It’s a great addition to the business model and a great way to build customer loyalty: Partly community-supported agriculture, partly inspired by the more traditional wine clubs, winemakers in Quebec now offer membership to their customers before the start of the season. The first grapes are harvested.
For small agribusinesses, having income while the vines are still under snow is an obvious incentive in a context of rising input prices.
Le Clos Sainte-Thècle is a small business in Marseille. This is one of the vineyards whose wines are crushed, so it becomes very rare. This year, Clos launched its Conclave, which allows a very small group, around fifty people, to get their hands on six bottles, personalized for Quebec wine lovers from famous vineyards and other special benefits.
The cost of this subscription is: $250.
“When we started, we made 300 bottles and we worked with a mailing list,” recalls Eric Blouin. The group’s project has been in the air since the company’s inception, which produced 7500 bottles last year. This still puts it in the small vineyard category.
“At our level, this is not negligible,” explains Eric Blouin. We restore it every spring before the vintage sale [de l’année précédente]. This is the first income. »
By buying bottles in advance, customers are sure to get their hands on these cuvees, which is otherwise not guaranteed. “We wanted wine to be accessible to these people,” says Eric Blouin.
In addition, winegrowers will bring their bottles to members of their group unless the law changes before the delivery time of six cuvées. Couldn’t dream of a more personalized service.
The main motivation for creating the Conclave was to bring these believers together, especially through the intermediary of a private group on Facebook where winegrowers exchange information, which is of interest to those interested in viticulture rather than the average wine lover.
“This is not a marketing stunt, we do it because we want to talk about our wines to people who are interested. And that creates a sense of individuality sought after by some clients.
Sarah Gaston, general manager of Vignoble du Ruisseau, confirms Dunham: the creation of the club inevitably creates a feeling among its members. And vice-versa: for winegrowers, it’s also very profitable to have select clients who choose to travel there to get their wines, if that’s what they want.
The club has 250 members. The company wants to double the size of the group’s emphasis on wines and spirits, sometimes especially for rare creations. Ditto for some old bottles.
“It’s a model that appeals to true wine lovers,” says Sarah Gaston, a fan of this type of group in Canadian vineyards.
Le Vignoble du Ruisseau strategically chooses the timing of its wine shipments, three a year, during quieter periods in terms of traffic and therefore revenue.
Other companies opt for this type of program that offers VIP services to a portion of the clientele. At Domaine Bergeville, one of Quebec’s few certified biodynamic vineyards, the club ($400 annual fee for nine wines) lets you indulge in a dose of the house specialty, sparkling wines. Like elsewhere, members are treated with small onions.
“Although the wine club concept is very common in the Okanagan Valley of California and Canada, our inspiration goes beyond the baskets of family farmers. The principle is to encourage the purchase of local wines that have traveled a few kilometers and support local viticulture. For our part, it is our commitment to offer allotments, including exclusive access to our best cuvées, ephemeral wines produced in small quantities and our primers,” explains Caroline Chagnon, Communications and Marketing Coordinator of Domaine Bergeville.
Sponsor the vines
Vignoble et Domaine des Aromas in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacol opted for a different model: customers could sponsor vines.
“It’s rare in Quebec, but it’s a popular model in France,” explains lawyer-turned-winemaker Richard Genereux. People are selling Vineyard sponsorship packages. »
The principle is simple: the Winegrower Partner Program allows customers to commit to four categories, each offering different privileges: Winegrower meal, vine planting, personalized label, tasting… $150 per vine. A very small vineyard born in 2019-2020 has yet to produce wine. Godparents must be patient.
“It’s very popular during the pandemic”, says Richard Genereux, as people look for ways to get out of the city and into everyday life. The domain is diverse, you can meet animals like grapes or lavender plants, making it a great place for a picnic or BBQ.
Sponsors will receive their bottles (three per vine) when the wine is made and ready, probably in 2025.