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Virtual Wine Tasting and The New “Normal”

April 14th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

As wine country adjusts to social distancing, producers have found new ways to reach out to wine lovers who can’t make it to tasting rooms. In a recent issue of the Wine Enthusiast, Kathleen Willcox, writes that: “The wine business in California is responsible for about 81% of U.S. wine production, employs 786,000 nationwide and generated $114 billion in the U.S. in 2018. Direct-to-consumers (DTC) sales, meanwhile, have increased in importance to small and medium-scale wineries in recent years. In 2018, the DTC wine sales totaled $3 billion in the U.S., an increase of 12% from the previous year. Of those sales, about 38% happen in the tasting room, which translates to roughly $1.14 billion in annual sales.”

Kathleen goes on to say that: “The creativity of response to changing circumstances in the wine world has been astounding. Your favorite producers are available to you, some more than ever.”

Other wineries have tapped their staff’s strengths to stand out of the virtual pack. Evesham Wood is utilizing the skills its advanced sommelier, Christopher Lindemann. “We launched sampling packs that will bring the private tasting experience into a guest’s home,” says Lindemann. “We’re setting up private, virtual meetings on Skype, Google or FaceTime. Distance learning has been part of the cultural vernacular for some time, and though this will require an adjustment, we think that we can have real conversations, even over a distance.”

Ken Wright Cellars (KWC) offers one-on-one Zoom sessions with members of its winemaking team. The winery also helps collectors organize their cellars and provides in-depth information on vintage, vineyard, farming and production techniques for wines they own.

“The virtual tasting experience has been a long time coming, especially for a family-owned winery,” says Ivory McLaughlin, a KWC ambassador. “If anything, this crisis has just accelerated trends currently happening around the country and in our culture.”

Maggie Curry, Kendall-Jackson’s director of marketing, says the winery has adopted a “glass-half-full mentality.” It’s attempting to turn a time of isolation and social distancing into a positive for wine lovers and the brand. In the coming days, the producer plans to expand tastings to include virtual cooking classes, cellar restocking tips, yoga seminars and virtual sip-and-paint classes.

In Paso Robles, Hope Family Wines offers one-cent shipping on orders of three bottles or more, plus home delivery and pickup. Every tasting flight will include a video that features winemaker and President Austin Hope and other key members of the cellar team, as well as a curated playlist to pair with the wine. “This crisis has made us feel more connected than ever to our community,” says Hope. “The response has been incredible, but I have to say our favorite comment so far is that we ranked second only to toilet paper as one of life’s great necessities.”

Here at Skolnik Industries, our stainless steel wine barrels are “virtual” at www.skolnik.com . Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.

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