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Wine tasting and promotion in the digital era

Wine
08-09-2020
Jean-Francois Genoud

Simon Hardy DipWSET and I are ambassadors for Swiss wines in London. Last November we launched what we have nicknamed a Swiss Wine « Stammtisch » for professionals at 67 Pall Mall. The idea was to host a monthly gathering where Swiss wines were presented to buyers and sommeliers in the best environment possible and with a non-constraining calendar. But after just four editions, the COVID-related lockdown happened and here is how we bounced back.

In the wine industry, meeting face-to-face and being able to taste wine are critical to any promotional effort. Being locked down became a challenge we had to overcome if we did not want to lose the momentum that we had created over the past 4 years.

First things first. We used the initial downtime to revisit, refresh and increase our customer database. Today we have an up-to-date list of more than 500 buyers and sommeliers linked to their establishments, with a particular focus on London.

Next we created multimedia support materials for ourselves and our resellers. They consist of short videos that can be viewed in the Swiss Wine YouTube channel. This multimedia material can be tailored to the needs of each reseller to accompany newsletters and other online activities.

Our resellers too have been active promoting their businesses but, very much like in Switzerland, the impact on sales of the restaurants’ temporary closure was not balanced by the increase in private home consumption. Nevertheless, we still managed one resupply shipment during the lockdown.

Finally, this September we brought the « Stammtisch » back to life in an online format thanks to the logistical capabilities of our wine club 67 Pall Mall (which also had to reinvent itself during the lockdown).

From finding a solution to the event itself

During the lockdown the acclaimed 67 Pall Mall has been very active and offered its members tastings at home and online. To achieve this, they built a capability to make ten 0.75 dl tasting bottles out of a regular bottle, protect them with a neutral gas, label them and rapidly ship them to the individual participants in a temperature-controlled package just prior to the tasting event. This logistical service was made available to members and it opened an avenue for us to relaunch the « Stammtisch ».

After picking a date for the online event, we agreed it should not exceed 60 minutes. We therefore picked 6 wines which we felt provided an image of Switzerland’s wine production diversity, that alone was a challenge no one would argue with.

The order of the wines was decided based on availability at resellers in the United Kingdom and, of course, tasting criteria. 

For the whites we picked:

  • 2018 MT (Müller Thurgau) by Schlossgut Bachtobel in Weinfelden (TG)
  • 2018 Clos du Boux Chasselas by Luc Masy Vins in Epesses (VD)
  • 2018 Château Lichten Petite Arvine by Domaine Rouvinez in Sierre (VS)

For the reds we chose:

  • 2018 Pinot Noir Village produced by Weingut Fromm in Malans (GR)
  • 2016 Humagne Rouge Tradition by Domaine des Muses, Sierre (VS)
  • 2015 Sassi Grossi Merlot by Gialdi Vini (TI)

The invitation was sent out to our customer base via our regular newsletter supported by Swiss Wine Promotion’s digital capabilities, which we have used for the past four years. On the same day we had secured our 10 registrations and another 4 came in later. Winemakers as well as UK resellers were invited to join in, which added even more interest to the event.

The samples and an information deck were sent out to all participants and on September 7th at precisely 6 PM (UK time) Simon Hardy kicked off this first online Swiss wine tasting.

Praises and learnings

When a lot of work is put into organising an event of this kind it reflects on the outcome and Simon Hardy was praised for that by the participants. The wines were kept fresh and vibrant thanks to 67 Pall Mall’s logistical know-how. As a result, the selected wines too attracted praise from typically demanding professionals. Ultimately the relationship such events create are invaluable.

The timing and the pace of such events are essential. We have to respect everyone who dedicated a full hour of their time to learn more about Swiss wines and yet allow enough time for a good exchange of views. 

While we were focused on sales in the invitation, we also attracted writers and trainers, and had to open a separate session for two sommeliers who had a change of service and would have not been able to attend otherwise. 

This new approach has allowed us to test and prove that we can have all partners - buyers, sommeliers, resellers and winemakers who remained in Switzerland - work together in the best interest of Swiss wines abroad at an acceptable cost.