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How To Start A Winery Business: Top 4 Mistakes New Wineries Make

We’ve seen it a dozen times… eager new wine brands pouring hundreds of hours into their grape selections and harvesting methods — and completely forgetting about how they’re going to get this wine out of their inventory and into glasses!

If you’re starting a new wine brand, it probably doesn’t feel like “work”. At least not in the traditional sense. You’re excited. You’re learning. You’re eager to share the blend you’ve been perfecting for the last 2 years.

But starting a new wine brand is more than a hobby, it’s a commitment to growing and sustaining a new business

Bauerhaus Design helps wine and specialty food brands authentically connect with their audience. From established brands that need a refresh to winery startups, we’ve done it all. 

And we want to pass some of our expert knowledge on to help winery startups in 2022. 

Over the next five months, we’ll be releasing a mini-series on “How To Start A Winery Business” with top tips we’ve learned from working with new wine brands over the years.

First up, we want to help you avoid the common mistakes most new wine brands make. Keep reading to make sure your winery startup doesn’t fall into these common traps!

Close up of purple grapes on the vine

1. Thinking it’s ALL about the grapes

Don’t get us wrong, of course, your grape varietal, vine health, harvesting techniques, and overall quality are important…

BUT, many new wine brands forget the MOST important part of becoming a successful winery… 

Your customers!

We know it’s exciting to learn how wine is made and how to grow grapes, but to stay in the wine business you’re going to need customers. And unfortunately, many winery startups overlook how they’re going to get customers until it’s too late.

Don’t make the mistake of focusing exclusively on your grapes and wine blends, coasting off the PR and news stories your first year, and then find yourself scrambling to reach customers and grow revenue the next.

This may seem like common sense reading it now, but we promise this piece of the puzzle gets overlooked all the time. In fact, when talking to potential clients, we’ve found that only 1 in 100 winery startups have actually thought about marketing!

Our best advice: Don’t let this be you.

Overview of vineyard at sunset

2. Getting too hung up on the “romance” of a vineyard

As a wine branding strategist, we’ve noticed that many winery startups tend to overestimate how important their vineyard is (and how much they need to spend on the “right” equipment or supplies, etc.), and underestimate the importance of their brand perception and visibility.

Many people start a wine business because they love wine and vineyards. 

They love the art and science of making wine.

But they forget they’ll need to sell their wine. Otherwise, they’ll just have a very expensive hobby and a lot of wine. 

True story: Once during a consultation, a potential client told us that he and his wife had decided to start a vineyard on their land after a trip to Napa. His wife loved the vineyard so much that she wanted her very own. 

But now… 

3 years into growing a vineyard, learning about wine production, and many expenses, they had no idea what to do next. They got so caught up in having a vineyard, they forgot to plan for (and budget!) how to get their wine to others!

Below are the most common downfalls that’ll waste your time and money:

1. Not budgeting for a growing business

Many winery startups invest so much money into their vineyards (from their land to vines to equipment) and completely forget to budget for marketing, branding, and packaging. These are essential for growing a successful wine business! 

2. Forgetting about sales outside of a vineyard or venue 

Although a vineyard and tasting room are wonderful offerings for any wine business, you shouldn’t prioritize them as the focal point for growing your revenue. Relying on people coming to your vineyard for the bulk of your sales is too unpredictable, with seasonal changes and unexpected events (hello, unprecedented times). 

Think outside the venue. Getting into stores or local retailers may also be a challenge at first, but a great place to start is your website! Make it easy for customers to buy your wine online and ship it to their houses. Start a wine club. This keeps sales up year-round.

3. Trying to be a master of all

Often, as a new wine brand, you’re trying to do everything yourself. Learn everything you can about grapes, about wine, about the wine industry, about running a business — about becoming a professional marketer. 

But the truth is it’s too much for one person, or even a small team, to learn so much so quickly. 

Clients often come to us after trying to create their brand strategy or plan their marketing on their own… and wasting massive amounts of time and money. 

If you want to handle your marketing in-house, make sure you properly educate yourself (or your team) on marketing best practices and fundamentals. We recommend this marketing course for winery startups.

If you don’t have the time (or desire) to learn another new profession, consider hiring a partner that can help you create an effective wine branding strategy, like Bauerhaus Design! We specialize in branding, packaging, and marketing for the wine industry. This experience allows us to maximize your budget while making your new wine brand unforgettable.

Whether you get professional help or handle it yourself, don’t make the mistake of romanticizing having (and maintaining) a vineyard at the expense of running a profitable and successful wine business.

Empty wine glasses on a wooden table
3. Wanting your ideal customer to be everyone

As a wine branding specialist, I’ve talked to winery owners and marketing directors at every level of the business, from new winery startups to well-established wine brands. The one thing most have in common: trying to sell to “everyone”.

There’s this dream we all have as business owners…

That our product or service is so good, it’ll appeal to everyone. 

Everyone will want it. Everyone can benefit.

But this is almost never the case. Not even for huge brands with multi-millions to spend in their marketing budgets, like Walmart or Target, or Nike.

No matter what you’re business is selling, it’s not going to be for everyone. 

At Bauerhaus, we stress this message to new wine brands because narrowing down your target market can truly be the difference between success and another wine brand collecting dust on the shelf.

It sounds harsh, but think about it…

When you go to a store that sells wine, there are often at least a dozen brands to choose from, per type of wine (whites, reds, blends, etc.). 

Is your brand unforgettable?

Throughout our “How To Start A Winery” series, we’ll dig deeper into this topic and teach you how to:

  • Strategically select your target audience
  • Create a wine branding strategy that connects (and leaves you unforgettable)

But for resources right now, check out these 2 helpful blogs: The 6 Different Wine Consumers and Thinking About Starting A Winery? Consider This First.

Overview of a desk where someone is working. You can see the bottom of a laptop and 2 unspecified graphs.

4. Not prioritizing your marketing strategy from the beginning

 

As an artisan, we know it’s tempting to think:

  • My wine’s so good it’ll sell itself
  • People will love my wine and refer it to their friends and family
  • It’s (so cheap, so expensive, so pretty, etc.), it’ll fly off the shelves

But in reality, this is NOT a plan that drives up your sales or brand visibility. 

It’s not really a plan at all.

You need a wine branding strategy that pinpoints who your ideal customers are and how you’re going to get your wine to them.

You need to thoroughly understand the kind of wine consumer you’re after:

  • What appeals to them?
  • How do you get in front of them?
  • How do you connect with them?
  • How do you impress them? Or stand out to them?

And most importantly (at least to your bottom line), how do you sell to them?

We know it’s easy to overlook this part of your winery startup journey. But we can’t stress how important it is. 

These questions should inform everything from your branding tone and voice, to venue, to availability of a subscription service, social media presence, internet presence, packaging, etc.

From the start of your winery business, you need to plan how you’re going to reach (and connect with) your customers

Group of friends enjoying wine.

Need help with your wine branding strategy?

At Bauerhaus Design, we have a signature process called The Bauerhaus Brand Map. This helps you make sure your new wine brand has everything you need to stand out on the shelf. 

To be unforgettable. As effortlessly as possible. 

We know you have delicious wine, but we’ll help you cultivate the other 2 crucial parts of a successful winery business: brand awareness and a loyal customer base.

If you’re ready to bring on a strategic partner for your winery startup, contact our Creative Director, Rebecca Ritz for a free 30-minute discovery call. She’s currently accepting new clients focused on starting a winery and can help you get organized and on track today!

And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the rest of the blogs in this series, “How To Start A Winery Business”.