How Your Interest in Wine Can Get You into HNW Circles

Like a gated community, the HNW community is often surrounded by barriers to entry.  You often need to buy a house in the right area, send your children to the right school or get into the right private club.  All these come with stiff price tags.  Developing an interest in wine can be a shortcut, because wine is a crossover category.

Here’s the secret:  People who have a passion are often eager to share it with fellow enthusiasts.  Why?  Because they each understand what the other is talking about!  They also have the “teacher gene,” meaning they are willing to share information with those having a sincere desire to learn.

You need to buy into the following logic:  People do business with people they like.  If you can get into the world of local wine enthusiasts, you can develop personal relationships that might lead to business. 

Here are ten ways you can crack into this market segment.

  1. Talk with your clients.  Find out who are the serious wine fans.  Sit down with each.  Get them talking about their hobby.  You have an interest and would like to learn more about fine wine.  What do they suggest?
  2. Find a good wine merchant.  Once you know what wine region or grape type is your favorite, connect with your local wine merchant and let them teach you.  A generally accepted principal is three things are required to learn about wine:  A bottle, a corkscrew and a glass.  Buy what they suggest and give them feedback.  You want them as an ally. 
  3. Attend classes.  Your local wine merchant can direct you to serious classes designed for people seeking to enter the industry or improve their personal knowledge.  This should give you the opportunity to meet fellow enthusiasts.
  4. Ask about local wine clubs.  You’ve developed a good relationship with your wine shop.  You’ve gone to school.  Now it’s known you are serious.  Ask the wine shop if there are local clubs around.  Can they give you an introduction?  Be a silent student who is eager to learn.  These clubs may have big personalities involved.
  5. Attend wine tastings.  The club you joined and the store where you shop may organize tastings.  Sometimes it’s an informal setup in the store where a winemaker pours tastes of their own wine.  Other times it’s at a separate location, either setup like a trade show or a classroom where wines are placed in front of you. You are meeting like minded individuals.  With luck, some of your wine loving clients are present.
  6. Try out new wine bars in town.  Suggest this as an activity for one wine loving client at a time.  Suggest they invite along a fellow wine fan.  Establish everyone pays their own way.  Sounds almost like a client/prospect dinner!
  7. Organize your own wine tastings as client events.  Start off by having a long talk with your Compliance manager.  Assuming it’s OK, structure an event setup classroom style at an offsite location.  Get a wine professional to choose the wines and conduct the class.  Invite your wine loving clients to attend.  Ask them to bring a guest.  Your wine shop owner might agree to be your expert.
  8. Read the Wine Spectator.  Also Wine Advocate.  Read Decanter too.  These are the major publications.  Everyone reads them and has an opinion about their reviews.  You want to learn how to speak the language with them.
  9. Consider attending the big wine events.  The Wine Spectator organizes the New York Wine Experience, now in it’s 40th year.  It’s been described as “Comicon for wine.”  Enough said.  The three day event is very expensive, but you can buy tickets that only get you admission to the Grand Tasting.  I went this year.  The tickets were $ 500 for the two hour event, but they had 200+ wineries, many famous, each pouring one wine.  It gives you something to talk about.
  10. Entertain with wine at home.  Now you’ve established credentials.  You can cultivate people by inviting them over for dinner, lunch, picnics or tastings.  You get to know them, they get to like you.  People do business with people they like.

Unlike many other HNW interests, wine appreciation is a HNW pursuit with comparatively low barriers to entry.