I’ve been thinking a lot recently about formal wine tastings, more particularly that they’re far from being an ideal way to show off wine. But what’s the alternative?
I’m no marketing guru just, as a member of the fourth estate, the recipient of innumerable invitations to taste wine and other drinks - some modest, some lavish (yes, I’m thinking of you, Dom Pérignon . . . )
Of course, having money to throw at the problem undoubtedly helps but it’s more, I’d suggest, about using your imagination and understanding the audience you’re dealing with. And whether you’re trying to reach the maximum number of people or a few key influencers who have the power to make a message go viral. Companies need to disabuse themselves of the notion that an article in a national newspaper or a glossy magazine is the only marker of success.
Sure, I’m conscious of the need to show as many wines to as many people as possible in the shortest possible time but the fact is that no consumer does what the press and trade do which is to spend two to three hours walking round a room spitting into buckets. As the public would see it. Where’s the joy in that?
There may be no alternative for trade buyers or writers who need to assess and score a particular vintage but it's fundamentally flawed way of forming an opinion of a wine or range of wines. Like others I’ve written before about what might affect your tastebuds on any given day but it’s as much about perception as palate and wine tastings are never a game changer.
Over the next week or so I’m going to talk about some alternatives you might want to consider but first some initiatives that don’t work - for me at least:
* An invitation to meet for a ‘one to one’ with a visiting winemaker. This only works, if at all, with the trade or specialist press. Clients, I realise, don’t understand this. They think their brand/wine/marketing manager is fascinating - particularly if the brand manager is the one suggesting the trip. Curb the egos in your organisation unless they belong to a really charismatic individual. (More on this to follow)
* An opportunity to make a fool of yourself participating in blind tastings. blending exercises or cook-offs - anything with a competitive edge. There can only be one winner. Why would you want to make the majority of your audience feel they’ve failed? (I realise this may be my inner grumpy old woman speaking. Others may regard this as the best fun you can have with your clothes on.)
* Invitations to the opera/ballet/sporting events which tell me nothing about your wine and the people who make it.
* An instruction to append a specific hashtag to an event I go to. I’m not part of your marketing team.
* Random mailings of bottles - sadly, rarely the ones I actually want to write about, let alone drink. Small wine merchants/producers with interesting wines why don’t you get in touch? Please.
I’m conscious I’m straying well beyond the usual remit of this site but bear with me. A lot of this relates to food, about which more soon . . .