How to Boost Sales During Wine Tastings

Five techniques that nudge customers to buy more bottles at your store's tasting — and forever after.
wine-tasters
A wine tasting Is a fun way for your customers to learn about your inventory. (Photo: Jack Frog/Shutterstock)

A typical customer might swing by a spirits store on their way home from work to grab a bottle of chardonnay. But there’s another type of shopper, one who’s eager to learn and explore.

Holding tastings can get these customers excited about visiting your store and ultimately boost sales, said Jörn Kleinhans, a certified sommelier and owner of The Sommelier Company, a nationwide resource for wine expertise and sommelier-guided private tasting events.

Kleinhans offered five ways to provide a tasting experience that inspires customers to buy more wine.

Host themed, guided tastings

“It is great to include a weekly theme and present tastings of 10 wines,” said Kleinhans. “This weekly tasting format gives customers an opportunity to try wines on a certain topic. There is a tremendous sales opportunity.”

While it may be tempting to explore really niche themes, Kleinhans said the average customer is looking for more accessible topics that dive into regions and varieties they’re already familiar with. Themes he recommends include the great wines of Italy, noble wines of France, the comparison of old world and new world wines and wines rated 90-plus from around the world.

If you have enough room in your store, set up an elegant table and offer a formal, seated tasting. Research shows customers spend more on average during a seated sampling.

Promote wine ratings

Expert opinions drive sales. One study showed sales increased 25 percent when bottles featured a wine rating near the price tag and increased even more when a high rating was displayed prominently.

“Consumers definitely look for that information,” said Kleinhans. He recommended store owners provide scores and critic reviews of every single wine during a tasting.

“It would be nice to have a small shelf sign near the wine or a handout where guests check out different wines available. Offer information on the price, score and what critics have said.”

Sample sub-par wines

Jörn-Kleinhans

“It is actually not useful to speak very highly of every single wine. If you’re tasting 10 wines and you say everything is great, clients stop trusting you because it is completely apparent that wines are not equally good.” – Jörn Kleinhans (Photo: Jörn Kleinhans)

While you should never offer a bad wine, acknowledging slightly negative qualities of some bottles can help you build trust and ultimately increase sales during a tasting, said Kleinhans.

“It is actually not useful to speak very highly of every single wine. If you’re tasting 10 wines and you say everything is great, clients stop trusting you because it is completely apparent that wines are not equally good.”

During your tasting, allow customers to sample two or three wines that just aren’t as great as the others. Point out if a wine is lacking in complexity, isn’t as good as you were expecting or has too much acidity.

“Once you make the concession that those wines are not that great, clients listen much better when you say these two other wines are wonderful tasting and an unbelievable value,” said Kleinhans. “I frequently sell out of those wines because people started trusting me.”

Be practical, not poetic

People in the industry fall as much in love with the story of the winemaker as with a particular wine. But wax poetic with caution. While there’s definitely a romantic quality in explaining how a winemaker goes out to the field on a moonlit fall evening to pluck grapes for his ice wine, for example, it’s not going to drive sales for the average consumer, said Kleinhans.

“It’s not the case that every single wine has an interesting story behind it, even though winemakers think so. To a customer who is tasting 10 different wines, it’s overboard to do that.”

Instead, find one interesting fact about a wine and focus on practical, expert-derived information, such as pairing suggestions.

“Specifically, offer pairing ideas with cheeses, heavy appetizers and charcuteries. It’s good to have a store handout with the secrets of sommeliers, such as how to throw a private party, what to do about glassware and which pairings are the best.”

When customers feel inspired to entertain with a particular wine, they’re more likely to take home a whole case of it, said Kleinhans.

Collect tasting sheets

Many customers will take notes on each wine sampled during a tasting. Wine stores can distinguish themselves by building profiles of guests’ preferences to offer recommendations on a future visit, said Kleinhans.

“You can increase sales by simply collecting the comments of weekly tastings from clients and deriving interpretations of their palate. Very few people are using this method.”

Keep these tasting notes on file. As you stock new wines, think about how they fit into your customers’ favorite flavors and make recommendations accordingly.

“Clients will come back to store because they feel like they know me over there.”

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