Wine Thinking: Guests of the winery — who are they?

It takes two to tango. And in any sales, whether it’s wine or wine tours, a tandem must form. We know one of the pair for sure: it is the one of us who offers. And who is your counterpart? Do you know the portraits of your target audience, their needs and tastes?

Robert Joseph, a well-known author, consulting editor and columnist for Meininger’s Wine Business International, who has recently started producing his own wines, researched the consumer market and created a gallery of vivid portraits of wine drinkers. These observations have become part of his new book Wine Thinking, which will be published this summer. In the meantime, Mr. Joseph shared his theses on the audience of wine tourism with the guests of The Wine Travel Awards in London.

In his fascinating presentation titled “Wine Tourism: Benefits and Challenges”, Robert Joseph shared life hacks for wineries waiting for guests. From attracting wine lovers of different generations and psychographic profiles to navigating the nuances of wine tourism, Mr. Joseph’s humorous experience shines through. As in all of his works, readers will find a vibrant blend of wit, elegance, and practical advice from this seasoned expert.

By the way, the first copies of the new Wine Thinking book will be given to the winners of the Wine Travel Awards 2023–2024.

My simple message was that wine tourism — like wine — is not simply about what one offers. It’s about who one is offering it to. I showed my le Grand Noir French Chardonnay and my Georgian K’AVSHIRI and pointed out that I don’t expect the same people to buy these two wines. Le Grand Noir, with the familiar grape name on the label will appeal to a lot of people — as will its $12 price.  K’AVSHIRI costs over three times as much and has a label that will make sense to no one. I need to market them differently. And, this may mean that I need to offer different wine tourism experiences. To illustrate this, I took a few people from a book I am publishing this year.

Geeky Godfrey — wine lover

Reads about it (in wine books, magazines, blogs and online forums) and buys from a number of serious specialists and occasionally at auction. Sadly, however, he can’t afford to drink the wines he’d like to. Chats about wine online to like-minded souls but doesn’t have many friends who share his passion. Nor does his wife or adult children. Rarely if ever drinks spirits but likes malt whisky on occasion.

Godfrey is a wine enthusiast who may need lots of information about how the wine is made: soil, barrels etc. He represents 5-10% of wine drinkers, but a higher % of wine tourists. Having technical sheets for him may be a good idea. Also, not telling him things he already knows once you have realized that he is an enthusiast.

Nrvous Norman — wine follower

Norman is a follower who lives in fear of not fitting in or being exposed as ignorant. His greatest dread is being asked to choose the wine for the rest of the table and, when this is unavoidable, he does his best to remember what everyone had last time. Has been known to order Bordeaux, mid price Napa Cabernet and Chablis — as safe choices. Sommeliers love him, because he leaps at their suggestion, and he loves them because they get him off the hook. To be honest, he doesn’t particularly enjoy many specific drinks, but he doesn’t really dislike many either.

Norman is unconfident about wine. He may want the information, but he is not going to ask many questions. So printed material and signs on the walls may be appropriate for him.

Sensual Serena — wine esthetician

Serena is, above all, a non-conformist who places sensuality and aesthetics above everything. It all has to look, smell, feel… special. And different. So new experiences are important, from unfamiliar wines (whose names she may well forget) to inventive cocktails from her favourite mixologist to whom she often says ‘delight me!’ Bottle shapes — from Provence rose to superpremium vodka — catch her fancy, but travel — or places she wants to go — also has a big influence on her drinking. So she’s currently exploring Tequila, Mezcal and Piso — and Uruguayan Tannat.

Serena really cares about aesthetics. Presenting good wine in a basic setting may not work for her. And she will certainly notice the way staff are dressed etc. Think about the details.

Conservative Carlos — wine connoisseur

Behind that smile, Carlos likes to be in control and to observe life from a distance. He’s not as secure as he appears and is wary of change or the unfamiliar. He has more than enough of that to deal with while doing his quite high-powered job. He can afford to eat and drink most of what is on offer in his favourite — and very regular — restaurant, but he tends to stick to the same whisky — Chivas — and red wine — Rioja Reserva with a meal that similarly tends to involve the same choices of steak or sole. None of this — or the restaurant — has ever let him down and he sees no reason to risk allowing that to happen.

Carlos likes the familiar. Is a winery offering him anything that he will recognize and feel comfortable with? If your wine is made from a local grape, it could be helpful to suggest popular wines it may resemble.

Henry — wine hipster

Henry is less worried about the where? of a wine, spirit or beer, than the who? and the how? He would struggle to list many grape names or appellations. But he’s very aware of the ‘context’ of any wine (aka politics. So, no big companies, or countries with questionable human rights). Knows lots of plucky pioneering producers whom he often refers to by their first name. Lives in a major metropolis and does a lot of his drinking in ‘natty’ wine bars when he’s not enjoying coffee or beer in bars that specialise in those beverages. Loves natural wine events. Embraces discovering ‘challenging’ flavours with like-minded male and female friends.

Not everyone has to follow fashion, but it’s worth remembering that there are wine tourists who are looking for something different. Like an experimental orange wine, for example.

Emma — wine enthusiat

Enthusiastic Emma Emma has caught the wine bug. She was invited to a tasting and became fascinated by the difference between all the bottles. Now, she’s signed up for a WSET course and has begun to keep an eye open for wine events. Eager to learn, she’s open to trying anything but hasn’t fallen in love with natural wines — apart from a Pet Nat she really liked. Emma’s problem is that, apart from the course sessions, she hasn’t yet found the best way to go on learning; she doesn’t really like the magazines she’s picked up and doesn’t want to buy a shelf-ful of books.

She drinks cocktails when out, but would really prefer wine. Emma really wants to learn. Unlike Norman, she’ll ask. But the way she is answered matters. Informative, but not too technical.

