The return of the wine sample index

wine sampleThe Wine Curmudgeon is getting more wine samples than anytime in the past decade; what does that say about the wine business?

Almost eight years ago, as the recession tore holes through the wine business, I wrote a post about the Wine Curmudgeon Wine Sample Index – that is, you could tell the state of the wine business by how many samples I got.

The wine sample index has returned, and it may offer several insights into what’s going on with the wine business these days. Why does the sample index make sense? First, I never got as many samples as many of my colleagues, one of whom actually had to add a room to his house to store all that wine. That means the samples that I get are sent to me for a reason and just not because my name is on a media list. Hence, someone, somewhere thinks I can help sell their wine. So if I’m getting wine that I don’t usually get, something is happening.

And I’m getting wine that I don’t usually get, maybe four or five times as much this spring as at anytime since the recession started. The biggest producers never really stopped sending samples, but I’m also getting more European wine and wine from smaller U.S. producers.

What does all this mean?

• First and foremost, business is better. That I’m getting samples, which are expensive – the cost of wine and especially the cost of shipping – means even small producers feel confident to spend money on marketing. More winemakers are visiting Dallas, something else that dropped off precipitously during the recession.

• That the Internet has become an acceptable way to write about wine. Ten years ago, I had a PR person ask me how they could tell the real wine writers from the fakes in the cyber-ether, on the assumption that most of us were trying to scam free wine. In this, quality content and quality visitors – like my readers – matter as well.

• Producers may be getting smarter about who they want to review their wine. Those who don’t have huge marketing budgets understand that a niche Internet wine writer who focuses on their kind of product is a good fit. Several PR people told me they want to send me wine because they think my readers will be more interested than those at more general audience or higher end wine sites or magazines. That approach, if widespread, is revolutionary.

• Premiumization, at least among some producers, is all important. I’m getting more $15 to $18 wine, even though there is less chance I am going to write about it. But they still want to send it to me. They aren’t always happy with my review, but that’s a story for another day.

2 thoughts on “The return of the wine sample index

  • By James Caudill - Reply

    You’ve missed on point: it could be people have finally caught up with your talent after all the years you’ve been working at this, and respect that your opinion will be fair and well reasoned.

    Not as sure about the index showing the health of the business, because there are relatively few small producers producing wines in your price wheelhouse. Bigger producers don’t stop sending samples, if anything, other marketing efforts get cut and reviews become even more important.

    I think your observation about the democratization of reviewers is more to the point. A good review from a grouch is now as useful as a good review from a legacy reviewer in many eyes. And you’re the most knowledgeable, agreeable grouch most of us know….

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      No doubt. Or perhaps an April Fool’s comment a day early?

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