Monday, March 11, 2013

Jim Trezise Talks About "The Northern Grapes Project"

A major part of our Viticulture 2013 conference a month ago was the "Northern Grapes Project" symposium involving researchers from many states giving presentations on growing cold climate (Minnesota) grape varieties, transforming them into fine wines, and then marketing them.  Among the marketing-related findings of the project to date:

-- The emerging cold-climate grape and wine industry accounts for over $342 million in economic impact across 12 states, according to a study from the University of Minnesota.  The total figure includes growing grapes, making wine, and spending by tourists visiting the wineries.  There's also accelerating growth, with 43% of the cold climate-focused wineries established since 2007, and 45% of vineyard plantings in the past four years.  (In New York State, the Thousand Islands, Adirondack, and Champlain regions are those specializing in cold-climate varieties, and all are growing rapidly.)

-- Maximizing customer satisfaction at tasting rooms is key to success and profitability.  A survey by Cornell's Dr. Migel Gomez found that "highly satisfied" customers on average purchase four bottles ($60) during a visit, while those merely "satisfied" buy only three ($40).  So staff friendliness and knowledge are key not only at the moment of visit, but also in drawing customers (and their friends) back in the future.

-- A five-month study of over 1,500 tasting room visitors in Michigan showed that, for 49% of them, visiting wineries was "the only reason" or "a very important reason" for visiting the region.  In addition, the average tasting room visitors spent a total of $780 on their trips to the regions--on gas, food, lodging, gifts, and of course wine--reinforcing the role of wine as a major economic engine in predominantly rural areas.

The Northern Grapes Project has been funded by a grant from the Specialty Crops Research Initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture, which unfortunately is now in jeopardy due to the Congressional delay in passing a Farm Bill.  This type of research is vital to the entire U.S. grape and wine industry, and we hope that Washington will recognize that.

- Jim Trezise, NYWFG, The Wine Press (3/2/2013)