Talkin' the talk...
(Stefano Inama evangilizing in Soave )
There are probably as many ways to go about the business of selling wine as there are folks who get up in the morning to do just that. But all that variety pretty much amounts to variations on a handful of basic themes – of which a couple in particular seem, if not mutually exclusive, then mighty divergent at the least.
Back in the day, when I was just starting out in the wine biz (when it was just the job I happened to have at the moment, no thought whatever of “career”), it seemed to me that that success amounted to becoming versed in the hierarchy of brands and attaining the credentials to hawk the “good stuff” – the wines that were revered in the pantheon of upwardly mobile adoration.
Which works, of course. It’s hard to argue with the idea of selling “stuff that sells itself.” Except, as we eventually discover, the Emperor has no clothes – and the “good stuff” often really isn’t so good. (“Grande Marque” Champagne is a great example—for the most part, average, mass-produced, tarted-up fizzy wines, with huge marketing budgets, a luxury reputation and a spellbound customer base).
What’s left once you realize that a lot of the hype is just that? The “Vignerons Indépendants” motto says it all: Authentic Wines and Personalities. Think small guys, farmers, families, often fiercely passionate souls who set out to put the soul of a place in every bottle they make. Not luxury goods, just the goods. Real wines, for real people to drink…every day.
In an almost resolutely brand-conscious world, selling those goods takes a little work. But once you’ve had those flavors in your mouth, there’s no going back…and things can start to feel a little bit Quixotic. Eventually, you come to realize that it’s all about evangelizing. Tell the stories, get folks to take the leap of faith on something they’ve never seen before, share the love. Talk, talk, talk and talk some more. Broadcast it, baby.
It isn’t always uphill, though. Along with all the great wine and people, sometimes you get a tailwind, too. Last week, Seattle Sommelier Christopher Chan graciously invited me to join him, along with local wine entrepreneur, personality and ambassadot David LeClaire on his “Happy Hour Radio.” Once past the anxiety of talking into a conduit to who-know-how-many ears, it was a blast. A chance to essentially hang out and taste with two very bright, experienced, discerning palates—and talk about wine. To talk about wine, and through the magic of radio, have a conduit to those who-know-how-many folks’ ears. Brilliant. Check it out, right here:
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it’s 82 degrees and my mid-afternoon reveries are turning to Jerez. My friends Laine and Toni just texted photos of the Manzanilla they’re enjoying – on tap, no less, in NYC. Sounds like a plan. While there isn’t a Sherry bar in this burg (yet?), I know what to do.
Hasta luego, y'all...