Last weekend I visited the beautiful Rhineland – Phalz area, and enjoyed a wonderful morning at the Mosel Wine Museum in Bernkastel-Kues (http://www.moselweinmuseum.de). The museum is interactive, and takes you through the wine growing, harvesting and wine making process of the region. Quite an experience as most of the best Riesling sites around the Mosel are planted on extremely steep hills, which makes the vine tendering and picking quite challenging…
The highlight of the visit for me though was the amazing wine cellar (Vinothek) which is hosted at the Weinkulturelles Zentrum. A tasting of the more than 150 wines is available for 15 Euro’s per peson. When you pay for the tasting you receive a glass and a list of all the wines one can taste in the cellar. Most of these wines are for sale and all the pricing is also included on the list. In the cellar there several experts willing and able to assist the tasting public. The majority of the wines are (obviously) Rieslings, but there are also other white and red varieties available to taste and purchase.
Besides wanting to tell you about the high quality of the majority of Rieslings I tasted on Sunday morning, I also wanted to share this story as the Vinothek (and the Museum) is another great marketing story.
A lot of the Weingut’s in the region are very small wineries, only producing a few 1000 bottles a year, and ideally these bottles are all sold “directly” to the public. However, most very small business’s struggle to run a constantly open cellar door… That is why the Vinothek is a great opportunity for them. The tasting cellars are located at café and restaurant of the famous Mosel wine museum in the very touristy Bernkastel-Kues, and bus loads of tourists visit the museum every day. These tourists afterwards take a stroll in the cellars, and about 1/3 of them will pay for the tasting, and another 25% will have a glass of wine at the café. Hence the winery can attract a large tasting public without having to invest in a cellar door and if the winery invests in it’s relationship with the tasting experts, these experts will regularly recommend the wineries wines to the tasting public, resulting in a higher turnover for the winery.
Speaking of sales, I was amazed at the volume of sales at the cellar. I think this is directly related with giving the consumer the opportunity to taste and compare different styles of wine of a particular vintage, type and area (Eg 2009 Trocket Kabinet Riesling) in one place; this ability to compare makes them more confident about what they like and what not and this generally will result in them buying several bottles of their favourite wine.
So my advise to small wineries would be to actively try and join a similar set up as this Vinothek, ie a place that attracts lots of visitors and offers consumers the ability to taste multiple wines from lots of wineries in that particular region. Experience tells me that a lot of wine regions have a multi-wineries tasting rooms, and these tasting rooms are often located on tourist trails. Look out for this in your particular region, find out what the fees are to be part of the tasting room, how much wine you would have to sell in order to break even and speak to other wineries in the tasting room to see if this is feasible.
Once you have decided that you want to join this particular tasting room, go and taste the other wines in the tasting room and compare them with your wines. Do involve the tasting staff in this comparative tasting and encourage them to look for similarities and differences with their other favourite wines, ask them what wines they feel would best feature in the comparative tasting and why. Actively engage them in these initial stages and be prepared to learn from them – by doing this you make them feel special and they in return will have warm feelings about your wines and will promote them actively.
Once the wine is part of the tasting room portfolio, continue to invest in your relationship with the tasting room staff, be part of any events the tasting room may organise and visit the property regularly and I am sure you will reap the rewards:)