Thursday, July 1, 2010
The experience of selling “Au Natural”!
So, I am a big fan of Saignée, and after having several discussions with Cory about last years 31 Days of Natural wines, I thought I might attempt to pen something down. Unlike a lot of writers in the series, I work for a retailer. Our goal is to sell wines (of course!), however I have a very large personal bias toward natural wines and wines with an honest sense of place. To that end, I’d like to talk about the experience of selling these wines.
First, A few definitions that we use all the time at work (there are a lot more that can sometimes be helpful, but here are the basics):
Biodynamically grown: this is a label given to wines that are made from an estate practicing biodynamic agriculture, but is not certified or undergoing any certification process.
Organically grown: these are wines from an estate that practice organic agriculture, but are not certified or undergoing any certification process.
Certified Biodynamically grown: a label given where an estate has completed a Demeter or similar certification.
Certified Organically Grown: wines produced from an estate that has completed some form of outside organic certification.
Second, A few definitions that have very little meaning in our way of thinking:
Lutte Raisonnée: the same idea as sustainable, a green washing idea that gets no extra advantage online or on our shelves.
Of course, as all of you know, we get asked questions about these types of wines all the time: “Do you have organic wines?” “Are there any good organic wines?” “What is biodynamically grown?” And so on. We love getting these questions and challenging the customers who ask them to try natural wines. A favorite to sell is the Domaine Deux Anes Premier Pas. This is a great wine imported by Jenny and Francois selections. One great selling point is the rough translation of the wine’s name, “Two Asses,” with another being the visual appeal of the label, depicting the two donkeys that work the land. The caveat is the flavor, which is quite earthy and funky right out of the bottle (but like most great wines, gets truly delicious after about 20 minutes).
Many of the complaints we get with natural wines include, “It’s cloudy, so something must be wrong,” “The wine tasted ‘bad’, so it’s corked,” all the way up to “Why organic? That type of product always tastes bad.” On one hand, there is a reluctance to experience new things. There is a resistance towards organic products that originate from the days when all organic products were unscientific, and generally not as good as they are now. On the other hand, people in my age range and younger are more eco conscious and often look specifically for organic wines. Some of my favorite moments include educating our customers about the amount of chemicals that go into a mass produced wine . . . Enzymes, colorants, liquid tannin, and more, and then seeing their reaction. Another one is explaining about the difference in the sulfite levels, and how that comes about (not adding sulfites to control the winemaking and using a limited amount during bottling) and what it might mean for them as consumers.
In short the arguments, discussions and conversations around these great wines make them a joy to sell. Here is a quick list of some of the ones I love to sell and the “pitch” I use:
Alain Alier’s Mouressipe: these are wines made in the middle of a beautiful forest and is tucked away from traditional vineyards that surround it.
Lopez Heridia’s Gravonia Blanco: a great wine made in the old tradition of Rioja. This wine is light, beautiful and earthy.
Domaine Guillot-Broux Macon-villages: this wine is a saline and beautiful chardonnay that tastes primarily of minerals with a hint of lime.
Natural wines are enjoyed by a full range of customers; however they are more important to some smaller segments of our demographic. They are really quite popular with the “younger” age group- especially millennials. As the youngest group of wine drinkers, they seem to be very eco conscious, and consume the largest amount of wine per capita in the history of this country! Millennials are also among the most educated consumers and the most adventurous in terms of willingness to try new wines, such as Groilleu, Bracoul, and other various blends from all over the world). Due to their desire to experience new wines and their eco-conscious mentality, these wines are perfect for them (and anyone else who wants to try some good wines!).
These wines are the most fascinating thing to sell, discuss and share with our customers due to the story that comes with each bottle of wine: the honesty that comes from working the land yourself, as well as vinifying the grapes in a natural and non-manipulated way. Interacting with the people involved in natural wines has also been a joy, ranging from our customers who regularly buy these wines to the importers and wine makers. Each one has an interesting story about the wines they love and are pretty cool people to hang out with.