Theo Thrifty — wine dreamer

Theo is ‘between relationships’ and lives a middle-class life he really can’t afford, so he’s always looking for wine bargains — which he learns about from newspapers and online. He loves supermarket bargains and online flash sales. He has also done well buying directly from producers — but not the ones with smart tasting rooms. He likes to tell anyone who’ll listen that most wines are overpriced and that none really needs to cost more than £7 or £8 /$10 or $12. Beer is often an appealingly cheaper option for Theo than wine.

Theo would like to buy super premium wine but can’t afford it. What ‘bargains’ do you have for him?

Imogen — wine influencer

Immie lives on Instagram and TikTok, taking pictures of the clothes she’s wearing, the places she goes and what she eats and drinks. Just as importantly, her behaviour is often driven by images and clips her friends — or influenced — have posted on these platforms So, there’s a high chance that the cocktail or rose she’s got in her glass — or the fact that she’s at this bar rather than another, has something to do with something she’s seen on that screen. And no, she has limited interest in / knowledge of wines, spirits and beers but she’s ready to try something new if that’s what her friends are into doing too. She says she cares about ‘natural’ stuff, but happily consumes RTDs and some fast food.

Imogen wants to make memorable images. What do you have to offer, beyond vineyards and barrels, that will enable her to do so. (Torres had a model where visitors could make postcards of the pictures they took. The winery sent them — paying for the stamp- because it was great marketing for them).

Chris — wine curiouser

Obsessively fascinated by wine. Hates drinking what everyone else is drinking (brands, popular varietals). Enjoys craft beers and obscure spirits (again, no widely-available brand). Doesn’t do cocktails. Likes reading up — online — about his discoveries and loves introducing them to his friends, but is disappointed to discover that most revert to drinking what they already know.

Chris wants something different. What are you offering that he can’t find elsewhere? Maybe older vintages or experimental cuvees? Clever wineries use tasting rooms for consumer research, testing labels and prices and maybe wines to see how visitors respond.

Carrie — wine club member

Carrie likes getting her ‘specially chosen mixed dozen superb bottles’ every month, and discovering what it contains. Of course, she likes some more than others, and there are bottles she never gets to taste because she’s taken them to a friend’s house as a gift when going there for dinner.

Carrie often browses the catalogue that comes with the carton, but rarely feels the need to order from it. Friends have told her that she could get very similar wines from her local supermarket for a much lower price, but she finds the wine aisle there daunting and prefers the simplicity of the monthly delivery. US wineries are very good at converting visitors into regular customers — by signing them up as ‘club’ members. Europe has been slower to do this. The key lies in offering something really attractive. Different wines, but also events, maybe is association with other non-wine companies.

Larry Look-at-Me — wine fashionista

Doesn’t know much about wine but knows the names — and can afford them. As can his friends. Loves pricy malt whisky. Wine is not so much a drink as a lifestyle item for Larry, like his car and the expensive turntable on which he rarely plays the vinyl albums he’s taken to buying in recent years.

Until recently he had very few bottles in his home, but the designer included a wine fridge when he remodeled the apartment and that has now been filled — by the helpful people at the nearby specialist shop. The sommelier at Larry’s favourite restaurant knows which wines to serve him, and Larry is happy to let his do it, because he hasn’t got it wrong yet.

Heavy bottles are — environmentally — out of fashion, but don’t forget that some people like to use — expensive — wine as a way to show off. What do you offer visitors who are like this? (Unless you don’t want their money).

Carl — wine collector

Collector Carl Carl has almost limitless funds to spend on wine — like most of his friends. Pays an advisor but reads newsletters to keep himself informed. He keeps a keen eye on which wines and producers are ‘worth’ having in his cellar. These will always be of the highest quality and reputation (if only among a experts and fellow collectors).

Rarity is attractive to him. Has got into serious whisky — including Japanese and rare bourbon — and tequila. Will drink cocktails but these tend to be traditional — Dry Martini, Bloody Mary, Margarita IR i Drinks beer, but only occasionally and cares little about it.

Maybe your wine is not the kind of top class stuff that ‘collectors’ want, but you may still find visitors who like the idea of having a set of vintages or labels.

Prosecco Penny — wine drinker

A wine drinker since before it was strictly legal (even in Europe). Enjoys Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and rosé with fellow students, always bought as cheaply as possible. Rarely drinks red but likes Merlot and Pinot Noir. Her male friends favour fuller-flavoured — and full-strength — reds, including blends and ones aged in bourbon barrels.

Wine is often used for ‘preloading’ before heading out toa club where she’ll drink spirits. She’s wary of being caught doing anything embarrassing by a friend or stranger’s smartphone. She enjoys RTDs and, when available, consumable cannabis. Freely admits to knowing little about any kind of drink.

What do you have to offer anyone who is just getting into wine?

Edward — wine environmentalist

Really cares about what is happening to the planet. He rides a bicycle, takes trains whenever possible and avoids flying. He is passionate about recycling and takes note of the values associated with the companies whose products and services he buys. He would never buy a heavy bottle of wine and always looks for an organic certification.

But… he’s not really that interested in wine, doesn’t read about it and is only vaguely aware of biodynamics. Regenerative agriculture, however, is now on his radar. He favours small, family-owned businesses as close as possible to where he lives, and instinctively mistrusts all big companies. To comment about Edward, please click here. You’re green — sustainable? Organic? Regenerative? Biodynamic? How do you communicate this to people who care about these things but don’t know what they mean.

Sober Samanta

And what do you have to offer Samantha? Someone who’s travelling with a wine drinker but does not like alcohol or wine?

Or someone who — for health reasons cannot drink it?

Or a child?

What are they to do while the other visitors are busy tasting?

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