“Would you to like to host a wine dinner for 100 people in Hong Kong/New York/London [delete as applicable]?” 

If you have not yet had this kind of invitation and you’re a producer with any prestige in any of the major regions of the world, you soon will. And on one level, what could be more tempting? The opportunity to do what you may well enjoy doing most: talking about the vintage variations between different bottles of your lovely wine, the beautiful place it comes from, and the wonderful people who helped you to make it. And you get to eat a great dinner in attractive surroundings, meet some interesting people and maybe even sell a few extra cases.

And you get all this for the cost of a return airline ticket, a few nights in a hotel and more than likely some wine from your cellars for which you may not get paid. (And maybe a contribution to the costs of the event – and the opportunity-costs of all the things you might have been profitably doing if you hadn’t accepted the invitation.).

On occasion, these dinners can be hugely valuable – especially where hosting them helps to bolster a relationship with an important distributor or retailer, or when particularly valuable consumers or collectors are certain to be present. But there are plenty of occasions when the winery owner or winemaker scratches his head a few weeks later as he considers his credit card bill and wonders what return he got for that particular investment.

Before saying yes to the next request to host one of these events, ask yourself a simple question: what if I said “no”? How would a regretful refusal effect my life – and the health of my business?”. And what would happen if I said yes, but on condition that the date was one that allowed me to do a number of other more obviously remunerative activities? 

(An extract from my forthcoming interactive Wine Marketing Toolkit. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to know more about it…)

  1. Right on, Robert! The last time I ever considered doing a winemaker dinner, which was decades ago, the restaurant guy told me of the incalculable benefits that would accrue to my winery should I participate. I asked the restaurant guy if he would send me the return plane ticket, book my hotel room, and prepay the wines he/I would be showing, a not unreasonable request it seemed to me, given all the business his restaurant would be getting and the fact that I had agreed to bring along some nicely aged library selections. The conversation ended at that point as did my winemaker dinner participation.

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