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Passion on the Vine – a review

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

When one looks at a vineyard – you’re not looking at it in the same way as you would look at an orange orchard. Instead one sees a multitude of experiences past and of moments yet to come – moments of intimacy, memorable occasions, conversations and treasured friendships. Since time immemorial, vineyards have not only been the touchstone of certain regions, but have often been the lifeblood of local communities and the cornerstone of entire generations of families. Every vineyard contains a family, a , a and a . This was at least, the sentiment I had before embarking on a mission to City, where I would promote and sell ’s connected to my family in some ways, and more importantly – from my country. During that time – having spent much time in for the mission, I left with those stories and sentiments of culture and family fresh in my blood. But with every -call and wine I began to feel further and further from the vineyard. Soon it was about laid in cost, case-discounts and what kind of Point of Sale material was on offer. I travelled the country in a rental car with a case of wine, a corskrew and a -point presentation along the way having people from Westchester Wine Warehouse cruelly spit wine on my shoe after having left me waiting for an hour, sitting in cold-rooms of cellars in Maryland, helping do stock-takes in Ohio, presenting to Wholefoods buyers in North Carolina and pushing on-premise retail in : and with every step I became a bit more confused and lost the focus of what I was doing. Having believed that wine was so important to my country and stepping into the States to tell the story of South African wine, it was very dispiriting to suddenly be faced with the fact that no one really cared so long as they could make a profit.


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The Importance of the Small Wine Shop

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

wineshopsign-773225.gifOne of the things I like the most about is the small shops that sell it. Yes there are big distributors and outlets, but it is amazing how important and interesting the network of small shops can be. While they may not have the selection of the larger stores, the small shops are communities that prove invaluable when it comes to learning about, talking about, or finding . If you are looking to learn more about , visiting your local merchant is a great way to do it and maybe make some in the process.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that wine has been so slow in coming to the online table, is that it has always had the feel of a small and networked community in the real . Much like the social communities now found on the web, this wine shop network is one of the few places in today where they will make every effort to go out of their way to help you. As someone who is relatively new to the depths of wine, I’ve found it incredibly important to pick the collective brains of the owners of a small network of shops around where I live. Sure, some shops are better than others and you do have to experience a lot (visiting a lot of wine shops might not be the most terrible thing in the world), but by frequenting the shops near me I have been able to pick up on the knowledge of the staff and this has helped me accelerate my learning curve a great deal. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the recommendations of wine store staff.

Typically I’m skeptical when a store employee recommends a product to me. Perhaps it is the entrepreneur in me that wonders why they are telling me to buy this specific product and what’s in it for them. I can honestly say, though, that most of the people I’ve met who work in or own a wine shop do it out of love or passion, they genuinely love to share their experiences and their new finds; much like members of today’s online communities. Sure, some shops may get special benefits from pushing a certain wine (that’s good business) but on the whole I’m rarely disappointed by wines that the shops recommend to me.

When it comes to the wine shop I think it is important that a wine newbie find one they’re comfortable with. The shop can become a knowledge resource for you as you learn and the experienced staff there can become friends and mentors on your journey into wine. While you might pay a little more at your local shop than you would at a big box outlet, the knowledge you can gain and the people you can meet more than makes up for the money you would save by shopping elsewhere. The next step of course is to successfully transition this wonderful real world community to the world of web 2.0. Thankfully advances are being made with the advent of sites like Corkd, Calwineries, and Tastevine, which approach different segments of the younger .

Now if someone were to ask me for my opinion on how the small wine shop could do a better job of staying in business, I’d take them back to my previous post. The details I’ve previously outlined apply as directly to the wine shop and the entire wine community as they do to the producers themselves. If any members of the wine community are still a bit unsure of how to make the leap or are interested in making the leap, feel free to contact us.

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Posted in Marketing, Passion, Wine | 9 Comments »