The wine industry is broken! (But there are ways we can fix it)
In the many conversations I have had with small, medium sized, independent, or up and coming wineries in the past year a familiar theme has sprung out. The wine industry is broken! It is becoming harder and harder for small wineries to make an impact and the high costs of scrambling for limited, and crowded, shelf spaces are strangling businesses. Still many in the business chase ratings and awards to justify charging more for what is a clone of the wine you have seen and tasted a hundred times over. The wines, like their producers, are void of character, of life, and of taste. Speak softly though, and you will find a growing insurrection of winemakers who want to take the industry back, and who truly care for the enjoyment of wine drinkers. They are the heroes of a changing industry determined to right so many evils.
Wine sales are up, so how can the industry be broken?
Its true, in the United States we are drinking slightly more wines per capita and in total than ever before. Exports from California are up, and the wines business is chugging (or is it sipping?) along nicely. New wineries enter into business every year as people look to realize their dreams of making wine. But something is not right.
People are still confused as hell when they buy wine. There is a lot of information out there but we are not sure that wineries actually understand what information consumers want to hear. We have gone to endless websites, visited online stores, and searched for information direct from the winery pages. What we get is information that is completely useless to 99% of consumers, a list of pH levels, brix, soil content, what barrels were used and in what percentage new versus old, even the fermentation and bottling temperatures. Consumers don't care! This is useless information to them, and what is worse, you make them feel stupid. We tell consumers that they NEED to know more to appreciate wine properly. This is a bad habit that the industry needs to overcome and has done a poor job of. Noble efforts have been made, but nobody has cracked it yet.
Its time to put consumers at the very forefront of everything that we do. Their enjoyment, their pleasure, their love is our life and we should treat them with the love they deserve. Thankfully there are a few people out there who are the true heroes in this.
Stop chasing points, start chasing relationships
The heroes of the wine business are those who are not chasing points, those who are not looking for a rating or a review in a wine publication, or those who look to win awards to gain fame. Who do they think they are? Christiano Ronaldo? The moment you go around chasing these things means you are not paying enough attention to the people who really matter, the people who are enjoying your wine. Yes, a review in Wine Spectator, or Decanter, can expand your fan base and get the word out, but lets be honest about it. Are the people who see you in those publications looking to build a lifelong relationship with you? Or are they following whatever the publication puts in front of them? By the time the next issue rolls around you are old news. You've also been distracted from the people in your tasting room, from the people who follow you no matter what.
By focusing more on the relationships with the people in your sphere of influence you can grow more organically. Their mouths are free marketing for you, both as people who can give you feedback on your product but most importantly as those who will talk about you. These are the people who will share your story, who will take what they love and share with people they love. Their enthusiasm will get to the hearts of their friends more than a 94 point RP rating ever could. Ask yourself what resonates more?
This is one of my favorite wines from this really cute winery in Paso Robles. I love it there, and the people are so awesome. Their wines are amazing too, they just sing right to my heart. I'm so excited to share it with you!
A wine with gorgeous fruit such as peaches in addition to spices and minerals. Very aromatic. Medium-to full-bodied, very spicy and very intense. Powerful and rich. Almost burns with spiciness. Dense center palate.
Our heroes have been the folks in small wineries around the country who have put their heart and soul into making wines that people will love and can share. Putting drinkability and share-ability at the forefront without sacrificing quality, making something that is true, honest, and delicious. Yes it can be done! Then as businesses we tell them to throw this all out the window and focus on the cold science behind their products, asking them to share descriptions of the wine that 90% of their drinkers will never even get their head around. Its still important, but we can no longer put that front and center.
Lets build business models that strengthen bonds!
Lets face it, wine is a vicious business. Operating a winery is financially intensive. Its a tough job. Add to that the competition in the market that is taking advantage of ignorance and loopholes to sell product that is less than. A lot of wineries operate wine clubs, and these are often a vital part of their business, but the waters have been muddied by companies that operate solely as wine clubs. They promise a lot, deliver little, and use gimmicks to claim any added value. There has to be a better way that breaks through this competition and goes to the heart of consumers.
At Vynl we are building a marketplace not because its a cool, hip, startup buzz worthy thing to do, but because we believe that the marketplace concept can grow businesses in a more efficient, smart, and enduring manner. Our business model is focused on delighting consumers, making sure that they are taken care of, and are excited to come back for more. For businesses we share what we learn about how people drink, what they drink, to make sure they can get in front of people when they are most interested. We can also forge relationships between the winery and the wine drinker and keep their love for each other going, keeping the fires burning strong.