jamie goode's wine blog: The polarization of the wine trade

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The polarization of the wine trade

Just read a thought-provoking, heartfelt post by Doug over at the Les Caves de Pyrene Blog on the polarization of the wine trade.

I decided to write about wine for a living because I care about it, am enthusiastic about it, and derive great pleasure from it. Not because I wanted to get rich. I'm thrilled that so far I seem to be making a living from it - enough to support a family - but that's a side issue.

Because I care about wine, I want the good guys to win and the bad guys to get their come-uppance. I want people everywhere to be able to drink interesting wines, and it upsets me when people are put off wine by being offered commercial dross at price points where they could have been enjoying something more interesting.

Les Caves are, in my book, right at the front of the line of 'good guys'. They've got a crazily full list of amazingly interesting wines. I want them, and merchants like them, to succeed. [They're not the only ones, by any means, which is a fortunate thing.]

Doug touches on the issue of morality, something that matters a great deal, even if - in our cynical age - it sounds a bit 'preachy'. It matters how we treat other people.
"I wonder how far you can divorce morality from your business. A mentality that exploits suppliers, also probably abuses staff and disrespects customers. Greed is not good; it demonstrates weakness and ultimate lack of faith in quality and usually leads to karmic payback. When I talk to some restaurateurs I realise that they will never respond to rational argument for they see the world dimly through excessively frosted, triple-glazed egos. Do-as-you would-be-done-by is a mantra that most people would have no trouble endorsing. Except in business. Business relationships, like five pounds notes, are paper thin; agreements have no validity unless underpinned by written contracts and loyalty is an aerial as an angelís good intentions. Wine merchants are constantly enjoined to look at the bottom line profits of their customers; those customers, however, are rarely capable of seeing how sustainable margins are just as vital for wine merchants."

His piece is worth a read. One of the things that I hope web2.0 achieves is a change in the relationship between customers and merchants/businesses/service providers: I hope we all begin to look behind the surface, to see what is really there. It's a bit like walking behind a row of houses, only to find that it was just a Hollywood set, built of plywood and 2 x 4s. We'll move on to something different and more authentic.


At 8:35 AM, Blogger Gianpaolo Paglia said...

I really liked the article. I wish someone like Doug would run a blog at Les Caves rather than a diary. This would allow people like me, who honors himself of being one of Les Caves' suppliers, to interact and perhaps enrich the discussion with the aim, as you rightly said, to expose the wine business far more than it is now. I think the public, those people that eventually buy the wines and sustain all of us, should be put in the right position to choose who support in this economic climate, to understand who the gud and bad guys are.
For what is worth I can say that we are helping Les Caves to reduce the price raise that would have been otherwise much more dramatic if you look at what happened with the euro/pound exchange rate.
Let's hope that the good guys win at the end.

At 6:19 PM, Blogger La Gramiere said...

Great post Jamie.

At 8:57 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Thanks for the input Gianpaolo

Thanks La Gramiere, too, for your kind sentiments

At 12:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very lovely and heartfelt, as is the beautiful, pointless CdP list. And, inspired by this, I thought ''I'll get out the plastic and buy some of this fellow's wines." But how? The Caves website is impenetrable. My sis lives down the road but the bloody shop, incredibly, is shut on saturdays, the very day that I (or the many peasants of Surrey) might be passing through. Separating punters from trade- that is the very definition of polarisation, surely? Make up your mind matey- you can have both if you make an effort.

At 7:56 AM, Anonymous James LCDP said...

Dear Anonymous

We work in the Les Caves de Pyrene shop near Guildford and we felt it would only be fair to post a response to your message.

Whilst it is true that our shop is not open on Saturdays and we appreciate that this may be inconvenient for some customers, we have taken this decision for two reasons. Firstly, given our location tucked away in a lonely corner of Artington, we very rarely receive passing trade (alas). Secondly, we had been open for several years on Saturdays. The result? The additional staffing costs of keeping the shop open on this day meant that we were actually losing money.

We do, however, stay open until 7.00pm on Thursdays and Fridays (with wines available to taste) so that our private customers always have the opportunity to pay us a visit outside of working hours. We hold monthly tastings open for the public, at which we offer 15-20 wines to taste (free of charge), with no obligation whatsoever to buy. We deliver wine up and down the country to trade and retail customers alike, including free delivery to the local area (something from which Iím sure your sister could benefit).

We appreciate that some people have found our website a little difficult to navigate (although the vast majority of our customers have managed successfully to do so). However, while our website does not list prices, both our contact phone number and email address can be easily found on the website homepage. We feel the interesting and often unusual nature of our wines benefit from a bit more customer interaction, rather than the anonymous, cash in hand methods of internet shopping. What distinguishes a wine merchant from a supermarket is the quality of personal (and personable), expert advice and providing guidance and suggestions for our customers in a sine qua non of the job. Also, due to the considerable number of retail outlets we supply, it is important for us to protect their interests by not competing against them on price with the highly competitive retail prices we offer. We readily admit this lack of prices may be inconvenient for some of our retail customers, but in contrast to your blog, this decision was made with all of our customers in mind and shows our mutual respect for both trade and retail markets alike.

Best regards,
James Board & Virginie Champalou
Les Caves de Pyrene


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