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Wine tasting visitors choose location, experience first

Raymond Rolander, right, owner of Wine Cube Tours, talks wines to clients Michael Krajewski and Vicki Roth, visiting from Oak Creek Wisconsin, in the tasting room of VML Winery, near Healdsburg on Tuesday, January 21, 2014. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

CYNTHIA SWEENEY,

When it comes to deciding where to go wine tasting, location is the first and the second most important consideration before any specific wineries are considered, according to a new consumer survey.

The experience the winery offers is also key, while the wine varietal itself is secondary. Price is less of a factor, and overwhelmingly, consumers want unstructured, public experiences versus private events.

The goal of the survey, conducted by digital marketing agency Angelsmith, Inc., based in Richmond, was to better understand how consumers choose new winery tasting experiences. It was administered to more than 1,200 people across the U.S. who self-describe as wine and food aficionados. All participants visited a winery within the past 12 months, and 55 percent earn more than $75,000 income annually.

An Amazon gift certificate was given to a randomly selected survey participant and the agency donated to the North Bay Fire Relief Fund to incentivize people to take the survey.

The majority of survey respondents, 70 percent, reported that they consider visiting five or fewer wineries, with the bulk of those, 38 percent, considering between 3 to 5.

The survey also found that 45 percent respondents reported visiting a winery 2 to 6 times per year. The next largest group, 30.5 percent, reported visiting once per year.

The largest percentage of survey respondents, 41 percent, ranked social media as the place where they first learn about a new winery tasting experience. Additionally, 56 percent said that when they see information about an unfamiliar wine tasting experience in their social media newsfeed, they are “likely” or “very likely” to click on the post to get more information.

More than 67 percent of respondents reported checking consumer review sites when they begin searching for new winery tasting experiences.

Respondents overwhelmingly reported that poor consumer reviews can veto a winery in the early stages of consideration, but once they’ve determined their top choices those reviews hold less influence.

Another item that disqualified wineries was the inability to find information.

Overwhelmingly, consumers reported that their decision to visit a winery came down to their own personal search and experience. Second most important was the winery website, followed by photos of wineries online.

“From our experience, we know that images of the winery from the front door are hugely impactful when advertising. Consumers want to see where they’re going and if the visual matches their expectations,” wrote Carin Oliver, one of the authors of the report.

Social Media the most popular choice, but the majority, 57 percent of respondents reported a likely to very likely chance they would click on a post about an unfamiliar wine tasting experience in their social media newsfeed. Online Advertising was also impactful raising awareness and can contribute to a specific winery being considered.

The majority of consumers, 75 percent, prefer public experiences to private appointments, flexible times, 79 percent rather than schedules, and self-directed, unstructured experiences, 72 percent, such as wine flights at a bar rather than a wine educator-directed, structured experiences.

“In many ways, this makes sense. For most people, wine tasting is a relaxing, low key experience. They’re escaping from everyday stresses and don’t want to be pressured into a timeframe or schedule. This may offer an opportunity for wineries and regions where the reservations policies are less stringent,” wrote Oliver.

It should be noted, she continued, there is a subset of consumers who prefer structured experiences.

“You should weigh these results against your own experience. You know your consumers best,” she wrote. “We have clients, for example, who routinely sell out blending seminars. We’re still analyzing this group and will present our findings soon.”

Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at Cynthia.Sweeney@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.