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.

THE REORDER 05/01/21

The One Month Wonder

2 minute read

File Under: Salescraft

Anyone can be a one month wonder. Anyone. If you have the right product, the right demand and the right moment, the number at the end of the month can be a whopper.
Unfortunately, one of the most pervasive and destructive modes of thinking in the beverage business is the month to month mentality. “We had a great month” is thrown about casually and almost exclusively without context.

To state the obvious: one month does not make a career. Consistent performance is actually a much bigger game and has nearly nothing to do with that one month. High performance in the sales game is how you consistently create/cultivate connection and demand. 

What guided me was to think in larger blocks. Try to tune in to what is driving demand in the marketplace. Engage in thinking that is creative and empathetic. And learn to accept the impermanence of what we do. 

It’s amazing to have a whopper month. It is a thrill. But most importantly, if you know why and how to do it again, then you are beginning to see the craft of an artisan. The fluency of knowing how to do it becomes one of the many building blocks of a foundation of consistency. And once you achieve that, the game gets a lot more fun and you can really make waves. 

SPLASH DECANT 04/15/21

Orange Crush – The Arc of the Orange Wine Craze

5 minute read

File under: History

Genesis

It started like a whisper. Orange Wines began getting real play in the small, energetic restaurants in the city. The first wave #sommelebrity set saw an opportunity in the wines of De Conciliis, Gravner, Radikon and Vodopivec for the young elites coming in for that new new.

Sommeliers began headlining prominent digital publication upstarts with the Orange Wine story and including it as the trendy, pro recommendation – saying ‘white wine made like a red’ in a thousand different ways. ‘Macerated on the skins’ was thrown about table side like tik tok dance routines.

Nouveau-Niche

Orange Wine became the nouveau-niche category of the wine world; gaining immense traction and providing a new conversation. “Do you have orange wine?” became a question that importer/distributors would expect to get.

Just when it seemed like Orange Wine would become the yin to the mic-drop sales of Rosé’s yang, like it would be the other color-curious question that would be asked by the customers at wine stores, these articles went viral and gave Orange Wine a gut punch: Why Tecate is Greater than Orange Wine, quickly followed by Orange Wine Already Over, Say Two Wine Writers.

Take a moment and read these articles beyond the titles. That was 2013.

The Dark Times

Immediately following these articles, Orange Wine went through a brutal period where it fell starkly out of favor. It was put on the end of the wine bench – unlikely to be called and asked to play. On the street we talked about how fast it had died. How many of the wines weren’t even orange and how wacky the prices were.

Were they actually too expensive? Was Rosé just that dominant? Was the explanation of the wine process of orange wine just too difficult to take in for the general public? Did they obscure terroir via process?

I doubt there is an answer, but it was around this time that I had a realization.

In the above articles, Jon Bonné and Richard Betts (both of whom I admire) clarified one of the most vital elements of the new wine business for me: trends often don’t care about the industry, they feed on something outside us insiders. 

In 2017, I started to notice a sliver of daylight and emerging possibilities for Orange Wine via a raucously fun Ribolla Gialla Tasting in California and more tangibly, some street-level sales action I wrote about here.

Guess who’s back?

The slow time for Orange Wine came to an end with bright flashes of resurgence in the press. Orange Wine started showing up again in headlines in numerous wine publications, paired with clickbait headlines like ‘What is Natural Wine?’ and ‘Is Rosé Over?’

Do you have Orange Wine? is again an opener question in retail stores and restaurants accompanied by a new crop of factory-fabricated orange wine entering the sub-$15 retail space. And producers are regularly convinced by their importers to make an orange to acquire some perceived relevance.

Today  you can join an Orange Wine Club or grab Simon Woolf’s book available on Amazon, Amber Revolution.

The Future

We aren’t approaching the peak of Orange Wine, yet. The answer to this trend’s possible velocity lies in a few simplistic concepts:

It’s easy to remember and ask for, fast to say, loosely defined, and widely available.  

Now go try a few and see if you like them. And buckle up, because more is on the way.

THE REORDER 03/15/21

To sell, or not to sell

To sell, or not to sell, that is not the question.

If the idea of “selling” motivates you, then live in that frame. Invest in the sales mentality as a competitive fire to continue to drive you. This pursuit is in itself not a bad thing. But be careful to avoid idolizing the number or that big case drop of wine or case stack of spirits that goes out. It’s a trap. 

Selling is a result of philosophy and connection artistry – real craft. 

The most important question in the beverage game today is how well you can connect. 

Connection artists make waves. Salespeople make sales.

THE REORDER 03/01/21

Ground Game Defined

Ground Game Defined

If you connect people to wine/spirits and you don’t just send email offers all day hoping someone will respond, your ground game will define your career. It is the difference between the professional and the passable/mediocre in the artisan practice of sales.

Unfortunately, typical management practices in the beverage business have created a debauched sense of what is best practice by asking for recaps, appointment counts and god knows what else with the mere goal of making sure people are doing their jobs and not emboldening a team to make waves.

The Strong Ground Gamer

Strong Ground Gamers observe and act by simply noticing.

They don’t “desktop surf” the marketplace, they walk the marketplace.

They don’t covet appointments, they promote dialogue.

They don’t show an ocean of wine to see what sticks, they get specific by putting themselves in their customers’ shoes.

They are led by truth and not by number. They are never dishonest in the pursuit of shipping an allocation.

They ask better questions, listen more intently and dance with the marketplace devil that will never be tamed or fixed, it will always be moving.

How do buyers know the difference? They know the difference as much as you know the difference between an artful buyer that creates a narrative in what they buy and offer and the hackneyed or self-interested.

Mostly it is in between the rests. The unsaid. But over time, you will always know who has Ground Game and who doesn’t.

The kicker is that the folks with real Ground Game don’t get caught up in the comparison – they just hone their craft on the daily.

THE REORDER 02/15/21

One Routine that Always Wins

I only know of one routine that always wins in this business – I used to call it my pre-meet routine.

Before every meeting there were three things I would do –

  1. Imagine what it is is like to do the job of who I am meeting with.
  2. Review my notes on the last few meetings – not just what we tasted – but what we talked about.
  3. Think about what I can offer that is beyond what we are tasting together.

Without fail, I practiced this routine for more than a decade before every meeting and it has never failed me. It is a grounding exercise.

Do the above, while breathing and listening and you will make waves.