What do consumers want to hear?
The sixth annual Vineyards of Hampshire trade and press tasting, see page 14, effectively showcased the diverse array of styles of mainly sparkling, and some still, wines being produced around the chalky county.
Nine vineyards proudly told their stories, pouring their wines to the high-calibre wine writers, somms and indie wine merchants, who moved round table-to-table appreciating the subtle nuances between each Chardonnay, Pinot noir and meunier blend.
Looking back through tasting notes, there were several stand-out wines, from light, playful sparkling rosés, to meaningful and mature classic blends, as well as a cheeky aromatic number.
Tasting through over 25 wines in just over an hour, it is amazing just how quickly one wine falls from the tongue, another replaces it. While making notes enshrines that momentary glimpse of greatness until a bottle can be bought, opened and fully appreciated, on reflection, it is undoubtedly the conversations, personalities and stories which ultimately have a far more profound impact on one’s long-term memory of the day.
Conversations about combine harvesters, fermenting vegetables, visiting family for Christmas, fishing in the river Test, and making Pét-Nat in an old garage may not directly relate to any of the wines on tasting, but all help to solidify the relationship between producer and consumer.
Later in this month’s magazine, speaking at the WineGB Business and Marketing conference, see page 26, Steve Charters MW stressed that for the average wine tourist, it is not the quality of the wine which matters most, but the overall experience and level of customer service on offer at the cellar door.
Other experts, such as Robert Joseph, also alluded to the fickle consumer psyche; pointing out that the average consumer cares far more about packaging and peer approval than production methods.
To make a memorable experience, which is captivating not condescending for cellar door visitors, there is little point talking to the average customer about spray programmes, terroir, dosage and lees aging. Instead, sales patters should be filled with captivating origin stories, producers should allow personality to spill into their wines and, as urged by Sarah Abbott MW who also spoke at the conference, the industry needs to take a positive, fresh look at its journey and should stop being apologetic about the history of English and Welsh wine.
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