SPLASH DECANT 08/01/21

An Open Secret to Success

If you want to find and achieve consistent success, surround yourself with people in the industry that challenge, inspire, and truly want others to succeed.

What you focus on grows – so it is vital to make sure that your circle doesn’t solely focus on wanting to tear things down but also on building them back up, too.  

A good barometer is how the people talk about those outside the circle. 

Take great care of yourself and try to look out for others.

Know that when you have to make a break from a social circle, it is ok. You will always be able to find others that share a lifting up effect and not a downward pushing one. 

And no matter what anyone tells you, you are not alone. People will surprise you with their generosity of spirit but you have to open your eyes to see and receive it.

SPLASH DECANT 07/26/21

One Tech Revolution

3 Minute Read

File Under: Market

The beverage business is on the verge of one tech revolution that will change the industry forever.

Out in the market, tales of companies pursuing the “Amazon of the Beverage Business” title abound – but obviously, that path of a wine company to a giant tech company with top-notch distribution is much easier said than done.

Which part of the business will it be?

Will it be a consumer facing one that fulfills the potential promise of DTC?

Is it an Artificial Intelligence tool that learns the consumer taste and then pulls through sales at the retail level?

Will it be on the logistics side?

Is it an application with retail partnerships that democratizes pricing and availability nationally?

Is it an ordering platform or “marketplace” on the pre-consumer side?

Or will it be something within the beverage business ecosystem that no one is looking at?

What keeps coming up for me when I think about the big change is the transition, translation, and execution of taking a product of the dirt to a product of digital. There is a large chasm between dirt and digital and most in the import/distribution business are still just hoping to get product to the US and find someone to buy it.

Consider this: the big change that will alter the course of the beverage world forever and it looks like it is going to take us all by surprise.

THE REORDER 07/19/21

There is No Perfect Circle

1 minute read

File under: Philosophy

There is no perfect circle in a beverage business of artisans, no straight lines.

That reorder you expect might not happen. The beverage director you know will not be there forever. Hallowed Domaines that we think will never change, will change. And as much as we expect that wine to be in good supply forever, no one can predict the weather.

So that leaves us with a vital question: what do we do?

Know the why, as in why you do what you do. Develop a philosophy that you can hang your hat on every day that isn’t some number. Roll with impermanence. Feel the shifts coming and laugh when you miss them and a grand change happens.

Move past mistakes quickly and learn from them, but don’t live in them.

Acknowledge the challenges and know that within them there are great opportunities.

SPLASH DECANT 07/12/21

Fast Natural

3 minute read

File Under: History

Fast Natural* is booming in the New York marketplace. Every few blocks you will find a shop selling fast natural wine and likely not knowing the difference between the private label they are selling and a farmer-grown, soulful wine.  This isn’t the first time we have seen this dynamic (or the last); it is the natural wine version of “this Napa cabernet should be higher-priced and we can’t tell you which vineyard or star winemaker it came from.” Brands hide the ball all the time to sell juice.
Today, we have the beauty of a revitalized, young market thirsty for Natural and horrific misunderstanding of Natural due to lost history.

Joe Dressner (the late founder of Louis/Dressner Selections) was one of the people that made the natural wine tribe what it is today. In an excerpt below from his blog, Captain Tumor Man, he gave vital context to the Natural Wine Movement and clues to the future of Natural Wine the NY market today.

The manifesto doesn’t “define” natural wine, and it certainly doesn’t give you all the perfect answers so you can pass a test. However, it is filled with his humor, concepts, and references that give texture to where we are today and why Fast Natural wines exist. It was written in 2010z

The Official Fourteen Point Manifesto on Natural Wine by Joe Dressner*

1. Hold your wallet tight when someone tells you they love “Natural Wine.” All of a sudden it is popular to say you are making natural wines, that you are drinking natural wines, that you just love natural wines. Wines come in bottles, not slogans, and unless you are talking about actual growers, vintages or vineyards, you are blowing hot air. The Natural Wine Movement hates all sloganeering and please leave us out of your exhortations.

2. Years ago I asked a clerk at Brooks Brothers how to tie a bow-tie. She patiently answered that a Gentleman either knew how to tie a bow-tie or did not know how to tie a bow-tie. The same applies to Natural Wine. If you have to ask what Natural Wine is then please reintroduce yourself to the flavors, smells and textures of nature. The Natural Wine Movement can help you, but you must do most of this work yourself.

3. The Natural Wine Movement is not a movement with a leader, credo and principles. If you think there is a Natural Wine Movement sweeping the world, triumphantly slaying industrial wineries and taking no hostages, then you are one delusional wine drinker. The Natural Wine Movement thinks that you might want to lessen your alcohol consumption for a few months.

