How do wine tasting festivals guarantee a quality experience and value for visitors? We talk with 3 individuals behind a few of the market’s finest occasions to hear their technique.
It was meant as a celebration of biodynamic yarra valley wines; those otherworldly in scope, made inning accordance with lunar rhythms and something aligned with exactly what professionals want to call “the cosmos”. The man and his better half had scheduled into all 4 sessions on the day of the Return to Terroir biodynamic wine tasting, a regular marquee event of the Melbourne Food and Wine Celebration. By the 3rd session, it was clear he was not visiting a fourth. Excessive wine had been taken in and he was asked to leave.
“The man ended up being upset,” remembers Natalie O’Brien, CEO of the festival. “He said it wasn’t explained to him when he booked that he must be spitting the wine out.” Thereafter, all festival presenters would reveal loudly at the start of each session that not just was spitting enabled, it was positively motivated. This is exactly what wine celebrations are made from– the finest of lines in between enjoying and things not behaving to script.
The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, which commemorates its 25th birthday this year, does it much better than a lot of. It finest fits the meaning of a traditional wine festival, with master classes, podiums, white tablecloths and sommeliers serving. However it is now being signed up with by a host of smaller, racier events that aren’t promoted so much as celebrations, but specific niche events customized to a specific group.
“Wine has done an extraordinary job of isolating its drinkers with its language and customs,” states Dan Sims of Bottle Store Concepts. He is behind events such as Game of Rhones (devoted to Rhone Valley grape varieties like Shiraz and grenache), Gauchito Gil Malbec World Day, VIN Diemen and Pinot Palooza.
“With Pinot Palooza, it is first a fun pinot celebration,” Dan states. “We market it like a music celebration.” He discovers music and real food along with excellent wine are central to the day’s success. “Wine is social. People wish to find out about wine the same way they consume it.”
Video game of Rhones is all about Rhone Valley grape varieties and gets everybody in costume mode, channelling their inner Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, and its target audience is the typical punter. The ratio of punters to manufacturers is the essential to success, according to Dan. Go any higher than 22 punters to one manufacturer and it just doesn’t work, he states. Video game of Rhones is the only festival that Brown Brothers attends. “It’s a great deal of enjoyable,” says Brown Brothers’ PR supervisor Caroline Brown. “And an excellent way to align your brand name with other like-minded brand names.”
Rootstock, which welcomes producers of “natural” wines, is smaller sized once again. Wine occasions do not come more specialised. “We knew we might unite a varied, wild, fun, helpful, edgy event that Sydney had not seen, and hoped individuals would enter it,” says co-founder, Sydney-based wine author Mike Bennie.
The very first event in 2013, hung on a single day, brought in around 3500 people. The 2nd Rootstock stretched over 2 days with 13,500 in attendance, and last November, its 3rd showing was set to be just as huge. Now it seems Rootstock might head overseas for its launching in Tokyo this year too. For Rootstock, winemakers are approached by invite only. Speakers such as Bruce Pascoe, the Aboriginal author/farmer, are selected for their “optimal impact”. Mike firmly insists that just yarra valley wineries put the wines at his event. “No reps and no marketing individuals.” This, Mike says, goes a long way toward developing a various environment and level of engagement.
The Melbourne Food and Wine Celebration has actually outlasted many contemporaries, in part due to its financial backing from the Victorian State Federal government and City of Melbourne, as well as since it is constantly progressing. It is not about selling or promoting wine, something some producers probably do not want to hear. “It has to do with an experience,” states Natalie O’Brien, strongly and typically. “Some makers have actually told us, ‘We require a database, we have to offer our wine’, but they need to fulfil our criteria, what we are doing, and for us, it has to be a strong consumer experience.”
Producers have their favoured wine festivals too. With costs increasing, the bottom line is necessary. And there’s the question of preventing “seagulls”– those who want everything free of charge. Events likewise have a use-by date. “I remember the Rutherglen Red [wine train to Rutherglen] and Yarra Valley Grape grazing,” remembers wine marketer Kathy Lane of Fireworks PR. “They were fantastic for their time, but you’ve got to keep recreating yourself.”
Susie Campbell, marketing manager at Campbell’s Wines, confesses her family company has crossed off some “exhausted” occasions. “After a while you either find the very same people turning up, year in year out, or the quality of attendees might drop, so we intend to trial new occasions,” she says.
Many prefer day events only, as night occasions can develop into mixer. And fresh food is important “Good food draws in a great, wine-interested audience,” says one wine maker. Quality glass wares too. “We do not favour celebrations where people taste from non reusable plastic cups,” Susie states.
The security of ladies is likewise of issue. Young women now have the tendency to control the wine festival attending group. Sixty percent of attendees to events staged by Bottle Store Ideas are ladies. The under-35 market is rising to 67 per cent females and in some cities it’s closer to 75 per cent. Natalie O’Brien states it is Millennials, the 25- to 35-year-olds, who now dominate the Melbourne celebration attendances.
For Chicago-born wine maker Brad Hickey from Brash Higgins in McLaren Vale, reaching out to a more youthful age group is essential. “The Australian wine scene is not extremely big, so it’s amazing how many countless individuals we have actually connected with [at celebrations], which is great for a small winery like Brash Higgins.”