Home Wine Business Editorial E Column Should Tasting Fees Be Waived with Purchase?

Should Tasting Fees Be Waived with Purchase?


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I was discussing with my friend Karyn Howard Smith from Bryn Mawr Winery in Oregon whether tasting fees should be waived with a purchase and it started us thinking. If a winery charges a tasting fee of $20 per person and their wine prices range from $25 on up, they are quite likely to sell one bottle of the least expensive wine.

Guests will usually buy to have the tasting fee waived. However, if most of your guests buy one bottle of wine per person when each tasting fee is waived, it may well be a break even or worse, a loss for the winery. And even worse, it encourages a one bottle buy for many of your guests.

Before you decide whether you wish to waive the tasting fee for any guest who buys, you might want to do a cost analysis to discover how much a tasting actually costs.         

  • How much time on average do guests spend at the winery when they come to taste?
  • How much is it costing the winery in wages for the hospitality person who works with those guests?
  • How many wines and how much wine do you pour for each guest?
  • How much does it cost (overall) to run your hospitality center?
  • How much is it costing you to make your wine?
    • Deduct that from the retail price of the wine to discover
    • what your profit is on the wine. Then look at the waiving of
    • the tasting fee to see
  • Are you giving your guests the wrong impression of the value of the wine?          

These are just some of the questions to ask when you decide on the amount charged for tasting and whether you will or will not waive tasting fees with a purchase.

Another thing to consider is how the guests perceive the value of the tasting and your wines if tasting fees are waived. The tasting should be an experience to be remembered.

Consider waiving tasting fees on the purchase of a 3 pack or more. Naturally, you will waive tasting fees for wine club members and regular buyers; while they may not be a member of the wine club who regularly buy wine from you.

Lastly, if you do waive tasting fees with purchase, make sure your guests know the value of your wine and this gesture to them.

Let me know what thoughts you have on this topic.

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. With your many suggestions over the years, we have improved our dollars per person quite a bit. Our $10 tasting fee is waived with a purchase of $20.
    I have a conversion rate over 95%. We view collecting a fee as a sign of failure. Or as a way to keep bachelorette parties under control.
    Paul Vandenberg
    Paradisos del Sol

  2. We are in the same sort of industry type, sort of. We manage water agencies conservation programs and install the products. If an agency gives all the services for free there is no value to the customer and/ but they feel like they own us – after all, this is your stuff. They have no skin in the game. However, if fees are charge, no mater how small, the customers feel a part and are appreciative

  3. I kinda agree. It used to be that a tasting room was there so consumers could familiarize themselves with the wines, learn about them and ultimately buy them in restaurants and wine shops because they “know” the wines.Unfortunately, once tasting rooms became a profit center for the winery, that went out the window. Granted, there are moochers and “drinkers”, but a good tasting room employee used to be able to tell them from the serious wine tasters, and exempt the latter. Not any more…


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