Giles Hine, 11 May 2010

Winery marketing strategies – competitions or not?

Last November I was fortunate enough to be invited to release tasting of the Misha’s Vineyard 2009 range of wines at the Grove Restaurant in Auckland. I have always been a fan of showcasing wines with food and this experience highlighted why. Not only did the wines taste beautifully but the food was also absolutely delicious which resulted in an extremely positive experience for the ‘reviewer’. Moreover, these occasions are certainly one of the ‘perks of the job’ and thus many of the leading food and wine journalists were present.

Subsequently, I got into a discussion with the lady herself, Misha Wilkinson, about the marketing of her new wine label. You see Misha and her husband Andy earned their living from sales and marketing in a previous life so if anyone should have some interesting ideas it would be them. Furthermore, Misha’s Vineyard is like many wine producers in New Zealand currently – new, small but growing in supply annually, and looking to establish themselves as boutique in style and thus achieving a decent price point in the market.
Well the first thing that they have got right is their wine. They have an excellent winemaker in Olly Masters and have spent much time and money in finding the right piece of land – on the dramatic lakefront terraces of Bendigo Station, a high country sheep station in Central Otago. They have, as you would expect, concentrated on Pinot Noir but also produce Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc thereby giving them a good range. The early results are impressive. The wines, for me, were excellent with lovely varietal definition. More importantly they have been well received the media and wine judges alike. But how to do you go about designing a strategy to achieve this?
Misha’s opinion was, “I just think entering a wine show is an easy option – which is why so many do it. But it can also be an expensive option particularly if entering many shows in New Zealand and overseas. And then if you win, it becomes incredibly expensive and costs you many bottles of wine! These costs certainly make one think about other less expensive (and more assured) ways of garnering some positive accolades for one’s wines.”
For her there is an equally important need to possess or employ some quality marketing skills. “The reality is many of the other ways of getting wine evaluated require a degree of marketing ability and confidence. Not everyone is comfortable with building a direct relationship with the top journalists, and trying to get them to taste ones wines, or come to a private event where just one’s wines are presented for evaluation. And not everyone has a range of wines to present (they may have only have one or two wines), or a winemaker to explain the wines (as opposed to using a contract winemaking facility), or a real understanding of what makes them and their wine different. BUT if you don’t have anything interesting to say, the press don’t listen, right?”
So like a lot of things its a balance. “It’s a case of understanding your wines, how they’re intended to be bought (and cellared), and understanding how you wish to be positioned and talked about, and knowing which end of the market you’re targeting. All these things are inputs to your marketing plan which will then make it very easy to decide about whether wine shows are the best way for you to get wine evaluated or not. Perhaps wines with less structure and made in a style not requiring too long in terms of cellaring time, are better equipped to flaunt themselves at a show with more overt aromas and a palate that exudes an abundance of warmth, fruit and soft tannins.”
Thus you will see that Misha enters some of her wines in some shows but spends her time and effort in engaging with wine media and potential distributors. What is unequivocal is my opinion is that Misha and Andy completely understand the needs of modern resellers, media and consumers. Their website is simply one of the best winery sites that I have seen. All the information that anyone can require is there along with many interactive features. Why do some many wineries spend fortunes on achieving awards and reviews and then fail to keep interested parties informed. Most winery sites are out of date, spend too long creating pretty images in flash and have poor functionality. Misha’s Vineyard is none of these. Check it out – – like the wines, you will not be disappointed.