Tips for Wineries – Ideas and Dreams – Customize the experience!

How many groups, how many visitors at a time? Quantity or quality? Why not both? It all depends on what kind of winery you run and, of course, what your objective is when it comes to wine tourism.

A couple of years ago I visited a huge winery, one of the largest bodegas in Spain, in the region of Jerez. I was there with a group of 50 wine professionals. As I normally prefer smaller and more personal wineries, I wouldn’t have chosen this particular winery to visit on my own.

We arrived at the winery in a bus and as we drove the last few meters before parking, I saw the other six or so buses, parked outside the main building of the winery. My first thought? Oh no!!! As if it wasn’t enough that we are 50 people in our group, now we had to share the winery with another 300 people!?!?

Our group was received by one of the tour guides, a very nice young lady, with all the possible knowledge of the winery, the region and wine in general. She knew it all! Great, right? Understanding that the larger wineries can not offer all their visitors to meet the winemaker and/or the owner, it goes without saying, that this is general practice at most of the larger wineries. Was it a memorable experience? Yes, absolutely!

We had a fantastic time. The size of the bodega was the reason we hardly saw the other 600 visitors, except for during the horse show, performed inside the winery. The tasting for our group was held in a separate part of the winery, in one of their restaurants, and the winemaker was there to present the wines. Just the way I like it!

So, yes, quantity AND quality can definitely be combined.

What is the tip? Customize the experience to the kind of visitor you are receiving.

Make sure to have a well thought through plan for your wine tourism offers, and see to it that your staff knows it too.

Unfortunately, I have visited more than one winery, where the staff doesn’t really know much about what they are doing. Sure, they know the basics like when the winery was founded, the range of wines they produce, the name of the wine maker etc. Do you think this is enough!? Sure, for some visitors it might be. But there has to be more than that for the wine buff and the visitor with more in depth questions.

The easiest way to handle visitors during the tasting is to hand out the tasting notes and the technical sheets. That way, you avoid talking to the visitor at all. And that way you will not make them ambassadors for your winery!

All it really takes is passion! Make sure your passion is transmitted to your visitors and you’ll get great ambassadors for your winery and your wines; people who will talk about you winery far and wide!

The smaller wineries can’t afford full time staff for their tasting room and/or tours, so it’s the owner or a family member who takes care of the clients. And it always feels like visiting a friend. If the big wineries treat their staff like family members, they will most likely do the same to the visitors.

What is the tip? Practice makes perfection! Train you staff, show them your appreciation and that they are an important part of the winery, instill your passion in them, so that they in turn can be passionate about your winery when visitors arrive.

Less IS more!

One of the worst things for a visiting wine lover is to be ignored. There are many wineries that want visitors, and in some cases they want ALL the visitors. Regardless whether they can handle the volume or not! Another danger of volume visitors is, that some may be serious wine lovers and others are just enjoying a new experience. Receiving volume visitors you should try to pick up from the visitors’ questions, who of them are the more knowledgeable (and therefor in the end will be the regular buyers of your top of the range wines).

Weekends are the weak spot for most wineries and understandably so, as everyone wants to visit on a weekend. Wineries need to figure out how to handle this delicate situation. One idea is to increase the price for special visits and tastings. Offer selected wine tastings, older vintages, vertical tastings or a “meet the winemaker” concept. Don’t be shy in raising prices. Quality has its cost. Wine lovers know that.

When I was way younger then I am today, I used to frequent discotheques. In those days and in the city where I lived, we had about five worthwhile discos to visit. Where did I go? Always to the one that had a queue and where I’d be sure to spend an hour or more waiting to get into this very special place! Once I got in, was it full? Nope! You all know what I’m on about. People attract people. Can this be done in the winery world? Maybe invite your visitors to leave a feedback of their visit in the Wine.Pop app or the website?

What is the tip? Decide if you want to receive all visitors, or if you prefer to choose your visitors.

What ! Pay to visit your winery !? Pay for the wine ?!!

I got a message the other day, in which a wine lover, or so-called wine lover, asked me, if it was normal for the wineries of the Priorat region in the south of Catalunya/Spain to charge for a visits. The gentleman told me, he had visited many wineries in France and Italy without having to pay. I still can’t understand the question! Maybe next time I go to a restaurant or hotel I should ask for a free meal or room.

Charge for your time, for your wines opened, for you knowledge and for working during weekends, when most people are free and can enjoy a day out, visiting a winery. Have a price list ready, for regular visits, for special visits, for a basic tasting, and for a more elaborate tasting.

You don’t have to go as far as Bodega Otazu in Navarra/Spain, where their visiting experience “Being a Winemaker ” costs 1,700 Euros. But you may want to know what they offer:

What is the tip? Keep the price structure simple, but charge for what the visitor actually receives!

Charge, but be sensible!