4. But wouldn’t life be simpler if we had just one big category of natural wine to direct the poor consumer who is faced with so many baffling options? The Natural Wine Movement believes that wine is complicated and turning wine into neat categories is what made America and Madison Avenue great, but not what makes one Romorantin taste better than another Poulsard. And that doesn’t even leave room for Counoise and Pinot Fin. Broad categories are great for soda, juice, low carbon footprint beverages, eating and drinking locally and romance novels. Leave Natural Wine alone.

5. The poor consumers facing so many baffling choices are not really so confused. They need to learn how to trust and explore their tastes. If they like crappy industrial wine, why slap them around? Let them learn and go with their instincts, eventually they will come around. The pointists and tasting notes crowd are obscurantists who wants them to believe it takes the training of a brain surgeon to appreciate wine. The Natural Wine Movement believes everyone has the right to drink and eat badly, to watch horrible movies, read crappy books and watch CSI Las Vegas, CSI Miami or CSI New York. Forensic evidence tells us that wine drinkers can mature and blossom and find nuance more charming than the world of Awesome and Mind Blowing!

6. Jules Chauvet used to say being determines consciousness. The Natural Wine Movement doe not expect the Wine Industrial Complex to be won over to natural fermentation, low sulphur and what-have-you. Even if it were, it would still be making unfathomable, undrinkable stuff. Stop condemning the Parkers, Rollands, Eisenmeyers, Wine Spectators, Cult Wineries with 16 Degree swill, Southern Wine & Spirits and the Andre Tamers of the world (actually, Andre Tamer is a very good importer of Spanish wine but I have a grudge against him, with good reason, and threw his name in here for no other particular reason). Honestly, they live in another world than we do.

7. Please leave us alone. Great natural wine is made in small quantities and there will never be enough to go around. Industrial Wine can satisfy thirst, I suppose, as can water, diet Sprite, Tomato Juice from local farmers and Gatorade. If everyone jumps on the natural wine bandwagon there will be a tendency to get bigger to satisfy demand and quality will be compromised. We will be overwhelmed by corporate types who want to cash in on the next big thing. We’ll have to form a new movement and find a new vague concept that hipsters all over the world will embrace (like Real Wine). The Natural Wine Movement likes to drink in peace and doesn’t want to become a marketing scheme for bloggers, wineries, retailers, distributors, importers with brain cancer, journalists and virtual reality television shows. We like being marginal.

8. The Natural Wine Movement abhors earnestness. Please don’t tell us your stories about leading a sulphur-free life and how wild yeast fermentation made you kinder to your loved ones and pets. Humorless activism to promote wine is an oxymoron. Getting smashed, eating well, and laughing with good friends are key to our movement. We actively campaign for the drinking age to be lowered to sixteen-year-old, like in good old France. We also enjoy being contemptuous of other people around us, somewhat randomly, particularly when we are on the second or third bottle.

9. Another thing we dislike is self-importance. The wine milieu is saturated with so many very important people it makes the mind dizzy. The Wine Spectator even organizes events for the very important to meet their very important peers from all around the world. The Natural Wine Movement does not attend these conferences. We don’t go to the Miami, Aspen, Boston, Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Elmira or Washington Wine Week Celebration. We’re not important enough to attend and don’t want to become that important.

10. Sure, there are big shots even in our marginal milieu. Certain vignerons, certain importers, certain restaurateurs and certain major private drinkers. We do our best to rotate big shots, searching as far as the former Czechoslovakia for media darlings. We’re a democratic group based on the French principles of Liberté, Fraternité et Copinage! The Natural Wine Movement knows no lider maximo and is dedicated to the notion that we can all be René Mosse for one day! By the way, I’m not sure what Copinage means, but it sounds good.

11. Is there really a difference between Natural, Biodynamic, Real and Organic wines? There sure is, but is it really productive to blab about the differences? We like mystery and suspense and so do you or you wouldn’t be glued to your television sets watching CSI New York. The Natural Wine Movement hates precision, detail and facts. For instance, when someone asks a member of The Natural Wine Movement for the exact variety composition of a blend, we just make up some percentages. Often they don’t add up to 100% because no one really cares. We don’t care and you don’t care. If the terroir is expressive then the grape varieties are transparent. We are not in California.

12. So, can you make natural wine in the New World? Maybe and we’d love to try some examples. No doubt there are great sites and we’re confident that our colleagues in the New World will find their way over the next few decades and centuries. Planting the right variety on the right root stock and not having all those unsightly clones would be a good start. The Natural Wine Movement salutes the courage and audacity of our New World brethren.

13. Doesn’t this make us a bunch of fascists who want to dictate taste to everyone else? Not really, The Natural Wine Movement doesn’t look for converts. If you want to hang around with us, that’s wonderful, but we’re just nice people looking for a nice buzz. Ever meet Olivier Lemasson – I can’t imagine a softer-spoken, nicer guy. He has two young kids to feed and buying a case of Olivier’s wine would be of great assistance to him.

14. Who appointed me to speak for The Natural Wine Movement, you ask? I seized control three years ago in an epic battle with François Ecco and Arnaud Erhart. Since then, I have been the official public spokesman for me, myself and I.


