Sunday, September 24, 2006

How not to sell wine

I attended a wine tasting organized by a local merchant on Friday (24th) unusually the venue was my sons school, apparently this is done a few times a year, this one was our first. I guess it made sense, if you can afford the school fees they figure that you'll probably be a wine drinker and probably have disposable income to blow on a case or two of vino, however I think if most of the attendees were honest they turned up to chat to other parents and teachers and to neck as much free plonk as possible (nothing wrong with that I suppose).

Being a bit of a wine-geek, I've been to a fair few commercial tastings before and whilst I wasn't expecting a "proper" tasting event per se but I think this hit a new low for me in terms of "commercial indifference" in what I would have said was a "target rich" environment. Nothing wrong with the wines, a reasonable selection 5-15 quid, clearly pitched at the casual/weekend drinker who leans towards the more "international" fruit-driven styles (supermarket stuff); and a wide selection (20 or so) were on offer, representing most of the main varietals you would find most people familiar with.

My main frustration was simply the lack of effort applied, the vendor simply pitched up put the bottles out on a long table and shouted "help yourself"; predictably most punters simply made a b-line for something familiar and filled up their glasses. Most people I spoke to were at a loss to describe or identify what it was they were drinking and only tried 3 or 4 out of the 20 on offer. I did try and speak to the guy running the event but he wasn't really up for a chat, however he did point out the empty table with a pile of order forms on it should I "find" something I liked - I didn't feel inclined to buy anything.

Another annoyance was the lack of thought that had gone into the wine placement, it was all laid out on one single table (20 bottles) even though there were plenty of other empty tables available, this lead to an almost impenetrable wall of punters just standing there right in front of the table drinking and not moving, I reckon that prevented me from tasting at least 4 or 5 of the wines as we ran out of time (daft!). The vendor did arrive late and there didn't seem to be a lot of helpers there so I can kind of understand the arrangement but even so, splitting them between red and white would have doubled throughput (and potential sales) IMO.

Clearly people do what they want to do and there's nothing wrong with that, but you would have thought that if this vendor actually wanted to flog some wine a better approach would have been to "talk" about each wine, guide people through the selection, point out the varietals, point out the producers, talk them up etc. I don't think much was sold, however you had to buy a bottle for dinner, I guess that's where they recouped some of their outlay although, with travel, time and probably a small skim from the school, I can't see how money could be made on the deal?

Anyway, not a bad evening from a social point of view, didn't win anything in the raffle but did speak to my son's new teacher for the first time and that conversation provoked a few thoughts (more on that later), mostly I drank more wine than I paid for (which is always a bonus!) - tasting notes to follow.

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