Getting Your Local Independent Wine Store to Pick Up Your Wines – James Melendez / James the Wine Guy

Originally titled:  How To Get Your Local Independent Wine Store To Carry Your Wine

Note: This was published on another site (that no longer exists); I felt it important and still relevant for this title hence I am posting it here.


Getting a wine retailer or a ‘retailer that sells wine’ can be a hard thing to do if you are not prepared and have no written strategy.

Above I mention a wine retailer and I specifically mean a specialty wine retailer versus a big box wine retailer.  And above I also mention a retailer that sells wine… These are food retailers that happen to have a smaller set of wines to give their customer a fuller shopping experience (these are retailers are not top of mind but should be of consideration).

There is a plethora of wine SKUs in the market place now and many more to potentially be released.  Last year’s TTB COLAs were north of 120,000.  That is a staggering number but don’t let that be a deterrent.   There are many labels that go to market without a well-constructed marketing plan or a plan at all.   Hoping and believing in selling “a lot of bottles” is a recipe for not selling a lot of bottles.

The best wine brands go to the market place planning and methodically so to achieve a foothold and to development their wine label.  Thinking of your consumer is where it begins… your wine brands name and subsequent labels are the books cover…. Though many people try not ‘judge a book by its cover’ certainly many do.  Consumers still buy wines simply because the label is beautiful and the overall packaging is so compelling.  A professionally designed label is the foundation for your branding experience.  A back label is a place for deep richness and a way to grab your consumer’s attention.  And think about it—your label is not only important to the wine consumer it is important to the wine merchant that you want to sell your label.

Your written strategy doesn’t need to be a staggering voluminous document but something that you can create a road map to help getting your wine to be picked up by a wine retailer.  When you have your strategy documented then you can be prepared for questions that wine merchants will most likely ask.  Also it is a way for you to think ahead of what sets your wine apart from other wine labels.

Questions / actions for you to answer or at least think about prior to your appointment:

  • What sets your wine apart from wines produced in your region? What are your points of difference?
  • What is your experience?
  • What’s your vision for your wine?
  • Is your wine available by on and off-premise establishments?
  • Work on one state at a time—working on two- three states at time is a promise for a high learning curve for multiple states ABC laws and expending precious resources too easily and inefficiently; California is a great place to start and to focus
  • Consider both on and off premise
  • Get your wines reviewed – it is never too early to start to get some press and recognition
  • Look for low cost opportunities to enter your wine in a competition
  • Find the appropriate wine event to pour your wine (San Francisco has a plentitude of wine events through the year) –and this may be present a low cost and effective way to get some elementary customer foothold

Preparing for your wine buyer appointment

  • Ask for an appointment; rare is the wine buyer that has “open hours”
  • Samples are requisite – two of the same vintage is routine
  • Bring your business cards, sell sheets and any other press that your wine may have received
  • As with any other appointment be punctual (wine buyers will often stagger consecutive meetings next to each other) and stay within your allotted time
  • After your meeting; follow-up with a thank you email and periodically check in—a ‘no’ may not always be a ‘no’
  • The wine world has both a peculiar and unique inventory position—there is only so much of any vintage—not the same with other product categories—spirits, beer or even books
  • Pre-shop your wine retailer before you ask for your appointment (get a snap shot of their current SKU set).  Your wine may represent an opportunity especially if your wine may help to fill a gap in their inventory set
  • Present and pitch wine reviews / awards has your wine review receive?
  • Develop your SRP – suggested retail price point.   Wine labels develop their SRP over time and manage it well enough to increase that over time (above inflation).  Your suggested retail is a guidance and though they may not follow your SRP it does give them a basis to price your wine; over time you can manage your brand and not just to a buyers margin needs
  • Before you close your appointment time ask for sale; you may be told that they are well stocked but your wine may be of potential interest;

Other considerations

  • When you start selling your wine to a wine retailer always think about diversification—you never want to depend on one or two wine retailers but rather through several
  • If a wine retailer says they won’t carry your wine—ask why—perhaps there are kernels of learning or perhaps key indicators why they might not buy now

Smaller wine retailers have a great ear and voice with their consumer base and many consumers depend on a smaller wine retailer to introduce them to new wines.  The hand sell of wines is important for smaller wine brands.  Many wine labels try to go large chain wine retailers as a sign of success but those opportunities can be difficult to manage and may not meet your expectation.  The larger wine retailer may have requirements that a newly established wine brand may not be able to deliver.  If you visit many specialty wine retailers they tend to carry often the same brands year over year.  Now, retailers that carry wine (where wine is not their mainstay product category) hand selling is not a focus because their associates need to know a larger variety of SKUs and categories—however—many are open to having educational and tasting opportunities for their staff.  This focus can set you apart from the many wine labels that do not do that.

There are abundant opportunities for you and a concerted and focused effort and creating your strategic plan will help you to make not only a good impression but to have a lasting wine label that is something consumers can seek year over year.  And best of all you took the time to develop not only your wine but your brand as well.

Now, put hand to keyboard to get your brand road map completed and then get ready to drive on the map you created.

— James Melendez


Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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About James Melendez

I love wine and have had the privilege of working in the wine trade as a senior national wine marketing manager for a wine, food and home goods retailer in 30+ US States. I executed into making wine experiential and made 'wines of the world' programme work in a highly regulated framework for a successful business proposition. My "wine" site also incorporates those categories intimately involved with wine such as food, travel and lifestyle. This site incorporates my many dimensions of interest. I love to review and also talk about many aspects of wine. I have been privileged to visit many wine countries and find them enthralling no matter how many times I visit. I love all aspects of wine: viticulture, history, winemaking, brand development, wine regions and many more aspects. This is a living tradition that needs documentation, education, reporting and reviewing. Do I have favourite varieties and styles? I love so many varieties and often it is situational and yet there are time honoured wines that I anticipate and I am passionate about. I like all colours of wine and all styles. I have had a mad passionate affair with sparkling wines and they are always top of mind. Wine nourishes our soul and is the key to connecting with other people at our dinner table. Salute, James © 2014, 2017 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social medias.
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