SPLASH DECANT 11/01/20

Reality Show Wines

Have you had Snookie’s Silvaner, Flava Flav’s Furmint, or the New Bachelorette’s Beaujolais?

Not yet, but with the way things are going they will soon be at your neighborhood shop with a proper label from a high-powered marketing team.

They may come with a large, cartoonish clock, or be as simple as a new sexy wine marketing term like clean wine.  Minimalist labels will have the celebrity’s name front and center with typography that is SO perfectly on-brand. Bonus: they will almost always have a winemaker from a notable winery “making” the wine to add a sliver of market viability (or a questionable veneer of substance).

Celebrities are crossing the rubicon in droves to not just drink on Instagram live, but lend their names to wines and build brands to add to their expanding portfolios. It’s easy to picture the marketing meeting that led to most of these celebrified wine projects.

Just a few months ago, I read that a certain celebrity wants to “create the defining brand of rosé Champagne,” and I laughed out loud. Then I looked into who is involved and it just made me sad.

I will always give any wine a fair shake, but I can’t look out into a multi-layered, under pressure beverage marketplace during this pandemic and not shiver at the reality show wines appearing on shelves in large quantities. I get the allure – these wines bring easy sales or there may be some new customers that call. But I ask you, what has happened to your conviction? What are you left with?

The moment Nate Ready makes a Napa Cabernet for Elon Musk (Flamethrower Cabernet?), I will concede. There might even be short term positives to the celebrification of wine, but there will no doubt be a hefty price to pay.

Sadly, I believe these reality show wines are in large part another symptom of a segment of the wine world that wants reality show wines of low substance, high celebrity, and barely-there soul.

THE REORDER 10/01/20

Sustainable Sales Success Lessons

Tradecraft: Sustainable Sales Success Lessons in the Beverage Arena

Very early on, I was lucky enough to run into some of the truly great Jedi salespeople in NYC. These craftspeople knew that longevity didn’t mean Foreau, foie gras, and four negroni lunches. They helped me succeed with simplicity.

Take these to heart and go make waves.

“Don’t take this too seriously.” – Dan Lerner

Wine taken too seriously is a farce and beyond boring.  Dan Lerner said something like this to me at the Core Club in 2008 and it was an over-the-shoulder bullseye. Remember this: If you make beverage sales your life, it will take your life.

“Take care of your relationships at home. It’s a lot harder if that isn’t working.” – John Coyle

If you do not give care to your home relationships, your family, and those around you in your daily life, the beverage game gets incredibly hard, super fast. Imagine being out to dinner with buyers of the opposite sex and not having trust at home. It will crush you. I actually have come to take this as a credo in life in general. Chaos without care at home makes everything harder.

“That isn’t real wine.” – Michael Wheeler

I was out on a tear one night and I ended up at Blue Hill in Manhattan during their last call and I ran into Wheeler and Phil Sareil. I bought a bottle and Wheeler said it wasn’t real wine – as in, it wasn’t a wine of substance, terroir, or nature. Whether I believe he was right or wrong (he was most likely right) is of no importance. Wheeler taught me at that moment that putting wine in buckets is a hard habit to break. I had put the wine in question into a box that I believed he would agree with and I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Context matters. Understanding comes with experience and seeing wine as more than the tech info checklist or tribe that promotes it is vital. It’s easy to like what other people like. But it may be a bucket of fake frosty cake that may not be what you think it is.

“Never open a bottle for a closed mind.” – Robert Chadderdon via Christopher Russell

I think about this one often. You don’t need to push, you need to connect. A lot of wine has been wasted on folks that will never give it the time of day in the name of the appointment or the new sales blitz. To have a strong, curious perspective about what you present and don’t present is empowering. Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer.

“Why would we want to do what everyone else is doing?” – Naomi Rosen

You don’t have to be like everyone else. You don’t have to say what everyone else says. Naomi has her own style, sense of clarity, curiosity, and immense charm. She approaches her work as a meaningful specific. Consider doing your own personal version of this as a practice.

“Orders only matter if you have dialogue, and philosophy over numbers.” – Looper

You need a philosophy.

I once realized that I had sold 175k in a week with no connection whatsoever. Zero dialogue. I could have been an order machine. Avoid this dynamic at all costs. Find a philosophy that you can hang your hat on every day no matter how much or little you sell and you will find much more clarity in what you do.

THE REORDER 09/15/20

The Worst Word in the Wine Business

The worst word in the wine business is…drum roll please…the appointment. 

May I have an appointment?

Imagine looking at your email and having 25 plus people email you requesting the same thing: an appointment.

Appointments are for dentists, therapists, and proctologists.

I wish I could jettison this word forever. It immediately brings a strong connotation of a bothersome necessity that belongs to the old postal service model of sales in the beverage sales game. So, why did we decide to use this word? A question for the ages.

An appointment is supposed to be a dialogue, an interchange, a discovery, a connection, a first dance, a new direction. A new opportunity to see something beyond what is in front of you.

I have said this often: appointments are highly overrated – but if you want to do one, fine – just make sure it means something more than an appointment.

