I was fortunate to have created the
Ariel Non-Alcoholic wine brand. It
taught me that I prefer alcohol in my
wine — but then I can drink alcohol.
It also taught me the power of an
article in media other than that dealing
with food and wine.
Most of the time our PR people were
busy sending samples to wine writers
and food and wine folks. With Ariel
we got an article on the front page of
the business section of the New York
Times for pioneering reverse-osmosis
to remove alcohol in our winemaking.
It was a thousand times more powerful
than any food and wine review.
When I was in my 20s I owned a
retail wine store on the east side of
Manhattan (New York City) with my
brother. I was privileged to have been
invited to lunch with the then-VP
of Dreyfus-Ashby. He told me two
things I have never forgotten. “Bill,
wine is very easy to sell; anyone can
do it. Wine is very difficult to deliver”
and “Bill, wine is a relationship business,
you sell one bottle of wine, to
one person, one at a time.”
“Wine is very easy to sell;
anyone can do it. Wine is very
difficult to deliver ... wine is
a relationship business, you
sell one bottle of wine, to one
person, one at a time.”
It took me about 15 years to understand
the first axiom. Ariel did that for
me. No alcohol, no restrictions (except
in places like Georgia), and still expensive;
and still very difficult to deliver.
How many orders do we get that are
short-shipped or worse yet never get
delivered? Wine is heavy and expensive
Believe me, if you are a winery with
any significant volume, you need your
distributors; you need your retailers.
They are extremely valuable partners
in building your business and building
“Believe me, if you are a winery
with any significant volume,
you need your distributors; you
need your retailers. They are
extremely valuable partners
in building your business and
building your brand.”
Marketing your brand today
Right now is the most exciting time
in wine marketing in my 37 years,
and I believe that we at Hahn Family
Wines are revolutionizing how wine
marketing is done by applying technology
to a very old idea. As a marketer
of premium and luxury wine,
I, like all my colleagues, stand in the
shadow of Robert Mondavi. I have no
doubt that if he were alive today; he
would have beaten me to the tools and
ideas that I am utilizing.
Mr. Mondavi set the rules for premium
wine branding: big is bad;
small is beautiful; build brands on-premises
first; no direct advertising on
TV, etc. Instead, use Public Relations.
He got into gossip columns, created
the first wine charity events and auctions,
winemaker dinners, comparative
tastings, the component solution
seminar, barrel seminar, classes, concerts,
the Great Chefs.
Hotel Food & Beverage managers
were invited by Mondavi to
Napa Valley to conduct tastings for
their core lists. He tied wine to the
arts; selling a lifestyle. He spoke
of his “mission”; he would go into
any restaurant anywhere and say,
“bring out your best French wine
and let’s taste against my California
wine.” These were all tremendous
tools for their time.
Today, however, I receive requests
for wine donations literally every day.
We book winemaker dinners for 40
and six people show up. I believe you
can build brands off-premise first; and
on-premise. While these tools that Mr.
Mondavi created still work, they are
terribly costly and inefficient today.
It only took me 35 years to truly
understand that wine is a relationship
business, selling “one bottle
to one person one at a time.” Now
technology has caught up. We can
reach people in a manner that was
impossible even one decade ago. We
can create an emotional connection,
one-on-one, with literally millions of
people via social media, internationally,
at low cost.
My marketing philosophy stems
from the idea that wine is best sold
word-of-mouth, particularly today. I
do not need wine ratings or medals
for validation. (Do not get me wrong,
I will take a 94 score in the Wine
Spectator any day, I just do not count
on it or build my marketing plan
As I said before, we are a jaded,
cynical people these days in the U.S.
Who do we believe? Who do we look
to for advice when purchasing wine?
Our friends and colleagues — people
“Word-of-mouth is far more
powerful than any other
method of selling wine.”
All the studies show that word-of-mouth
is far more powerful than any
other method of selling wine. Wine
bloggers and online newsletters as a
group have more power and influence
than Robert Parker and the Wine
Next time you are in a store browsing
through the wines, pay attention
to consumers around you. It will not
be long before you see someone standing
in front of the wine section texting
or calling their friend, asking for an
opinion about some wine.
When that consumer is standing
there in the aisle, asking about wine,
I want the person on the other end
to say, “Hey, do they have Hahn? It
is great.” Or better yet, hopefully we
have a placement, the person asking
has heard of Hahn, and the person on
the other end validates the selection.