Tasting Fees

February 1, 2011

Over a year ago, I read a blog which interviewed a winery about tasting fees. That blog always kind of stuck with me – what would I do when I open my own place? On one hand, the people to travel to your facility are probably going to buy a bottle, and therefore the tasting should be free. However, tour groups who come to the facility have in its group people who are uninterested in purchasing anything, and are just along for the ride. That’s when you can lose money. I witnessed this at Tedeschi Winery in Maui, Hawaii, where the tasting was free and tour buses came and very few bottles were purchased. This seemed to create a complete change in how the staff handled the tasting.

Admittedly, as a taster, I actually kind of feel revealed when there is a tasting fee, especially if that fee would be waived with the purchase of a bottle. I say this because I kind of feel like the staff spent time and the business gave me wine, so I feel sort of obligated to buy something. A tasting fee removes that obligation from my mind. Take for example going to Confluence Vineyard and Winery the other day, who did have a $5 tasting fee. While it was all very good wine, I hard a hard time distinguishing one wine from another, and so I probably would have picked the cheapest one for the sake of my budget. Yes, I would have been happy with that bottle, but there wasn’t really a need to make the purchase. I could walk away after paying the fee and not feel guilty because I know I didn’t stiff the winery.

Another business example I want to give is The Rusty Grape Vineyard. They provide free wine tastings except for major events, such as the upcoming Wine and Chocolate Weekend slated for February 12 & 13, 2011, which we had a lot of fun at last year. For special events, they do charge a small fee, which I imaging helps pay for the extra time it takes to set the event up, and the chocolatier they bring in for the event.

Interestingly enough, the beer industry sells tasters, which are usually 2 or 4 oz samples of beer. This dilemma of “should there be a tasting fee or not” doesn’t even exist because they always charge. Just another thing to ponder.

Edit: This interesting blog was published after mine, but I think it has some interesting lessons to learn about tasting fees: The Grumpy Winemaker, “Is Wine Tourism Dead in Washington (State, not DC)?”

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