Home Wine Business Editorial Winemakers Use Art to Attract an Audience for Wine

Winemakers Use Art to Attract an Audience for Wine


By Elizabeth Hans McCrone

Imagery_2010_Tempranillo_FArt and wine have always had a natural affinity. Art openings are characterized by lavish wine receptions and hors ‘d oeuvres. Tasting rooms are filled with intriguing artistic items that tempt customers into purchases beyond a favorite bottle. Fine art and fine wine are often sold to well-heeled bidders at the same high-powered auctions.

The common denominator is a customer base that appreciates both; a fact not lost on marketing strategists for either enterprise.

Take Fine Art America (FAA) and Naked Wines, for example.

Fine Art America is an online marketplace representing more than 250,000 artists and photographers from around the globe. The company provides print on demand services to its customers, converting digital images into multiple formats, including canvas, framed, acrylic and metal prints as well as posters and greeting cards. The artists set the price for their work and incur no costs for joining FAA. Visitors to the website are estimated at a whopping 7.5 million a month.

Naked Wines is an online wine retailer that funds worldwide, independent, winemakers by selling their products at wholesales prices to a specific customer base. These customers, called “angels,” buy wines online by creating a private account, which they fund at a rate of $40 per month. In return, they are given preferential prices for purchases – between 40 to 60 percent discounts – plus access to the winemakers who actually craft the wines. According to their website, Naked Wines now has 50,000 “angels.”

The two organizations – FAA and Naked Wines – are currently involved in a joint venture that cross promotes both businesses. When a customer buys a piece of art through FAA, no matter how large or small the acquisition, they are automatically given a $100 voucher for online wine purchases through Naked Wines. The only stipulation is that they need to spend at least $160 on wine to redeem the voucher.

Bryan Lloyd is the Vice President of Business Development at Naked Wines. He says his job is to find business partners that share a customer base with demographics similar to his company. That made hooking up with FAA a virtual no brainer, he claims.

“FAA is a company that jumped out at me for two reasons,” Lloyd attests. “First, I believe that art, music and other forms of creativity go well with wine. After all, making wine is a form of art in a sense, and at Naked Wines we stress the importance of the artist behind the wine (the winemaker).

“Secondly, I believed that FAA customers would quickly understand and relate to what Naked Wines is all about. Our winemakers not only get the freedom to be as creative as they want with the wine they are making, but they, too, are set up with a platform that helps market and sell their product.”

Sean Broihier is the CEO and Founder of Fine Art America. He concurs that the joint marketing strategy with Naked Wines is a win-win for artists and customers alike.

“I’m constantly trying to come up with new, innovative features to help our artists be successful, to help them market themselves,” Broihier says. “This is an extra incentive; make a purchase, get a certificate for wine. I take this story to the artist and urge them to go to Facebook and Twitter and let their followers know we’re running this special. … We’re not competitors (with Naked Wines). It makes sense to keep doing this as long as our buyers, sellers and Naked Wines are happy.”

Art and wine cross marketing strategies are happening at more local and regional levels as well. Just ask Bob Nugent, who’s been running a one-of-a-kind art program at Imagery Winery in Glen Ellen, CA since 1983. Nugent, a successful painter himself, is business partners with Joe Benziger, Imagery’s owner and head winemaker. Their art & wine confluence came about when Nugent created a unique label for the winery with an image that carried across three different bottles to become complete. The result? People bought three bottles of wine, instead of one.

“We won all kinds of awards and sold out in a month,” Nugent claims. “Then we did some marketing research and found that 60 to 70 percent of people – if they don’t know what they want to begin with – base their decision (to buy wine) on how the bottle looks.”

Since then, Benziger has given Nugent pretty much carte blanche to find arresting, artistic labels to adorn his exclusive Sonoma County blends. But Nugent has done him one better. He’s created an art program at Imagery that supports the lives and work of well-known and emerging artists.

“We don’t select the art, we select the artist,” Nugent explains. “We don’t control the label design and there’s no deadline. When you send it to us, we’ll use it. The artist retains rights to the piece. We just get permission to use it.” The only requirement is that artist must incorporate, in some fashion, the image of the Greek Parthenon, which is part of Imagery’s brand, within their work.

Nugent says when the art community got wind of Imagery’s program, people were more than eager to participate.

“Once it caught on, we couldn’t stop the train,” Nugent laughs. He says the winery now has 420 pieces in its permanent collection, many of which are on display at the winery’s extensive, onsite art gallery. Reproductions of the artwork are offered for sale to winery guests.

Cathy Richardson is a painter and mixed media artist, currently based out of Healdsburg, CA (catherinerichardsonart.com). Born and educated in England, Richardson came to the U.S. in the late 1970’s on a fellowship and went on to receive her Master’s of Fine Art.

She was working with a printing company in Petaluma, CA on digital artwork when she first met Bob Nugent. Shortly thereafter, Nugent invited her to submit a painting for an Imagery label. Her work was subsequently featured on Imagery’s 2010 estate Tempranillo. Both the artwork and the wine were a hit, and ever since, Richardson can’t say enough positive things about Imagery’s innovative program.

“The 2010 Tempranillo, from their own estate vineyard, was only available for club members and it sold out right away,” Richardson attests. “They displayed my original artwork in the clubroom. At the gallery, there’s a shelf full of books where everyone who’s been displayed has their own feature page. You can leaf through the book at your leisure … it’s a real A to Zed collection.”

Because of her experience with Imagery, Richardson says she frequently finds herself bringing friends and colleagues out to the winery to enjoy the unique gallery setting as well as for the delicious, handcrafted beverages. She says the Parthenon aspect of the art is especially intriguing for guests.

“Large or small, it has to be included,” Richardson says. “People walk around looking for the Parthenon in each painting while sipping their wine. It’s incredibly clever marketing!”



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  1. We’ve been using my wife’s painting on each new vintage since we launched in 2007. Our customers LOVE having a new and fresh image on their new vintages – and it sets us apart on the shelves from all the other ‘traditional’ labels…..check us out at doslagosvineyards.com

  2. Flying Goat Cellars Tasting Room, located in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, has been featuring “Wine & Culture in the Ghetto” series for about 5 years. Fine art, photography, multimedia, book signings and poetry readings offer a cultural dimension to the tasting room’s gallery section. A new multimedia exhibit will be installed on Monday, September 8, and is called “The Sea at 5am” by Angela Valente. The artist’s reception will be held on Sunday, October 12, from 11am-4pm. Contact Kate Griffith 805-736-9032 or [email protected] for more information.


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