THE REORDER 01/17/22

Allocation Manipulation

Allocation Manipulation is one surefire way to accomplish the sales destruction trifecta; alienating customers, destroying trust, and building future bear traps for yourself.

The power the industry has given allocations is staggeringIt is intoxicating to all parties when the phrase “it’s allocated” gets thrown into the mix. These two words magically imply that the wine (or wines) offered have other interested parties. Not unlike “best and final” in real estate, it’s a dynamic that plays on the urges to compete and not miss out.

What’s vital to understand is that Allocation Manipulation can put you in sales jail (the no trust zone, allocation management purgatory, or both…) if you do it. So here are a few guidelines on approach.

Allocation Guidelines

An allocation fulfills a promise.

In most cases an allocation implies a yearly reservation. If you offer, you should honor. And you need to keep track…

The most effective allocation offers are truthful.

Be genuine, communicate clearly and do it with good intent. State the facts.  This is especially important when the amount of wine you can offer is lower than the previous year.

Most allocation offers look the same.

Come to terms with the fact that there may be no clear and visible difference to most buyers between the genuine offer and the allocation manipulation offer. Time will tell. Treasure the easy sleep you have because you don’t take the manipulative path. 

There will most likely never be enough.

For wines that are in high demand, unhappy customers are a certainty. This is not the time to blame the manager, say that someone doesn’t know what they are doing, or hide. If you can find more wine, great. If not, it isn’t the end of the world. Aim for dialogue. Many a great relationship began with an allocation conflict.

Educate whenever you can.

I am still shocked at how much we know as an industry about terroir, winemaking, and culture and yet, how little we know about how the business works.

Allocations from producer to importer do not always translate to allocated wines from distributor to retailer/restaurant. They aren’t the same thing. Also, if a customer only takes allocated items from you, cool. Just know that at some point a tough conversation is coming. It’s better to weave this conversation in sooner rather than later. 


Predictions 2022

What is in store for the drinks business in 2022?

This one is going to be like squid games with booze; scary and filled with opportunities.

As Yogi Berra once said: “It’s tough to make predictions. Especially about the future.” But here goes:


M&As all day

Some big players (RNDC ring a bell?) are coming to town in NY and we will see a grand bloodsport among the big companies to grab producers, companies, spirits brands, etc.

Hot take: It’s going to be like the colosseum and squid games combined with booze. Also, expect a company to be bought in a merger/acquisition that will surprise all of us. Who will it be?


NoLo alcohol products are going to go wild, proliferating like Rosé did a decade ago and solidifying itself as a real segment in the markets.

There is already a small but real craze for manufactured de-alc’d wines, but those that see beyond the “wine alternative” frame and jump in more fully are going to be on a sales rocket ship.

Hot Take: #NoLo is going to be much bigger than most people think. It potentially combines the cultural pull of Rosé and Natural Wine (i.e. people like us drink things like this) and La Croix (we don’t know what is actually different about this soda but we buy it and drink it). Also, the #NoLo producers that get the texture and flavor right will win huge.

Orange Burns Hotter than Rosé

Orange wine ascends even further to eat into even more of the Rosé market share.

There will continue to be a strong downward pressure in price towards private labels and a pressure on producers from their import partners to make orange wine to fulfill market demand (even though they don’t normally produce orange wine in their area).

Hot Take: The lower priced mainstreamed orange wines continue to be on fire, while the higher priced more serious orange wines will remain on the fringe outer universe. That universe includes the common refrain of shall we close out?/OMG they bought that?/what do we do with this stuff?/it is so allocated…

Négoce Natural

Look for natural wine producers to produce wines from areas that they do not own, rent or even farm vines.

This will be cloaked under the “collab or collaboration” term and it is going to be rampant; directly related to recent vintage problems (frost, vineyard difficulties, etc.).

Hot Take: The larger truth that natural wine is a business now and the scale to match upward demand is a real concern for those who want to grow their business.

Fake Natural/False Natural/Fast Natural*

All of my invented terms above apply to the dark side…the commercialization of Natural Wine – and was predicted by the late Joe Dressner many years ago on his blog, Captain Tumor Man (Read my Fast Natural take along with his manifesto here).

The irony of the Natural wine movement is that you can go into a store today and see many wines that do not fulfill the promise of natural wine and are sold as Natural Wine.

Hot take: These wines capitalize on the bigger transition happening in natural wine from tribe to a brand with half-truths, heavy-handed marketing and sleight of hand to flimflam the curious drinking public. How do you feel about that?

The Repositioning of the Sommelier/Bev Director

2022 will be filled with just as much movement and job-shifting as 2021, if not more. What will also remain is that the the position of the sommelier and beverage director will be occupied more often by the general manager/owner/assistant manager and the major operators will be in a regular search for sommeliers to run beverage programs often.

Hot take: Many sommeliers will be getting their very first chance at a beverage director job. And, if you are a skilled sommelier, you will be in a prime position…

You down with NFTs?

Not sure if you caught the Liger-Belair NFT launched by Acker this year, but this is something to prep for – blockchain and NFT’s are coming are going to blast into the drinks space like a billionaire with a space travel company.

Hot Take: Gary V alone will make this a thing. I would pay close attention…it is going to be a vibrant space.

The Next Big Wine Tech Thingy?

The Wineglobe (it’s insta-famous already…@wine.globe)

A few top producers are already using the globe and that alone will attract a larger group fast. Expect to see the Globe in cellars a lot more. Promising “pure expression, less reduction and less so2” in wines for producers is like saying let’s take the Summer and relax in Mallorca…it’s really hard to say no.

Bigger than Caterpillar? The Monarch Tractor brings AV to WIne.

