So, the Plonk phenomenon. Great presentation last night with Wine Communicators, oodles of fun and some giggles.
And at the post-presentation drinkies afterwards, hijinks, catch-ups, and general fun was had.
Except. Except for the person who said that the guys could have been ‘nicer’ about the wine industry. Or the other one who was quite irked that Semillon as a variety was only maligned, and that they did not take the chance to explain the wonders of Semillon.
I think they missed the point. Plonk is not about fixing the wine industry or explaining our plethora of wine styles. They are not spruiking brands, nor even regions, but more having some fun with us, and themselves, and reminding the world that wine is, simply, FUN.
They are not responsible for the future of the wine industry any more than Game of Thrones is for promoting the sales of fur coats and broadswords.
This is a tv programme. It is entertainment. They are not responsible for your brand success.
And the boys raised some interesting points. Particularly toward the end, with a bemused Chris wondering why we make it so very difficult to buy our product, when people WANT it.
And this is a rabid simplification, but it aligns with a bigger industry issue. Wine is fun. But it is layered, esoteric, diverse, and it mostly requires some explanation in order to stand out from the crowd. But the consumers rarely want to be lectured. They just wanna have fun (sorry Cyndi).
And there is so much diversity that the message can blur. Choose by region, style, producer and back in the day, you could reasonably approximate what might end up in your glass. These days, the lines are more blurred, and so definition is required. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this is where we can fall down at times.
In screaming to stand out from the wine crowd, we can drive people away from the choice and toward the regular, everyday selection. It is easy to pick up the familiar. It is less easy to make a choice of something new. Particularly when we as an industry tie them up in SO MUCH guff.
GUFF (def): nonsense, generally specific to a small sector of the community; irrelevant, and often infuriating to the general populace.
Yep. I’m making up definitions now. But really, the industry can do with a little simplification. I generally talk about wines in everyday terms. Not rocket science, really. Or is it?
So, is it time to start weeding out the nonsense? Does this tie in with the ‘natural wine’ movement? That longing to just be wine, sans guff? Or do people just want simplicity, and we keep talking detail in order to stand out?
Has “standing out” now made those clamouring to be heard just a wall of noise to the consumer? How can we stand out AND be readily attainable?
The wine world fractured into cheap and cheerful vs venerated and respectable generations ago. And more recently into quaffing vs value/quality vs conventional/esteemed vs left field vs cheeky vs ‘natural’ vs esoteric. Where does the consumer wanting to learn, understand, and develop their palate and tastes actually fit in? Wine dinners were once the go, but that is an EXPENSIVE night out. Wine events? Can easily become a swim-through to the less practiced palate. Cellar door? Sure. Absolutely. But often utterly bound up in sycophantic sales-talk, and the language we have built around wine. However, it is an absolutely brilliant way to understand a winery ‘style’ or voice.
Asking people what they like to drink at home, and then taking them on a step to the left is a great way to start. Just asking them what they like to drink. Full stop. Surely the choice of a bottle of wine is about the person who forks out money for it? NOT the person spruiking it. A great somm pays attention, understands food and humanity as well as mere wine. They listen. They know when to give a person exactly what they want and when to diverge, and explore.
Wineries, however. Wineries are not sommeliers. They have made a product and are in the business of selling said product. They talk exclusively about that product range. They spruik. Sometimes? Just sometimes it pays to listen.
The good sales reps, cd staff and spruikers? They pay attention. They listen. They do not put their own expectations on a customer/visitor/trade buyer. They adapt to the person before them, and provide an experience. Not just a wine.
And you know thing about experiences? Good experiences stay with people for a lot longer than a sales pitch. No-one, not one person, enjoys being the subject of a blatant sales pitch. I don’t. You don’t. So why force it upon people?
I get it. We need to sell to make enough cash to do it all again next year. But there is more than one way to skin a cat, I’m told. Learning about your potential customer? Priceless. Giving them something they will like BECAUSE you listened to them? Golden.
Acknowledging that maybe the wines you have today don’t quite fit? ABSOLUTELY FINE. Because simply by giving them a bit more confidence, and giving their view credence, we are all better. Their palate is not my palate. And not liking something is 100% ok. We can educate our people, our potential customers, without being professors. We are not on high, lecturing about the wonders of our nectar. It is just wine. It is fun. It is decadent. It is joy. It is absolutely a good thing to acknowledge that you don’t like something and to pick an alternative.
And people want to buy it. So why do we make it so hard sometimes?
Because tricking it up as an elitist treat denigrates our audience. It’s just wine. We are just people. It is good, or not, or it is something in between. It is bought and it is sold, and sometimes it is a raging success. And sometimes it is not. But maybe we could start paying attention to the people actually drinking the stuff.
Smashable wine? My favourite kind. Wine that makes my world a little better.
Listen. Engage. Find the fun again.