Report: American Association of Wine Economists-“Modeling Perceptions Of Locally Produced Wine Among Restauranteurs In New York City”

Manhattan's BAR VELOCE uploaded from BAR VELOCE's flickr stream

Manhattan's BAR VELOCE uploaded from BAR VELOCE's flickr stream

I was just alerted to this paper by Twitter friend Tish of The abstract summary of the paper written by Trent Preszler and Todd M. Schmit for American Association of Wine Economists reads,

“Poor perceived product quality, an inadequate sales force, and intense competition from wines produced elsewhere are common reasons cited for why New York wines have not achieved broad acceptance in the New York City (NYC) market. NYC restaurant owners, sommeliers, and chefs were surveyed regarding their perceptions and purchasing decisions of wines grown and bottled in New York State. Factor analysis was applied to examine the structure of interrelationships among key indicators of product perception, and an ordinal logistic regression model was used to identify the characteristics of restaurants that show a strong propensity to adopt local wines. The results indicate that a NYC restaurant’s type of cuisine does not affect its propensity to adopt local wine, nor does a restaurant’s desire to offer a large, geographically diverse wine list. The perceived collective reputation for a wine region’s excellence in one particular grape varietal was found to be the most significant factor in the probability of adoption of local wines in NYC. An important implication of these results is that being local is not enough, and New York winery stakeholders could establish a more prominent presence in NYC by emphasizing their collective reputation for particular grape varietals.”

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Wines produced in New York (NY) have traditionally been shut out of the upscale New York City (NYC) market. Nearly 75 percent of gross revenue at small independent NY wineries is earned directly from consumers in the winery tasting room
  • Market impediments for premium NY wines could be underscored by the long-standing association of NY with high-volume jug wines made using native and French-hybrid grapes.
  • Price is another factor, with lingering doubts by consumers that local wines can justify the same prices as imports.
  • Sommeliers experience wine differently, using intrinsic cues such as flavor, aroma, and color to guide buying decisions, and are driven by different economic motivations.
  • The most important factor influencing wine purchase decisions from this sample of upscale NYC restaurants was the wine’s “Quality for Price Point.”
  • Factors of relatively less importance included “Personal Relationships” that related to personal relationships with wholesalers/distributors or the winery/winemaker , as well as wholesaler/distributor wine recommendations.
  • The absence of strong NY wine sales in NYC is not necessarily due to a predominantly negative image of the product quality, nor to high prices. Instead, low sales in NYC can likely be attributed to the lack of any specific image at all. The regional brand identity of NY wine is not strongly defined because it is not explicitly communicated, and therefore is not universally understood by those who set trends in the culinary industry. A coalescence of marketing goals and principles among NY winery stakeholders could make a difference in this regard.

But wait, with all of the acclaim that Finger Lakes wine, especially Riesling, has garnered this past year, will we see an increase in the adoption of local wines in New York City in the coming years?   A strong, focused effort to communicate a world-class wine message is being made by Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association and the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance. (Disclosure:  both are clients of Melissa Dobson PR & Marketing)  Although I have mentioned the locavore trend as one that may help to gain a foothold in the trendy, upscale NYC market, this paper states that “it is simply not enough to base a marketing platform on being local unless it is accompanied by strong associations with excellence and focused production priorities.”

Communicating with sommeliers requires a separate, focused strategy.  This article in Sommelier Journal was a nice one to begin educating them about the region.  Perhaps some follow up with NYC sommeliers is in order, and may be on the agenda already.

It seems clear that the wheels are in motion with communication strategies being executed to elevate the image of the Finger Lakes wine industry and Finger Lakes Wine Country.  As my friend, Michael Wangbickler at Cave Man Wines Blog recently stated while we were speaking about communications strategies, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

10 responses to this post.

  1. FYI for those who might not know…Trent is the COO of Bedell Cellars/ Corey Creek Vineyards here on Long Island.


  2. Thanks for the clarification on Trent, Lenn.


  3. “Nearly 75 percent of gross revenue at small independent NY wineries is earned directly from consumers in the winery tasting room.” As soon as I read that I knew the problem. We have it here in California, too, especially in outlying places like Sierra Foothills and Temecula, where they sell a lot of wine to tourists out the “screen door.” Under these circumstances, wineries have no incentive to improve quality, since they’re basically making 100 cents on the dollar and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In many cases, the winemakers don’t even know their wines are bad. All they know is it’s flying out the door.


  4. Steve, I think that may have led to some complacency in the past, but I have seen a strong interest among the forward-thinkers of the winery principals and winemakers here to elevate the region’s reputation via consistent quality standards. Some will almost certainly continue to be satisfied selling directly to tourists in the tasting room and producing “cash cow” wines with higher sugar levels and not much complexity. But not all of them. I think we’ll continue to see the quality-focused producers being featured in wine reviews and finding a larger voice for themselves to break out from the pack.


  5. Hi, Melissa, That was an interesting post. (I’ve blogged on Bar Veloce, too). I’ll have to keep an eye out for NY state wines when I’m in the city, but off the top of my head I’m sure I have rarely if ever seen them on the wine list.
    Also, thanks for visiting my blog recently–Spain was amazing.


  6. Oh, just retyped my url on my link–too fast fingers!


  7. Hi Diane, I’m definitely interested in hearing about any of the restaurants you see in New York City that have a few or more wines from New York State. I’ll also be on the lookout during my next visit. It may take awhile, but it would be great to see more NY wines on lists there, even just a few to start. I’m glad you enjoyed Spain. Stay in touch!


  8. I took this photo of my friend Tom at Bar Veloce in 2007, you can see the original here:


  9. I’ve got some others there too (on flickr)
    feel free to use anything you like 🙂


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