Somebody asked me the other day what kind of jobs there were in the wine business. Here’s a few:
1. Wine maker – duh.
2. Cellar master - any place that puts together more than a few hundred barrels each year could proabably use a dedicated employee to look after them and the wine inside. You’ll have to cellar rat a few years and then specialize your training. Perhaps pursue some secondary education. Maybe a stint at a barrel maker would be handy. Which leads me to . . .
3. Cooper - somebody, preferably a craftsman, has to make all those barrels. Study carpentry and joinery and then get a gig in one of the big houses in the U.S. or Europe. Then branch out on your own.
4. Cellar rat - slightly above a hose dragger, mostly a full time gig doing all the menial and dirty jobs around the cellar. There is no better way to learn how the wine is made.
5. Harvest helper (hose dragger) - if you’re heading into production you’ll have to do this at some point. Depending on the operation, you could be doing everything from picking grapes to filtration to driving truck to filling in behind the shop counter. The pay is minimal; the experience is essential.
6. Sales - after the owner decides to hang up one of the hats he/she wears, sales jobs suddenly materialize. Days on the road, customers with no freaking idea, missed quotas, everybody wanting free wine. Pure joy for the right person.
7. Wine Shop staffer - different operations have different systems, but like any retail operation, look for the place that rewards proven performers. Besides the wage, is there any bonus structure, perks, possibility of advancement, benefit plans or wine allowance?
8. Wine Shop manager - one of those jobs where the crap can come at you from above (boss), below (staff) and sideways (public). If you like to juggle, you may want to try this.
9. Winery Supplies - It’s mostly 9 to 5. Wineries need stuff and equipment. The lab has to be stocked, the wine shop needs knick-knacks, the cellar needs another bag of citric acid. You can fill this need with your huge inventory and free delivery for orders over $50.
10. Winery Equipment - The big stuff like presses and tanks. You don’t sell one everyday but when you do - yipee! Find a line not represented in your area and get an exclusive distribution agreement. Helps to also be a . . .
11. Equipment technician - if you understand how stuff works (machines) you can carve out a niche in the winery business. A lot of wine makers and winery owners come from varied fields and seldom do those fields include the skills to fix electric motors, pumps, compressors, belt drives and all sorts of stuff.
12.Packaging - even wineries that spend too little time on their wine seems to spend an inordinate amount of time getting the bottle, label, closure and capsule just right. Help ease the pain by representing a spiffy line of packaging for the wine business.
13.Wine Club organizer - wine clubs as sales drivers are nothing new. But with the rapid rise of the internet over the last two decades comes on-line clubs that, in some cases, eclipse the sales of the bricks and mortar wine shops in their own organization. If you’re a marketing expert with an emphasis on web communities this may be your calling.
14.Food Service - if you have a background in food preparation or service you may have noticed that many wineries are integrating food into their customer interpretation centres (wine shops).
It could be the fanciest restaurant in the area or a simple cold counter serving deli style take-away. Come up with a concept and sell it to the winery with the greatest need and the greatest possibility of success.
15. Tour Guide - get your chauffeur’s license and drive folks around wine country. It seems to get more popular every year. There’s all sorts of ways to build in commissions to this gig. They’re your captives for several hours. Shouldn’t you earn something for recommending the same excellent restaurant everyday to well-heeled visitors?
Recently Hugh McLeod wrote about using micromedia for micromarketing the new labels for South African wine Stormhoek. Previously the company has sponsored large celebrity-driven geek events; now they’re about to host a number of small, intimate gatherings—and they’re using the microblogging service Twitter as the promotional vehicle. (Note: the offer is limited to UK Twitter users, so don’t bombard Hugh with requests from other countries or through his blog.)
Why the switch? Here’s what Hugh said:
When we sponsor large parties, nobody notices, talks about, or remembers the name of the wine that was served that evening. With smaller parties, the opposite is true. People seem truly appreciative that a commercial wine business would go to all that trouble, just to reach out to so relatively few people. But why not? From trying to connect with people on a much more intimate and human level, we have far more stable and stronger building blocks to create a community around our brand.
Stormhoek’s mass market is everyone who drinks wine, and the label is sold in major retailers. However, their primary marketing venue has been the blogosphere. Now they’re further refining a niche market strategy: find small groups of wine drinkers among early technology adopters (i.e. Twitter users), send sample bottles of wine for those who want to host a dinner party, and generate word of mouth buzz.
Instead of occasions for celebrity-sightings, the small dinner events are likely to stimulate conversation about the quality of the wine and its unique marketing strategy. Stormhoek is hoping to build brand evangelists and to develop a loyal community among a relative handful of people who have a proven habit of answering the question: What are you doing? (Twitter’s raison d’être.)
What lesson can you learn from Hugh McLeod and Stormhoek? Can you pare down your marketing budget while beefing up results through smaller, more targeted campaigns?
By Drew McLellan.
