Virtually Tasting the Grape

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The process of making wine has been around for more than 7,000 years. While the practice of making wine from grapes hasn’t changed over time, the business of marketing fermented juice has. As smaller American boutique wineries began to get noticed by consumers in the late 1970’s, the wine industry in America doubled in size.  While many wine drinking consumers select and purchase their favorite brands from the shelves of stores and eCommerce sites across the country and the internet, the act of creating and connecting a brand with consumers has largely become a personal face to face experience. Although California leads the nation in wine production and the number of wineries, producers are scattered across the nation’s 50 states making more than 900,000 gallons of wine each year.

Tasting rooms, which are organized samplings of a producer’s fermented product, have become a popular and commonplace experience and an important marketing tactic for vintners both large and small. For many consumers, meandering journeys from one winery to another is a relaxing escape from a busy and stressful week of work. What is better than stopping by the local tasting room for a couple of shots and a takeaway bottle during a busy day of shopping? Scattered throughout urban and rural sites, vintners welcome visitors to their enclave to sample the latest vintage. Initially the personal and social connections are as much about the experience as the quality of the recipe. As it happens, wine consumption at its best is a personal and social proclivity for many a consumer. Recently wine producers’ marketing strategy has fallen victim to the social distancing and sequester mandates of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tasting rooms nationwide were shuttered after governmental orders were issued in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Desperate to sell more wine and maintain personal relationships with loyal customers, wine marketers looked to virtual technology to reconnect. At the Buena Vista Winery, actor George Webber portrays the winery’s 1857 founder in an online virtual, video broadcast several days a week from inside the winery. “While it’s certainly an interesting phenomenon, a different world now without throngs of people visiting our tasting room, this is a remarkable opportunity to present the wines, the history behind the wines, the flavors and aromas of each wine in a format that provides plenty of time to talk about the wines and share my perceptions with people around the world who can comment live,” Webber said. “It is a fun and unique way to keep commerce going in these difficult times.”

Wineries across the country are recreating the virtual tasting room experience in order to stay connected with customers in their own homes. Many are shipping tasting kits to consumers’ homes and following up with invitations to virtual parties on Zoom, Facebook or other social media platforms. Consumers get an opportunity to talk about wine with famous wine makers and celebrities in the comfort of their living or video room. It is making the confinement more bearable and more entertaining than all the video streaming.

Shannon and Paul Brock, owners of Bouchaine Vineyards in Napa Valley, have embraced virtual technology.  “It’s not as good as being there yourself and tasting it at the source, but it’s a nice alternative right now,” says Shannon. “Everybody has good days and bad days, but everybody needs some good news, and something to look forward to and something to take their mind off all this. Because we can’t just sit and watch the news all day.”

The move to “virtual” has not just been limited to individual wineries. During a recent month of the shutdown, Wine.com, the nation’s largest online seller of wine, hosted a series of free online tastings featuring a collection of wines, vintner stories and commentaries on the wine industry. “With stay-at-home measures in place, the wine industry has a unique opportunity to develop and improve the online wine tasting experience,” said Wine.com founder Michael Osborn. “E-commerce enables tasting alongside global wine and spirits leaders, and the chance to hear firsthand details from such experts is extraordinary.”

To learn more about how you can advance your marketing efforts during the social distancing experience, contact Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) at 678-686-1125 today.