Free Wine? Let’s visit a wine cellar and get some!

Yesterday my fellow Wine.Pop partner and I prepared for a winery visit in the Tarragona region, an hour south of Barcelona, and first needed some breakfast. So we went to a bakery with an attached coffee shop. We were not sure, which cake we should order, so we asked, that we please be given small samples of the four delicious offerings and be explained how each was made and what they consisted of. To our surprise …

… the baker refused! «We don’t do that here, but I assure you all are very good!» As frequent winery visitors we were very disappointed, that we did not get any free samples. — So let us look at the winemaker now.

Why are some wine travellers expecting to get the time, the attention and the wine for free?

The only reason, and the most logical explanation appears to be the standards set by the wineries themselves and their surrounding culture. Wine lovers expect an inviting feeling, and in most cases the wine makers/winery owners are people that are very hospitable. They are proud of their products and want the visitors to enjoy the experience. Add a couple of more facts like maybe less qualitative wines, a not so well known winery, no accolades for their wines etc. and it appears to be even harder, to charge for a visit and tasting.

Why you should start charging for visits to your winery today

We at Wine.Pop believe, that a lack of confidence is the main reason. Winery visits are a key tool for smaller and medium sized wineries, to make their brand known and develop loyal customers. Does a free visit increase the customer base? Does it make wine lovers more interested to visit you? Maybe that is, what you believe, but look at it from a psychological viewpoint: When you see a wine in a shop costing 5 euros and another costing 20 euros, do you think the lesser priced wine must be better? Of course not. The same is true for winery visits. Just because it is free, does not mean it will attract more visitors.

And isn’t it true, that tourists, wine lovers and travellers in general, expect to be charged, when staying at a hotel, when eating at a restaurant or when visiting a museum — or when buying cake at a bakery? So if all that is true, the only thing, that needs to change, is the culture and mindset in the wine world. Start charging for your time, experience given and bottles opened! The people coming to visit you will accept that. But you’ll have to make yourself accessible and provide, if not a unique, at least a special experience.

How much should we charge?

Looking at the current scene, the average Napa Valley tasting fee for a basic tasting is $18.50. Five of the wineries charge $15, three at $20, and two at $25. A few wineries will waive the tasting fee if you purchase a certain dollar amount of wine.

Here in Spain, I would say the average is around 15 euros for a visit with a tasting of at least 3 wines. A small winery, with exclusive wines made in small numbers, will charge more, taking into account that they are actually known in the world of wine, whereas a small winery, that is still to penetrate the market, will charge 6 – 10 euros. A winery that I worked at as the export manager, and which has been in existence for more than 100 years, charges only 6 euros, if they are working with agencies and 8 – 10 euros per person if visitors come on their own, depending on which wines they want to try. This is, in my opinion, way too little, as I will show you here:

Let’s say the visitors want to try 5 wines, the average price per bottle being 14 euros. That alone amounts to 70 euros. Even if they are charged the higher amount (10 euros) the winery will need 7 visitors and this is only to cover the cost for the sales price of the wines. Add to this the time of one of your employees and snacks as well as additional costs to maintain the tasting room, taking a tour of the facilities, etc. and we are most likely looking at a minimum of ten people just to cover the costs. Most groups however are 4-6 persons, if even. Do they buy? Some do, some don’t.

One of Wine.Pop’s members charges 50 euros per hour of visiting time, irrespective if only one or twelve visitors attend. Should they buy wine at double the amount of the cost of the visit, then he ignores charging for the visit.

So start charging for visits or, if you already have a price, recalculate and adjust. As much as you love presenting the fruits of your labour, you deserve to be paid for a great service.

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