Quantcast

Marketing/distribution strategies?

Wine Making Talk

Help Support Wine Making Talk:

RonObvious

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2016
Messages
110
Reaction score
22
So our little winery is doing well. Harvested a few hundred pounds of our own grapes last year and we're also still supplementing with juice from the Finger Lakes. We've got a few medals under our belt and customers have gone out of their way to complement our wines. I probably shouldn't say it too loudly, but I think we're getting pretty good at growing grapes and making wine! My question is more about the aspect of being a winemaker that most of us probably like the least: Selling and distributing. Right now we are selling through a few local liquor stores, one high-end wine shop, and a few upscale convenience stores. It's going OK I guess, but every sale is a hassle. Call, leave a message. Wait. Call again. Oh yeah, hi, yeah, I'll call you tomorrow. Never calls. Wait a few more weeks before pestering again. Finally sell a case or two. Start the process all over again. It's exhausting....

Just wondering what you all are doing to sell wine in a more efficient manner? Direct to consumer? We don't have a tasting room yet, so we're considering getting the appropriate license to make deliveries - like the milkman, but for wine. Anybody doing this? How about getting into distribution channels? I'd be happy to let a middle-man take a slice of the profit if it would mean I wouldn't have to be a sales guy anymore. I was hoping to do some farmers markets, but they're all shut down now due to Covid. How about online sales? How much demand is out there for online ordering? Just hoping to start a conversation on what works and what doesn't. Any advice is appreciated.
 

vineyarddog

Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2020
Messages
91
Reaction score
46
Location
South West Pennsylvania
I wish I had a job selling wine! Glad to hear your winery is successful, where are you located? That will help greatly as it varies from state to state.

How many of those customers do you have signed up for your wine club?
 

VinesnBines

Member
Joined
Feb 5, 2020
Messages
94
Reaction score
52
I know wineries were making deliveries in Virginia; curbside pickup too. Are any wineries open where you can be the guest winery? Without festivals and farmers markets, you are limited. Most small Virginia wineries sell direct to consumers though tasting rooms, markets, festivals and online. I’m all for online and curbside.
 

RonObvious

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2016
Messages
110
Reaction score
22
Vineyarddog, we're in MA. Our state is actually quite reasonable when it comes to licenses etc. for small wineries. I inquired yesterday and the fee that would allow us to deliver (like the milkman) would cost $300 - not super expensive, but just expensive enough to give me second thoughts before I commit. You mention a wine club - at the risk of appearing ignorant, can you explain what you mean? I'm familiar of course with big wine of the month style clubs like you'd see out of CA, and I'm also familiar with farm CSAs. But what would a "wine club" look like for a small winery like us? Thanks in advance.
 

VinesnBines

Member
Joined
Feb 5, 2020
Messages
94
Reaction score
52
In a wine club, the participants agree to purchase a certain number of wines per month or quarter. The winery picks the wines and charges a slightly discounted rate to the member’s credit card. The members either pick up the wine or have it shipped. Members get perks too, like free tastings, use of the facility, wine dinners, special rates on special events. Most clubs are free but some charge a nominal entrance fee. Almost all require a one year initial commitment. I belong to one that sells us two wines a quarter and 2 extra at the holidays. Look around at the websites of other small wineries to get an idea. Do you belong to the MFWGA? They should have resources and connections for info.
 

pete1325

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 7, 2010
Messages
455
Reaction score
88
Location
West of Chicago
I have been in sales my whole life, never easy but I find it rather gratifying. If it were my winery I would open a tasting room (legal or not so legal) and provide a tour. Wine drinkers enjoy the making process more than us wine makers think. If you can't do a tasting room, partner up with a few restaurants for a promotional tasting. and get them to sign an agreement to buy and serve your wines. Sales is a process, Nothing comes easy. Knowing that going in will help your mind set. Distribution is another idea. Go to the local liquor stores and offer the same tasting situation. Be prepared to go through some "profits" before you snag a few deals. I hope this helps. Good luck, it will be all worth it when you get some success under your belt.
 

RonObvious

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2016
Messages
110
Reaction score
22
Thanks for the advice everyone. While reading your responses I've also been deep diving some web searches and skimming some books and it sounds like very few small wineries are doing what we have been doing, which is selling through local liquor stores etc. Most advice seems to be in line with what you all have indicated, which is more along the lines of direct to consumer, via wine clubs, shipping, local delivery, tastings, etc. So I guess I know what we need to do. One last request - if anyone knows of any ecommerce sites that include wine club management without charging an arm and a leg I'd appreciate it. I browsed some templates on Wix and Squarespace which claim to have at least rudimentary wine club functionality but if anyone has any specific recommendations I'd love to hear 'em. Thanks all!
 

jgmillr1

owner, winemaker
Joined
Jun 13, 2017
Messages
579
Reaction score
346
We sell 95% of our wine DTC out of the tasting room. We do use a distributor to reach customers in liquor stores. Delivery and self distribution are prohibited in my state. Having a tasting room and offering live music is a draw on the weekends.

Our distributor doesn't particularly pay attention to us though since they mostly focus on large brands out of california. We have to do a lot of leg work and onsite tastings to get into liquor stores.
We found that Vinoshipper is a good platform for online sales and they can ship to 37 or so states.

Farmers markets are good for us for sales and advertising. We get more response from online advertising than print. Radio works ok but is pricy. Local small town papers have a loyal readership that is in the right demographic.
 

RonObvious

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2016
Messages
110
Reaction score
22
I'm so happy you mentioned Vinoshipper - I was literally just looking at their website when I saw your reply. Glad to hear you're having success with them. I'm definitely going to investigate further! Thanks!
 

jgmillr1

owner, winemaker
Joined
Jun 13, 2017
Messages
579
Reaction score
346
The only thing I'd wish vinoshipper would change is their payment timeframe. They payout twice a month and hold onto your payment for an additional 15 days in case of disputes, I guess. Compare this to Square which pays out in 2 days.

It's a minor complaint though. Vinoshipper helped us with their "pick up at winery" option so that we were able to do curbside early during the pandemic. We immediately had an online sales portal.
 
Top