The Wine Data Sheet

It goes by various names: "Data Sheet", "Tech Sheet", "Product Page". Whatever it is or should be called it is the single most common piece of marketing material I’ve created in 15 years of wine marketing and public relations. I hesitate to even guess at the number. Yet, each one, while different, is the same.

The "Data Sheet" is, simply, a description of a wine used generally to give background on the product to a winery’s distributors, sales people, restaurants, retail accounts, and to the wine writers. While no particular information is required to be on the sheet, all of them do have one thing in common: a written description of the wine.

The most important question when going about the creation of a product sheet is how much information do I want to provide on the sheet. I believe wholeheartedly that the more information the better. So, when writing a Data Sheet for a client for the first time, I tend to throw in everything possible, then talk with the client about what they don’t want to tell the general public.

Among the items that I put in these product sheets is vineyard descriptions, winemaking descriptions, wine descriptions, vineyard names, clonal blends, varietal blends, type of oak barrels used, the amount of time the wine stayed  the barrel, brix at harvest, harvest dates, pH at harvest, pH of the finished wine, alcohol level, the wines measured total acidity, cases produced, residual sugar levels, suggested retail price, and winemaker’s name.

The best part of writing these little histories and tales is the descriptions. You are essentially sitting down to write a biography of the wine. Not all people approach the data sheet this way, but its the the approach that has helped me attack the project in the most clear-minded fashion. Yet, at the same time it can’t be forgotten that this is also a sales tool. In other words, it’s unlikely you’ll ever hear about the foibles, failures or dark periods in the wine’s life. That’s just the way it goes.

Some wines, usually those produced by corporate-owned wineries, will spend lots of time and energy and money not so much on the guts of the data sheet, but on their appearance: color printing, nice sturdy paper, oddly shaped or die cut pages. I’ve seen it all. I think pictures are important, but in end I take the approach that it’s the information on the sheet that is paramount. So while occasionally I’ll offer a design flourish to a client who is so inclined, I tend to produce a Data Sheet for them that is richly detailed record of their baby.

Again, while the Wine Data Sheet is a sales tool that explains the product’s attributes to a someone selling or writing about the wine, its creation does serve one other important use. It helps the winemaker or winery or marketing people think about what the wine means to them. This may seem an odd use for the tool, but consider that the winemaker or small winery owner, while having thought about the wine extensively, has usually not thought too deeply about how they will describe to someone else something that has consumed their life. The creation of the data sheet, the descriptions of the wine, its source and how it was made is something they know intimately. But how best to communicate what they know and feel to someone that hasn’t experienced its creation? This place, this nexus of the winemaker and the wine’s consumer, is very different from the what’s in the winemaker’s head.

Creating this transition point is really what a public relations professional does; it’s the skill they sell.

5 Responses

  1. Fredric Koeppel - June 8, 2006

    All of the aspects you mention as going into the data sheet are important, though some may be more important than others to writers, wholesalers and retailers, etc. Since I try to list the exact grape composition of a wine in reviews, that information is important to me, as is the oak regimen, because I want consumers to understand how much influence oak has over a wine. (Yes, that’s my bete noire in California winemaking.) After receiving wine data sheets for 22 years, it still boggles my mind, though, that some PR people send them with no suggested retail price, as if their wines are too precious, too high-toned to have the taint of, you know, actual money attached to them.

  2. Rory - June 8, 2006

    Whoa. There’s one of these for every wine on the shelf of my local wine store?!?!? Why have I never seen one of these???
    It would be great if there was an easy way for consumers to see these, preferably at the time of purchase when faced with a wall whose only descriptors are “MERLOT” and a bunch of prices. Or even worse, a restaurant wine list with nothing but 40 “Reds” and 40 “whites” with no clue as to what each one is like. Why don’t restaurants and stores have binders of these on every shelf/table??

  3. Rory - June 8, 2006

    [Yes, I understand the point is that it’s a sales pitch, but it’s never been pitched to me! Any pitch that went beyond “Bold fruit! Sale $12.99!!!” would be more than welcome.]

  4. Terry Hughes - June 10, 2006

    As to detail, some of the Italian data sheets I’ve seen (usually called the “scheda”) are so chock full of technical info that only the winemaker’s mother would read it all.
    I concur with Rory’s point from a consumer perspective. It would be nice to have some of this info in front of you as you’re trying to decide what to buy. You know, BUY, as with your own hard-earned gelt. It’d be one hell of a lot more useful than self-talkers with big “WS 92!” and “RP 93!” on them.

  5. Dallas Flynn - February 8, 2007

    I am a small home wine maker and I am looking for a data sheet that I can record my wine and the steps and other information so I have a good record of how I made that batch. I hope someone can e-mail me information. Thanks Dallas

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