Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's easier to say no than to have to break up with a winery

Since starting ampelography some 2+ years ago, I have thought a lot about what it takes to be a good rep/ supplier/ distributor/ winemaker/ buyer/ blimp pilot/ NBA free agent, etc. I had not, until now, thought too much about what it takes to be a really good winery partner. This, to date, has been my biggest failing.

I have assumed (despite my Father's clichéd warnings) that good wine + nice people would make good supplier partners. Sadly, it's just not that simple. I have learned that there are many hurdles to overcome when building a portfolio, and working productively with wineries. Here are some of the finer points I will now check on when looking at new producers:
  • Do they run their business well? Desperation NEVER sells wine and makes you do bad things for branding.
  • How is their consistency? Are the wines correct? always? Ever make any big mistakes? Do they really know what they're doing?
  • Do they understand that the tasting room isn't the same as the street?
  • Do they average less than one National Sales Manager/ year?
  • What are their expectations? Are they realistic?
  • Do they have a good distributor strategy?
  • Do they respect you as the primary communication channel to the distributor and on the streets?
  • How are their organization skills? Do they return emails, phone calls, etc?
  • Can they keep you abreast of pricing, inventory, etc.?
  • Tech Sheets? Marketing materials? graphics? anything?
This is just the tip of the iceberg, sadly. There are many tremendous wineries that make great wine AND are great people, but either don't understand the tiered business, or even the wine business. It sucks. But now I know to be a little more careful and thoughtful when selecting wineries. These are not issues that I can easily fix, but they are completely avoidable. It's not just about the wine, but I will always try to keep it MOSTLY about the wine.

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