Cruise ships help boost winery profile

Allan Scott
Allan Scott

In the highly competitive wine industry you have to find new customers wherever you can.

For Marlborough winemaker Allan Scott that means welcoming Americans from visiting cruise ships to his winery one day and flying to Vietnam to meet new customers the next.

Scott is one of the pioneers of the Marlborough wine industry and knows that you can find business in some unusual places.

Recently he has been capitalising on the growing trade to passengers of cruise ships calling at Picton.

Twenty cruise ships are expected to berth at Picton this summer, bringing about 34,000 passengers eager to sample the region's delights.

Americans make up the biggest single nationality on most of the ships and Scott has seen this as an excellent marketing opportunity because the United States is his company's biggest export market.

He has joined forces with a local tour operator who brings bus loads of passengers to his winery whenever a ship is in port.

Generally there are about 30-40 passengers on a bus and there are often about six buses a day.

Scott said most of the visitors had at least some wine knowledge but even those who weren't regular wine drinkers enjoyed visiting the winery and sampling its wares.

Scott leads the winery tours himself, underlining their importance, and part of the experience is letting the visitors taste wines straight from the barrels.

They are also given information on where they can buy Allan Scott wines when they return to the United States and although the cruise ships don't allow passengers to take their own wine to consume on board, Scott has been surprised at how much some of the passengers buy to put in storage to take home with them.

It's a double win for the winery, because it makes good sales at its restaurant and cellar door shop and it also helps build brand awareness and the company's customer base in its biggest export market.

The cruise business could become even more important because a Port Marlborough spokesman said early indications were that there would be an increase in cruise ship visits to Picton in 2015.

However, Scott isn't waiting for the business to come to him.

Unlike many New Zealand wine companies, Scott doesn't export much to Australia or the UK.

Instead he focuses on key emerging markets as well as the United States.

Last week he flew to Vietnam which is also a growing market for his wines.

"It's changed a lot in the last 10 years, " he said.

Initially, most of the wine was bought by Western tourists and expatriates, but now there was also a growing wine drinking culture among the Vietnamese themselves.

"The market there is pretty good, " he said.

The Marlborough Express