*Fast Natural is my term for the co-opted brands and large farm sourced wines with natural placed on the label that are capitalizing on the natural wine movement. Natural Wines are wines of nature from farmers, while Fast Natural Wines are wines of business and scaleability.

*originally posted by the late Joe Dressner of Louis/Dressner Selections on captaintumorman.com, bolds are inserted by me.

THE REORDER 06/26/21

To the New Sales Rep

3 minute read

File under: Artisan Salescraft

Don’t listen to them.  Don’t listen to the appointment obsessed, or the hackneyed never-before-in-the-trenches middle manager spreadsheeting you for no reason and telling you that numbers never lie.

Do listen to your intuition. Develop that.

Don’t create sales, create dialogue.

Look for what is hidden in plain sight.

Take the new and make it known and take the known and make it new.

Don’t take orders, tell memorable stories.

Connection wins every single time, it just may not seem like it in the moment.

Be fearless if you actually have something real to offer and if you don’t, figure it out yesterday.

Listen more. Empathize like a professional.

Think like a fluent buyer. Ask better questions.

Learn to feel the pulse of a place.

Practice restraint. You don’t have to drink of the cup from the second bottle.

Send bespoke emails that actually mean something, not just because.

Go home well.

Confidence comes from a philosophy that doesn’t involve any number.

Be open. Be thirsty to learn.

Don’t get locked in the technical info and miss the context.

You are not a brand, you are a person.

You don’t ever sell to – you sell with.

Sevenfifty is a tool. Use it like one.

Love impermanence – constant change is part of the game.

A great sales rep (whatever this title actually means now) makes waves that no one will ever see, waves that continue to crash for years – but no one but you will know.

More artisan sales craft explanation here.

And if all else fails, just reach out @iamlooper. I am here to help.

SPLASH DECANT 06/01/21

Preconceptions

Preconceived Notions

3 minute read

File under: Marketplace

We hold onto our preconceptions for comfort. For nailing that blind. For feeling good about what we are doing. For feeling right.

We dissect all of the whimsy and surprise out of the fruit from a magical piece of land by peppering the producer who shepherded it from fruit to juice and into bottle with questions like – stems? How long in barrel exactly? What’s was the PH? What was the temperature? How often do you rack the wines?
I have asked these questions, feeding my own ego with “I knew it” and “maybe the wines would be better if…” – but the inconvenient truth is that as experienced as one might be, you can probably never fully decifer the mosaic that is in an artisan bottle of wine. The pieces are just too many and too shape-shifting to really and truly know it all. So we lean towards preconceived notions, partially writing the script of a wine before the wine is poured.

Why are we doing that again? 

I wonder if we as an industry have gone too far towards the tenured professor as the ideal. Where having all the answers is the goal. Would you truly follow an Academic Wine Prophet? 

There is no doubt that science is present – geology, too. That wonderful interaction called fermentation is in itself a lifetime of study.
And yet, I still wonder what we are promoting – what it’s all for.

What we are saying to young sommeliers and beverage directors when the interview includes the first la-la vintages, what’s the ideal cost for btg, and what was your stage at Dujac like? And not, what does the art of table-side collaboration look like for you? How do you want to lead? What’s the wine you are into that isn’t everywhere? What is the narrative of a great wine program? 

We will have to throw out our preconceptions to build the industry in a better way. Don’t focus so much on the brushstrokes of academic study and miss the whole painting. 

SPLASH DECANT 05/15/21

Rosé, Uninterrupted

3 Minute read

File Under: Tradecraft

Rosé is clearly not dead, on pause, or challenged by the orange wave – no matter what some hackneyed publication will tempt you to click sometime soon.

Rosé as a broad category is so expanded compared to more than a decade ago that it is truly shocking to consider how varied and wonderful it is now. Real Rosé is much easier to find by the day.

However, the Rosé season is the nut that the industry has been trying to crack for more than a decade and I am not sure we ever will. In early 2019, I wrote about the explosion of Rosé as a category and that we as an industry have a Rosé situation. We still have meaningful work to do to prove that we think of Rosé as an all year wine.

Exactly like ten years ago, some Rosés will sell through and echo into the marketplace and some won’t this year. Some will get famous and others will fade quietly away into the next season. Does that mean that the Rosé that doesn’t fly is going to be DOA next season? Nope. Famously, López de Heredia Rosé (Rosado) hardly sold at all on first release in the US and had to be closed out.  

The current market drivers today are still allocation (scarcity), seasonality (warmer days, higher sales), name recognition (fame), same as it ever was (habitually bought), color (light pink for the big sales), and price (sub $14.99 is the high volume). 

We still have a ways to go to get to where we want to be as an industry with Rosé, but any news of the death of Rosé will be greatly exaggerated. This will be (and in many ways, already is) a raucous Rosé season.