The wine business is a cruel and shallow money pit, a long-stemmed hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and weak men die like dogs.
Somebody gave me this quote when I first went to work for a wine distributor in 2002. Before that time, I had worked as a beverage director for a restaurant group and even did a short stint in wine retail. Since 2002, I have held sales management positions within wine distribution and wine import companies.
Late last year, I launched my own little California based wholesale/brokerage company, where I focus mostly on the natural, biodynamic and organic wines that I love so much.
I laughed at the quote and hung it over my desk for years.
It was obvious hyperbole and yet, that little grain of truth was undeniable. I always tell new wine sales reps that if they can make it through the first 18 months, they will probably survive.
And I advise them to never take any of it personally.
Not the restaurant or retail wine buyers that don't show when you confirmed the appointment weeks ago and have an important winemaker in tow. Not the accounts that either don't pay or late pay.
Of course, all of the above happens less frequently the longer you are in the business because through seniority or just smarts you are able to do business with only class act accounts, who rarely engage in the above behavior.
That's not even delving into the constant pressure and politics from your own company's management to sell, sell, sell the wines of whichever winery is the squeaky wheel that week.
And as evidenced below, each player in the wine business has their own gripes, whether winemaker, restaurant or retail buyers or wine critic.
Tom Wark wrote a recent post about Naomi Brilliant, owner at Roshambo Winery.
Naomi has decided to hang up her winemaking boots and focus on organic farming. I am sad to see her go. I do not know Naomi personally, although we are connected online and I used to sell her wines in Texas years ago. She seemed to be just the kind of young iconoclast the staid wine world needed. Naomi said she loved making wine but not selling it.
And yes, quite frankly, selling wine can seem a slog at times. But I have also had the opportunity to meet some amazing people, both wine buyers and winemakers, over the years. These people and the chance to travel to beautiful vineyards around the world more than make up for the temporary setbacks and disappointments.
Those of us in the wine business are fortunate really, compared to many other industries. Especially those of us who deal with artisanal wines, whether imports or domestic. Many of our consumers read books, travel to expand their minds and shop at farmers markets.
Not to mention that most of us truly are wine geeks and love all the romance and the history that our wines contain.
I have definitely been grateful that my current wine portfolio ( Savio Soares Selections and Darcy & Huber Selections,
) for CA seems to attract some of the most interesting and forward thinking wine buyers. I enjoy my meetings with these accounts, I learn and laugh and we share stories.
I believe that the wines I represent attract these buyers. And I think they see that I am truly passionate about these wines, they are not just another product in a bottle. They are not to 'fill' another empty space on the shelf at the lowest price. They come with an interesting story and so they attract interesting people.