Online Wine Tastings: The German Winemakers’ Perspective     

Online wine tastings were booming during the pandemic. Scientists at the Hochschule Geisenheim University wanted to know how winegrowers deal with this new marketing tool.

Credit: Wein-Moment
Credit: Wein-Moment

General Information about the Sample 

This study gathered information on winemakers' positions, motivations, and challenges to better understand the market of online wine tastings throughout Germany. The research project was conducted in the frame of the Strategic Planning module by the students of the International Wine Business study program at Geisenheim University. The research project aimed to identify prospects and ideas to keep this new niche of the wine business viable as a strategic business model even after the pandemic.

A heterogeneous sample of wineries and wine-related businesses throughout Germany, including a wine marketing enterprise, a wine event organizer, and an online wine retailer located throughout several different federal and wine-growing regions, were achieved. In total, ten separate interviews were conducted. The small number of interviewees does not reflect the positions of all German winemakers. However, the study is by its nature explorative for the German wine market. All wineries and enterprises were currently providing online wine tasting services at the time of the interviews.

The sample was representative of German winemakers' diversity and their entrepreneurial pursuits during the pandemic as the companies ranged in size, cost structure, and existing client base. Interviewees ranged in size from six-hectare wine estates selling mostly to private consumers, cooperative wineries collectively owning over 1,200 hectares and selling most of their wines through supermarket channels, to winery event organizers representing six separate wineries.

The frequency in which online wine tastings were conducted varied dramatically: some reported that they happened when possible; others reported tastings were scheduled every two weeks; and still others already had five planned for the week of our interview. The number of participants per tasting varied extensively as well. Many wineries held more intimate gatherings of 10-20 people whom all knew each other. One of the larger wineries and one of the large enterprises reported hosting 300-600 people at a time.


The Motivation for Conducting Such Events

Despite varying responses towards main motivations for conducting online wine tastings, all wineries and businesses reported they began online wine tastings to respond to pandemic closures. Slight variations in their initial motivations include maintaining existing customer relationships, selling wines even as tasting rooms were physically closed, promoting their wines despite closures, and covering losses from the Covid-19 global health crisis. The three non-winery interviewees hoped to retain and gain business partners, continue their accessibility to local winery partners, and support the winemakers to endure the closures of 2020.

Several wineries used social media to promote their tastings but reported that word of mouth was essential in attracting new customers. Some distributed leaflets at the winery or sold wine packages, and some mainly advertised online wine tastings on their website and through the German Wine Institute's page advertising all available online wine tastings throughout Germany. One winery reported they collaborated with two other local wineries to share a customer database and increase their customer reach collectively. 

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