The Buyer
Doug Wregg on how to get the country focused on natural wine

Doug Wregg on how to get the country focused on natural wine

Let’s face it can be hard to get some customers to switch away from Pinot Grigio or a safe bottle of South American Merlot, never mind take the plunge with a natural wine that may not even taste like wine at all. So it’s some achievement to get 100s of restaurants and bars serving 1000s of bottles of natural wine to customers all over the county as part of Real Wine Month. Event organiser, Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrene, explains how it all comes together.

Doug Wregg
21st June 2017by Doug Wregg
posted in Opinion,

There are countless National Days and months for all sort of reasons and if the success of Real Wine Month is anything to go by then it seems natural wine is one cause that consumers are quite happy to believe in.

Involving 100s of trade customers and 1,000 of consumers The Real Wine Month has good cause to claim to be one of the largest UK-wide promotions of wine. The simple idea is to promote – for a month – organic, biodynamic and natural wines by the glass in establishments ranging from bars and bistros to Michelin star restaurants, and to work with independent retailers and wholesalers to spur them to “creatively” advertise and sell these wines to their own customers.

Although the specific wines for the promotion are selected to give it a particular focus, there is always a sufficiently wide spectrum of styles, countries and price points that the participants may choose from, ensuring that their involvement is commercially viable. As organisers we wish, however, to encourage the trade to be more adventurous in their wine choices, so that their customers, in turn, will be more adventurous in theirs.

The promotion therefore highlights small artisan producers, and promulgates the virtues of provenance and organic farming, offering a comprehensive selection of authentic, hand-crafted wines.

Curiosity sells

Experience tells us that if you give prominence to a wine, or a group of wines, on a list or menu, (or on a blackboard or tent card) you will then pique the curiosity of your customers. The Real Wine Fair team always puts together some striking POS materials to assist, but these are not enough in themselves to sell the wines. It is important to engage the restaurants by virtue of tasting, staff training and sampling – the groundwork for any successful promotion.

The creative – and energetic – aspect of a promotion also involves scheduling as many events as possible in conjunction with the participating establishments – these might include a grower – or growers – taking over a wine bar for a night; organising masterclasses and consumer tastings; hosting mini fairs and pop-ups – and so forth.

This year there were no fewer 50 than “ancillary” Real Wine events drawing in trade and consumers alike. In the words of the advert: “Every little helps.”

Play to your strengths

Wine companies are uniquely placed to make such promotions work as they are able to bring resources into play that even the best-intentioned marketing bodies would find difficult to match. Primarily, they can use their direct connections. Knowing the individual buyers and decision-makers across hundreds of accounts allows them to develop strategies tailored to meet the needs and expectations of individual customers.

The Real Wine Month offered a financial incentive, namely an additional trade discount for one month for every nominated wine poured by the glass in restaurants or listed in retailers. Some of the more progressive establishments not only passed on the discount saving to their customers, but matched it with one of their own. The main point, however, was to bring lesser-seen wines into play and offer them at an attractive price.

Offering real value

Any wine promotion succeeds on the basis that the wines naturally represent excellent value for money, that the restaurant or retail staff are clued up to talk about it, that the promotion is imaginatively represented, and that the social media vividly reflects the energy that it going into it and coming out of it. As with anything, the more you put in in terms of organisational efficiency, enthusiasm and proactive selling and marketing, the more you will get out of such promotions.

Each year 250-300 establishments throughout the different sectors of the trade participate in the Real Wine Month. It is a lot to co-ordinate and each year the organisers of The Real Wine Fair try their utmost to improve the quality of communication and suggest new and creative ways of selling wine.

Long term goal

It is important to remember that what we call “real wines” are not just around for the two-day period of the fair itself, or even simply confined to a month-long wine promotion. The medium-to-long-term objective is to find spaces on all wine lists for such artisan wines. Whilst temporarily highlighting a niche area of wine serves a certain purpose, actually helping to improve consumer choice is surely a more worthwhile promotional outcome. Boosting the profile of real wines (for example) through a promotion, kickstarts the process of education, which itself is the foundation of a more sophisticated wine culture.

This approach applies to all promotions in the wine trade – we are not aiming for a sugar rush but for more sustained interest and commitment by means of constant reinforcement.