New York Wine & GrapeNews
Field Notes: The Usefulness of New York Wines
As we begin to plan our marketing initiatives in more detail for the fast-approaching 2020, I find myself reflecting on the many different roles that New York wines can play in any given setting. In fact, that is something I often would comment on tableside when selling wine on the floor of restaurants: that is, the usefulness of a wine. Let’s talk a little bit more on what that means, since the next question was almost always inevitably, “What exactly do you mean when you say it’s a ‘useful wine?’”
Plain and simple, a useful wine is one that will appeal to a wide variety of people and will pair with almost any dish. So if there was ever a doubt in your mind as to the almost intense usefulness of New York wines, you need only look to the annual Thanksgiving and holiday wine recommendations that appear ubiquitously throughout the wine media’s publications this time of year.
These types of marathon meals are always notoriously difficult with which to pair wine because there are so many different flavors involved. But our cold climate New York wines compete tremendously in this milieu. Both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal wine critics included New York wines in their retrospective Thanksgiving stories this year and typically have for the last several years. As if that weren’t inspiring enough, the Times followed up their official Thanksgiving column with another story titled, When Drinks Is the Only Box Left Unchecked, which promoted a further six New York wineries.
These writers are, of course, high-level drinkers and eaters (it was the Times’ restaurant critic Pete Wells who brought one of the New York wines to the Times’ official Thanksgiving “pairings research gathering”) talking about our state’s wines who needn’t much explanation as to the subject of useful wines. But the majority of wine drinkers will still benefit from such valuable, promotional information, so let’s examine even a step further.
If New York wines are valuable in the home for their versatility, then in what ways do they provide value to shops and restaurants (this is a topic that I’m currently systematizing for our community of restaurant and retail partners)?
If we’re speaking to shops and restaurants within New York state, there are multiple angles worth discussing. Whether in New York City, the Hamptons, Niagara Falls, or at Hunter Mountain, New York is full of tourists who want to assimilate our regional experiences -- I learned this first hand working at the Beekman Hotel restaurant Temple Court in Manhattan. There, we had a beautiful list of German rieslings, which sat largely ignored in favor of our New York selections; of experiencing what is regional. Thanks to modern wine journalism, as demonstrated by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, it’s safe to say that word is out, and the fact that our fine wine industry is so predominately made up of small family-run wineries, keeping our quality high and quantity in demand, there is that “unicorn wine” factor that makes our wines all the more interesting to those on a search. I receive messages from sommeliers all over the country interested in getting their hands on our state’s wines. Whether they read about them in Sotheby’s Wine Encylopedia, Kevin Zraley’s Windows On The World, or in the latest ‘Times Thanksgiving story, playing off our relative obscurity from being tucked into a corner pocket of energizing east coast grape growing will help further increase demand, as well as bring us a day when it won’t be so shocking to see many New York wines going for three-digit prices on restaurant lists. (Think about the rise of Beaujolais or wines from the Jura over the last 10 years…)
In addition to tourism outlets and marketing our almost mysterious allure, further-reaching consumers via e-commerce using the wine club as a tool, in particular, may be the best direct to consumer approach going hard into 2020. According to a study from Wine Direct, wine club sales are up 54 percent since 2015. While we’ll work to help source new channels of distribution to new states, we encourage you to keep using your wine club as a way to begin even more intense marketing to those wine drinkers who have passed through your winery from neighboring and states afar.
Having a touristic advantage, unicorn wines with their energetic structures that pop with almost all cuisines, and nurturing our community of followers who will keep coming en masse to our regions are just a few ideas that will help further philosophize the discourse of New York’s modern wine industry into 2020. If I don’t write to you again before the end of 2019, congratulations to all our wineries on having another vintage in the books (we see you, ice wine producers--boldly go for it!) and see you next year!
New York Wine & Grape Foundation