The Merchant23 Blog

What Sommeliers Want

Sep 16, 2019 5:00:00 AM / by Cyrus Azari

Funny image of businessman chased with carrot

Me, at the Sommelier Choice Awards

The Sommelier Choice Awards had me nervous. I was quivering in my boots - this was a nexus of industry talent, after all - and I had to make sure that this trip wasn’t in vain. 


I was on a mission; I needed to know how the hell to sell my wine to these people! 


You see, I’ve always been across that polished restaurant table feigning confidence while a smug, well-polished sommelier judged my products. From those wine-stained lips, I would hear the words of, over and over again,  “We loved your wines, but…” 


It had to stop. 


So I used my Mark 1 mouth and started talking - and this is what I learned. 




A wine that helps the portfolio.


Wines that are profitable from the first pour by the glass. 


Trendy wines - think seasonal rosé 


Wines that carry weight in social media


Wines brands that are complementary partners to their business.


1) A wine that helps the portfolio.


Secret pro tip - look for varietals that YOU have that THEY don’t have on their menus. 


Let's say you have an upscale seafood restaurant nearby that has a bunch of chardonnay on the menu. Guess what? They probably won’t be really keen on adding another chardonnay on the menu. 


Yet, you did your due diligence and that off-dry Riesling would pair so well with that mahi-mahi fish - not to mention the buzz that’s going to arise when the patrons get ahold of it. Who knows, if you do well enough, your chardonnay might become more compelling to the restaurant 


2) Wines that are profitable from the first pour by the glass. 


Restaurants don’t make much money off food - the highest margins belong to the beverage categories, SPECIFICALLY those sweet, sweet by the glass wine sales. The highest selling varietals in the USA, according to Nielsen & WBM, are as follows:


If you walk in with some of the highest-selling varietals at a tantalizing price point, you will get the attention of sommeliers. 


Keep the first rule in mind. Know what are the “best” wines to offer to a BTG program. 


3) Trendy wines - think seasonal rosé 


Natural wine is becoming more popular right now. The savvy sommelier will be on the lookout for varietals that are becoming popular with their clientele. If you produce some of these sought after fad wines, then you will have the attention of sommeliers. 


This is especially true if you can be the first one to market with desirable products. Silicon Valley Bank always puts out an annual report on wine trends, check out the 2019 version here. It has valuable insight and predictions on the wine industry. 


4) Wines that carry weight in social media


For better or for worse, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter do play a leading role in determining placements in some restaurants. This is because these are also soapboxes for celebrities and online influencers to show off their favorite varietals and regions. 


So for a sommelier, these are wines that come with built-in marketing support. A famous celebrity endorsement can increase sales by 4% immediately, according to Forbes


Don’t sit by the wayside either. You can leverage social media to make sales, we outline a strategy here.


And you can also influence social media yourself if you now know-how with this article. 


5) Wines brands that are complementary partners to their business.


At the end of the day, this industry is very relationship-driven. If you want to be a cut above the rest, distinguish yourself as reliable. If you can deliver wine on-demand to restaurants, you will quickly become very popular. 


The wineries that are promoting on social media, running fantastic on-premise promotions are going to be a cut above the wineries that are showing up with product every 2 weeks. 


That wineries that are going to kill it with somms are going to be doing some of if not all of these actions - and trust me, somms are looking for wineries to partner with since winery direct becomes necessary to secure a competitive advantage. 


If you never heard of winery direct, then make sure to download our eBook on it. This wine industry is more competitive than ever with the flux of brands on the marketplace, make sure you understand how that's going to impact the industry. 


Topics: wine sales on-premise sales sommeliers

Written by Cyrus Azari

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