How to win new customers and boost profits with virtual tastings
When the pandemic hit, in-person wine tasting almost completely ceased. But leading wine professionals found a way around this: virtual wine tastings.
Guests typically finish the equivalent of one to two glasses of wine during a tasting. Tasting kits that include several full bottles are overwhelming and can be a deterrent. The best way to solve for this is to include a tested and effective wine saver, such as ArT Wine Preserver®. This will allow guests to keep their open bottles of wine fresh for up to 30 days after the tasting.
ArT Wine Preserver can also help re-package wines into smaller formats for virtual tastings. In 2020, we worked with the New York International Wine Competition to develop a protocol. Since then we have been lucky to help others!
Our argon wine preserver prevents oxidation, and was used with 2 to 4 oz sample bottles such as those shown below (4oz sample bottles link on Amazon). Continue with this guide for information on not only re-packaging, but how to run a full virtual tasting program.
Image: Our Amazon listing. Sample bottles are frequently bought with ArT Wine Preserver.
Virtual Tasting Guide Overview
We gathered information for this guide over the past year based on our experience and professionals we’ve partnered with. So far we've partnered with:
- Wine educators
- Tasting competitions (we were proud to work with the New York International Wine Competition
- Sales representatives
This virtual tasting guide covers:
- Who is doing virtual tastings?
- What are the benefits of virtual wine tastings, even after the pandemic?
- What types of virtual wine tastings are there?
- How do I run a virtual wine tasting (5 steps)?
- How do I build a tasting kit? How does ArT Wine Preserver help?
- Our partners
Who is doing virtual tastings?
Virtual tastings are already held by many within the wine industry. This includes:
- Wineries like Stag’s Leap, Chateau Ste. Michelle, and VIN312
- Wine educators like those at UC Davis, Vini Ventures, and the American Wine School.
- Wine sites like Wine.com.
- Sales representatives with clients (including distributors) over private video calls.
What are the benefits of a virtual tasting, even after the pandemic?
Virtual tasting lets you build relationships with distant wine lovers.This engagement strategy allows you to remain top-of-mind with existing customers, engage new buyers, and increase brand recognition. It is also a great way to diversify your revenue stream as the proceeds should easily cover the cost of setting up the program.
But like in-person tastings, virtual tastings take effort and planning. You should confirm that you have resources ready to run a successful program.
You should do virtual tastings if you have or can get:
- Experience hosting in-person tastings.
- Technical skills on virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom.
- Tasting kits developed (see below for easy ways to make tasting kits).
- Tastings marketed and sold through a website portal.
What types of virtual tastings are there?
There are three popular formats for virtual tastings: webinars, private group, and silent virtual tastings.
Tastings hosted as webinars reach a large group of wine lovers at a set time. Or, intimate private tastings can replicate the tasting room experience for small groups. Finally, silent tastings are a low touch virtual tasting method you can use to send tasting notes to customers.
You can offer all three if the appropriate resources are available to you. Regardless of which you choose, it is important to have an agenda with relevant content. More on that later in this guide. For now, let’s discuss the pros and cons of webinars, private, and silent virtual tastings.
Webinars - large lecture virtual tasting
Webinar tastings are marketing lectures. Webinars accommodate large numbers of participants and let you capture prospective customer emails. Hosts that deliver webinars can drive: brand awareness, email list growth, and sales.
Hosts schedule consistent webinars, often weekly. They typically include special guests such as winemakers or industry partners.
Webinars are typically free to join. Hosts sell wine tasting kits through a shopping link during signup or after the webinar ends. Platforms such as Zoom are available for a few hundred dollars a year for up to 100 participants at a time. More sophisticated tools like WebinarJam are also available. They accommodate more users and allow for better engagement, but also come with a bigger price tag.
Informal webinars work too! Wineries like VIN312 use Instagram Live to give tastings and fresh content weekly.
You should consider running weekly wine tasting webinars if you:
- Have an existing audience you want to engage.
- Can run at least a bi-weekly tasting with fresh content.
- Want brand awareness outside of your region.
- Want to promote new wine releases or offerings.
Private virtual tastings - smaller discussions
Private tastings resemble an in-person tasting. These are often limited to smaller groups (such as 6 people). This allows intimate relationship building and education.
For private tastings, a customer buys a tasting package from your website. They select a time to meet using a platform like Calendly. Or, a host can schedule using email/calling. Be sure the virtual tasting is scheduled after the tasting kit arrives!
A virtual meeting hosts the tasting through a platform such as Zoom. The host walks the customer through a tasting. The content of the tasting is the same as an in-person tasting. Typically these are 30 to 90 minutes long.
You should consider offering private wine tasting packages if you:
- Host in-person wine tasting already.
- Have limited content.
- Can accommodate smaller groups.
- Cater to VIP clientele.
Silent tastings - host does not facilitate
These are tastings that small format wine clubs do. Hosts ship a tasting kit and let the customer follow tasting notes. Pre-recorded videos are recommended to introduce the wines and share any fun facts. Video conferences are not used and hosts do not provide live content. This is a very low touch way to do virtual tastings.
You should consider silent virtual tastings if you:
- Have extremely limited resources.
- Have content you can ship with tasting kits.
