Personal passions

I love Estrons. No, it’s not an obscure grape variety or a hipster wine bar – alright, chances are it’s probably both, but I’m talking about the Welsh band. I first heard them on the radio, started listening to them regularly, saw them playing live a couple of times, and am completely hooked on their energetic, sultry, riff-driven, growling indie rock. They call it heavy pop.

Whether they have a successful career will probably come down to a combination of luck and persistence. Making money from music has never been harder – record sales have been trashed by streaming services – yet thousands of bands remain undeterred, dreaming of getting their big break.

I love sherry. No, it’s not a Welsh band – OK, perhaps it is, but I’m talking about the fortified wine. I first tasted it as a newbie in Majestic, started drinking it regularly, visited Jerez a couple of times and am completely hooked.

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

One of the most fundamental questions in wine retailing is: who decides what the consumer gets? How can we ensure that the most worthy wines receive the support they deserve?

This is an especially pertinent question in light of the recent rise of direct-to-consumer sales channels within the wine industry, allowing producers and importers to bypass the shops by selling directly
to drinkers.

I would argue that, like the music industry, wine is a highly fragmented business that relies on the expertise of professionals to curate a selection that’s appropriate to the audience. Take sherry for example, the vinous equivalent of Welsh heavy pop – niche at best. If 99% of the wine industry loves sherry, then 99% of UK wine drinkers either hate it or are indifferent. Over the past few years, various promotions and campaigns have done their best to encourage us to give sherry a break, but to no avail. UK sales volumes halved between 2005 and 2015.

Of course, there’s no intrinsic reason why sherry deserves success more than Muscadet or País or Carcavelos or, indeed, any number of other wines that struggle for recognition.

To a certain extent, it depends on the marketing budgets of producers and generic bodies. They need to spend money in order to get their message through to consumers, whether via direct advertising or promotions within the trade – but precious few of them have the cash to really maximise their chances.

That means our own personal passions play a vital role in what makes wines successful.

Retailers have the most direct opportunity to share theirs with customers. It may not seem like much, but every wine you recommend to your customers makes a difference.

Deciding which to stock is therefore a decision that really matters. Are you simply flogging big brands for kickbacks, or do you want to support the wines that genuinely excite and enthuse you?

For everyone in the second group, I’ll see you at the next Estrons gig. I’ll be the one with a glass of sherry.

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