Thursday, March 21, 2024

Some early results from the SVB DTC survey


Today, we are about 50 responses short of what we need to produce the Annual Direct to Consumer Report, so please participate. To help us reach the finish line, we are leaving the survey open over the weekend and closing it on 3/24.

Here are the questions if you want to prepare [link], as well as the [link] to the survey.

Let me give you some examples of important and interesting information from the survey so far.

Several sources have reported that tasting room visitation was down last year. Some have speculated that it's due to high tasting room fees. The headline slide is a chart from the interim survey data that puts a different spin on that conclusion. 

Breaking the top chart into quartiles, the upper quartile seems expensive, especially considering people seldom taste alone. Life and wine tasting are a team sport—maybe someone can use that in a marketing pitch. Anyway, the lower two quartiles, representing half of the winery respondents so far, are about $23 or less.

Another fact you can pull from that same information set is the practice of using standard and reserve tasting fees. Surprisingly, 26.2% of responses thus far only use standard tasting fees. For those wineries that have both reserve and standard fees, the average reserve fee is 1.9 times larger than the reserve fee, with a maximum of 5 times the standard fee, down to 1.2 times the standard tasting fee.

Here is some more interesting information on tasting room reimbursement policies. From this chart below, you can see how you compare to other wineries on tasting fee reimbursement policies. If you participate in the survey and get the full anonymous data set, you can also sort this information out by region.

There is one other thing that might be of interest. Seven percent of the wineries do something besides the other choices offered. Aren't you curious about their policies? Only participants who complete the survey get this added data that you might use to generate ideas. 

Without giving away all of the "other" responses, here are some:

•    We comp tastings if you join the club or purchase 3 bottles.

•    We do flights, not tastings. No reimbursement.

•    Free tastings for people who rent venue (we do weddings)

•    10% off 12 bottles.

•    We will waive two tasting fees for a minimum $1,000 purchase.

•    Club Members get a limited number of free tastings; otherwise, we do not reimburse them.

•    Tasting fees waived for wine industry partners only

•    Club members only 4x per year

•    We don't charge our top buyers for their tasting fees

•    We only waive fees for people who have McMillan for a last name.

•    we don't offer tastings. We offer 5 oz glass for $3.75

•    Our state law doesn't allow "free" tastings, so we charge $1 per taste

•    We allow wine club members and up to three of their guests to taste for free. We do not reimburse tasting fees otherwise.

•    We waive tasting fees if the customer pays with cash.

Some of those ideas are certainly worth considering. Here are the questions if you want to prepare [link]

Monday, March 18, 2024

Should SVB continue to produce the Annual DTC report?

This is my annual attempt to plead for your help, without which we can't produce the 13th Annual Direct-to-Consumer Report. 

If there was ever a time when actionable information and insights were needed, this is it. But we are close to a crisis point because we are unable to get sufficient survey responses. 

The SVB Annual Direct-to-Consumer Survey has been open for two weeks and is scheduled to close this Friday, March 22nd. As of this writing, we have 165 responses with just a few days remaining. That's far from the 500 we need to produce good results. (Click the top chart to see your region's performance thus far.)

The survey has just 29 questions. It should take 10 to 15 minutes to complete, even less if you are prepared. Many complete the survey in under five minutes. If you want to see the questions in advance, you can download and print them here.

In May, all survey participants will receive high-level analysis, benchmarks, and complete sanitized respondent data, anonymized of all personal and business-identifying information. Nobody else gets this data, and it can't be purchased.

Silicon Valley Bank goes to great lengths and costs to provide this report to the industry gratis. Still, it's a partnership with you: Without survey responses, we can't produce this industry resource.

So please spread the word on your social channels and make this a personal goal. Your choice to participate or not is a vote for us to continue with this initiative or phase it out.


Monday, March 11, 2024

What are you doing to improve club signups away from the tasting room?

The Target is Moving Again

Some of the questions we've answered over the years through the SVB annual direct-to-consumer survey have been critical to the industry's success, such as whether standing or seated tastings are more effective, or going back over a decade ago, what the lifetime value of a direct-to-consumer customer is. 

The latter question was asked at a time when we were moving from an over-dependence on three-tier sales and evolving with the freedoms extended with the Granholm decision. Today, we find ourselves at a new point of evolution, so answers are critical to success.

With two consecutive years of lower tasting room visitation impacting club memberships, wouldn't you be interested in knowing what your neighbors are doing to improve club signups that don't come through the tasting room? That's one of the questions we are posing this year.

