Beyond Bordeaux: Wine with TOAST

Beyond Bordeaux

When is a wine tasting not just a wine tasting? When you leave feeling you’ve deconstructed one of the strongest clichés in the trade.

Selling Fine Wine is a challenge. How to best convey the complex array of emotion, aroma and flavour that is found in Fine Wine is not something that comes easily to most people. Another difficulty lies in the fact that everyone’s idea of Fine Wine is different. Perhaps one of the constants is certain wines from Bordeaux - but with no sign of a reduction of the eye-watering prices for top Chateaux, the market is being underserved by a lack of familiarity with what else is available. So what choices do consumers face?

Fines Wines: Forum or Against ‘Em

Speaking at the Beyond Bordeaux discussion organised by TOAST, Louis Fernando of dining and drink blog, Tuck & Vine, said that to him Fine Wine should be ‘unique, and should be the benchmark for comparing other wines.’ This notion of comparison is something that comes up time and again with wine, but it relies on a certain level of knowledge and familiarity with the product, not to mention the ability of staff to convey all this to the customer. This is where Fine Wine struggles. Ruth Spivey of wine sampling festival, Wine Car Boot, feels that ‘the language of wine has changed, become less formal, more relaxed and varied’ and because of this ‘a lot of wine descriptions ... aren’t accurate or exciting.’ There is plenty of opportunity to sell premium products to customers but it’s how you go about it that will secure the sale. Don’t just think that this kind of wine sells itself. The power of your staff’s personalities will go a long way to securing the sale.

Building Excitement: The Key to Trading Up

At 28-50, Xavier Rousset, Master Sommelier and founder of 28-50 and Texture, uses 75ml measures to offer a wide range of Fine Wines by the glass. Think William Fevre 2002 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos or 1999 Echezaux Grand Cru Domaine de la Romanee Conti. While at first glance this may exclude a large proportion of potential consumers who may lack the knowledge or the wallet to drink them, the attractive pricing won’t dissuade those that are price-sensitive while Xavier can call upon a team of knowledgable, well trained sommeliers to share his passion for these wines. A similar tactic is used by Ruth who offers her customers a ‘pot luck’ wine by the glass at a fixed price. Similarly to how a sommelier might recommend a wine, any customers who aren’t sure what to drink are offered a random wine at a keen price. The key to both is the strong value message. It’s become cliché to presume that wines are only good value if they are cheaper. As Zeren Wilson, consultant at Bibo believes: ‘At Bibo the fine wines are all over £100. Yet they are all good value.’ Given the chance most people will appreciate good wine, so use this to your advantage: build a relationship of trust with your customer by recommending a Fine Wine you know they will enjoy. You’ll find them more receptive to any up-sells thereafter. According to Ruth, it is important that operators are honest with consumers to ‘avoid ripping customers off because they are more price savvy now.’

How We Can Make a Difference

Without addressing the issues such as these as an industry, we make it more difficult for customers to share our passion about wine. By thinking about consumer expectations and debating the finer points of the trade, we can understand the ways to counteract the challenges faced in today’s economic climate.  Bibendum’s industry-leading training programme can help your staff engage with customers in a way they can relate to.

To get involved in our next event, keep an eye on our events page.

10th April 2014

Company No. 2550982 | 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR | Call: 0845 263 6924 | AWRS Number: XVAW00000101595

Drink Aware - know the facts