Wine Connoisseurs 'Nosing' a Choice Market
By Kendra Clayton
I'm certain you've heard the expression, " ... like a fine wine," referring to something rare and extraordinary. But what, exactly, determines a fine wine? First, there's color and clarity. Second, a fine wine's aroma is scintillating and rich. Third comes the much-anticipated taste. It must be savored for the full body to come forth; a perfect balance of fruit, alcohol and acidity.
This process, used to determine a wine's worth, can be broadly applied across the market of its connoisseurs as well. Oenophiles, or wine connoisseurs, are a rare breed, made all the more difficult to hone in on thanks to the increasing popularity of wine.
Constellation Wines US recently completed a study, Project Genome: Understanding the DNA of the Premium Wine Consumer, in which it conducted more than 3,500 online interviews with individuals who had purchased at least $5 per 750 milliliters worth of wine in the previous three months. The results lead to six distinct segments: enthusiasts, image seekers, savvy shoppers, traditionalists, satisfied sippers and those who simply were overwhelmed. It determined that the upper echelon, enthusiasts, "are passionate about the entire wine experience—from researching what to buy to sharing it with friends and family." These prospects are ideal, but according to the study, they make up a mere 12 percent of the wine-buying population. However, they comprise 29 percent of the share of profits!
Kay Stephens, educational events director at Vineyard and Winery Management magazine and former director of database marketing for Windsor Vineyards, estimates that the much-sought-after connoisseurs are wealthy, professional, middle-aged men. Denise Greenberg, director of marketing at Name-Finders Lists Inc., manager of Windsor Vineyards' and Hennessy's Gourmet Wines lists, concurs, and adds that these connoisseurs typically sport incomes of $75,000 to $200,000.
As for the demographics skewing toward older men, Tammy Boatright, president of Windsor Vineyards and International Wine Accessories, says that's about to change. "I think a new trend is the growth in the wine industry and the popularity of wine among young consumers and particularly women." Project Genome shows that 60 percent of wine enthusiasts are female.
A Rare Vintage, Indeed
Men or women, young or old, there are still a few things these amateur critics have in common—particularly the desire for exclusivity. According to Elizabeth Slater, marketing savant at In Short Direct Marketing, a direct marketing company that works with individual wineries and winery associations, that's the first key to reaching this market. Oenophiles "want what they can't have," she says. To reach them, she recommends her winery clients make "small amounts of high-quality wines and get the word out that the quality is high and availability is limited." Connoisseurs, Stephens readily agrees, "will spend large sums on the acquisition of high-end wines." If the offer is exclusive and limited, it affords prospects the chance to appear in-the-know by procuring it first.
Along the same lines as exclusivity is status. According to Project Genome, 20 percent of wine buyers are image seekers. To reach this group, make your offer stand out as something that could increase the prospect's status level.
Pair This Cabernet With the Camembert
So how do marketers weed out these hidden elite? "I don't think it's enough to apply simple demographic income, education, those kinds of overlays," says Boatright. "There has to be an affinity with wine there." Windsor Vineyards and International Wine Accessories do what she terms "traditional rentals." They focus on seasonal, gourmet food- and wine-related lists. Additionally, they participate in co-ops such as Abacus and NextAction, which easily can segment out individuals with an affinity for wine.
Slater says oenophiles do love their food. "Many," she says, "like to cook and pair good food with good wine," so related lists could prove effective in prospecting efforts. In addition, Greenberg suggests marketers might find success renting files related to specialty chocolates and even cigars.
Aside from segmentation and list rental, Windsor Vineyards and International Wine Accessories insert catalogs in Wine Spectator magazine. Specialty publications such as this are sought out as great places to advertise and for wineries to send samples for reviewing. A good review in Wine Spectator solidifies the product's image in the mind of wine connoisseurs. "Wineries rely on good reviews or scores to attract the wine connoisseurs to their brand," says Slater.
Wine afficionados are members of the elite, and they like to be treated as such. Appeal to their sense of good taste. Go at your marketing with confidence in your brand, armed with reviews and notable sources—not to mention a full-bodied campaign—and you just might find some sparkling new customers.
Lists to Test
Affluent Wine Connoisseurs: 320,475 individuals who travel to wineries and collect rare wine. Price: $90/M. Call: Byrum & Fleming, (415) 457-1700.
Food & Wine Magazine: 722,113 active subscribers to a publication about wine and gourmet food. Price: $105/M. Call: Millard Group, (603) 924-9262.
International Wine Accessories: 102,206 catalog buyers of wine accessories. Price: $110/M. Call: 21st Century Marketing, (631) 293-8550.
Windsor Vineyards: 47,097 mail-order buyers of wines by the case, gift sets and accessories. Price: $85/M. Call: Name-Finders Lists Inc., (415) 955-8595.
Wine Country Living: 74,440 active subscribers to a magazine about wine, country houses and gardens, food, culture, and history. Price: $100/M. Call: American List Counsel, (800) 252-5478.
Wine Enthusiast: 95,534 catalog buyers of gift, home and general wine-related merchandise. Price: $115/M. Call: ALC of New York, (212) 924-1300.
Wine, Spirit and Food Enthusiasts: 188,426 buyers of publications, videos and other products related to wines, spirits, epicurean and specialty foods, and cooking. Price: $95/M. Call: MKTG Services, (215) 867-4081.