The way consumers engage with wines today is changing! Take 10 minutes to read on:

29th November 2016


I want to take a look at the important factors that help to get a wine from a producer to the consumers glass.

  1. Wine producer ie the wine
  2. PR / Marketing Company & Wine Professionals
  3. Wine news outlets / Tasting events
  4. Wine Merchant / Outlets
  5. Consumer ie the £’s

So we have those who produce the wines, ie the product to sell. Then there is the middle section who are professionals who know what wines are all about, the important communication channels with their tasting events and the outlets on/off trade buyers. Lastly the consumers who make the purchases with their hard earned cash. All these parties work together to allow the industry to turn over, sometimes all five options work together and sometimes one or a few of 2,3 and 4 are left aside.

The way consumers engage with brands today is changing thanks to the internet and its growing availability to most people and in recent years social media and mobile apps opens up many vast new direct 24/7 communication channels. Importantly, these kind of new and fast evolving marketing channels brings forth new startup competition with new innovation that can make fast ground on long standing brands still adopting traditional marketing methods only.

Ask yourself, how are you engaging with brands these days? Have you ever left feedback on Trip Advisor, ordered a takeaway via Just Eat, tweeted your mobile network a complaint when your not happy, renewed your car insurance online, liked a photo of a friend tasting wines on Facebook, reviewed a Champagne on Vivino? So you may challenge me and say that none of the previous statements apply to you, but I am sure most people behind you and with each and every day, more and more, will resignate with at least one of them. When is the last time you picked up the Yellow pages to find a telephone number I ask you, infact how many of our younger readers even know their own home telephone number these days?

The way our younger generation think today, especially those about to or having just reached the age of being able to consume alcohol, is vastly different to just a generation ago. I asked one of our children the other day a question as I was trying to describe a certain summer fruit, ‘name what is similar to a blackberry‘ and I got the answer ‘a Samsung‘ which kinda told me how dated my mind is thinking! Youth of today = less books being read, more Youtube stars being idolised, less interested in shopping on the high street and more interested in studying photos of celebrities clothing on Instagram and ordering clothing online by apps etc.

Today I will argue the fact that a non wine expert can now stand shoulder to shoulder with a long standing wine professional. What do I mean you may ask? Well, as audiences gather and their values increase on the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Vivino, then surely an example 1,000,000 targeted wine loving followers on Twitter can outweigh in reach and exposure the value of what a word of mouth feedback from a respected wine writer can achieve, most certainly in speed of communication terms? I of course understand and respect that by educating and entertaining the worlds long standing elite wine professionals can bring with it a substantial audience, though this reach is very much dependant on the exposure they now hold as many rely on other people’s established wine publications, news columns and online wine news channels to share their reviews and editorials. They may have written a book, but that was years ago, they were famous for discovering a new wine region, but are known by only the elders in the wine industry, they had that TV show 10’s of years ago… Are they known by the younger generations though, especially the consumers and trade buyers? It is the wine professionals with the marketing power or is it the channels that they share the expertise on the more important group to have strong relationships with today as these usually have the bigger audiences?

I recently attended a global press event for a major international sparkling wine and as the 50 or so press sat together listening to the speakers, one team member of the winery got up and said, you are not our target audience, you do not earn us money directly and you are not who we want to sell to. After that calmly delivered out burst he explained what we knew already, that it was the audiences we had exposure to which they want to sell to, so building a strong relationship up with us thus helps them sell to connections they have yet to reach, ie the networks of networks which is a powerful phrase in marketing. Tapping in to the audiences of the audience you have access to so that 50 connections with 10,000 connections each explodes your reach from 50 to 500,000 is good business.

What attracts us today when shopping? Prices, ease of ordering, brand names, endorsements… ?

So, choosing shopping online and no longer by walking down the aisles of your local supermarket is where we can say the likes of Naked Wines sit, ie I can decide which is best and order straight away my wines via my mobile phone practically anywhere and anytime. The likes of Vivino means that no longer do the notes you make from tasting wines need to be kept to just yourself, you’ve a chance to share them with the world and grow an audience waiting on your next review. Somebody with a big following on Twitter recommends to try a certain wine and shares the link to where I can purchase, this offers an endorsement and ease of ordering in one.

Let us take a look at a recent example, the Skinny Prosecco and Skinny Champagne from Amanda Thomson of Thomson & Scott –  countless consumers and I would suggest wine outlets too, are taken in by the name, how the word Skinny impacts on consumer choices, ie would you like to try our Skinny Prosecco or try some unknown DOC option that has a 87/100 score rating? Yes, the word skinny will not fool the more experienced wine lovers, a 1998 vintage or Cartizze preferred over a label played on with a clever catchy name and I am certainly not going to challenge the experienced wine lovers and of course the wine houses that have built a history of fine tradition for selling and enjoying quality wines. Though I ask you, will the consumers be able to identify a brut zero Prosecco  over a Skinny Prosecco, I mean I know wine professionals that are still confused with which is sweet or dry with extra bruts, brut natures, zero dosage and more descriptions to get your head around.

I recently spoke with Amanda regarding branding and names and she shared an important statement “cut through all the wine jargon and talk directly to consumers about what’s in the bottle” which some will rebel against, but let us face it, it’s just like Ronseal Paints, does exactly what it says on the tin or bottle in this instance: I want some bubbly, I am attracted by the name, I want to feel good drinking it, I want a low calorie/sugar option and it compares well price wise to many other labels on offer.

Wineries want to sell wine, the more of their stock sold in the easiest ways to the most loyal and long standing customers would tick the important boxes, second to that maintaining strong brand awareness. Surely, most would think that the improved quality of wines takes president over trying to improve brand awareness? Or should brand awareness take first place of importance? It really depends on what your goal is, sell more wines or invest in producing finer wines and go to battle it out for the gold, silver and bronze at the awards etc.

You do not necessarily have to have any wine experience or knowledge to sell fine Champagne and sparkling wines in my mind, you though need to know how to position your wine and how to reach the required audiences willing to buy it. “Our (Skinny) brand has become a ‘thing’ by simply moving it out of the wine space and into the fashion/lifestyle space” Amanda also added, which considering that bubbly for many is an aspirational lifestyle product, then she has positioned her brand very well indeed. It is not really any different to Chandon sponsoring the F1 podium celebrations, Veuve Clicquot and Polo, Bollinger and James Bond or Taittinger sponsoring the BAFTA’s – big Champagne and sparkling wine brand names associating themselves with a consumer recognised product/character etc.

With Skinny as an example and Amanda positioning it in the ‘fashion/lifestyle space’ and me saying that the way people engage with brands is changing, then how important is a review from one of the many wine experts for Amanda compared to appearing in a top lifestyle magazine, being seen enjoyed by a trending celebrity or receiving a retweet from someone with 100,000 fashion loving followers? Once again, how much is a 1,000,000 wine loving followers/fans worth on social media today is my question and how does it compare to a review from a wine professional who has already reviewed 100’s if not 1,000’s of wines in the last few months?

The gap is wide and open for wine regions and wine labels to increase their exposure and sales by paying more attention to how best to engage with the end consumer.

Christopher Walkey

Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.