Thursday, June 11, 2009

Paid tastings? pro and con

We offer free winetasting and we always will as far as I am concerned. Many wineries are reconsidering paid winetasting and/or limited tastings as a policy and even a few have adopted such measures for their own business model. What are their motivations?

I will keep the respondents names and wineries unmentioned, I do not ask such questions with the intent to "out" someone on the Blog, but I know its useful information for many.

First, most wineries who now charge (excepting states that require it) do so due to what they describe as "large numbers" of visitors who taste and do not buy. Three wineries mentioned specifically bus tours that use their winery as a "rest stop" on trips to or from somewhere else. One person stated that they had a bus stop by recently with over 40 people on it. Most of them used their restrooms, about 2/3 of the bus people tasted wine, the sales were a total of eleven bottles. Another winery employee complained that they get alot of gambling-boat bus tours that seem to just want to 'catch a wine buzz' as part of their trip and typical sales is less then one bottle per three people tasting. (Our little winery averages just shy of two bottles sold per person tasting).

Two wineries I talked to said they had "several groups each day" that tasted wine, but did not buy. In one case I asked specifically, "Everyday you are open, you expect to see more then ten people who taste, but do not buy?" The answer was a resounding "YES!". The majority of the wineries I talked to tell me they see few people who do not buy after tasting and that is pretty much what we see as well. We generally have less then one person per week who tastes, but does not buy, for whatever reason.

I think it is open for discussion as to whether or not a winery location tends to have it have more non-buyers. A location in a shopping center or downtown with foot traffic will certainly have a higher percentage of drop-in tasters, who do so on a whim, who choose not to make a purchase. The point here is (IMHO) that you chose the location due to higher traffic, do not be surprised at the result of that traffic, more looker/tasters who do not buy.

The main point I carry forward is that free wine tasting is the very foundation of the local winery business. Charging for tasting is certainly the right of the owner, but your business is not growing to your satisfaction after instituting such a policy, I can tell you why sales are not climbing.

I have gotten several emails on the issue of limited tastings (flights) and will get to those in the next installment of this Blog. Please keep in mind our annual BREAD BAKING CONTEST is June 27, 1-6 pm, we will have free bread samples to go with the free wine tasting. All commercial entries must be in by 2pm day of the contest, amateur entries by 4 pm. Email me for more details @ or

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