In vino veritas, part V: Go on a tour!

Can you sell wine without ever having visited a winery or vineyard? Sure, it’s done all the time. Plus, with the Internet at your disposal, you can find out plenty more than is necessary to do the deed. But, will you sell wine better and more often if you’ve made yourself personally involved in its production? I assure you: yes.

The more information you know about wine and the greater your personal connection to it, the more your passion for wine will be communicated to guests. And that passion will translate into revenue. What I’m talking about is putting a narrative behind the sales pitch. For instance, a guest points to the menu and asks, “Is this merlot any good?” The waiter may reply with a simple affirmation, which isn’t all that encouraging, or instead they could say, “Yes! Our manager toured that winery last summer and he specifically chose that bottle because it was exceptionally smooth and had a rich berry finish you just don’t find in other merlots.”

This not only adds credibility to the endorsement, but also enriches the waiter’s rapport with the patron. Think larger tips, which translate into better team morale, but also consider that a congenial rapport will make a guest more lenient towards any mistakes. Not that you should be making any errors in the first place, but with a healthy rapport, a guest will be more open to pointing out the shortcoming and inclined to do so with far less resentment. Lo and behold, this also trickles down the line into better TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews. In short, rapport-building always works towards a better dining experience, and attaching these little personal stories to items on your menu will certainly help.

Outside of viewing this from a guest’s perspective, going on a wine tour is a great team-building exercise. It’s your chance to get out of the office and have some fun. Seeing the grapes and wine firsthand as well as experiencing a variety of flavors all at once are highly educational experiences. And observational knowledge like this also seems to transcribe better than mere textbook or Wikipedia regurgitation.

Furthermore, a tour is an opportunity to discover new wineries in your region and develop relationships with the vintners far and above what email tag will do for you — relationships that may pay off in terms of better deals and first pick on upcoming stock. To heighten the fun factor and to be as safe as possible, rent a bus so you can all stick together and not have to worry about designated drivers.

Aside from the cost of the outing, the primary consideration is whether you are in the vicinity of a wine-producing region to make for an adequate day trip. Don’t panic. You still have options.

For one, you’d be hard-pressed to find a major city that doesn’t tout an annual wine tasting event, show or festival, typically held at a convention center. Better yet, court a vintner to send reps to your property for an in-house experience. Either way, it’s all about attaining that direct knowledge to support recommendations to guests. Plus, if they supply your kitchen, consider subbing the whole winery aspect with a local brewery, distillery, bakery or cheesemaker — anything that can help add that personal narrative to the menu!