- Aren’t comfortable with video conferencing.
How do I host a virtual tasting?
Here are 5 steps to running a virtual wine tasting:
1) Determine if you want to run tasting webinars, private tastings, silent tastings, or all three.
Determine the resources you have available to run virtual tastings. Use the table above to determine what works best for you.
2) Prepare tasting content.
Tastings are more than sipping on wine. They are an opportunity to build a trusted relationship with virtual guests. Hosts should prepare content that tells a story about each wine, tasting notes, and purchasing information. Great content educates and interests the guests.
Some ideas we see include:
- Special guests from the industry. Guests discuss what they do as part of winemaking/serving. Guests are employees in the vineyard/winery, or industry partners. Keep the guest speaking for around 5-10 minutes.
- Virtual tours of winery activities. This can be anything interesting like racking, pruning, or harvesting activities.
- Cooking tutorials and wine pairings. Check out VIN312 Winery on Instagram.
- Tasting mats, such as those used by Wine.com for Kendall Jackson included in shipments and for download.
- Q&A at the end.
3) Organize the virtual tasting process.
Virtual tastings are new. This is exciting but can lead to frustrations and miscommunications. The exact flow of a virtual tasting should be designed and orchestrated by the host.
Stages to plan include:
- Awareness: Guests learn about virtual tasting options through advertising.
- Evaluation: Guests review tasting kits and virtual tasting options on the host website.
- Sign-up: Guests sign up for virtual tasting.
- Shipment: Tasting kits shipped to guests.
- Preview: Host sends instructions for tasting through email. Shipments may include similar information about how it works.
- Virtual tasting: Host delivers virtual tasting content to guests through conference call platform.
- Post sale: Host offers deals to guests.
Mapping the process on paper is an easy way to check each stage is handled. Don’t forget to repurpose as much existing content from in-person tastings!
4) Build your tasting kit
Tasting kits are the shipments you send to guests in advance of the tasting. We recommend you include 3-5 wines to review during the virtual tasting. Kits match in-person tastings and are often grouped, for example red wine tasting kits.
Remember this: Tasting kits are more than just wine in a box! For in-person tastings, would you just hand over bottles across the table and walk away? Of course not! Don’t do the equivalent with virtual wine tastings.
Tasting kits include:
- Wines (3-5 to avoid overwhelming) in large or in small formats (2oz to half bottles).
- Tasting mats (with wine information such as varietal, region, ABV winemaker notes)
- Special gifts to wow and educate your guests.
Should I offer full bottles or partial?
Guests typically finish the equivalent of one to two glasses of wine during a tasting. Tasting kits that include several full bottles are overwhelming and can be a deterrent. The best way to solve for this is to include a tested and effective wine saver, such as ArT Wine Preserver. This will allow guests to keep their open bottles of wine fresh for up to 30 days after the tasting.
If you don’t include an effective wine preserver, we recommend offering tastings in 2oz, 4oz, or half bottle sizes for smaller groups. An option to upgrade tasting kits to full bottles is great for larger tasting groups.
Contact us to see if we can help you with full or repackaged wine wine kits!
How can I repackage into smaller formats?
Preventing oxidation while repackaging is essential. Bottles such as these 4 oz brown bottles work great. However, oxidation still degrades samples after transfer. Inert gas, such as argon in ArT Wine Preserver, prevents oxidation of samples.
We developed an 'argon sandwich' method to prevent oxidation at a small scale.
To prevent oxidation in smaller samples:
1) Spray 1 second of ArT Wine Preserver into an empty 2oz sample bottle.
2) Pour wine into a sample bottle.
3) Spray another 0.5 to 1 second of ArT Wine Preserver into the sample bottle.
4) Immediately seal sample bottle.
5) Label sample bottle.
Samples are good for up to 7 to 14 days. For longer, using in conjunction with vacuum bottlers.
Contact us using the subject “Tasting Samples” for detailed protocol and a video of how this works.
5) Advertise your virtual tastings
Now that you have the virtual tastings planned, it's time to let people know! We can’t possibly cover all the ways you can advertise. But here are advertisements others use for their webinars and private tastings:
- Website: Link to tasting kits and how to participate in prominent locations on the website.
- Email: Send info to your email list.
- Social media: Post information about virtual tastings. Some tasting rooms perform weekly live tastings for their followers.
- In-person: Wine country travelers can’t visit the tasting room every time they want a taste. Let travelers know virtual tastings are an option for them and their friends.
- Partners: Leverage industry partners with a similar target audience or visitors bureaus to spread the word about your virtual tasting.
We didn’t do this alone, and are thankful to our great partners.
You should check out partners such as those below. Drop into a virtual tasting! You might learn something for your own tasting.
- VIN312 Winery hosts virtual tastings and winemaking content weekly. Check them out on IG and their website. Tell Warner we sent you!
- Vini Ventures offers virtual tasting packages for wine professionals in Ontario. Check them out if you want to accelerate your wine learning.
- New York International Wine Competition is the only annual international wine competition with real trade buyers judging the wine by its category and actual price. It is open to all commercially produced wine from around the world. Adam Levy, founder of NYIWC, says “ArT Wine Preserver was a large part in being able to run the competition virtually in 2020 & 2021.”
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