On Wine Marketing—Be the Winery that Champions your AVA
I haven’t done a head count lately, but it appears that the number of wineries located here in the United States now numbers over 10,000. This seems like a big number to me, though who know….perhaps in ten years we’ll look back and think, “wow…remember when there were only 10,000 wineries in the U.S?”
Be that future as it may, one thing I do know is that with 10,000 wineries, each vying or the attention of the active, serious and committed wine lovers, it is more and more difficult for individual wineries to attract and hold on to their attention. Discovering what idea or thing or purpose that, communicated well and at the right people, will allow a winery rise up just a little beyond the others is more important today than ever.
So, I’m here to urge wineries to consider being the champion of their sub-appellation; to be the winery that educates about all things home turf; to be the advocate and endorser of that officially recognized region they call home.
It’s almost shocking that so very few wineries are willing to visibly and regularly carry the banner for their sub-AVA given all the benefits—promotional, marketing and sales—that this kind of focus will produce. Yet, more often than not wineries that live in and source from places like Coombsville, Santa Cruz Mountains, Dry Creek Valley, Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains
Here’s the theory, put in the context of wine writing: There are generally two kinds of wine writers.
Then there are the wine writing advocates. These are far fewer in number but they stand out because they are judgmental, they champion a cause, they tend to be vanguards of a trend. They urge readers to give something a try and provide all the reasons for doing so. These wine writing advocates often appear more controversial, but they almost always stand out from the wine writing pack.
It’s entirely legitimate for a winery to be the champion of their own vineyards, to hold up “terroir” as a wine’s greatest object of illumination. And many do. In fact, so many do that you really how to twist harder and shout louder in the marketing of your wines and vineyards when your own small bit of terroir is at the core of your brand messaging. It’s much harder to stand out.
But consider that it’s easier to stand out when you are the one who dies on the hill of an AVA you and so many others use. It’s easier because so few others are doing this. When you take time in your tasting room, on your website, in your tweets, through your posts, and in your emails to outline the sinewy, rugged, frigid contours of your home AVA, dig into the dirt under your AVA’s feet, describe the history behind the the creation of AVA borders inside of which your estate sits, and, yes, even recommend and hail your fellow sub-AVAers, you’ll be positioning yourself in a light seldom felt by those who receive reams upon digital reams of
Who is the champion of the Yamhill-Carlton District in the Willamette Valley, for instance? Reviewing the websites of the wineries that call it home,
Earlier I mentioned there are promotional, marketing and sales benefits of being the champion of your AVA. If you consistently promote your AVA, if you promote your AVA in your media outreach, if you produce
–You’ll be among the first the media calls when they profile the AVA
-You’ll be the representative most often chosen to represent the AVA at tastings
-You’ll have numerous stories to tell your customers that no one else is telling on a regular basis
-You will engender significant goodwill with your neighbors and peers
-You’ll be one of the go-to wineries when members of the trade are seeking to highlight your AVA on their lists or shelves.
-Your customers will be among the best educated when it comes to issues of terroir, soil, and climate, which makes them more confident consumers. (that’s a good thing)
I’m not suggesting you do the work of your AVA’s promotional/regional association, to which you not only ought to belong but be on the board of directors. I’m simply suggesting that by championing your home AVA you have a branding spear in hand that few others are using, plus you are still able to highlight your own estate vineyards not only as unique but as the epitome of what your AVA has to offer.
For nearly 25 years I’ve been hired by wineries to help them stand out from the crowd and to tell their story to the media, clients and trade. I’m pretty good at it, but in the end much of my and my clients’ success working the media and communicating is determined by what the winery chooses to use to differentiate themselves from their competitors. My recommendation is to always be a champion of something. Be the advocate. Say you believe in something and say why.
By being the champion of your home AVA, you demonstrate that it’s still possible to champion terroir without championing terroir in exactly the same way your competitors are doing so. More and more, this kind of opportunity for differentiation is rare in the wine biz.