Wine Consultant Gives First Crush Tastings High Scores for Preparation, Communication

After nine years as a wine consultant at Kroger #456 in Flower Mound, Texas, Steve McClintic has seen it all when it comes to tasting companies and their agents.  “We’ve had good ones, bad ones, and companies in between. Some are here today and gone tomorrow.” The most common problem, he says, is unprepared tasting agents who don’t arrive properly equipped. “I’ve had companies come that don’t have a table. They’ve come without tasting cups, corkscrews. You name it, they’ve come without it.”

Unprepared agents are especially problematic at this Kroger location because it’s a high volume store with lots of products and hosts many tasting events each month. After a major remodel two years ago, SKUs in the wine department shot up from 500 to 1,200 overnight. McClintic says weekends are completely booked with tastings – up to five per day Friday through Sunday – and that can be cumbersome to manage, especially when there’s little to no communication with the tasting company. He gets a printout at the beginning of the month with all the tastings that were scheduled through Kroger. But sometimes suppliers will ask their distributing company to schedule events without going through the store. These events are not communicated directly to McClintic and sometimes do not appear on his monthly schedule.

“It’s fine as long as I know about it ahead of time so that I can have additional product in the store to do the tasting,” he says. “But oftentimes I don’t know they’re coming. They don’t even call prior to their arrival and then I don’t have the product. The agent is here for an hour, they sell what I’ve got, and then they’re gone.”

A Tasty Sales Boost

Despite the occasional negative experience, McClintic sees tastings as an important promotional tool that offer real payoff with increased sales during the event. Plus, outside tasting agents free him from working a demo for hours himself – time he could be spending restocking shelves and attending to customers. He says there are a couple of tasting companies that stand out as exceptional and First Crush Tastings is one of them. “I honestly can’t remember a bad event we’ve had with a First Crush demo person.”

First Crush Tastings was one of the first companies to offer demos at the store starting in 2007. One of the reasons for their consistent success is that for the last five years all suppliers employing the agency have used the agency’s Palaterra Tastings Platform, a web-based tool that provides retailers significant benefits including:

  • Efficient scheduling that mitigates unplanned tastings and product out-of-stocks
  • Streamlined communication between retailers, suppliers, distributers and tasting agents
  • Tasting agent preparation details including customized product stories, audible pronunciation guide and equipment checklist

“First Crush has been one of the best tasting agencies that I have experienced. Their brand ambassadors are always prepared. There’s always a connection with First Crush Tastings supervisor who comes in and talks with me to make sure things are going right. They’ve just been on top of it.”

Steve McClintic

Kroger (456)

McClintic says First Crush Tastings agents are always professional and knowledgeable about the wines they demo and arrive well prepared with all equipment needed. Communication is another major differentiator. “There’s always a connection. I know who they are, what time they’re going to be here, and what wines they’re doing. They’ve just been on top of it.” Ready to boost your tastings ROI? Learn about the Palaterra Tastings Platform can do for your tastings program. For more information, or to get your personalized demo, contact Daniel Hernandez at (512) 229-5770 or