Bloggers are not usually wine writers nor members of the media. That isn’t to say they can’t be. Wine writers such as Paul Gregutt and Steve Heimoff also blog. However, for a winery’s purpose, Gregutt and Heimoff are known to the industry as media and should be treated as such.
Most bloggers are consumers first and foremost; however, they are hyper-engaged with wine and blog about their impressions and experiences. Their knowledge ranges from well-informed to wine newbie. As a result, some are super knowledgeable and will ask all the wine geeky questions, others will be far less familiar, but big on technology and are discovering wine through their blog articles.
Some blog about the wines as they taste, while others specialize in writing in depth about wine including reviews, still a third group primarily promote winery events.
Across the broad spectrum of wine bloggers, their audiences can vary, from mainly other bloggers to a few who are writing at such a level that the general wine public are reading their posts. Some of the latter have the potential to become new media stars and they are influencing a loyal consumer audience.
Many times, a winery’s first experience with the wide world of blogging, is when they show up in your tasting room and announce that they’re a wine blogger! What do you do now?
Here are some handy tips for wineries:
1) Take some time to read the leading wine blogs. A few of my WA favorites include:
Washington Wine Report penned by the very impressive Sean Sullivan; Through the GrapeVine by Walla Walla’s Catie McIntrye Walker; Write for Wine by Margot Savoir and Wine Peeps, an independent wine blog dedicated to helping you get the most bang for your buck in wine.
2) Develop your tasting room policy.
Train your staff on how they should handle bloggers when they arrive unannounced at the winery. Whatever you have decided, whether you waive your tasting fee or not, should be communicated with your staff. Should your staff open bottles not normally open at the tasting bar? Some bloggers may act like they expect special treatment. What you do at your winery is a personal decision, however, whatever you decide, it is more important to prepare your tasting room staff so they execute your policy with confidence and ease.
3) Develop your sampling policy. Will you send samples, give free bottles or offer a discount on purchase? Wineries are reporting an increase in bloggers’ requests for samples in exchange for a blog mention. It is hard to gauge the return from sending samples unless you have researched each blog request to determine if it has value for your winery. However, recently a QFC posted a Drink Nectar review as a shelf talker. A handy rule is that most bloggers will speak kindly of any special treatment. The $64,000 question is, does it have value for you?
4) Be sure to have tasting notes and retail pricing available for every wine tasted as well as on your website. Your wines have a better chance of getting mentioned accurately, if you have the technical information ready for them to take back to their computers or available online.
5) When in doubt, treat them as hyper-engaged consumers. A year ago, I invited a blogger to the winery to taste our wines after reading some of her postings. I did not, however, communicate to my staff as to how a blogger differed from wine media. Our tasting room staff gave her the VIP red carpet treatment and proceeded to pour every wine in our portfolio. To my horror, when she wrote about her experience, she ended her piece saying, “By the time I tasted through 17 wines, I was quite wasted.” I immediately made a note that while some bloggers can taste with the professional media, it is always better to err on the safe side and pour only what you would to a wine club member.