Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Good Mentor: On Wine Buying

A few years ago, one of my wine mentors passed away, leaving me with a pile of wine books with notes placed inside them. Every once in a while I come upon one; they are like my continuing education from the other side. This weekend, while I was placing some of the books, finally, on my shelves, this one popped out. It looks to have been written (and mimeographed) in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s when he lived and worked in New Orleans. For what it’s worth, these suggestions still seem to have relevance in today’s wine world. Hence I am sharing them with any people who might be interested in them.

Wine Institute training sheet for wine buyers in restaurants – How to get what you want and have everybody like you.

1) Don’t overestimate and under deliver. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Consider the scale of your operation and work within the parameters. There will be plenty of time to become emperor of the wine world. Start with getting your wine list working for the times, the clientele and the economy.

2) If a salesman gives you a price sheet, and there are wines of interest on it, for God’s sake, file it and keep it handy. They don’t have time to be your personal secretary.

3) Take what you order. And take it when it comes in. Get it in your cellar as soon as you can. Those wines are your babies, take care of them. If you change jobs and the wine comes in that you made a deal for, find a way to make good with your supplier, it will pay off in spades.

4) Do you have a wine you like better than the one the salesperson is showing? Give him a bottle to try, don’t say anything; let him be the judge. He lets you evaluate his wine; why not confer that reciprocity on the salesperson? No one likes to continually hear about other wines that are better from a wine buyer or a sommelier. It gives you the reputation of a fickle wine buyer and shuts you out of special deals in the future. The salesman is only human; keep him close and you will get some of the cherries. As Dale Carnegie says, “If you want to gather honey don’t kick over the beehive.”

5) Take someone else’s word for a change, especially if they have experience or proven results that will make your business more money or more successful. The notion of ego Freud has been talking about lately.

6) Buy for your clientele, not for your palate, and when an advisor who might know more about your clientele or your business gives you counsel, listen to it and give thanks. And while you’re at it, keep your margins sane. If you buy a bottle of Chateau Lafite for $3, don’t gouge the diner by trying to get four times what you paid for it.

7) Stop trying to buy wine that isn’t available, wine that is in another storehouse, another state, another country. There is plenty to sort from. Take your opinion of yourself out of the equation and everyone will be much happier.

8) There is no room for lofty thinking in the buying room. You’re negotiating the sale of an agricultural product that is meant to give joy – not pain. Learn to integrate not just your expertise but your kindness. Think of your work as your neighborhood and your colleagues as your neighbors.

9) We have a saying here in New Orleans, “Danse à la musique.” Take your place in the ballroom and make the best of it. Everyone will benefit from it, especially you.


Tracie P. said...

still relevant! great advice.

Marco said...

Pas parlez, danse a la musique. You are fortunate to have had mentors of the vine like this.

"TexaCali Ali" said...

genius advice strikes again. Thank goodness for the Shepherds...

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