Eric Guerra is a marketing and sales executive, wine blogger, fine wine investor, and wine public speaker. Eric Guerra has led some of the industry's most recognizable vineyards and wine brands. His roles have ranged from sales, brand marketing, tasting room, direct-to-consumer, finance, private label, sourcing, winemaking, and production.
Tell us about your journey in the wine industry.
My journey in wine has been truly outstanding and has been very special. I have been fortunate to work with some of the greatest brands in the industry. I started off my career with Kendall Jackson early on, and at the time, it was close to 6 million cases. I was the marketing manager for one of the greatest brands the United States has ever seen, and every varietal that I managed was at the top of the category. After that, I went to Allied Domecq to manage brands like Gary Ferell, Buena Vista, Lindauer New Zealand Sparkling wine, J.Garcia wines, Perrier Jouët and many more. Gary Ferell is where I learnt luxury marketing. After that, I moved on to the private label then; in the United States, the private label was getting very popular. I worked for a wine company called Terravant Wine Company and was one of the company's founders. We went from 7000 cases to up to a quarter of a million, and we sold brands to every retailer from coast to coast, from luxury on-premise to Kroger, Total Wine, Target, Albertsons and many more. In 2019 I worked as Chief Sales and Marketing officer at Vineyard 29 LLC, one of the most prestigious luxury brands. One of my most recent endeavor is the Reserve Tastings Wine Company LLC, a successful direct-to-consumer private Wine + Music club that delivers high-end wines matched with musically inspired label artwork and playlists.
What defines a Luxury Wine Brand?
The quality that defines a luxury wine brand that I found is perception. Luxury can be the screaming eagles of the industry at thousands of dollars per bottle, but it can also be Kendall Jackson’s Chardonnay at 13 or 15$ dollars of a bottle. It all depends on what luxury means to the consumer. If someone is drinking two buck chuck every day and drinking Kendall Jackson’s Chardonnay on the weekends, then that's their luxury brand, and their perception of the brand is at its luxury. But, in the wine industry, obviously, the Domaine Romanée Conti and the Champagnes are all perceived as a luxury. But consumer perception sets all these brands apart and the successful luxury brands from the non-successful ones.
How do you market Luxury Wine Brands?
When managing a luxury wine brand, it’s a very difficult job. As you can imagine, it would sell itself, and it does many times. I’ve managed 70 at 175 dollars, and they sell out. But it’s how you manage it. It’s a whole different perception. When you manage other wine brands, you are trying to sell, and you have volume, and you need to make profits, it’s super important to push the wine, and most of the wine brands we have managed in the industry, you kind of move or figure out new people, new distribution points. But in luxury wine, it’s not the placements or how much wine you sell, and it’s the quality of the places you sell it, it’s the price points, and it's very delicate, like holding a baby bird in your hands, it’s incredibly beautiful and delicate. So, at the price points, knowing where people will buy or not buy it, knowing where the brand shows up, meaning if it showed up at the right restaurant or is put in places that won’t help the brand essence. It is important to manage it delicately and think about the quality of the placements, the price points, the quality of the wine, and the quality of the packaging, far more than the volume and the amount of money you make.
What are the challenges you face while selling luxury wine brands?
When you manage a luxury wine brand, the most difficult thing is the pace. What I mean by pace here is that it takes a long time. I have managed a lot of wine brands and it always seems to go very fast. You get out there, and you sell wine. You want to sell it in a way it goes that everybody gets crazy about it. But the pace of the luxury wine brand is usually slower. Sometimes it takes months, years, decades and centuries, so you don’t know that the price increase you took or the distribution you decided on will take hold. Sometimes for a year or two, with luxury wine brands, it’s all about the history. So if you make wine now, you won’t know how it will be received in the real luxury market in five, ten or 50 years beyond. So, the pace is much slower, and you must be much more patient.
What kind of distribution is best for luxury wine brands?
What quality in a distributor or a broker I look for is knowledge. You got to be at the highest level to manage the greatest brands in the world. You have to be excellent, and you should know about your wine. You should be able to talk confidently about it and have a great experience and approach. Secondly, we look for, is practicality. The real quality distributors tell me what they can do, and they hold to it. Sometimes it’s not the number that I look for or want to hear about, but it’s more about them believing in what they can do. They know their markets better than I do. If it's a Boston distributor or a Texas distributor, they got to know the city far better than I do, so I will listen to them if I believe them. The third thing is authenticity, and I want people with whom I can have a beer afterwards, not just business but someone I can trust or sit down with. So, when they tell me things are tough, they are good. I know they are 100 percent accurate.
To learn or know more from him on marketing and selling luxury wines, you can watch the video here.
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