The label is clean and minimalist, with beautiful hand-crafted typography creating an elegant and refined design. The modern styling sits comfortably alongside a sketch of Bellingham’s old cellar (circa 1693) exuding the rich history and tradition of our wines.
In many ways, there is nothing new about Bellingham. In fact, Bellingham has a history of some 300 years. Through the ages the story of Bellingham is laced with a splash of vision, a dash of courage and plenty of passion.
It was Bernard Podlashuk (known fondly as ‘Pod’) who placed Bellingham on the world wine map. This adventurous and spirited young man purchased the Bellingham farm in 1943. Together with his wife Fredagh, they immediately set about replanting the vineyards and restoring the Manor House. Pod’s ambition for Bellingham extended way beyond the ordinary quality and limitations of South African wine of that time.
Okay, I’ll take the bait. I can be taken in by a clever pr campaign.
Last week I received a bit of a teaser campaign in three parts. I suspect several of my wine blogging colleagues received the same packages—an anonymously sent picture of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers with a hang tag note that that says, “Matched Perfectly.” A couple of days later I received two aces from a deck of cards with a hang tag note again noting, “Matched Perfectly.” Finally, a day later comes a bottle of wine from Riddling Bros., a marketing firm that has created a spec. wine package and positioning called “Goes With Cellars …”
If my research is correct, the lead principal, Fred Schwartz, is an advertising agency vet with his own company, Fred & Company, which provides creative and strategic consulting to the wine industry.
It’s interesting then to note that the concept of “Goes With Cellars …” is virtually identical to that of “Wine that Loves …” Many bloggers will recall the surge of P.R. that followed the introduction of “Wine that Loves …” in the spring of this year. Many bloggers had an opinion that wavered somewhere between indifference to derision, but then, we’re not the audience, either.
The concept is simple, and in having conversations with Tracy Gardner, the principal for the Amazing Food Wine Company, the umbrella organization for “Wine that Loves …” it’s genius in its simplicity.
Taking a page from the concept of Blue Ocean strategy whereby research is conducted to find uncontested market space and then executing a product strategy to address that unfulfilled demand, the “Wine that loves …” and “Goes With Cellars …” concept simply creates wine that does not have any varietal, appellation or country of origin information, but is matched to the food that it would be served with; food that is commonly eaten by a wide swath of Americans like grilled steak, grilled salmon, pasta, roasted chicken, etc.
From a practical perspective, it makes perfect sense—most wine is consumed the same day it is purchased, and usually it is purchased at the grocery store when other dinner provisions are being picked up. Why wouldn’t this be a good idea?
I now also have full context on why Tracy, in my conversations with him via work with my employer, was incredibly secretive—secretive to the extent that I initially thought him a bit paranoid. He apparently knew what I wasn’t thinking about—a good idea will be quickly replicated.
Besides the idea flying in the face of wine enthusiasts for whom knowledge and esoterica is stock in trade, I suspect this concept in its original form with “Wine that Loves …” and its secondary form, “Goes With Cellars …” has a tremendous opportunity in the market.
Goes With Cellars appears to be targeting a more finite audience with more specificity in its wine—Beef: Peppercorn Steak with an associated recipe whereas “Wine that Loves …” is broader with just simply, “Grilled Steak.”
Anybody that thinks that both of these concepts are fads that will meet a timely death would do well to recall a publishing phenomenon started a decade ago called the, “For Dummies …” series. These are general reference books aimed at a broad audience that were quickly copied in the market by a host of competitors including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide.” Both of these series were initially met with a lot of resistance from the intelligentsia and academians who derided the “dumbing down” of information in such a crass, pandering format.
There are a lot of parallels between our wine scenario and this publishing scenario, and 10 years later we know the outcome and success of the book publishing opportunity. The “For Dummies …” brand is now, by many estimates, as recognizable as Coca-Cola, Starbucks and McDonald’s.
Time will tell which of these wine concepts becomes the “For Dummies …” of the wine world, but I suspect one will.
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The answer, of course, is wine.
Perhaps the most interesting trend that I have observed in wine this year is the growth of green wine. By green I mean wine that is made and marketed with attention to the environment (although vinho verde from Portugal can claim to be a green wine on other counts).
What drew my attention to the green wine movement was not the existence of organic wines — they’ve been around for a long time — but the variety of ways that winemakers are embracing sustainability and the environment as an integral part of their work.
I uncovered three sustainability initiatives while doing fieldwork in Oregon, for example. The first was the Low Input Viticulture and Enology initiative, or LIVE for short. This is an a voluntary program with about 70 certified members that, according to the website, aims …
I haven’t studied the LIVE program closely, but my impression is that it is an attempt to both promote sustainable vineyard practices and, at the same time, take local control of the certification process. Why create an organization like LIVE — why not just go “organic” and be certified organic? I have talked to a number of winegrowers who hesitate to seek organic certification because of the considerable expense and also because the sort of sustainable viticulture they seek to practice goes beyond the avoidance of chemicals. Regional initiatives like LIVE allow groups of growers to define sustainability in a way that is compatible with local conditions and practices and to retain local control of the process.
