Home Wine Business Editorial Sales & Marketing Revolutionizing Wine Sales and Marketing: Insights, Strategies and the Role of AI

Revolutionizing Wine Sales and Marketing: Insights, Strategies and the Role of AI


Wine Sales Symposium offered insights and concrete examples about boosting sales in a falling market and attracting new and emerging consumers.

By Laurie Wachter

Last week’s Wine Industry Sales Symposium had a clear objective: to assist wineries in going beyond discussions about attracting and engaging new and emerging wine consumers. While the industry has recognized the necessity of adjusting its approach, many wineries have not made sufficient changes to overcome generational and other obstacles. With a full-day lineup of sessions (eight in total), the Sales Symposium delivered valuable practical insights from wine industry professionals, real-life examples demonstrating successful strategies for appealing to diverse and younger demographics, and insightful predictions regarding the advantages of leveraging innovative tools such as AI.

Danny Brager at 2023 Wine Industry Sales Symposium [Photo: Wine Industry Network]
Danny Brager at 2023 Wine Industry Sales Symposium [Photo: Wine Industry Network]

The day’s first session, “Data-Driven Insights: Sales Trends and Predictions,” used statistics to provide perspective. Wine Market Council (WMC) President Dale Stratton highlighted that 36% of 21- to 49-year-olds and 28% of 50- to 59-year-olds haven’t yet adopted wine, compared to 14% of those aged 70 or older. Another gap is that only 9% of Hispanics spend $20 or more on wine (or consume it weekly), despite being 19% of the U.S. population.

“We’ve had many years of a rising tide that lifted all boats,” said alcohol consultant Danny Brager of Brager Beverage Alcohol Consulting, “but now sales will be shrinking. How should we market in this environment?”

“Wine competes with beverages from beer to spirits,” he reminded the audience, “and the rapidly growing flavored alcoholic beverages and wine cocktails segment expanded at an annual growth rate of +35% to $498 million in 2022 ― 2.5 times larger than 2019. Now we have every major producer offering non-alcoholic alternatives, too. It’s not as developed in wine, but it’s coming. What market should you play in?” 

Stratton added that one-quarter of 21- to 24-year-olds substituted non-alcoholic beverages for alcohol in Dry January and one-third substituted cannabis.

Marketing tools that work

With the stage set, attendees moved on to other sessions with speakers who shared ideas and case studies that have worked for wineries. The “Adapting Your PR Strategy for an Evolving Media Landscape” panel discussed effective storytelling techniques.

Mike Wangbickler, owner and president of Balzac Communications and Marketing, said, “Packaging is something most people don’t consider media, but an engaging story starts with the label. Augmented reality labels are cool; consumers don’t have to read a long label to learn about your wine.”

Katie Calhoun of Calhoun & Company Communications agreed, “Terroir is one of the many ways to describe wine that young consumers aren’t interested in. But sustainability is key to these consumers, and cause marketing on a QR code lets them see what the wine delivers to the planet. In that way, terroir does matter. The language of wine and the words we’re using are changing.”

(L-R): Stacy Briscoe, Wine Enthusiast (moderator); Michelle Erland, Colangelo & Partners; Rebecca Hopkins, consultant; Mike Wangbickler, Balzac Communications & Marketing; Katie Calhoun, Calhoun & Company Communications; Chris O’Gorman, Rodney Strong Wine Estates [Photo: Wine Industry Network]

An intrigued but cautious audience member asked about the effectiveness of QR codes on labels and whether people actually scan them. 

Leah Varvaro, new product development lead at O’Neill Vintners & Distillers, answered that question in a concurrent session, “Keys to Growth in a Flat Wine Market – Balancing Retention and Acquisition Strategies.” Varvaro described how Rabble Wine combined augmented reality and QR codes to provide an immersive experience centered around nature.

“AR brought the labels to life,” she explained, “with each label highlighting an element of nature that our growers and winemakers need to consider when making wine.” 

She found that these connected experiences delivered a five-fold increase in QR code scans and revealed that 81% of consumers were more likely to use connected packaging to learn more about products, 72% to scan it at retail and 84% to purchase a product with a connected experience.

What about AI?

The sales symposium sessions also covered other sales and marketing topics, including how to “Leverage DTC Insights”, “Grow DTC Sales without Traffic” and “Engage New Wine Enthusiasts”, as well as trends in next-gen packaging, before wrapping up with its most popular session, “What Artificial Intelligence Can Do for Your Wine Brand.”

Pix CEO Paul Mabray kicked off the session by asserting, “AI is not a buzzword; it’s here to stay. ChatGPT was adopted faster than anything in history,” reaching 100 million users exponentially faster than TikTok, Instagram or Netflix. His cautionary message: “ChatGPT can spread disinformation in a post-truth world, but it’s awesome for a head start and reviewing your work.”  

Paul Mabray of Pix, and Treasury Wine Estates' Justin Noland [Photo: Wine Industry Network]
Paul Mabray of Pix, and Treasury Wine Estates’ Justin Noland [Photo: Wine Industry Network]

Justin Noland, senior director of DTC marketing and e-commerce at Treasury Wine Estates, offered concrete examples of how a winery can use AI tools to generate content at the faster pace of a younger generation. His team used ChatGPT to build the landing pages for a discount site, Google Bard to write its blog and Flair.ai to create brand imagery. “It took 6 to 7% of the time it would have taken for us to build the site ourselves — at 3% of the cost.” 

He advises getting comfortable with AI by following experts like Rachel Woods, starting small with clear goals, and being creative and, most important, patient: “Be willing to try things,” he adds, “and be OK if it doesn’t work out.”

Throughout the day, the symposium offered many other insights and concrete examples about boosting sales in a falling market and attracting new and emerging consumers. Not the least among them was Wangbickler’s advice to hire people from the communities you want to attract. When you do, however, be prepared to address one of the top audience questions: “How do you break through to an older generation leadership team that doesn’t see the value or understand investing in social media trends?”

If you missed the event and are curious about the program, select sessions will be available to watch on June 14, 2023.  Visit the Wine Industry Sales Symposium website and signup for email updates to be notified about the broadcast. 


Laurie Wachter
Laurie Wachter

Laurie Wachter

Laurie Wachter brings her expertise in consumer behavior, food & beverage marketing and direct-to-consumer sales to writing about innovation and challenges in the consumer packaged goods industry. She works with a global client base from her Northern California Wine Country home.




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