A recent report about selling wine in a post-Covid-19 world published by Liv-Ex, a market place for fine wine, recommends to accelerate e-commerce strategies to meet consumer demand.
The Liv-Ex report adds that Google Trends saw significant growth in search terms such as “buy wine online” and “wine delivery.” In a similar way to other countries, online wine sales soared during the lockdown in Spain.
“Marketing digitalization is a fact,”, says Iñigo Tapiador, marketing director at Rioja’s Regulatory Board. He has led a radical transformation of the region’s promotional strategy turning the image campaign planned for 2020 into what he describes as “a direct call to wine consumption.”
Many wine regions in Spain have followed suit. These appellations have added sections in their websites to provide contact details or direct access to their members’ online stores. Marketing campaigns in social media encourage the audience to purchase wine, often strengthened with virtual tastings such as DO Jumilla, or other actions to drive traffic to their sites. The list so far includes Bullas, Navarra, Rueda, Rías Baixas, Ribera del Duero or the producers association Institut del Cava.
Rioja has opted for a marketing campaign that appeals to emotional bonds but also collects data from consumers interested in wine, tourism and the region itself. With the slogan #TeMerecesUnRioja (#YouDeserveARioja) they are giving away 7,500 wine tours for two to boost wine tourism once travel restrictions between Spanish regions are lifted. Wine lovers can sign up on a site specifically designed for this purpose where they can also buy directly from producers or from online retailers featurig a specific Rioja section.
“The campaign is helping us to get a considerable number of leads and from then on a world of opportunities opens up to us. The digital arena offers a higher level of segmentation than traditional media", says Iñigo Tapiador.
Rather more spontaneously, Master of Wine Fernando Mora has turned into a major communicative phenomenon during the lockdown in Spain. He began sharing knowledge on Instagram (see above the simple handwritten note he used to announce his first talk) but he soon invited other wine professionals and in no time he was hosting live talks with leading experts and wine producers from Spain and South America. Who could have imagined just three months ago to have Pablo Álvarez of Vega Sicilia sharing a relaxed Instagram chat?
With his talks in Spanish, Mora not only reached a large audience, but he was also able to create a loyal fan base. As if that wasn’t enough, Mora and his colleague Jonas Tofterup MW decided to host a blind (virtual) tasting competition once the talks were over. Such was the response that the site of Bodegas Frontonio, where applicants were asked to register, collapsed twice. On May 27, 350 wine aficionados were meant to test their noses and palates to win a bottle of La Tâche in this record-breaking, unprecedent tasting. Unfortunately, the list of wines was leaked and a new contest is expected to be held in the near future.
Despite this setback, all this frantic activity during the lockdown has helped Mora to publicise and sell his wines. The crisis has also led him to materialize his old idea of a wine club and, as many other producers, to set up an online store. Unsurprisingly, Frontonio Garage Club is not an ordinary club. There are four annual six-bottle packs each including a wine made exclusively for the club and another one by a friend producer. The rest are regular cuvées, but they may also include old vintages or en primeur wines. Profits will go to new club projects.
In essence, this strategy does not differ much from the one adopted by chefs, as marketing and wine expert Maite Corsín points out: “Takeaways and home delivery services are the natural follow-up to the videos of recipes posted by chefs during the lockdown. It has been a smooth transition.”
The coronavirus crisis is likely to speed up the introduction in Spain of customer loyalty strategies which are established in other wine producing countries such as the creation of wine ranges for specific channels (clubs, wines exclusively sold at the winery, direct sales as a priority channel…).
Cvne has given greater visibility to its Club Toloño. Discreetly launched in September last year, it is meant, in the words of marketing director María Urrutia, “to sell special wines that we regularly produce directly to the public because they do not fit in our regular sales channels”. Cvne’s old barrel club is also part of Toloño now – the number of people wanting to buy 300 bottles (the equivalent of a barrel) of a single wine has dwindled.
Toloño was the name given in Cvne to wines destined to close friends and employees. The club was launched with three reds: Cvne Reserva Especial, Asúa Crianza, a village wine from Haro, and Contino Selección del Enólogo. All of them are special limited release wines (they do not exceed 20,000 bottles altogether) and with higher added value than the top selling cuvées on the winery’s online store. “Online sales are growing but they are entry-level, lower-priced wines,” says María. “Sales of Imperial and Contino, mostly found on the on-trade, are likely to be the worst hit,” she adds.
Club 1497 by Raventós i Blanc has been around for one year now but is also being promoted during the pandemic. PR director Susana Portabella says: “It’ not just about selling but about getting closer to clients and providing experiences.” The club’s annual membership costs €290 and grants the right to three deliveries featuring wines that are off the market or specific, ad-hoc collections. Members also have access to limited editions and events like the harvest or tasting sessions.
In the distribution business, the first actions of Alma Vinos Únicos during the lockdown were geared to sell assorted wine cases tied in to themed virtual tastings, but they soon stopped. "Instagram Live was awash with content so we decided to change our strategy," says César Ruiz.
While they plan new ideas set to be released soon, Alma is taking advantage of what Ruiz describes as "very good business opportunities at an international level", particularly large allocations from producers based in renowned regions like Burgundy who are placing their trust in reliable, long-standing clients. “We are offering this surplus to a group of wine lovers that we are creating at Alma. Basically, we are expanding the circle of our best clients with their friends and contacts around them,” says César Ruiz. Word of mouth and personal recommendations are playing an important role during the pandemic.
The number of wine charity initiatives born during the lockdown has been considerable, be it giving away profits to fund research against Covid-19 or supporting those most affected by the crisis. The tasting competition launched by Mora and Tofterup and the various auctions held over recent weeks (organized by merchants like Coalla Gourmet, the group of growers Artisan Wine Attraction, PR agency Brandelicious or wineries like Grupo Bodegas Palacio 1894) are good examples. Another interesting initiative was the sale of 100 cases containing 10 bottles of sparkling wines each, one for each member of Corpinnat. Priced at €100, they were sold out in under three hours.
The wineries behind the Haro Wine Station Experience tried to compensate wine lovers who had purchased their tickets to attend the group’s annual wine tasting set to be held in June. Tickets are now valid for the 2021 edition or can be refunded, but the wineries have released a case of wines that were meant to be poured at the tasting. “Proceeds will go to charity and to help bars and restaurants, a sector that has suffered considerably during the pandemic”. Anyone keeping their tickets for next year is being offered a significant discount.
González Byass has managed to draw very positive brand awareness with its annual launch of Tío Pepe "en rama". The launch of the iconic Fino was tailored to suit the current circumstances. A virtual presentation via Zoom recreated the atmosphere inside the tabancos, the traditional sherry bars found in Jerez, with live music and presentations by winemakers Antonio Flores and his daughter Silvia. As proceeds from this 2020 "saca" will be destined to the reopening of bars and restaurants, the campaign means a strengthening of bonds with the brand's loyal clients.
In Priorat, six wineries in Porrera decided to join forces to sell their wines together and their idea quickly spread across the appellation. It was as simple as selling a case of six random bottles from six different producers for a little over €75 to support the region's winegrowers. One euro per bottle is destined to fund research against Covid-19. As well as helping a good cause, the purchase implies the defence of a unique, rugged territory where small family-run wineries are the norm. Since the campaign was launched at the end of April, over 1,500 boxes have been sold but what’s important is that this initiative goes beyond wine. "Creating communication content just for the sake of it does not make any sense. Brands need to add meaning to that content", says Maite Corsín. It's a great piece of advice, not only in times of coronavirus.