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Sandra Hess, founder of DTC Wine Workshops and co-founder of Direct Wine Workshops Australia, spoke at the Unified Grape & Wine Symposium in Sacramento, California on January 25th.

Hess presented an update on ‘What Wine Consumers Want’ and then moderated a panel discussion to dig deeper into how wine brands are connecting with consumers in a variety of ways outside of the traditional brick and mortar tasting room.

Panelists Angelica de Vere Mabray, CEO of Cornerstone Cellars, was also joined by Nina Leschinsky, Director of Hospitality Justin Vineyards and Wines.

Hess shared results from the latest reports around wine consumer demand in the US.

A big take-away from the Ship Compliant and Wines & Vines annual shipping report revealed that 10% of all retail wine sales in the US are now from the direct to consumer channel.

“Wineries using Ship Compliant software shipped 5.78 million cases of wine direct to consumers in the U.S. last year, representing $2.69 billion in value,” Hess said.

“With an increase of 15.5% in value of wines shipped year over year, we know that consumer demand continues to shape how winery teams maximize use of tools and technologies.”

“The Australian wine industry is committed to developing the capacity of wine tourism in all regions, as evidenced by the availability of grants through Wine Australia and some state governments, to grow this vital channel”


The numbers reported do not include wine shipped from producers to consumers not using ShipCompliant software, nor total sales from major online retailers such as Total Wine & More and Wine.com.

“Wine consumers have an overwhelming amount of choices in the United States with over 9,000 wineries to engage with,” explained Hess.

“Consumer engagement strategies and the ability to leverage data in a smart and effective manner are the key differentiators to compete in today’s direct wine sales industry both domestically and globally.”

“I am excited to teach winery teams in Australia best practices for better connecting with wine consumers and tactics for retaining loyal customers,” she said.

Wine Industry Suppliers Australia (WISA) Executive Officer Matthew Moate also attended the symposium and reflected on the challenges and opportunities for Australia’s small wine producers, where almost 90% of Australia’s 2394 wineries crush less than 1000 tonnes.

Through the valuable insights provided by Sandra in the DTC breakout session, and conversations with DTC specialist suppliers on the trade show floor, the opportunities for Australian wine producers were obvious.”

“The nature of this space is changing rapidly with the introduction of more advanced and sophisticated technologies that enable producers to create more meaningful consumer touch-points that drive brand loyalty and greater profitability,” concluded Moate. 

He also noted the substantial number of businesses working within the DTC space and their combined capacity to contribute growing the direct sales channel.

“The supply sector plays an important part in providing products, services and expertise to deliver improved capability and competitiveness, not just in the vineyard and the winery but also across sales, marketing and tourism.”

“The US is clearly the leader when it comes to Direct to Consumer. WISA is committed to supporting suppliers like Direct Wine Workshops Australia to deliver value to Australian wine producers,” Moate said.

Direct Wine Workshops Australia is a collaboration between DTC Wine Workshops, a full-service US based consulting agency, and Wine Tourism Australia to deliver online training webinars and hands-on coaching designed for Australian winery teams.

Robin Shaw, founder of Wine Tourism Australia, recognised the significant investment wineries have made in the development of cellar door and tourism facilities, and the need to capitalize on this investment by building wine clubs and direct-to-consumer programs.

“The Australian wine industry is committed to developing the capacity of wine tourism in all regions, as evidenced by the availability of grants through Wine Australia and some state governments, to grow this vital channel, Shaw explained.

For individual wine producers, their investment in implementing an effective direct to consumer sales strategy capable of converting first-time visitors into long-term customers is a critical step in ensuring overall business health.


“Successful direct to consumer initiatives include membership programs and experience-based activities that reward loyalty, both of which are covered in detail during our online training programs,” he said.

The first workshop series was delivered online in December 2017 to winery teams from across Australia.

During the 3-part series, Hess and Shaw shared best practices, case studies and practical tips with winery owners and managers keen to make the right moves in building strategy to meet consumer demand.

Mitchell McKenzie, Direct Sales & Marketing Manager at Chateau Tanunda said the December webinar series is an informative series of workshops.

“The range of topics, insights, examples, benchmarking and key takeaways are important for anybody working in managing direct wine sales or marketing.”

“Bringing in world benchmarks, current trends and opportunities makes this a fantastic crash course even for the experienced wine marketer, small business owner, wine club manager or cellar door manager. Highly recommended,” McKenzie said.

The next webinar series will launch on Wednesday, February 7th at 10:30 ACDT time for a three-week program that concludes on February 21st.

Each online workshop is 90 minutes’ duration and will be co-led by Sandra Hess and Robin Shaw.

Attendees will have an opportunity for questions to be answered in Q & A sessions, participate in hands-on exercises, and receive workbooks, checklists and other resources.

Workshop topics include Strategic Planning for Direct Wine Sales Success, Customer Engagement – Before, During and After the Cellar Door Visit and Member Management and Customer Retention Best Practices.

Registration details can be found at https://dtc-wine-webinar-series.eventbrite.com.au/ or visit www.winetourismaustralia.com.au to view the program.