Friday, December 29, 2006

I Want that Wine in the Newspaper ~ Now

This week, in the wine trade, all the work is being done in two places: in the offices with computers and telephones, calling accounts and trying to make year end numbers; and on the streets in the wine shops and markets. A lot of folks will be entertaining over the weekend. With all the holiday distractions and family in town and just getting through the season, people need help.

This is where the old-fashioned newspaper shows its power. Stand aside bloggers, sit down Spectator, park it Parker, don’t fret Decanter. Folks are looking for what they want, now.

The local newspaper fills a real need. While the above mentioned publications (and yes, you too, bloggers) are good sources of information about wine, the pressing need for many folks is to get in, get the item and move on. They aren’t so concerned if Galloni gives it an 89 while Suckling gives it a 92. They want to know where they can find it. Now. And while the top 100 Wine Spectator wines are fun to read about, no one's going to find that #1 Brunello today in their local wine shop.

This was an epiphany for me. Yes, some of us go to great lengths to read about and talk about wines at great length, debating their scores. Believe me, yesterday one of my work-related tasks was to pull up the inventory, for the company I work for, and isolate all the Brunellos. Then I was to cross-reference what we had with what possible review they received from the latest Wine Advocate. So maybe one of our too young and too busy salespeople might be able to send off a carton or two in these last days of the season. This, to generate sales and extra business while folks are in a good mood to buy something they probably won’t be buying in a few weeks, when it slows down.

A man goes into a store that has upscale food and wine and says, “I want that wine in the newspaper.” This really happened. That day the paper had featured a dozen selections, from sparkling to Champagne, Prosecco to still wines. Which one did he mean, the salesperson asked him. Fortunately, the wine in question was so unusual (a sparkling Shiraz from Australia) that the client could be accommodated.

What the daily newspaper does well (when it does it right): it targets, for the reader, in simple terms, what the wine tastes like, and often what food goes with it. Because this is being written in real time, the writers can pair up food that might have seasonal availability. The local newspaper can pinpoint a retail price that is more or less accurate in the area where the shopper lives and can point them to the places where these wines are available. Now. (The distributors have computer programs that show placement and availability. Wineries that want to sell their wines on the internet cannot provide this just-in-time service to the journalist and ultimately, the consumer).

This will make you a believer in the power of the press. I have tracked the sales after local newspaper write-ups in my work and have found the uptick to be 32-45%. That's taking a 30-day period from the previous year and comparing sales to the 30-day period following the article. It's a fact, Jack: The pen lends a mighty wind to the sales.

One more thing (note to wineries that think the wholesale-distribution system stinks). The person who is looking at the paper can go to the store and get the wine right away. And if they want a case of the wine and it is available in the local wholesaler’s warehouse, a salesperson can call in the order, do what we call a “hot shot” delivery, and get the case there today. With all the wine that will be enjoyed this weekend, this is good news for local economies. It's also a shot across the bow to those in the wine world who think they can get the wine to their consumer all by themselves.
With all due respect to the trade channels, and cannot offer this kind of SERVICE. And with our instant-gratification society, this is something UPS and DHL will be hard-pressed to achieve while keeping wine pricing competitive.

And where do the other publications fit into this, the Decanters, the Wine Spectators, the Wine Advocates? They are the 5-star generals barking out orders, sometimes good, not always informed of the goings-on down in the foxholes. They're there for those who want to delve into it and read all about it in depth. Eye-candy for the wine lover. Wine-porn, reading about a $300 bottle of wine: like looking at the Porsche Cayman and just imagining what it would be like to drive into one’s garage.

And wine blogs? Sorry to say too few mainstream consumers even get to reading their email in a timely manner. So we aren’t much help to them and they aren’t our audience. “Don’t have time for it,” I hear many of them saying. “That’s not my world,” and “Blog? What’s a blog?” I am serious about this. They’re not there, fellow blogoholics. And they’re not here, either.

Sorry to burst our bubble, but the good old-fashioned local paper, newsprint on the fingertips, pages rustling and flapping about in the nervous hand of the anxious consumer, looking for that perfect bottle of wine TONIGHT, gets the nod.


Tom said...

This is good stuff!!

I agree about the power of the newspapers in particular. Some wineries focus so much on the scorers but neglect to realize what a nice write up in the Miami Herald, Houston Chronicle, SJ Mercury News, etc can do.

And just one comment on distributors. Most wineries Ive ever worked with understand their utility and even understand the enormous service they provide. I don't think we'd have a viable wine market in the United States without them any more than we'd have a vialble food market without food distributors. The concern that wineries and many retailers have is merely that the state mandated monopoly that the wholesale tier enjoys in many states is simply unnecessary and detrimental to their businesses.

Anonymous said...

Good job Alf.


a.c.t. said...

Hope you had a great Christmas Alfonso. We tend to stick to the same wines which are often on offer such as Riojas or Cabernets. Unfortunately the quality of Italian wine for a reasonable price seems to be declining in the UK - you have to spend a lot more to get good quality.

David said...

Buon Anno Nuovo!!!

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