Please do your part and contribute to this annual industry partnership with me. Without your participation, I can't produce the information that can help the industry. 

In May, all respondents who complete the survey will receive high-level analysis, benchmarks, and the complete sanitized respondent data, anonymized of all personal and business identifying information. Nobody else gets this data, and it can't be purchased. At the end of May, we will release a videocast to the industry and, along with other industry experts, discuss the findings. 

This year, the survey should take you fifteen to twenty minutes to complete and even less if you are a little prepared. If you would like to see the questions in advance, you can download and print them here.

Are you ready to participate in the survey this year?

Sunday, January 21, 2024

The 2024 SVB State of the Industry Report & replay is available for download


Nearly 3,000 attendees from dozens of the wine-producing countries of the world tuned in on January 18th to hear from Rob McMillan, EVP & Wine Division Founder, Crimson Wine Group CEO Jennifer Locke, industry innovator Paul Mabray, and Enolytics SVP of Professional Services Ed Thralls as they discussed the trends and findings identified in SVB’s 23rd annual State of the US Wine Report. 

Watch the Replay: SVB State of the Wine Industry - 2024 Virtual Event (


Read the Report Here: State of the US Wine Industry Report 2024 | Silicon Valley Bank ( 

Recognizing the Need for Change 

The key findings indicate that the alcohol beverage market across the board is in a period of change, driven by evolving consumer dynamics, including the aging of older wine-focused boomers, who are being replaced by a new set of primary consumers who drink across categories, drink less wine, and consume less alcohol.  

“With the current messaging about alcohol as it relates to health and wellness, premium wine is well suited to meet the prevailing guidance around benefits and moderation,” said Jennifer. “We don’t have to reinvent what we are making; we have to retell our story and tell it collectively.”  

 Key Takeaways

Premium wineries experienced mixed success during the past year. The value of premium wine is still growing, but we anticipate volume sales will finish lower this year. The industry will need to find collaborative solutions to link wine attributes with the segmented values of newer consumers to increase demand while at the same time finding efficiencies in sales, marketing, and production to retain margins.


Minor headwinds contributed to the mixed outcomes at premium wineries. 

Direct-to-consumer volume sales were lower in 2023. Tasting room visitation dropped for the second straight year leading to lower premium sales through nine months in 2023. However, strong 2023 holiday sales should lead to positive growth in value at year-end. 

Consumer demand for the total wine category continues to decline. 

As reported over the last several years, in addition to wine, U.S. consumers have been drinking across categories such as ready-to-drink (RTD) options, spirits, beer, and cannabis or have been abstaining altogether. 

There is an oversupply of planted vineyards, given current sales volumes. 

Conditions are ripe for overproduction, which may lead to inventory excess in more price segments, discounting, and eventually price reductions. Pressure starting from the grower will create inventory bulges and drive higher-than-needed inventory turns in 2024.  

Monday, January 15, 2024

The 2024 SVB Wine Report will be released Thursday. Last chance to Sign up!

  Register here for the videocast, replay, and copy of this year's report.

In 1992, I wrote the original SVB Wine Division Business Plan in which I said,

"U.S. table wine entered a seven-year period of declining volume in the late 80s. Industry observers attributed the decrease to changing consumer attitudes concerning alcohol consumption, health concerns, drunk driving issues, and overall changing tastes as consumers drank less but better wine."

Despite that gloomy soundbite, I got bank approval to start this first-of-its-kind focused wine division. Why create this business for the bank with all the gloominess? I believed and predicted the premium wine industry was about to take off, driven by the boomer generation.

I did pretty well with that prediction.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

I Need Your Help with the 2024 State of the Industry Survey

It's been quite a roller coaster ride over the past six months. The banking industry has undergone many changes; my bank was no exception. Given our specific challenges, I didn't think this day would come again. So, I'm happy to report that we are today launching the 23rd annual State of the Wine Industry Survey. It is open now through October 22.

The survey this year has been streamlined and shortened. Given the current state of the business, I eliminated several less relevant questions and added a section on data management from which I hope to get a baseline of where we are in our data management and use practices. From the new questions, my goal is to compile a collection of helpful resources that survey participants can utilize to help navigate the current lull in consumption.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

2023 SVB DTC Video Replay, and DTC Report

The 2023 Videocast is in the books, and what a performance from some of the smartest people in the business who do DTC all day, everyday. Thank you! 

What a remarkable collection of talent. 

Each panelist shared openly about their views, offering incredible insights and ideas to help the industry and your winery move into the next decade of the business. Some of the highlights: