Monday, May 18, 2009

Distributor Bashing - A (short) Reply

Here is my response to some distributor bashing which I felt was making some very broad generalizations and inaccurate statements. Essentially what the blogger was doing was creating an antagonistic situation by describing all wine distributors as greedy and without passion for wine - only in the busines to make money. Anyone who actaully knows anything about most distributors knows that it is like any industry - there are a few people who make a lot of money and a lot of people who make a living (but keep doing it because they love what they are doing). This one struck a cord with me so I replied - here it is...

For the past 15 years I have been selling wine as a distributor sales rep. I would consider myself to be pretty darn passionate about what I do. In fact, I would consider most of the people that work for my company to be pretty darn passionate about wine.

Many of us have been doing this job for a long time, and have kept to this industry because of the love we have for wine - it certainly has not been because we are all rolling in money. Many of us have gone to the trouble to take wine courses and certificate exams (at our own expense) to enhance our knowledge and ability to tell the story of wine. One of my associates is about to sit the final MW exam this summer, as I will in a few years (hopefully). Some of us actually teach our own wine courses in order to help others better understand the world of wine (I even do it without sales sheets or in conjunction with any retailers). We belong to tasting groups that meet regularly, taste wine blind and then discuss them over food afterward.

As far as not being able to sell wine without a high score…for a number of years now I have made it a point of my sales calls to not use media scores. I only work with wines that I like and have confidence in, and only as a last resort might I use a review, butonly after I have made the sale.

I could go on but you already have your mind made up about those greedy distributor people who are just in it for the money. By the way, I have a portfolio that has plenty of "cult" wines in it. In fact we are sitting on a bunch of them and falling behind in vintages because there just don't seem to be enough passionate retailers (or any sommeliers) with enough passionate consumers who want to buy these wines that no one has ever heard of (unless of course there is a 95+ scores to prove their worth).

It is a good thing though that I also have a load of great small family producers who are willing to put up with no scores, little recognition and tons of pressure from big corporate wineries. Do you know why they are willing to put up with this? Because they know that (at least with my company) they have a committed and passionate distributor who is willing to go out everyday, tell their story, present their wines to the right accounts, spend countless nights and Saturday afternoons doing tastings, so that they can stay in business.

The three tier system is the most efficient and cost effective way to move wine throughout this country. There is no better example of what things are like without the three tier system than the state of Pennsylvania, where the state is the distributor, selection is limited and wine prices are high - especially in restaurants which have to buy their wine at retail from the State.

Stop bashing wholesalers. We're not all the same.

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