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January 26, 2010 | JD DANIEL

Tasting Rooms: Friends or Foe?

The main purpose of a winery’s tasting room is to educate the public, sell wine, build brand loyalty and have some FUN. Visitors to the wine country want to find tasting rooms that are small, unique, and that produce wines that are not plastered on the grocery store shelves. Many of the more boutique wineries are found through word-of-mouth, suggestions from a friend, a server at one of the local restaurants, or referral from another tasting room.

Over the years I have profiled the customers that stop through tasting rooms (some good & some bad), and through these observations have categorized some of the stereotypes:

1.) The Learner – These people typically do not know much about wine. They are eager to learn. They might not buy a lot, but, normally, these are the folks that leave the tasting room knowing more about the wine process. While, this person may not ask challenging questions, this customer leaves feeling like they have accomplished building upon their education.

2.) The Know it all – We all know these people! This person normally has enough knowledge to make them dangerous, but figures all winemaking processes are the same. They like to argue and challenge the tasting room staff.

3.) The Party – You will normally see them leave the limo or party bus with a rum & coke or a beer. They walk in the door with the cocktail, and when told they can’t bring their cocktails into the tasting room, they will “chug and dispose” then want to start the tasting. Typically, they will talk among themselves while drinking the wines as if it were in a shot glass. This includes a sub-grouping of Bachelorette parties. If you have ever heard the sound of 20 young ladies, then you know there is no chance of getting a word in.

4.)The Anti-Social – You will recognize this person right off the bat, as they will avoid eye contact. They will not ask questions and they will give one word answers. I am not one of those people who talks just to hear myself speak, but every once in a while the conversation with the “anti-social” will in actuality just be with yourself!

Feeling out the customer is a very important part of hospitality service. You do not want to react the wrong way with the many stereotypes you will encounter. Remember that the learner may become your largest customer in the future. This is the most rewarding customer. Once they leave the tasting room you feel like you are sending them back out into the world with a new knowledge. I have been told that there are no stupid questions, just stupid people. This is true and if people want to learn they may need to start from the beginning. The “know it all” will often enjoy talking about themselves, the easiest way to sidetrack them is with the, where are you from, where are you going for lunch, what wines are you favorites, etc… Do not let them get under your skin, and remember that, while you are right, the customer is always right. Grin, nod, and say, “Wow, I did not know that, I learned something new today!” Then laugh at the pompous comments with your fellow coworkers after they leave. The Party, well just go with it. I am sure that we have all been there. This group is all about fun, make sure that they are not too drunk, they have a designated driver, and maybe offer some water. Other then that, crack some jokes, pour some wine, and hope that they do not get too rowdy. Unfortunately, for you and the rest of the world there is nothing you can do about the anti-social, you can not teach personality.

For fun, I have made a top 10 list of funny things people have said in the tasting room, you can guess on the groupings for these comments:

10). Great reserve Cab, we’ll take four cases; this will be awesome for pizza Thursdays.

9). He said, bung hole, hahaha

8). So, this is a wine library, I thought there would be books

7). I’m buying this to mix with Fresca during the summer.

6). Wine & Women are so similar… They both like to lay down in the dark.

5). It says strawberries on the tasting notes, at what part of the process are these added?

4). I’m a winemaker, would you like to see my jugs and box?

3). Son, I am a wine connoisseur, and there is no such thing as a white Burgundy.

2). Wow, your Zinfandel is Red!

1). Yes, I was in Napa… I’m refusing the charges because I do not remember buying three cases of Cab.

Finally, the reenactment from Sideways where Miles chugs the dump bucket is up there in the comical ratings. People always like to use that one! Tasting rooms should always be a great place for fun & education.

After many years working, managing, and overseeing hospitality, now running day-to-day operations, I do not get to spend as much time as I would like in the tasting room. This is the most rewarding part of the industry. Educating the consumer only helps in the overall sales effort. While brand loyalty in the industry is tough to gain, I believe that it is not impossible and the best place to build this, is in the tasting room.


Nick's Gravatar
@ Feb 5, 2017 at 10:08 PM
spend as much time as I would like in the tasting room. This is the most rewarding part of the industry. Educating the consumer only helps in the overall sales effort. While brand loyalty in the industry is tough to gain, I believe that it is not impossible and the best place to build this, is in the tasting room.

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