Wine makers fail to present their wine in the best light

April 27, 2011

If your only tool is a hammer then every problem is a nail. I think about that all the time because I am a marketing guy and every issue is viewed through a marketing lens. I have been considering the wine industry for the past weeks while visiting a couple of dozen wineries. Winemakers spend millions of dollars creating, selling and distributing wine around the world. The buildings they make wine in are spectacular and many are way over the top. Yet when you enter the tasting room, some of the basics seem to be missing.

Any wine expert will tell you that the vineyard is where good wine is made. The winemaker’s primary objective is to stay out of the way of a good wine as it flows through the production process. The soil, water, air and vines themselves all affect the creation of the grapes that are crushed, fermented and aged to create thousands of types of wines.

Surprisingly the actual task of making wine is very simple and consistent from one winery to the next despite the millions of tiny changes that can be added to the process. If wine making was about the process then wine could be made anywhere: yet wine only comes from a few select areas of the world where the vines survive and create great grapes.

Back in the tasting room, the talk is all about the finished product. The nose, the flavour notes, the color are all discussed in great detail. The wine presenter n ever fails to mention oak barrels, aging times and bottling techniques: the process. They hardly ever credit the terroire, the weather or the soils that create the grape. In fact, it was only at Raymond Winery that the presenter mentioned the value of the Napa Valley itself to the wine making process. I think more winemakers should use the vineyard as the main point that differentiates their wine from all other competitor’s products.

The other point that I want to make is that very few wine presenters aerate their wines in the tasting rooms. We know that red wines in particular must be opened several hours before being served or decanted to reach their full potential. The best restaurants and hosts all ritualize the serving of wine with fancy decanters and all sorts of gear that round out the taste, allow some of the airborne alcohol to evaporate and enhance the wine tasting experience. Yet at the wineries the presenters spend all day popping corks and pouring wine directly into glasses. They are not presenting their wines at their best.

The process of aeration does not have to be difficult. Only one winery so far was using a bottle aerator to bubble the wine into the glass. I use the same device at home and have shown many groups of guests how the taste and enjoyment of a wine is enhanced with the device. I pour wine into the glass directly from the bottle and then pour it through the bubbler and every guest can taste the difference that the air makes.

Why are wineries not showing off their wines to the best advantage? I suppose it’s because they don’t have a marketing focus.

That’s what I am thinking about.

Jon Hall

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