Home Wine Business Editorial E Column A Note From a Frustrated Wine Consumer

A Note From a Frustrated Wine Consumer


E Column

The other day I received an email from a wine consumer I know. This person is not in the wine business, neither is anyone in the family. As a couple they go wine tasting regularly and are thinking about giving it up.

The note is exactly as I received it, except that I took out any reference to the location of the wineries visited as these things happen in all regions.

“For a while now we have stopped going wine tasting for one major reason: We hate being told what are we going to taste in the wine. After the n-th tasting room, where we have heard the wine notes, and we were asked only where are we from, I have had enough.

95% of our tasting room hosts recited the tasting notes to us and all other customers and just wanted to see us buying a lot and get out of the door. I feel not like a treasured guest but as a “body in and body out,” and I feel like they check some boxes with how much they served and how much we bought and that’s all. 

We now only have about five favorite tasting rooms in the whole area where we take guests, and the hosts are not assuming that we are there in a group just to get drunk, or that we know nothing about wine tasting. 

More often than not we have had to ask for water in-between the tastes and dump buckets were available in about 2% of all the tasting rooms we have visited in the last six years. 

I used to go to discover new places and find new wines I might like. I don’t feel like going anymore. I rarely find good examples of customer service, or folks who really care about the customer and want to establish a relationship (other than “buy something, dammit!”).”

Show this note to your staff, bring it up at the next hospitality staff meeting. You might not think it applies to your winery, but it might.

Next week I will talk about ways to fix the problems brought up in this note.

A tip of the glass from me to you

Elizabeth SlaterE Column
by Elizabeth “E” Slater, In Short Direct Marketing

A recognized expert in the fields of direct marketing and sales in the wine marketplace. Slater has taught more wineries and winery associations how to create and improve the effectiveness of their direct marketing programs and to make the most of each customer’s potential than anyone in the wine industry today.

Follow E on twitter @esavant and facebook.



  1. The newbies enjoy the wine tasting notes. The experienced wine tasters want to explore what they sense and experience. However, NO ONE wants to be treated like a body.

  2. Echoing Ron’s comment, the “wine tourists” appreciate guidance when visiting a winery tasting room.

    Your correspondent represents The One Percenters who are experienced consumers for whom such guidance is unnecessary.

    I would advise your correspondent to contact the tasting room in advance of their desired visit, and ask if the winery can provide a more intimate, expansive tasting experience away from the wine tourists. (Maybe that entails barrel sampling; attending the winery’s “new release party” or other activities crafted for mailing list patrons; or a winemaker dinner.)

  3. Bob’s points are well taken. The majority of tasting room visitors are wine tourists and need some hand holding. Experienced wine customers are put off by the experience. Tasting room staff need to learn to qualify the visitor and adjust their approach accordingly. I try to make it easy by introducing myself as a local which generally leads to a much better experience.

  4. As a tasting room manager, specifically, I’d like to comment on the water availability. In our winery, we made the choice to not volunteer water because of code restrictions. Area regulations require us to have a food service permit to be able to serve a glass of water. Getting the permit requires infrastructure that is not cost effective since we don’t serve food. We can provide pre-packaged crackers, but we can’t cut a block of cheese. Most customers have no idea about the restrictions, so we stay quiet until a request is made. At that point, we put a bottled water on the bar because that is all we can do. Even when we explain it to our customers, they don’t get it. They see other situations that they want to compare, but we’re not in a position to explain because we don’t know if that other winery has a permit. It is what it is . . .

  5. Thanks for the comments. I agree with some of your points, though I am always wary of telling people what they are going to taste. Mostly because we all taste things differently. In my classes and seminars are ask people to name a food they don’t like. The foods they name are all over the board, because we all taste things differently.

    When someone tells you what you are going to taste and you don’t taste what they say you should, it’s rather like taking a test and failing. Better to ask people what they taste and be able to tell them that they have a good palate, when they come up with something that most people will find.

    I am all for helping people to better their palate but because we all taste and smell things differently, for me it’s better to bring out their own abilities. It was too long ago that we believed that the human nose could detect only about 10,000 odors, we now believe it is at least a trillion.
    Thanks for reading E

  6. “Area regulations require us to have a food service permit to be able to serve a glass of water.”

    Wait! What?

    Did April Fools’ Day come late this year?


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