The Grapevine

Marketing Local Wines

July 10th, 2013

Should local wine shops push local wines? And is there a lesson for small wine shop owners in there being wineries in all 50 states? [level-members]

We came across an article recently about Virginia’s growing wine industry, and it reminded me that there are wineries in all 50 states. I’m sure someone, somewhere is thinking he’s going to make his fortune with a new concept store selling wine from every state. United Grapes of America, perhaps?

Probably not the best basis for a business plan, but is there a lesson for small wine shop owners? I think there are a few.

First, don’t discount the value of the tourism dollar. Even if your local wines are not great, they are probably a curiosity and novelty to area visitors. They’re looking for a memento of their stay. This doesn’t mean you should stock your cellar to the rafters – you’re not likely to sell novelty wines by the case. But keeping them in stock can be an easy sale, especially if you display them as local wines.

It may also be the case that your local wines are more than a curiosity or novelty, even if you’re not in northern California, Oregon or Washington. If so, certainly tout them as alternatives to whatever well-known wines they match in style or price.

Beyond that, my joke about opening a themed “United Grapes of America” shop really gets to the heart of the issue. That shop is, at least to me, a pretty obviously terrible business idea. But so is mindlessly championing local products, as sexy as the “local” movement may be.

You’re far better off offering an honest assessment of the local talent – and everything else you sell. If it’s good, but priced higher than similar wines (a pretty common occurrence in our experience), let people know that.

The goal is to never sell an inferior wine, recognizing that a bottle that’s inferior for one customer may be exactly what the next customer is after. [/level-members]