A guest post by Maddie Bryett
Recently I attended lunch with some industry companions, two of whom happened to be wine buyers. All of us being British there was the usual reserve and weariness from the previous day’s antics, but it was nothing that a few margaritas and several glasses of wine couldn’t cure. Once restored, and with juices in full flow, we began to talk more and more passionately about our chosen occupation and the not-so-exact science of taste and tasting. This led to some interesting revelations.
It seemed that the wines that we collectively liked were not the most commercially obvious ones. For example, we agreed that orange (skin contact) wines were amongst the most interesting, individual wines on the market. I was told, however, that they were too difficult to understand, too pricey, and would sit gathering dust on the shelves. The consumer would simply be interested! This perplexed me as I have never found it difficult selling wines that I like (the reverse-yes!), no matter how quirky they may be. I don’t see how these styles are any more difficult to understand than sherry, for instance, yet the latter has enjoyed a considerable revival. Nor are the wines anywhere near as expensive as many a classed growth from Bordeaux or Burgundy. No, the problem here seems solely about communication.
Careful girls it’s not your perfume!
And here’s an example of how truly bonkers the perception of good is, plus what is of value and therefore worth buying. After we had drunk our host dry, we replenished our booze from the local corner shop. Although I was a wee bit tipsy, I was still put off by the relentless offering of big blands–sorry brands–so decided to “go random”. I selected a bright pink sparkling liqueur in a long slim bottle, an expensive giggle at £25.99. I took it back to our host only to discover this neon delight was a highly exclusive (though not in Peckham it would seem) sought-after sparkling liqueur called Nuvo. It later transpired that one of my wine buying friends had been trying to get hold of Nuvo for some time, due to customer demand, and was clearly quite irritated by my serendipitous discovery. With every sip this blend of sparkling wine, vodka and sweet peach liqueur transported me to The Only Way is Essex, botox-pumped faces and drinks to match. I’d thought alcopops had gone out with the 90’s, room 101’nd with the rapper Vanilla Ice and lycra dresses. The joke was on me! Having delved a bit deeper into this liqueur – if there was deepness to delve – this exotic trifle was the bastard offspring of a campaign fronted by Eva Longoria; celebrity endorsements, and oh-so-seductive packaging (irony notwithstanding). It became horribly apparent that most of my £25.99 had been spent before we even got near the liquid inside, which let’s face it, was as cheap as chips – and you couldn’t even pour it over them!
Nuvologically damaging drinks aside, I am perturbed by the willingness of buyers to jump into bed with promiscuous consumers to promote the latest fad, when the real artisans of this world are struggling to make a name for themselves. I have a problem with the fact that a wine that demands a certain price because every care has been taken along the way (no pesticides, no herbicides, intensive manual labour, blood, sweat and tears in abundance) to ensure that something unique is brought to the table- is considered expensive. How can one compare that to those entirely manufactured, semi-luxury, demi-exclusive brands with their walloping price tags, surfing onto the market on a a wave of several million bottles! I am not saying that the same people are equally likely to buy each product, but it is our job in the wine biz to promote the small producers who don’t have a clever marketing team and bags of cash behind them, and to help make these wines accessible, and desirable.