Choosing a Bottling Size For Virtual Tastings

One decision wineries have to make when creating bundles that accompany virtual tastings is packaging size.

Myriad bottling options exist. Wineries can choose mini (50 mL), split (187.5 mL), demi (375 mL) and standard (750 mL), but that choice should only be made after doing extensive research, said Brianne Cohen, CEO of Virtual Vino, which specializes in online wine classes.

Cohen, who recently spoke at the 2022 Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium, said the small format bottles are her favorite for tastings but that it’s important for wineries considering small format bottles to understand what they are getting into.

“Talk to other wineries that are doing it,” said Cohen, who’s educated more than 6,000 people with her online classes since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which spurred the popularity of virtual tastings. “Do extensive research. Are the caps getting put on tight enough? Do the bottles break? Are they holding up to the shipping? There are plenty of wineries that popped into that business and exited quickly because of how much extra work goes into it.”

Damian Doffo, owner of Doffo Winery in Temecula, California, said that in the end, the mini and split formats didn’t work for his small but high-end boutique winery.

“I looked at it, and I looked at using the 50 mL vials we have in our lab, and I got shot down by everyone at our tasting room and our winery because it looked horrible,” said Doffo, who added that finding 50 mL and 187.5 mL bottles had proven difficult during the pandemic. “Trying to find packaging during the pandemic got so messy. I quickly pivoted and put portions of everything I was bottling in a 375 mL format.”

The addition of half bottles served Doffo Winery well, and it has continued using the alternative packaging size in addition to standard format bottles after getting good feedback from its customers.

“We saw great success with it,” Doffo said. “It was something I didn’t do in the past because we were too small to carry that many SKUs, but it gives us great versatility for our virtual tastings and our grab-and-go bundles in the tasting room.

“People love bundling two or three of them together.”

Doffo ultimately didn’t like the look of his label on the smallest options.

“Packaging, labeling, label presence and branding is very important to me,” Doffo said. “We are a higher-end boutique winery, so we didn’t want to ruin the customer experience because the wine was in a little vial. I didn’t want to fumble with it, so I went to a tried-and-true 375.”

He said he could see the appeal of the minis and splits for wineries willing to deal with the extra steps.

“I can see the advantage if you can do it right, and get the labeling, packaging and seal right,” he said. “It’s one of those things.”

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