Ask someone who knows…

Simple enough, one would think. But we are not omniscient, perfect creatures, and it does pay to ask someone who might know better. Even if it is solely to endorse your own opinion.

Don’t guess. There is no reason to guess, particularly when speaking/writing/tweeting/blogging/posting to a public forum. There is Google. And Wikipedia. And #asktwitter. Sure – take nothing on faith, but the list of details I have learned by asking those who might know better is extensive.

So, if you are playing around with wine labels, talk to a retailer. And a cafe owner. Preferably, talk with a few of each.

If you are wondering why the last month’s sales were good, or bad unexpectedly, ask another supplier or distributor. Ask a retailer how their month was. Filter the bullshit, and take notes. Plan for next year using this information.

If your wine isn’t selling, look at what is selling. Pay attention. You need not change the wine or the package necessarily to generate sales, it may simply be the sales approach which may need adjustment. Or an understanding of the market within which you are working. Ask someone working in it what they want. Ask them what their customers want. Maybe this market, or channel, or venue just does not suit your wine.

If you are trying to sell your immense PR skills to a winery, maybe don’t misspell their name. Maybe don’t misspell your own name. Maybe spellcheck everything, just in case. Maybe research their business first, and ask yourself if you can actually help them. Wasting people’s time is rarely endearing.

Actually, on that: everyone, pay attention to spelling, grammar and syntax. Not doing so is sheer laziness. And yes, this is the pedant in me coming out to play… I am well aware of that. And I do expect to be pulled up on any errors I may make.

Wine writing and blogging can be a beautiful thing. For the rest of you, would you mind double checking facts? And proof-reading? And maybe credit your reader with a little intelligence. If the reader feels they know better, they will stop paying attention to you.

Food and wine matching is always a fun one – I often wonder if the scribe has even tasted either of the offerings. Ask someone who knows – ask a sommelier. Ask a chef. Ask the interested young staff member who just seems to get this stuff. Ask the rep who sold you the wine. Hell, email the winery and ask. (We love those kinds of emails…) Learn the basics – tannin likes lean meats; pinot loves mushrooms, but often not so much in Asian spices. Although, sometimes… Sauv blanc and goat’s cheese can be wonderful, but be careful of the tropical, swigging-sauv b. With goat’s cheese they can become cloying and unbalanced.

What to sell your customer? Here’s a hint: ask them what they enjoy. Listen to them, and actually pay attention. Don’t bully them into your favourite drop of the moment, but instead offer to help them. If you have nothing for them, recommend someone who does. Your kindness will be remembered. The customer is the one who knows their palate the best. Sure, you may not agree, and I am all for nudging the more malleable, adventurous sorts, but the vast majority want something they will just like. Without necessarily needing to know which side of the hill it grew upon…

Take a chance, but understand it. Learn, and you will be better at making, selling, and building relationships. Ask someone who knows. It will make you smarter. And being smarter can only be a good thing.

And I promise, the next time I write, it will be joyous. The rant has its place, but so does celebration. As @whiteswines told me, “Rage is wasted without optimism.”



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