In our young lives, we usually have a few ideas about things we might do when we grow up, jobs we might hold, talents we’d like to acquire, and, in general, the type of person we might want to become. And, perhaps, we also have ideas of things, jobs, talents, and types of people we don’t want to have, learn, or become.

Virtual Tasting Events with Five Senses Tastings

“Someone who knows a lot about shipping” is not a someone I ever thought I would ever be.

The logistics of virtual wine tasting events are a lot more complicated than you might think, however, given the nature of life and business à la Covid merci-very-much, so I thought I would take a moment here and share a little bit of information on this whole shipping business because it seems to be a bit of a black hole.

The prospective clients I’m talking with these days are becoming increasingly savvy about the many ins and outs of wanting to host an event with a food and wine component. They’re realizing, of course that wanting food & beverage means the food & beverage needs to be shipped to them and to everyone else who will be in attendance. What is slightly less palatable is the realization that this shipping costs money. I’m sorry to be so blunt but this part seems just not quite to factor in. And we’re not talking play money, I’m afraid. We’re talking Real Money. And that that real money will eat into (sorry bout that pun there) a per person budget in a big way.

And so, I thought I would take a moment here and break down a standard per person budget of, say, $100. Our tastings do not include “kits,” but rather curated pairings of two to three bottles of wine and carefully chosen accompanying cheeses and/or chocolates, which we send to folks around the United States. And, for purposes of this article, I’m only talking about the U.S. We’re not going to touch Canada, Mexico, or the rest of the world with a 10-foot pole here but suffice it to say, it’s not easy and, in many (most?) cases, illegal to ship alcohol across international borders.

Anyway, back to the $100 per person budget here, let’s get started. Also, for purposes of round numbers, let’s assume our numbers include all applicable taxes.

Wine

Let’s start with the big kahuna: our two bottles of wine, averaging, say, $20 a bottle. One bottle might be $5 less, one $5 more but the $20 bottle range allows for a nice amount of flexibility in variety and quality and sits at a nice mid-range. Our two $20 bottles equal a total of $40. Shipping for two bottles of wine within California (and I can only imagine this is fairly standard within any state) is about $15-20. Out of state it’s about $25-30 depending on the exact zip code.

Chocolate

Your average box of lovely truffles, a couple macaroons, some delicious Brazilian Brigadeiro, home-baked cookies, or a couple hand-crafted chocolate bars will run you between about $15-$25, so let’s average it out to $20 (remember, taxes are included in these numbers). Shipping chocolate in the hot months is a challenge, and it must be shipped with ice packs. That’ll run you between $10-20 (or so) depending on the weight of the package, the distance it’s traveling, and the speed with which it’s delivered. Some vendors I know, for example, only use 2-day air because their product is fragile and should not be in transit for more than this amount of time. I trust them on that, and I don’t ask them to change the way they do things (also I don’t think that’d make me many friends in the business).

Cheese

The silent (money) killer is cheese. Cheese is E-XPENSIVE, my friends! Not only does the cheese itself costs more of that real money but it must be shipped refrigerated if it’s going beyond somewhere really close to the source where we can guarantee that it will arrive the next day or two days later. Cheese is dairy, and dairy must be refrigerated. Plain and simple. Can’t change that, and even the product must be packed in refrigerated packages to protect it, shipping 2-day is really the only option, especially in the warmer months of the year. Cheeses vary in price, of course, but for 3-4 oz or so of two lovely cheese, you’re probably looking at around another $25-30. If you want crackers and other accoutrements, well, yeah, that’s going to be more. Shipping is sometimes based on a flat rate and sometimes not so you’re looking at about a $20 difference ($20-$40 range), and isn’t going to be much less no matter how you cut the … pie.

Time for some logistics math

Calculating shipping costs is a challenge in today's world!

Ok so let’s do some math. I’ll use some middle-of-the-road round numbers here and assume we’re doing three “pairings,” which is the standard number we use in our virtual wine tasting events. Let’s also assume we’re shipping wine from California (I mean, there’s quite a bit of it here to choose from, after all) to New York (cuz a lot of you live in New York, jus’ sayin’):

Wine: $50
Shipping Wine: $25
Chocolate: $25
Shipping Chocolate: $10
Cheese: $25
Shipping Cheese: $25

Total: $160

But wait, can’t you ship it all together?

Well, yes, it’s literally possible to do this and whenever possible we try to “batch” as many goodies together as possible, usually the cheese and the chocolate together and the wine separately. However it’s not always possible (or recommended), and it’s super duper not recommended in the summer months because of the heat factor, as mentioned above. If you do want to ship it all together, I wager it’s likely not going to look as nice, you’re going to need a bigger box, and in the end… will you really save much on shipping as a result?

The point of this article is not to shame anyone who doesn’t know what shipping costs are, of course – I mean I was that person not all that long ago – but to remind you that handling the logistics of virtual wine tasting events means that when you hear someone quote you an amount for their product and shipping, they’re probably not pulling your leg or massively inflating the actual cost. There is a lot of (wo)man power involved in packaging or kitting, putting shipments together and doing all the work to create mailing labels, schedule pick-ups or deliveries, and communicate tracking numbers to your partners and clients.

I do not ship anything personally because I am not legally allowed to do so. I do, however, manage the vendor partnerships, travel to see and taste the products (ok, so that part’s really not that bad, if I’m honest), and maintain contact with our vendor partners throughout the entire process, and honestly…

Logistics are a lot of work. For real.

Wine is a major part of all our tasting events

In the end, shipping is just a necessary evil when we’re dealing with virtual events. There are simply no two ways about it. My recommendation is to breathe deeply and recognize that your budget may have to shift a little bit to accommodate the type of experience you want your team, clients, family, and friends to have. We know money’s tight right now, and we are truly doing everything we can to make sure your hard-earned dollars are going as far as they can.

So if you have questions, please just ask.

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