- Posted by Danielle Gillespie
“Popular”, a word that (for me) implies a complete lack of active curiosity or creativity, is one of my least favorite words. And I especially despise the word when a sales person or restaurant wait staff relates it to wine.
This word, popular, was drifting around in my head when I recently sat down to read Wine and Spirits Magazine’s 25th Annual Restaurant Poll (April 2014). In the article, W&S identifies the top 50 wine brands, overall, as well as top brands by varietal. There were no surprises with Cakebread, Jordan, Duckhorn, Sonoma-Cutrer and Silver Oak topping the list and brands like Banfi and Santa Margherita making an appearance as well.
I am curious about how these wines got to be the top 50, many of which have been on this list since the first poll was conducted 25 years ago. These are obviously great brands making awesome wines but frankly, when I see these labels, I try to avoid them. Not because the wines don’t appeal to my taste but because I already know what they taste like and I am usually seeking new wine experiences when I dine out. So what happens to all the lesser known labels, the thousands of wines not on this top 50 list, that are equally good but are not getting the air time they deserve? How can they level the playing field?
The Plight of Smaller Wine Brands
A friend of mine who is a wine broker recently told me that one of his biggest issues is getting his lesser known labels, especially those with miniscule marketing budgets, the attention they deserve. Larger brands with generous marketing allowances can provide incentives to their sales channel to help promote their products. As a result, restaurants and retail outlets receive better information about those brands. A broker’s real challenge, therefore, is to create more demand for the lesser-known brands.
My friend’s concerns are well founded. Historically, the industry has used one-page product sheets to inconsistently provide information about a wine; sometimes including items such as description/vinification and occasionally including a label picture. Distributors would use these printed product sheets to help sell individual wines to restaurants and retail outlets. Typically, however, these product sheets would end up in a binder only reluctantly referenced, when absolutely necessary.
As the product information makes it’s way from the vineyard, through the 3-tier supply chain, to the wait staff or retail sales person it becomes watered down or non-existent. Unfortunately, consumers must rely on wait staff or retail sales people for wine details. By the time a wine is being sold to a consumer, it is unlikely that a consistent or robust message is being delivered. In the worse cases, there is no information at all being used to sell the wine.
There ARE Solutions!
But guess what? A comprehensive technology platform can provide a viable solution. Leveraging the wine’s professional digital assets at an early stage in the supply chain can help level the playing field. Each wine’s story can be told without compromise and ultimately consumers will be presented with a consistent understanding of all the wines being offered, not just wines that are “popular” or have a big budget.
A technology platform that is standardized and open ensures that the same information used by vineyards to sell their wines will be available to each tier of the supply chain. The information can be used to create digital catalogs for brokers and distributors. Tablet wine menu apps, connected to the platform, can be used as a replacement for paper menus in restaurants ensuring that consumers are presented with professional and accurate information about each wine option. When consumers are presented with information of uniform quality, the smaller labels will get more of the attention they deserve.
Ultimately, all components of the supply chain will be actively engaged in this revolutionary platform to collaboratively increase wine awareness and sales. Are you ready to be part of this exciting technology?