Some winemakers are going all the way when it comes to sustainability, which is what the biodynamic wine movement is all about. Biodynamic winemaking is based upon a set of agricultural theories that the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner proposed in the 1920s. The biodynamic idea is to treat the entire vineyard as a living organism and to adopt practices that promote the health of the entire structure — vines, soil, insects, and so forth. This reminds me of the famous Gaia Hypothesis that the whole earth is a living organism.
Most biodynamic practices are uncontroversial, but the use of special organic field sprays draws special attention. The sprays are made by burying cow horns full of cow manure or ground quartz in the vineyard for six months and then spraying the estate with the resulting composted product in diluted form at specific times of the day and phases of the moon. The idea is to promote microbial health and the balanced growth of the vineyard. It sounds a little like voodoo viticulture, to me, but there are plenty of good winemakers who have adopted this practice so I am going to keep my skepticism in check for now.
Several Oregon winemakers including Brick House and Cooper Mountain have gone or are going biodynamic. They join California producers including Frog’s Leap, DeLoach and Benzinger and a growing number of winemakers in Europe and around the world. I understand that many winemakers in Chile such as Emiliana Orgánico are adopting biodynamic practices, for example, both on philosophical grounds and, I suspect, in an attempt to differentiate their wines in the marketplace. ( Click here to read Emiliana’s explanation of the principles of biodynamic viticulture). I haven’t tasted enough biodynamic wine to have an opinion about how the process affects the end product.
The final example from Oregon is the Carlton Winemakers’ Studio, a facility that about a dozen smaller winemakers share. This operation was designed to meet recognized environmental standards from the group up. According to the website it was …
The first winery registerd with the US Green Building Council, The Carlton Winemakers Studio was designed to be compliant with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, promoting a whole – building approach to sustainability by recognizing five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.
Some of the most intriguing environmental building materials and techniques are the following:
Below foundation water capture and reuse
North roof water capture and reuse
Clear roofing materials
Daylighting, windows, doors, and hallway
Night air cooling
Coal byproduct (fly-ash)/concrete mix
Recycled mats, paint, office desk materials, roofing metal, carpet
Non-conventional material uses: sals-walls, curtains, shade
Reused: counter tops (SS & acid resistant composite), light, concrete, sinks
Dynamic flow air pocket walls
Earth berm / below grade walls for natural cooling
The Winemakers Studio’s strategy suggests that green wine can be good wine, good economics and good for the environment.
Sustainability is obviously important in winemaking, but it doesn’t end there. A growing number of wine brands, such as French Rabbit, are embracing sustainability in wine packaging and transport. Here’s how Boisset America, the French firm that makes and markets French Rabbit (and owns biodynamic DeLoach) got into the sustainable packaging business.
Canada is a good market for wines, especially French wines, and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario is therefore a big buyer with lots of market power. As a state monopoly, the LCBO sets economic, social and environmental goals for its operations. They aim to minimize energy use and maximize recycling. LCBO challenged their wine suppliers to introduce new products to promote these goals and French Rabbit was one result. As Patrick Egan, brand manager for French Rabbit, notes
“Our real immense success was with Liquor Control Board of Ontario. They inspired the creation of French Rabbit. As a goverment entity they were interested in challenging themselves and their suppliers to reduce packaging waste. They set an ambitious goal of eliminating 10 million kilograms of packaging waste per year. There were no other wines yet available in Tetra Paks when we presented French Rabbit, and they immediately embraced the concept. FR was the most successful launch of a new brand they’ve ever had, and spawned more than 75 other wines in Tetra Pak packages since French rabbit was launched there in July 2005. The success helped the LCBO reach their packaging reduction goal some 2 years ahead of schedule. Here in the US, there are really 3 primary brands [in Tetra Paks] so far, with more on their way.
“Turns out, much of the world has been consuming wine from the Tetra Pak package for many years (you must have seen Tavernello on your travels to Italy). Our angle, our raison d’etre, for introducing a new wine in this package to North America has been the ecological benefits to the package. In the age of global warming and increasing interest in sustainability, our package has the benefits of the lowest carbon output per unit of wine sold when the full life cycle of the package is considered. Its lightweight and minimal packaging materials mean immense savings when compared to the glass bottle. So, as wineries make more and more efforts to combat global warming in the vineyards and in their energy consumption, we’ve gone the angle of actually transforming the package that wine is delivered in to consumers. Just as globalization increases choice for consumers, it also means more and more wine is shipped all over the world. Ours dramatically reduces the impact when wine is shipped, in addition to the savings generated when the package is produced and the package is recycled.”
It seems to me that the wine industry is ahead of the curve with respect to sustainability and the environment. Wine is a product of nature, after all, and there are special reasons, aesthetic, philosophical and economic, why winemakers should wish to emphasize that connection. Green wine, I predict, is here to stay.