One of the first things we recommend to our clients planning for U.S. wine and spirit market entry is to get ratings and reviews from sources that are recognized and valued in America.
Four that I’d especially highlight are those that accept brands that are not currently imported into the U.S. The top four are Ultimate Beverage Challenge, New York International Wine and Spirits Competitions, Beverage Testing Institute (BTI) and the San Francisco International Wine and Spirit Competitions.
The Ultimate Beverage Challenge is headed by a triumvirate of industry veterans including noted critic, author and publisher Paul Pacult along with David Talbot and Sue Woodley. They manage Ultimate Wine Challenge and Ultimate Spirits Challenge and both are widely recognized and authoritative and significant competitions. The competitions are distinguished in terms of the rigorous blind judging by a slate of top flight experts in the industry including Doug Frost, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, Tara Thomas and Christy Canterbury on the wine side and Dale DeGroff, Steve Olsen and David Wondrich on the spirits side.
Results are published online, as well as in the Beverage Media Group publications which reach over 20,000 key buyers across the country as well as the BevMedia online product ordering platform and over 200 retail e-commerce websites reaching upwards of 6.5 million site visits per year.
One program I helped pioneer with the Ultimate Beverage folks is a bespoke review of individual wines and portfolios. Because they are individual reviews, they are not limited to the deadline windows of the larger annual competitions. That’s huge for many of our clients because the tailored timing means suppliers can get reviews at a time that fits their schedule rather than the competition’s. Ping David Talbot (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information on this program.
A second competition that’s emerged as a credible player on the U.S. market is the NY international Wine and Spirit Competitions. It’s run by Adam Levy and while it started out in the Big Apple, it has since expanded internationally and now has versions running Australia, Asia, Berlin and soon, in London. It is differentiated by the judging being done by only by key members of the trade: importers, distributors, buyers, retailers, F&B managers who have the purchasing power and the ability to make a direct impact on brand sales. Importantly, it also accepts brands that are not currently imported in the U.S.
BTI is short for Beverage Testing Institute which has been running evaluation programs for nearly 20 years. In addition to the fact that they accept not-currently-imported into the U.S. products, they have a rolling schedule of deadlines which makes it easier for brands to participate and still fit into their development schedules. Evaluations run throughout the year. In the case of wine separated by domestic and imported, and among the imported wine, often has multiple entry deadlines for larger producing countries such as Italy (Sept. 15, Feb. 1), Argentina and Chile (July 15 and Jan 15), and Australia (May 15 and Dec. 1). They also have a rolling schedule for spirit categories. Deets on wine, spirits (and yes, they also do beer) contests and deadlines are at: http://trade.tastings.com/
And fourth on the list is the venerable San Francisco Spirits and Wine Challenge. The former has been running since 2000 and the wine competition for 36 years. One added value they offer is a traveling road show promotion to winners.
Check out my website for a regularly updated list of upcoming competitions with deadlines noted at http://bevologyinc.com/events.php. On the same page you’ll also find a comprehensive list of U.S.-relevant wine and spirit industry trade shows.