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The Chicken, The Egg, and the Winery – Trade Relationship (and what’s missing?)  — Or — Why Don’t More Winery Websites Show Some Love to the Trade

Last month, Stephen Ballard, co-founder of Annefield Vineyards, authored an excellent piece entitled ‘Where Are the Trade?‘ about the lack of trade attendance at the Virginia Wine Expo.  Given the wine consuming masses that crowd the isles of the Expo, I’m not surprised the trade didn’t show — trade being defined as wine shop owners, restaurant folks, Sommeliers, distributors, sales reps and the like.   Stephen does a great job of highlighting the need for a serious Virginia wine-trade-only event similar to massive trade-only ProWein event in Germany.

Stephen’s blog post also touches on the interesting relationship between Virginia wineries and the trade.  From my perspective — that of an avid Virginia wine consumer and author of a few blog and print musings on Virginia over the last three and one-half years — Virginia wineries and the trade appear to get on quite well.

Winemakers seem to be in a constant state of hosting tastings at local wine shops (though not too many here in the Tidewater area), many wine shops throughout the Commonwealth carry a reasonable local selection, and the trade is regularly invited on media trips to Virginia wineries with Virginia’s First Lady, Maureen McDonnell.  In fact, I’m not sure there is another Governor, First Lady and Secretary of Agriculture so engaged in promoting and brining wineries and trade together than Virginia’s state leaders (much credit goes to the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office for their tireless work in making all this happen).

Though a healthy winery-trade relationship exists here, there is clearly some room for improvement based on recent conversations with winery owners, vintners, local wine shop owners, Somms and a few other random industry folk — restaurants and retails shops need to promote and sell more Virginia wine according to a couple of winemakers I spoke to… and, conversely, a wine shop owner and Sommelier told me that wineries need to produce more wine and work on competitive pricing structures in order to create demand.  Sounds like the ol chicken and the egg circular argument.

I’m not sure of the best approach to bridge the small divide between Virginia wineries and members of the trade — will leave that to the experts — but I do have a general observation about how wineries present/showcase their products to the trade.

Yesterday I visited over 50 Virginia winery and cidery websites and was absolutely shocked to find that only a very few — Breaux Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, Prince Michel Vineyard & Winery, Delfosse Vineyards — have a Trade section on their website (no doubt I missed a few winery websites with trade info).  In the spirit of Drink Local inclusion, I also visited about 15 Maryland winery websites, a dozen Colorado winery websites and a few from Texas as well.  Only one winery from these states included a ‘trade’ link — Canyon Wind Cellars in Colorado.

Wha-whaaaat?  You gotta be kidding me!  Of all the Virginia winery and other state’s websites I visited (about 90 in total) only five included a link (or section) for the trade to access information like shelf-talkers, sell sheets, bottle photos, detailed technical information on each wine (including past vintages), sales/trade contact information, formats available (375ml, 750ml, Mag, etc.), UPC, and any other tidbit that a retailer, Sommelier, distributor or sales person might need to make an informed buying decision.

I should note that nearly all of the winery websites I visited did include the standard, obligatory links to their Facebook page, online ordering info, exhaustive listings of wine competition medals won, tasting notes, directions, a listing of events and festivals, and some even included an itemized accounting of restaurants and retailers that carry their wine along with a lot of other consumer-centric information (which is also great info too).

Contrast this with the first dozen California and Oregon winery websites I visited, all of which included a link from their winery main web page to a specific trade section.  If I were doling out awards, Duckhorn Wine Company in California would win the Awesome Trade Section of a Winery Website Award for their informative and comprehensive, yet simple to navigate site for trade professionals (hat tip Meg Houston Maker for the lead on Duckhorn’s trade site):

Why don’t more Virginia, Maryland, Colorado, and Texas wineries/cideries have a comparable trade section on their websites?  Maybe these wine industries are smaller and distribution is more limited than larger regions like California and Oregon so informing the trade is not as necessary? Or maybe and all the sales folks already know all the winery folks and their wines so wineries do not yet need to make such information available to the trade?

Obviously, having a link for members of the trade is not a prerequisite to sell wine — many small wineries (fewer and fewer as competition increases?) sell much of their production directly from their tasting room and do not need to leverage traditional restaurant or retail sales channels.  Since tasting room sales are generally the most profitable for a winery, I’m sure there are some that have no plans to leverage the trade for wine sales, and thus one would not expect to see a trade link.

For those wineries that do leverage retail and/or restaurant sales (or would like to), having a trade site seems to make a lot of common business sense.  I could be wrong about this so I’m really interested in hearing from wineries that have made a conscious decision not to have such a valuable resource for the trade.  By the way, this is no way intended as a dig at any winery or their website, but a sincere desire to learn about the reasons for wineries not specifically focusing on the trade.

Though I may not be a member of the group commonly referred to as the trade, if I were, I would expect wineries to have a ‘trade‘ section on their website that contained information like sell sheets, shelf-talkers (not that I would personally need them 😉, technical fact sheets, bottle images, sales point of contact, UPC, etc.

I submit this question to those Virginia, Colorado, Texas and Maryland wineries interested in moving their wine via traditional trade channels — Why don’t you have a specific area of your winery web site dedicated to providing much valuable information to the trade.

Members of the trade: Would a trade section of every winery website — complete with shelf-talkers, wine technical factoids, bottle/winery photos, winery stats, clear contact information, etc. — be helpful to you?

Editorial Note:  If you haven’t already, take a moment now to read Stephen Ballard’s ‘Where Are the Trade?‘ I encourage readers to visit the Annefield Winery blog regularly as it’s one of the best winery blogs in the blogosphere and no doubt will be a nominee for the Best Winery Blog category in the 2012Wine Blog Awards.

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