Insights - July 18, 2023

3 Reasons Why Independent Wine Producers Should (also) Market and Sell Directly to Consumers

It will help your brand and your other distributors, improve your margins, and it's now easy to do!

Written by

Roland Benedetti

Three reasons why independent wine producers should (also) market and sell directly to consumers.

I’ve been loving wine all my (adult) life. I’ve been flirting with the wine business for 10 years and since two years ago, I’ve become fully immersed in the wine business. It is fascinating how this industry works. One of the most resistant to change I have seen, despite allowing so many different models and approaches for selling.

The wines I’m talking about here are artisanal products made in small numbers, unlike industrial products that never go out of stock. They are crafted by small wineries and produced in limited quantities in many different releases (aka “cuvées”). They are rare, can be collectable and are often running out of stock, but also can often pile up in a cellar or a warehouse if not being sold

After talking to many producers, I find it that there are many different ideas when it comes to how a winery should approach the market. Some are totally focused on selling to importers and distributors, convinced that working with a handful of them satisfies their business needs., while others are at the opposite side of the spectrum, completely focused on selling directly to consumers and then having hundreds, if not thousands of customers. Actually, selling directly to consumers is quite widely accepted for American wineries but is still not common in Europe for reasons I don’t understand.

From my experience, looking at that very humbly, I can’t help forming a very strong opinion: marketing and selling your wines directly to consumers is absolutely a must if you belong to that type of wine producer making limited production, artisanal wines, collectable and unique. Below are three reasons why I believe so.

Your distributors should be happy about it. It should not be seen as a threat for their business, rather an opportunity to grow with you!

The first reason I want to explain might be the least obvious, but it is very important. I’ve heard producers telling me “if I sell direct to consumers I’ll compete with my distributors, which I don’t want, so I want to give my entire production to my distributors”. In my opinion, and please keep in mind that I am myself a wine importer, I think this is absolutely wrong thinking.

Distributors are here to help you reach customers you can’t reach yourself. Any customer you can reach yourself, you should. Furthermore, no distributor covers a broad enough market to give you the guarantee that they could serve all the people who want to buy your wines. We are talking about a very broad market. Your distributors have a limited reach, even big American ones like Kermit Lynch or Rosenthal in the US. Any customer interested in your wines who is not in their reach might have no option to get your wines. If they are in their reach and happy with their service, they’ll get it from them and it's all fine. 

In any case, any customer seeking your wines to the point of ordering from the producer will potentially become the best ambassador of your wines, and this will also help your distributor, more than anything. This will build your name, your recognition, and your demand. 

So, serving these customers and being directly in contact with them is priceless. This is about branding (whether we like the term or not), about word-of-mouth, about building name recognition and loyalty. This is also about community, and for all this, your distributors should actually love it. This will help make it so that your wines are looked after more, and that’s all they want and all they need! 

Your margins will be higher, your business will be more profitable.

My second reason is totally different than the first one, and is actually fairly unquestionable for anyone with a strong business acumen. If, for a part of your production, you sell directly to consumers, you’ll probably make much higher margins on these. And the more I meet small artisanal winemakers, the more I know that actually, margin and profits are crucial to all of them.

I believe this reason doesn’t need much more explanation. The smartest producers I’ve met were able to balance their business with a mix of 50-70% direct sales, and 30-50% distribution to make sure their wines would end up in the important markets where they want them to be seen. I think that’s the most intelligent approach. Mixing sales channels to ensure your wines can reach all the people that demand them, but also promote them across channels, on social media and word-to-mouth.

Selling directly to consumers is not that complicated.

Lastly, a common argument I hear from wineries that are not selling directly to consumers is that it’s very challenging and time-consuming to take care of all these customers. The logistics and  sales and marketing operation is annoying and complex. I don’t think it is, maybe it was, but with modern tools, it’s getting very simple to manage such an operation. The truth is: I think this will ask you to do the job you should do no matter what: make sure the product is well presented with proper wine sheets, information about the vineyard, transparency of the product, make sure you can explain it and show it. You should be able to do this even when working with distributors, and if it’s on your website, wine buyers, somms and wine geeks will love it.

Then, arranging shipping or collection should really not be a blocking issue compared to the skills which are required to manage vineyards and cellars.

Selling directly to consumers will also allow you to embrace interesting new sales models, such as memberships or clubs, where your customers will repeatedly buy wine from you, in exchange of which they’ll have special privileges - discounts or access to rare products. Or even very non-digital perks such as coming to help for harvest and enjoy a wine release party. Not much different than what the many estates in Burgundy have been doing for ages.

This is it for this short rant and thank you for reading thus far. Anyone interested in the topic, please reach out, I would love to discuss this, and also, full disclosure, with, we are building tools which are making it easier for producers to market and sell directly to consumers.

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