Can't say enough about this topic. How often can a bad experience ruin good wine, and a great experience augment ordinary wine! Here at WineWalkabout have discussed this topic on numerous occasions.
For what it’s worth, every time we go on a little wine tasting adventure we notice stuff. And not just the girls and wine. OK mostly the girls and the wine, but that’s not the point. The point is we also notice when a tasting room attendant makes handling a busy room look effortless or look like the Keystone Cops or worse, the soup kitchen on Seinfeld.
As someone who is responsible for a tasting room, it is good practice to know the room dynamics, and to know what you need to, to work in your tasting room. Observe the way things are working behind the counter and most of all, observe and understand the customer experience. What is it that your customers will see, hear, and experience as they enter? Will they fall in love with your tasting room? Will the person they are interacting with win their favor and be a great ambassador for your wines. Let’s face it, the tasting experience has a positive or a negative influence on how your wine is perceived and the delta can be significant.
Here are some random bits of advice from us at WineWalkabout to better aid that potential love affair and hopefully as a side benefit, a more profitable tasting room. Stating the obvious, (you may be surprised by how many times this does not happen) look at, smile and greet everyone as they walk in the door as if they are who you have been waiting for. Cannot tell you how many times we have been greeted as an interruption to emptying the glasswasher being unloaded. Speaking of glassware, have glasses and tasting lists ready as well as your best rendition of “How to win friends and influence people”. Even if you are busy make a point to tell your new guest's that you will get to them ASAP.
Obviously you start serving the first in and up to the bar, but as the crowd builds and they come and go it’s a good rule of thumb to start with the person on your left and move to the right. Basically moving clockwise. And always keep going in the same direction. Yes you can move anticlockwise if you want but have a plan and pattern that keeps you consistent. There is nothing more irritating that being an "invisible" patron. Good wine becoming not so good! Often your staff will still have to multi-task, but if people have wine in their glass and can see that your staff or you are moving toward them they're more inclined to be patient. For the wanker that has endless information to impart, and just as many questions that keep you from serving all your patrons, give them the old, "Wow that’s interesting", or "that's a great question. Let me just pour some wine for our other guests and I'll be right back”. Keep moving and pouring and you'll be back to the wanker, er, customer, in no time.
Pay attention when visiting other tasting rooms and learn from them. It may even be to learn what not to do! Don’t force your staff to just parrot a script like a bloody cockatoo, instead teach them about your wines all the way back to the vineyard where the grapes came from, whether they are yours or not, what type of barrels you use. You know, the basics the casual cork dork will invariably ask to impress you and look like they deserve to drink your wine. We know there is a ton to learn but people are interested in vineyard stuff and barrel selection and some stories of why. Let’s face it we all like to converse with someone who is engaging and pleasant and who seems to know about the subject that we are asking about. It’s also great if there are some interesting stories of funny or insider things to share and allow people to connect with your wines.
Never have a bottle open too long, even with vacuum or nitrogen and argon systems. Vacuum systems a couple days is plenty and gas systems, well that is a big window depending on the system. Just don’t push it, it’s not a good representation of your wine. You never know if the person you’re serving is on a WineWalkabout doing a review of your wine and tasting room experience. Make sure you pour an adequate amount of wine in the glass (we like a couple of ounces) but a solid one once pour is minimum! Less than this and accurately evaluating the color,aroma and flavor of your wine is difficult. Besides we feel screwed with that tiny half once pour (equals bad blogs, tweets and posts). Hard to get a good feeling when you feel cheated. If not enough is poured it’s also hard not to pick up some of the attributes of the previous wine. Rinsing the glass with water between pours is not the answer as it will probably hinder more than help.The surface tension of water makes it cling to the glass--which will water down the taste and it also changes the pH of the next pour. Neither of those is good. Just get a two once dispenser and pour light or better yet a one ounce and pour twice for us and once for those that have tasted too much!
Making everyone that comes into your tasting room feel like your favourite customer is a priceless and profitable skill.
When your tasting room gets busy, let your staff focus on making happy tasters! Happy tasters are more likely to open their wallets and bring their friends back! Happy tasting also makes for a more loyal and sticky(translate; buys your wine and recommends to friends) customer!
PS. We will get around to tasting fee's and the like, so stay tuned.