Every now and then I meet someone in the wine trade who has lost their love for wine. [Maybe they never had it, but of all the trades to get involved with, wine has to be one of the prime candidates for a business you enter because of your love for the product you are working with.]
Don’t be that person! There must be nothing worse than peddling a product that you no longer have enthusiasm for. Even worse: what about wine journalists who are no longer excited about wine, but have to muster faux excitement for their poor readers or viewers? If that ever happens to me, I’m leaving.
How does it happen? How can it be avoided?
I think this relationship breakdown stems from knowing that what you are selling isn’t very good. Let’s face it, for most people, wine is a commodity. They want something that is red, white, pink or fizzy. They want it at the right price. And they don’t want any nasty surprises – such as too much flavour. There’s nothing wrong with commodity wine, but there’s a problem facing most people who make, sell and write about it.
The problem is that no one is prepared to admit that it’s just commodity wine. They pretend that it is delicious and profound. It often bears a place name promising some local character that doesn’t exist in the wine. It is frequently dressed up with winemaking trickery and additions so that it tastes like a more expensive wine. In truth: about these wines there is little to be said. But they promise the world, and deliver very little. The way they are made and sold frequently isn’t very honest.
I would be happy to make cheap wine and sell it, and even write about it, if I could do it honestly. The world needs good cheap wine, after all. But where are the honest cheap wines? I don’t see many of them on retailer’s shelves.
So, to keep your love for wine, don’t work with a range that promises more than it can deliver. It must be awful to be working for a supermarket or large retailer and have very few wines on the shelves that you’d actually like to take home to drink. Too many people end up sucked into this commercial end of the wine market and become disillusioned. They know the shortcuts that are taken; they have seen some of the sharp practices that occur in some wineries; they have to live with the marketing creativity that makes ordinary, rather neutral plonk sound like fine wine. In the face of this, it’s easy to become disillusioned.
Don’t be that person.