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.