(Fair warning: This is squarely in rant territory.)
Wine buyers in the marketplace, whether retailers, restaurateurs, or consumers, are commonly introduced to new products at tastings. Tastings run the gamut from 10 Tastes for $10 at fancy grocery stores to blowout warehouse trade tastings put on by large distributors. With none of these happening these days, there's been a noticeable uptick in samples shipped to my doorstep. That makes sense. Marketers are looking for any available avenue to find an audience for their clients' products.
What doesn't make sense is the even larger increase in "invitations" to provide coverage for wineries' products sans product. Yes, you read that right.
Virtual tastings, increasingly common over the last few years, are where the winery will send samples out in advance and then set up a video chat with the winemaker while you taste through the wines (which I have my misgivings about.) By contrast, recent missives sometimes include an "invite" to a similar event, but also including advice on where to buy the wines (on your own dime) and what hashtag to use when posting about them. It's essentially crowd-sourcing public relations.
However, the most common variant of this new breed is an "invite" (phrased more like a request) to write about a winery's newest release. When these land in my inbox, I respond with a link to the samples policy and a shipping address. Then I get apologetic replies indicating that no samples are available. What's even crazier is that these are often coming from people representing wineries trying to sell $85/bottle+ wines.
So, what they're asking is that wine writers either a) go out, buy their wines (again, on their own dime), and then write something flattering about it, or b) write about their wines without trying them.
I'm sure they'd be fine with it if writers skipped the purchase and evaluation altogether, so long as the flattering press happens. If this sounds like a bitching about not getting enough samples, it's not. I don't care about that, but can you imagine reading an article about the new Porsche when the closest the reviewer got was to see a video of it?
It must be some kind of new fever going around the PR community. But here's the wackiest thing of all: they wouldn't be asking for coverage if at least one out of a hundred writers complied.