Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Our world is filled by what we don't know about wine consumers

Ever hear a salesperson say "It's not my style, but people love it!". My questions is, how do you know? Does the salesperson get their information from indifferent servers in restaurants? Did they follow the consumers home and ask for candid responses on their doorsteps after Desperate Housewives? Is this the type of wine your mom likes? How do you know?
I'll tell you what you think you know:
  • You think consumers want simple wines that aren't too complex-You are WRONG. Consumers don't make this assessment, ever.
  • You think Consumers want wines that are conceptually easy to understand and pronounce. You are WRONG. Consumers want to understand the wines, yes, but they are more excited when they have learned something solid and can show off their new found understanding. Don't dumb it down, you're lowering the bar.
  • Consumers want oaky sweet wines. WRONG- You have tricked them into thinking this is the way to go. Oaky and sweet mask a multitude of flaws, so marketers and sales tools such as yourself have repeated this mantra and created a self fulfilling prophesy. There is a segment that always have and always will stick with a very specific type of wine, don't let that cloud your perception.
  • Average Consumers don't "get" the world class European wines-WRONG! Just last week, I hosted a Piemonte consumer tasting with a great Barbararesco and a Moscato d'Asti. Conventional wisdom would dictate that the Moscato would be popular, and the Barbaresco would fall on deaf ears. The reality is the Barbaresco was declared The best wine I've ever had! by at least a dozen people. A high acid, earthy, tannic red from Northern Italy is not exactly lowest common denominator wine, yet, it blew the average consumer away.
The bottom line is, you think you know what consumers want, but the reality is, consumers are constantly trying to figure it out for themselves. If you wouldn't drink it, don't try to pump it up. If you are impassioned about a wine, don't be afraid to get other people pumped up about it. This is infectious. Take time to educate,and give your clients the tools to educate. Turning 1 person on to 1 new wine discovery trumps all the cheap Merlot you think you are selling. I can promise you one thing, you will get your ass kicked out there by underestimating your audience.


  1. Did you just call me a SALES-TOOL? That's pretty awesome, Adam. I have to remember to continuously hone my already ever-so sharp skill set, percetive powers (and barbed wit)to be prepared for whatever my broad customer base throws at me.
    Recently, I had a 'wonderful','older' 'gal', shall we say, in sweatpants, shopping w/ her dear mum. While administering to some new inventory in the showcase 'cellar' room, she asked if I had any LaTour. I asked if she meant Louis Latour Burgundies, Chateau Latour Bordeaux, or maybe Beaulieu Georges de la Tour Cabernet. She said she wanted CHATEAU Latour, in a manner suggesting that anything else would be quite insufficient. THE 1977. (!!!) I told her I would look in the warehouse inventory to see what is available. There turned up several vintages, both in the warehouse, and at various other locations. (I, of course would, or could never ask what she was doing in the early Nineteen Eighties, when, whatever was brought to America SOLD OUT... I had a bottle of '02 on hand, as well as 2 bottles of La Forts. She scowled at me. At this point, I am a mere PEON to her - an inconsequential worm of a being, not worth any of her time, and after letting her know that if there was any other way I could assist her, I'd be glad to help, she turned her back, and walked away. Five minutes later, I saw her and dear mum, in the French wine aisle, and they were glowering over the by-late-Saturday-afternoon-picked-over Loire section.
    "Do you have any Sancerre?", as they looked, dissappointedly at the 4 SKUs labeled such, empty, before them. "I'm so sorry, ladies. This has been happening on the sunny weekends lately. I'll have to increase the pars, once more. In the meantime, you know, that these nice Pouilly-Fumes come from the village right across the riv.."

    wow. I mean, WOW!

    Adam, you're right! I DON'T know my customers.
    But the question is, how can I get to KNOW her - ya' know, phone number... should I ask her out? stuff like that. she's clearly a successfull woman, what, with her refined taste, and all. Just the sort of gal one would love to bring home to mum.

  2. unexpected response, but hilarious! Not exactly what I meant but, good luck getting those digits, your barbed wit should serve you well!

  3. Knowing your audience is KEY!

    Great post!

  4. Adam,

    This tool doesn't help with the micro-scale of individual wines to a specific consumer, but helps us understand who we should be asking questions of.
    Constellation's Project Genome:
    Finally, you can find the original Project Genome presentation from Constellation here:

    Kudos to them for making this groundbreaking research public. Finally a brief recognition of CEO Jose Fernandez who passed away in January.