Developed by Carlo Mondavi and friends, the Monarch tractor could be a game-changer. Especially since the goal is sustainability and it is driver optional. Imagine if organic farming included robot labor?

Pix Wine – The Discovery Platform for Wine

Many have tried to create the through line from wine to consumer and failed to come through. How could one resist? The race to connect consumer to wine and cross the streams of wine and tech is the white whale of the industry. Pix Wine has gotten a lot of play and for good reason — they have assembled a hell of a team.  I am in. After a conversation with CEO Paul Mabray, it’s tough not to believe that they have this all figured out.

TASTE 12/01/21

The Food of France

This is my book of the year and it was originally published in 1958.

Sometimes the best wine books aren’t necessarily about wine.

While many new perspectives and some friends published beautiful books this year, The Food of France by Waverley Root, is my book of the year.

I continually go back to this gem as a reference point because it illuminates the gorgeous history and gastronomic traditions of France – a rarely opened secret side door into understanding the wines of France. 

Any wine professional that wants to more deeply dive into the terroirs of France through gastronomy and history (not just the classic AOC rules) will love having this book. 


On Winery Visits

Can you picture a wine world where winery visits were rare? Where it was a real treat to be connected to the winemaker personally?

It wasn’t that long ago that this was the the reality.

A few months ago, Simon J Woolf recounted his trip to the Jura to visit wineries [Read here:The Fall of the Jura?] and a twitter frenzy ensued. The Jura is, in Mr. Woolf’s words “a paradise for lovers of natural wine, with a high number of small estates working organically or biodynamically, and minimal intervention ‘sans souffre’ wines available in almost every local wine bar or restaurant.” 

Mr. Woolf went to one of the smallest regions of France to visit wineries for the first time on the heels of a string of tough vintages. Not surprisingly, he had a tough time securing winery visits. 

The article does paint a clear picture of the current state of visiting artisan wineries in Europe. It describes the scarcity challenge of not enough wine and even less time perfectly.

The reality is that the most coveted winery visits are often wineries with a small scale of production and higher demand for their wines than supply.

The Winery Visit Special…

What is troubling is that the winery visit has been normalized to such a degree that the specialness of the visit has been replaced by the expectation of the visit. As an industry, we are accustomed to tasting in the cellar. Even further, when did popping bottles and sharing wine become a completely accepted and taken-for-granted practice? It is a special thing to share wine.

Tasting juice out of one barrel that is the total production for the world is a generous gift. It’s sharing the work of vintage imbued with the experience that reaches beyond that swirl and sip. The attitude we bring as an industry to the visits that allow these experiences has to change.

It’s pretty simple actually: there just isn’t enough of it all and we as an industry fetishize the small. 

The fundamental question I keep returning to is this: Should the winery visit be an expectation or a surprising delight? And what do wineries do when they don’t have enough time or wine to accept visits from press, friends, importers, distributors, etc.? The winery visit and is going to have to change. 

THE REORDER 10/31/21


There is always a strong tension of patience/impatience that goes along with artisan salescraft.

Your ducks will never be in a row and you will have to adjust to constant change.

The high performers of artisan salescraft I know and have worked with have one thing in common: they accept this tension. They know that there will be times to wait, times to act and times to start over.

Patience and impatience in tandem is a reality and the practice of the professional is to work with that duality and not against it.


The “Top” Producers

It’s easy to know who the top producers are. You actually don’t need much more than an instagram account and a few minutes. These producers are lauded by the court of master sommeliers, WSET, etc., and called “classic” or “traditional” in tasting groups.

It’s much harder to know the up-and-coming producers.  It takes time, understanding and more intuition than study to find the new producers that have promise. And even further, takes going to a place and really spending time with all types of producers with different perspectives to see who will make a lasting impression.

The wine professionals to listen to are the ones that pay attention and know the landscape, not those who continually laud the same producers over and over again.

Amateurs recite the same script over and over again. Professionals keep searching.


Chasing Inventory

Chasing inventory will be the theme of the last quarter of 2021.

The way it looks today, there will be BTG outages galore and more empty shelves because someone somewhere in the world is chasing inventory to get on a ship to the US.

Three key challenges are going to drive these inventory shortages and lead to the double-whammy of immense opportunity and pounding headaches when there isn’t product to ship to the accounts that place orders.

Oceanic freight

You know it’s hard out there for the ships. Actually, it’s about the containers and the logistical fluency to get product into containers and onto ships. This may be the least sexy subject in the beverage business but consistency through the supply chain is vital. You can read more about the container shortage via the Wall Street Journal here – the battle is real. Who wins? Those who aren’t many layers removed from their producers and who have already invested in stateside inventory.


If you are one of those bearish folks saying the market is always going to tank, you won’t like this. 

I am on record many times that inventory in the quality wine market is driven by belief just as much as numerical comps. It is even more true now. If you are going to try and play it safe with ordering inventory, I wish you good luck on catching up in this market when it starts to roll. 

If you are uncertain about buying inventory because you believe the marketplace is going to wither and die, you should hang it up. Fold up the tent and move on. 

Producer readiness

Can you blame a producer of quality wine for being in harvest and not rushing to pack wine up and get it out? Producers are going to be a little behind this year and all over the place because demand has been uneven and unpredictable. The producers that hustle on both sides and get wine out the door in September will be thrilled at the success they have. And they will be ridiculously positioned to win huge because of all the open slots that come up. 

What to look for?

A few things to look for in the coming months: massive stock outages, everything turning into an allocation so distributors can get fast turn around, and some major opportunities for those who have invested in inventory. It’s going to be a wild, chasing inventory quarter.