We can’t help but be constantly reminded that we aren’t the only winery in our region. We simply cannot get away from each other, but that can actually be a good thing. We don’t go to a mall because they have one good store, we go for the selection of many good stores. So as an industry, we’re stronger and more interesting together as a region, offering a delicious discretionary item to enhance the enjoyment of life. Wineries are forever both competing with and complementing each other, whether to raise awareness for a specific region or a particular brand. But how can we possibly stand out from one another, create a strong brand impression and make our guests remember us specifically? To do that, we must find the individual and truly unique qualities that differentiate us from each other.
Figuring out what makes us unique is what we at WISE call identifying our “Green Fish.” What can only be said about your winery and not about any of the other wineries in your ’hood? Is it truly unique? Saying: “We’re family owned,” while interesting, is not unique. Of Napa Valley's 400-plus wineries, 95% are family-owned and operated. Bragging about our wines, saying, “We are known for our (insert varietal here)” is also not going to set us apart from our neighbors since chances are, in the same AVA, we’re going to be producing the same or similar varietals. Identifying and communicating a winery’s Green Fish can be harder than it sounds. Finding ways in which our brand and each wine is truly unique sets the standard for differentiating ourselves from our neighbors.
Start with Why
If you’re struggling finding your Green Fish, start with why. A great example of how to clarify your brand messaging comes from Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on How Great Leaders Inspire. Borrowing from Simon...every company’s employees knows what they do. Some know how they do it. Very few people know why they do what they do. Making a profit does not count, that’s a result. The why is the purpose. It is values-based. The right people—both employees and customers—will identify with it, and that is what creates the connection that lasts far beyond the tasting room visit.
Have you ever wondered if you are in the right business? Is the wine industry (and in particular the direct-to-consumer sector) the right career path? Is there a future in it? Perhaps the following statistics can help you answer these questions.
Wines & Vines added more than 800 wineries to its directory of North American wine producers (Canada, Mexico and the United States), including more than 400 year-to-date in 2015. The total number of wineries on the continent is approaching 9,300. If you figure that at least 10 people are employed at each facility, you have nearly 100,000 individuals dedicated to the production and sale of wine!
Another statistic is that 7,129 wineries produce less than 5,000 cases of wine per year, and most of these will sell the majority of their products via tasting rooms and wine clubs. The table below shows the distribution of wineries and tasting rooms in the seven top states, as of October 1, 2015. More and more, it's looking like you will never run out of job opportunities!
Tasting Room Forum continues below.
Sell the brand first.
Sell the wine second.
Tasting room employees typically learn a lot of technical details about each wine, and they are very eager to share that knowledge. What usually ends up happening with those who are not naturally strong sales people is that they start sharing all the what. For example, when presenting a wine to a guest, tasting room staff will talk about the wine’s aroma, color, body, taste, varietal components, AVA, etc., and then repeat that process for each wine. If we have a lot of SKUs this can turn into a huge laundry list of whats they have to memorize. After this list of what, staff will sometimes then get to the how—how their vineyard designates, soils, and clones differ. By the time the tasting is over, guests have heard far more facts than they could possibly remember.
One great way to really differentiate your brand when it comes to the tasting room experience is to share your why through memorable storytelling, and support this brand essence throughout your guest experience. Tell stories not just about the brand in general, but also about each wine. Bringing each wine alive with a story that talks about why this wine is special, and connecting that back to the brand, is the best way to share the Green Fish: the why, the uniqueness of our brand.
WISE key points for landing
your own Green Fish:
- Leverage your brand power: Let your brand do more of the heavy lifting for you to surprise and delight your customers. Our winery brands are much more than our individual products. Your brand essence—and the persona of your winery—is what sets you apart.
- The brand promise, personality and experience should be shared with each customer. Every winery team member should be able to share the key winery brand messages in many compelling and comfortable ways.
- The real secret here is to “Sell the brand first and then sell the wine second.” Focus on three key brand points and at least one Green Fish—something truly unique—to share with your guests.
Do your own "gut checks" and visit other wineries. Are you clear on what makes each winery unique?
We don’t have to be Dr. Seuss to make a story stick, but if we start with our Green Fish, we’re far more likely to succeed in creating a memorable brand impression that differentiates us from our neighbors.
Source: WISE Academy,
Wine Anti-Counterfeiting Solutions
The topic of counterfeit wines, which used to be a problem only for the premier grand crus of Bordeaux, is much closer than ever before. Wines & Vines published a comprehensive list of solutions to the fraud problem, and I think DtC professionals should be part of identifying the correct way to address it.
Wine Industry Metrics
August 2015 numbers: The Winery Job Index is still very positive, and Cabernet leads all other varieties in wine sales. Read this and more at Wines & Vines.
Rufete and Eva de los Santos…
Mean something to you?
Sommeliers are always looking for something new to talk about and share with clients. Some somms say the grape varieties Rufete and Eva de los Santos could be the next “big” thing.
Aging Wine in your Glass
A newly patented device allows wine drinkers to age the wine in their own glasses. I'm not sure how effective this contraption is, but you can read more on the subject at academicwino.com.
Instead of Standard Wine Club,
Earn “Wine Dollars”
Here is an interesting article about Vidon Vineyards in Oregon, where the owner offers “wine dollars,” much like airlines offer mileage for future purchases.
Wine Industry Help Wanted
Napa-based wine journalist Paul Franson attended the first WineJobs.com Summit on Sept. 19 and gives us a summary of the event.
Kansas: Kansas has 35 wineries (23 with tasting rooms) and is continuing to grow.
Ohio: Debbi Snook from The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer is happy to say that the Ohio wine industry (173 wineries, 133 with tasting rooms) is doing well.
Maine: The Bangor Daily News writes about the success of Maine (31 wineries, 20 tasting rooms) turning grapes into wine.
Please send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jacques Brix is vice president and director of sales, West Coast, for Wines & Vines. This column is based on his personal experiences at winery tasting rooms and events.