Friday, December 14, 2007

Mailers, Emails & Direct Marketing In The Wine Industry

So you walk into your local wine specialty store, liquor store or the depot of liquor that is attached to your local grocery store. You look around the aisles at the plethora of choices, some familiar but mostly foreign (literally, since many wines are produced overseas) and mostly unknown to you as a consumer.

Let's assume that you choose wisely (or is that blind luck that puts that good bottle in your hands) or take the advice of an employee of a store and wind up with a winner that you loved. Chances are, you will remember the name and begin to include that wine in the rotation of wines that you purchase when you go to the store looking to make wine purchases. If you are like over 90% of the wine-purchasing public, you will actually forget the name of the wine, or the vintage and wind up asking for another recommendation or trying to hit paydirt on a total stranger again. Just think about how poor the odds become after you actually picked a good bottle!!! You'd have better odds of safely walking through an open field with an umbrella in a lightning storm!

Before my recent trip to Napa, Ca, I would have never thought to look up the websites of the wines that I have drank and/or enjoyed. Even more unlikely would have been my desire to join an email list of a winery who makes wines that I like. For what purpose??? If I want the wine again, I'll just go back to the store and ask for it. However, you assume that the store will have the wine you like, OR that the winery distributes all of its menu of wines to your local store. In fact, most wineries have some wines that are only available at the tasting room or via its mailing list.

Yes, most if not all wineries maintain an email list of their customers. They use this list to communicate with you, their customers, about things such as new releases or re-releases of their Library Selections (which are older wines that had previously been released and are now available for sale). Some wineries offer recipes or food and wine pairing recommendations for their specific wines, so that you would know to have grilled sirloin with horseradish smashed potatoes with a mango/balsamic culee with their 2002 Mt. Veeder Estate-Grown Cabernet Sauvignon. (Please note: That was NOT a real should have had the Merlot!!!)

Returning to the topic, the wineries feel that having your information helps them to market directly to their audience, rather than to the wine-buying public as a whole. Email marketing also allows the winery to project sales success for their wines, because they take your email interest and turn it into a club membership or a direct sales vehicles. Although many people would not want to be obligated to purchase a wine selection of the winery's choice, in some cases, direct mail or club membership is the ONLY way to get a wine. For example: Kosta Brown winery does not distribute their wines to distributors or liquor stores. They will only sell to customers on their list. AND, just being on the list does not guarantee you any of their wine. You see, there is such demand for their wines, especially their higher-end Pinot Noirs, that they have a hierarchy of past customers who are entitled to buy all of their wines while lesser buyers or newbies have to hope for an allocation from their wish list. It's like trying to get on the waiting list for season tickets to the Green Bay Packers!!! Also, some smaller producers just don't want to go through the effort to get distributed out of their region and want to keep things simple. That's what Rocking Horse Winery did just this year. According to them, they wanted to ratchet production down and make less wine so that they can stop and smell the roses and enjoy some needed time with family. Now all of their wine is produced and sold in and around California. What a shame, because their 2003 Cabernet was killer and when trying to get some, I was told I had to come out to see them!!! Oh well, another trip wouldn't kill me. Thanks Jeff...I'll get out there to get the wine soon.

Another way wineries get to you is the MAILER. The mailer is a postcard, or in the case of more high-end producers, a folio of wine tasting notes, viticultural reports, technical data and the like. Each mailer serves a sell you wines direct from winery to your home. Provided of course, that you live in a state that will allow direct shipping between a producing winery and your state. Here in NJ, we do not have reciprocal privileges with California Wine. The convoluted laws and rules that have been written to protect the rich and confuse the everyman, state that NJ and California don't mix like Gin and Tonic do. In fact, most Jersey residents use a NY address of a friend or relative to have wines shipped to them. I have to have wine shipped to my brother's shop and he brings them down once or twice a month.

The MAILER also keeps the winery in the forefront of your mind, because you are on the list as a lover or appreciator of their wine. They love to send you things because usually you are remember your last bottle of this great wine and think you should have more. The winery LOVES this type of repeat customer because all it costs to put the wine in their hand is a $0.41 stamp and a little postcard/mail piece. Don't get emotional about a wine. Each year, they will make more of the wine, and if it was a really good bottle, for sure it will cost you more down the road. But the MAILER can also be informative, like Jessup Cellars mailer which has info about what they are doing to improve the wine and the wine-tasting experience that they want to extend to their customers.

Either by retail, email or post-card manner, this producer of fine wines reaches out and helps you to improve your wine enjoyment. Its fun, its somewhat impersonal....until you have to whip out your credit card. The wineries can be extraordinarily friendly, and if you want to try wines which are not available to the average Joe, the mailing list offers you that chance.

Well the major downside is that not only does the winery have its "tasting room and club only wines" available to members, it also has its generally released inventory available online at a higher price (sometimes more than 25-35% more than at retail shops) and if you didn't know better you would overpay for your wines.

The other downside is that in addition to paying a higher price than retail, you also have to pay SHIPPING from out of state. That's not cheap when you are buying the club allocation of 2 bottles and paying $20 in shipping to get it.

My Suggestion: Try wines locally. There is so many different wines available that you can spend a whole year trying new things and learning the differences between wines, both domestic and imported. Save the shipping and over-charges and use that money to fund your trip to Wine Country. Once there, sample those hidden gems and buy what you can't buy back home.

Lastly, I want to wish each of my readers and friends a happy and healthy and safe holiday season. I hope you all get to take some time to enjoy the gifts of life and love that surround you each day.

I have a Reader Request tasting to post early next week and then its a week layoff before the next post. Thanks for your loyal support!!!

PS- If you like Italian Food, Italian Art, Italian Music, Italian People or if you are Italian....check out The blog is dedicated to the Italian Lifestyle in America and is well-writted by my friend, Richard Michelli. He also has a great website.... Enjoy!

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