It is a bit annoying, to say the least, if I’m still charged 10 Euro for the visit, even though I just bought wines for a couple of hundred Euros. Or, if I’m returning to the winery on several occasions bringing friends along. Treat your external ambassadors as an extension of your sales team, and you shall be rewarded!

What is the tip? Sometimes, free can be applicable.

The ultimate give away!

A wine glass with your winery logo! Wow! — NO!!! Imagine that, in many cases, we are already having a really hard time to ship the wines we have purchased. Now all we need, is the wine glass that you give away “for free” and which is included in the paid tasting. It is truly a very nice gesture and I fully understand the extended advertising for your winery, but I have never been to a friend’s house and been served a wine in a glass that had something like “XYZ Winery” printed on it.

Nobody likes to hurt anyone’s feelings, so saying no thanks to a gift, is not likely. And in that way, many of the wine glasses are left in hotel rooms. I tend to think, that the housekeepers of the world are the largest collectors of serigraph wine glasses.

What is the tip? A free gift is great, but keep it simple and small. The best thing I can think of right now, is probably a gift card with a free visit next time around, or for a friend (to get yet another ambassador for your winery).

We have all heard of Parker, and it doesn’t impress us like it used to.

Your gold, silver, and bronze medals? Your 90-point Parker diploma? These accolades are highly beneficial for you sales team and for the buyers that aren’t able to visit you in person. But, as we step into your domain, and get to spend time with you, we really don’t need to hear about Parker, Tanzer and Spectator. We prefer to hear about the grape varieties, your philosophy, that the wine we are currently tasting was harvested from the vineyard we passed on the right hand side, entering the winery. Let us taste the wine that Parker didn’t get to taste, or just show us the bottle that he gave 90 points to and tell us we don’t need to taste it, as it obviously is pretty good! We will most likely like the wine if your story is good.

What is the tip? Keep it genuine and leave the medals for the market.

Fresh wines, unopened bottles, that’s what we want!

Nowadays, there are some great resealing products on the market, Coravin being one of many. If you are serious about your wines, and if you value us visiting your winery, make sure not to serve oxidized wines from yesterdays visits. The wines we get to taste must be the best ones you can offer. Most of us don’t mind paying extra for the exceptional treat. So please, don’t serve mediocre wines, and remember that those wines are part of your marketing and advertising efforts.

I have visited a number of wineries where I kept a low profile, just to see how they treat an “anonymous” visitor. Some of them served “yesterday’s wine”. After the visit was completed, and I mention I’d like to do a proper interview and maybe include them in my tours program, they offered to open a fresh bottle. Do you think I visited them again?

What is the tip? All visitors that take the time and expense to visit you should be treated like royalty, and at a minimum, served served wines that are enjoyable!

After a while…..

…., I notice I’m not the VIP I thought I was. Having waited for a bit of attention, I noticed that’s not likely to happen today. Apparently I was the second choice today. The visitors before me got all the attention, and were even served wine from that special bottle, the one without a label! Yes, yes. I know that not all winery visitors are professionals, wine lovers, or returning visitors, but it is a dangerous game for the staff, to think that they know who is who. Starting my working life in the hospitality industry, I had the mantra that all guests are VIPs. Maybe something to think about also for a winery?

What is the tip? Never ever ignore a guest! And if you do have “special guests” visiting, like wine importers, writers, bloggers (oh, today everyone is a blogger), please keep them away from the mortal ones. So, set up a separate room for them, and keep the rest of us in the matrix!

The wine we buy!

A lot of wineries, these days, are committed to having a range of “off the shelf wines”: small production, selected grapes, single vineyard etc. These wines are almost always only accessible at the winery, so make sure to tell us which ones they are. There is hardly anything more rewarding for a wine geek, than being able to brag that he/she got the number 32 bottle out of 146 produced. Sell us at least one or two of these special bottles. This is what we WILL talk about; this is your most valuable asset. And one more thing: make sure to charge the premium price for these babies. And oh yes, don’t make US ask for them! Tell us the story, tell us about the grapes, the vineyard, the arduous harvest etc. and you know what, we will buy them! Did we even taste the wine?

What is the tip? Once you have us at your winery, introduce us to your special wines too.

Thank you! From the bottom of our hearts, for your hard work, your wonderful wines, and especially for opening your doors for us!

I know that at many wineries, and certainly at the smaller ones, it is overwhelming to receive guests and visitors almost every weekend. You’ve, most likely, worked the vineyards all week or been to fairs, visiting distributors, working hard in general, and well deserving of a rest during the weekend. And there we are! A last minute call or a lengthy email later, you are still there for us. We do appreciate you opening your doors for us. I can’t think of any other type of business that would welcome total strangers and let them sample their products for a small fee. What a special place: The winery we visit!

What is the tip? No tip! Just a HUGE THANK YOU! ☺

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