The attention of the sporting world is focused on Augusta, Georgia at the moment. It’s the Masters, one of the four leading golf tournaments collectively known as the majors. Now golf is a little bit of a sad sport, I know, but I have an affection for it, and I love watching the Masters. I used to try to play it, and maybe one day I’ll play it again, but it’s a sport that delivers frustration and satisfaction in unequal measure, with rather more of the former and too little of the latter. The problem? It’s the psychology of the game. You initiate every action. It’s for this reason that golfers often have what they call a swing thought – a simple one-liner that they have running through their minds as they address the ball.
In this modern, busy, crowded, hyper-connected world, it’s as if we need the equivalent of a swing thought to keep us focused in our endeavours. One thought that I reckon is pretty useful is this: do one thing well.
It is so tempting to do a little of everything, whether we are writing about wine, selling it, or making it. But what makes a difference is finding our main thing, keeping this our main thing, and doing it well. We need to avoid being distracted by other, no doubt worthwhile things, staying focused on the really important stuff.
This is one area where the top Bordeaux properties really get it. Their biggest production is just one wine: their Grand Vin. They will also make a bit of second wine, and maybe a third wine, but the focus is clearly on the Chateau wine. They have all avoided the temptation to make small quantities of high-end reserve wine, because this would dilute their marketing message. They haven’t fallen for the trap of range proliferation.
For New World wineries, the norm is to make a broad range of wines from different varieties, with a number of tiers in the range in a pyramid structure, with small quantities of reserve wines at the top. There’s often a commercial imperative for making a range of wines, because if you are selling at cellar door your customers want the variety, especially if you have a restaurant. And your importers might not want to carry more than one winery from your country, so they will ask you to cover all the bases.
There are relatively few New World wineries who have decided to focus just on what they do best. In the long-term, I think narrowing ranges down could be the better strategy. The market place is very crowded, and there’s something to be said for focusing your energy on a variety you have a special talent for, building a reputation for that wine. I remember speaking to Tim Kirk at Clonakilla, famous for its Shiraz Viognier that’s one of Australia’s top wines. Tim also loves Pinot Noir, and has a couple of rows of it. But while he can make a good Pinot Noir, he resists the temptation to focus on this as well, because he can make an excellent Shiraz Viognier from his patch of land.
Do one thing well. As a writer, I try to apply this thought in my work. I’m not yet at the stage where I can just do one thing – to pay the bills, I find myself doing lots of different things. But the direction I’m seeking to go in is to narrow down my focus onto areas where I can be excellent, and where I can make a difference. It’s hard: the natural temptation is to keep on adding new things to my portfolio of activities. But in this crowded world we now live in, I suspect I will be more successful and happier if I strip out the non-essential and reduce my efforts to just a few things that I am really good at.