This post is part of a series of posts about le Vin 2.0 2011 where Robert Joseph presented on the topic of wine tourism and consumer psychology.
Oenotourism is the other big subject Robert Joseph tackled. The presentation was similar to the one Vitisphere reported on in October. And it definitely falls in line with some of the wine tourism concepts I wrote about earlier this year. The gist of the presentation is that we have to change a lot of things in the wine tourism business. But really it’s a big sprawling topic so you might want to look through the slides embedded below:
Here are some random observations I’d like to make:
There are people who want to visit vineyards even though they’re not obsessed with wine. Wine tourism is supposed to be entertainment. I agree with all of this and talk about it a lot (most recently in the conclusion of my five minute story at the EWBC). Visiting a winery should not be a task. It should be fun and entertaining. It can also be educational and informative, but those are all secondary to the entertainment. And then he does a semantic analysis of trip advisor reviews (again, I’m getting deja vu here as I just did this type of analysis with the O’Vineyards tripadvisor reviews this year)
Although he also argues that wineries should have pools and movie theaters and daycares and all kinds of peripheral activities. I think this is smart, but it’s also important to note that not every winery will do all of this. It’s up to each winemaker to figure out how to intelligently expand their tourism offer without overstretching themselves or falling into a job they don’t actually want to do.
Slide 17 is hilarious/tragic… 99% of Napa wine producers find tourism to be financially viable while 60% of Florentines do not find it financially viable even though the average shopping cart size is actually smaller in Napa (according to this study). Is this because there are far more visitors at a time in Napa? Or are Italians/Europeans/Mediterraneans just predisposed to being unhappy about our tourism activity? ;D
The question of merchandise is also raised. Here too I wholeheartedly agree with Robert. My parents and I really make a lot of sacrifices to create delicious, unique, life-altering wines and we sometimes make pennies per bottle. On the other hand, I can buy glassware, corkscrews and hoodies with our logo or Carcassonne written on them and sell those at 400% markup. It’s absurd, but I make more money selling a bar of soap with my logo (ordered online) than on the bottle of wine that I spent three years on. And this is a point of contention. Some people say that a winemaker exists to sell wine, not to sell soap. I’m not sure, but I think a winemaker exists to make wine. If I have to sell soap to subsidize my wine sales, then I will sell soap. It’s what I have to do to make wine. And I don’t want to imagine a world where I’m not making wine. So sell soap.
Joseph also cites this article about tasting room sales and it’s pretty interesting.
I don’t really have a well organized mailing list (which is terrible of me. it’s one of the things I need to change in 2012) or any wine club (something I might change). This was a big topic and I am ashamed at the end of it. :-/
Then he also talked about the R&D potential of visitors at the vineyard. Why not ask your visitors to try new blends and see if they like it. Test out ideas on your tourists because they are your final market. This sparked some controversy in the talks afterwards as many winemakers find it unthinkable that you would make a wine to cater to the public (essentially to the lowest common denominator the way record labels pick singles to go on the radio). At this extreme, you end up with bland, inoffensive wines that nobody hates (and nobody loves) that can appeal to all markets. But that is an extreme. If you actually have a steady flow of tourists, you can draw information from them and choose to use it or ignore it the same way you would use an oenologist or winemaking consultant. Furthermore, I’d argue that my tourists are not the same as a random sample from the global population. People who visit my vineyard tend to be a little like me, weird sense of humor, interested in learning, like a large range of different wine styles, and so on. Taking their opinions into count is not the same as trying to cater to everybody.
Sorry this post is so rambly. Hard act to follow.