SPLASH DECANT 09/01/20

Is it Art or Science?

Asking if the beverage game is an art or a science is the wrong question – it’s almost always too much of one and not enough of the other.

EX: If you can look at your inventory turn over a relevant period and predict exactly what will sell next month, you are selling a commodity, not a handmade product. Everything goes out the window when there is an external force like an economic downturn or once-in-a-lifetime pandemic or a restaurant closing or a retailer gets hit with a wicked fine that leaves them cash-strapped.

Most of the time there isn’t enough art. There is no song, cadence, belief, impulse or feel – an absence of rubato.

Anyone can run a report and think they have the answers. But to weave art into what you do requires a strong, invested core.

Conversely, working purely on artistic impulse without observing data and you are a fool – maybe at times a lucky fool, but a fool.

Relearn to thread this needle every day and you will find a balance that others wish they had.

THE REORDER 08/15/20

Death of a Beverage Salesperson

The classical beverage salesperson that we all knew will not get a do-over. The beverage version of Willy Loman really is dead and there won’t be any kind of sequel.

Gone are the postal routes, encyclopedia sales methods and schlocky promises. Covid-19 has forcefully jettisoned the sad-sack, antiquated practices of the mediocre plus.

For those of us that actively participate in the streets of NYC in the beverage ecosystem, the old way of sales was already on the way out and we saw the last hurrah. Covid-19 just accelerated it.

Here is what won’t be going away: the Connection Artist. The Artisan Salesperson in a new and more perilous landscape.

The salesperson will either evolve and lean into a more connective artist or disappear into the ether. Why? Because the playing field is now a head-spinning, multi-dimensional pitch to play on – a shape-shifting game is now the daily field of play. In short, it just got more complicated.

The Connection Artist is a multi-faceted, tech-forward, learned, fuller-scoped, market-savvy beverage player. This new modality of the connector is fluent in what was done before by the classical beverage salesperson, chooses wisely when to apply past principles, and when not to.

The beverage game today is a freshly-picked paradigm of immense opportunity and the Connection Artist is the star player.

SPLASH DECANT 08/01/20

The Biggest Beverage Industry Reset in History

We are in the middle of the biggest reset in beverage industry history since prohibition.

What we once knew as “normal” is flattened, cracked, and in many cases, decimated by the pressure test of the coronavirus. Today it is a tabula rasa – a leveled playing field that will not be repeated in our lifetimes.

Legacy importer/distributors are shaken up and quietly toppling over.  Sales reps are getting laid off in droves because the pre-covid sales rep role no longer exists.  Wine clubs are the new, splashy-blasty trend. Celebrity-owned, mostly private label wines are occupying valuable shelf space instead of grower/producers. Athletes are moving into the beverage space in droves with wineries, brands and partnerships.

The beverage game has been shifted forever, but because of the dynamic reshaping of the industry, more is possible than ever before.

High-level producers are in play. Internal culture in distribution can be invested in and changed for the better. We can extend a hand to those that have felt like they can’t enter this business. The old 8-track business models of the beverage industry can move into the now – or wither away.

Look around. It isn’t the beverage version of Planet of the Apes and we aren’t looking at Lady Liberty. It is time to rethink, renew, and execute on something new that really represents the future.

SPLASH DECANT 05/01/20

A Pause – Returning Soon

A Pause – Returning Soon

It has been a while. I have many posts in queue that I just can’t bring myself to publish.

When I think about the passionate table side messengers that would leave a bottle without a word, or the intuitive advocate behind a full rack of wines that points me in the direction of a new, quiet jewel, I am deeply saddened. I am brokenhearted that I may not see them making art in their work again – that they may not return. It is a difficult possibility to accept.

Not only is it hard to see the light right now, but the world around me is screaming that this is a time for reflection and recalibration and I am going to listen. The world has shifted and we must to shift with it.

While there are so many more uncertainties today, I am certain that the beverage industry that I have been blessed to be a part of and work with over the years is the most dynamic and imaginative group of people around. We will rebuild this together and it won’t look like it did before. But we must charge forward – resolute and clear-eyed.

I will be back making new things in August. Until then, I wish you hope and safety and good health.

RL

 

We will rebuild this industry together...

A Long Walk

April 28th, 2020 – Bushwick, BK

Walking at dusk in my neighborhood is like wandering into a zombie movie set and not knowing it isn’t real.
Rebel restaurants with masked people doling out batched Negronis and Beer. They are making the best they can with whatever they have.
Every block, shiny signs are without luminescence loom over an empty space or new mercado. Every sound seems louder. Each truck that crashes by to deliver something essential snaps me back to the edge of the corner.

The birds chirp and sway. The flowers are in broad bunches of blooms. Both unaware that there is unfathomable uncertainty and hope and despair all around them.

I cry under my mask and wonder if anyone can tell. Do we even really look at each other any more as we dodge to at least six feet away like a giant game of human tetris? How can we see each other again?

But what can we do? We breathe. We stay present. We walk forward, not knowing what is ahead (we never knew before…).