I actually enjoyed my Wisconsin wine.

  6. Lenn - January 4, 2006

    Mike…interesting information. What are the similar stats for NY? I’m sure they aren’t that much better given my experience.
    I’ve been hearing a lot of LI wineries saying “Since we aren’t really easily able to sell wine outside of NY yet (because of the complex web they need to navigate), we aren’t going to focus on our website”
    They obviously just do not get it.

  7. Mike Duffy - January 4, 2006

    On second thought, maybe this post is just Tom’s way of trying to pick up some Texas clients…[grin]
    Lenn makes a good point about the busines sense of saturating your local market before looking farther afield. That’s easier almost anywhere besides Napa/Sonoma/California. On the other hand, if “the locals” don’t drink wine, you’ve got to take customers where you find them.
    I suspect what applies to California (with well over 1,000 wineries) doesn’t apply to smaller states (only CA, OR, WA, and NY have more than 100 wineries).
    And, Pattie, I got bottle of “Frankenmuth May Wine” for Xmas from my brother-in-law in Michigan, because he knows I like wine. Lots of unheard of stuff out there, some remarkable, some not.

  8. Mike Duffy - January 4, 2006

    Lenn, NY mean is currently 44, median (half above, half below) is 46, top score is 65.
    (I say “currently” because we are continuously updating the DB as new sites come online, and old ones are updated.)

  9. Jerry - January 4, 2006

    Tom, you are doing as you said and generating more debate in your comments this year! I really enjoyed Maggie’s take on it… Because I had some pictures of the Texas Hill Country, and Becker Vineyards, I posted them at winewaves. (Link: My thoughts were to subsidize wine sales in the Austin Airport (and other Texas cities’ Airports), and do a “road show” with Texas Wine, Brisket Barbecue and Texas Swing music (a la Austin City Limits and South by Southwest Music Festival).

  10. Jerry - January 4, 2006
    Revised link. It doesn’t work with the parenthesis and period as posted previously.

  11. Jack - January 5, 2006

    First, I have to side with Maggie on this. Texas, like Long Island, in that I don’t they can compete with other wines in the world at the same price point.
    So what makes Texas wines special? (Er, besides being grown in Texas?) Have they figured out the best locations for the vineyards? Have they figured out from the hundreds of wine varietals, what the best ones are for Texas? (Or are they all Cab, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc.?) Have these vines matured? Is the Texas wine industry matured enough that they’re starting to make the best possible wines?
    So again, why would I want to drink Texas wine?

  12. Craig K - January 17, 2006

    Speaking of expanding the Texas wine reach…
    They only have a few vineyards atm but they claim to be adding new ones every week.
    I guess we’ll see.

  13. Bradley Anderson - January 20, 2007

    Try McPherson Wines.

  14. Russ Kane - October 30, 2008

    Back from the blog-a-thon conference in Santa Rosa last week.
    I am glad that it is now October 2008 and almost two years since the last post of this thread. Since that time, Texas has grown to 160 wineries. Agreed most are Mon and Pop operations but the state of Texas has finally gotten behind the industry.
    Texas has changed the state constitution to allow winerys in “dry” locations, which are most of the rural landscape. They can make wine and sell by the glass and bottle out of their tasting rooms.
    Additionally, the state of Texas has divided into five regions, each with their own state-supported viticulturalist and they even now employ a state enologist.
    The Test Wine Marketing Assistance Program, finally has real money to spend to promote its wine industry as evidenced by media tours to the premium growing regions like the High Plains and ad spots in Savuer and features in Food and Wine during the past 12 months.
    The best new aspect of the Texas wine industry is that they are finally addressing the price point issue. The wineries that now have increased production can make a decent bottle for under $20 (some actually at about $12) with the premium bottle going at $30-40 and a few higher.
    I have spent the past 12 years in and around the Texas wine industry and I can finally say that the ground around our Texas wineries is vibrating and we are just waiting for “the wildcats to come in”. Quality is up and prices have moderated.
    But, Texas is in the top three states in wine consumption now and we drink all we can the sell the rest (just like Blue Bell ice cream). We compete quite well with major brand locally. Our top Texas producer is in the top ten brands sold in Texas in 750’s and our largest winery has the best shelf space and is amongst the leaders in 1.5’s.
    There will be a time to grown out of Texas. But, right now we are under the radar of the main stream media mags. This will change in the near future.
    P.S. Not spell checked

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