By Dawn Dolan
With US BevX 2017 just around the corner, potentially one of the most important sessions will be, Leading the Commitment: Owners Investing in Quality. This panel assembly involves the actual decision makers; the owners who must lay down hard-earned cash to invest in quality practices, all the way from the vineyard to the tasting room. This session is meant to be a sharing of their practices, what has worked and what bloopers they have made over the years.
The session moderator is well-known wine blogger, Joe Roberts, of 1WineDude.com. Roberts began his blog ten years ago, making him pretty much the wine blogger granddaddy (in blogger years). He has very high hopes for this panel discussion. “The panelists are very dedicated, semi-obsessed-with-this-topic type people,” he states. “I want to get them into their stories. They have hit real road blocks. I want them to share what worked and what didn’t work.”
Roberts starts down a path, “There has really never been a better time to be a wine lover in history. Wines are cleaner, and varietally and regionally correct. There is more selection, variability and lower price points than at any other time in the long history of wine.” This relates directly to quality, as he sees it. “A high-quality wine is the current point of entry into the US wine market. Without that, you’ll die a slow and painful death.”
Defining why quality is so important, Roberts notes. “We cannot ignore the complexities of the marketplace in the US. It’s never been easier to locate potential customers.” However, the flip side of this is the piece of the pie that will make winemakers take notice. “They [the consumers] have easy access to your information. Even the casual drinker of wine has access to better information, and will become more and more educated,” he says. The expectations are rising among these consumers. The scary piece? “They’ll also know more about bad experiences with your wine.”
Thus, a large part of the quality revolution will be purely to meet economic demands. Roberts projects,” The issue of saying I don’t’ care about reaching out online, well, the sands are going to shift. Older consumers aren’t drinking as much, so wineries need to dial in other age groups and demographics if they want to sell their wines.” Since consumers can look up not just your wines, but your vineyard, your tasting room and your customer service, Roberts feels that the last thing you want to do is, “trip over the quality piece”.
George Christie, president of Wine Industry Network, feels strongly about this subject. “All quality decisions cost money. This is a great opportunity to let the owners share their stories. There is an undeniable financial commitment to getting quality.” He goes on to state, “Starting from the vineyard on up, those decisions for quality have to be authorized and paid for. This panel has people willing to act on their future & visionary plans for getting quality product. We want them to tell their stories; both the good and the not-so good.”
Roberts agrees that you start selling other producers in your area on the idea of getting their quality up by putting the stories out there. He hopes that attendees will be able to take-away from this “learn from what I did” discussion. He goes back to the market pressures wineries will face. “The market will self-correct and evolve. A winery will be less and less likely to get away with putting sugar in a bad batch and getting it to sell.” He notes that an intentional choice for a slot in your [tasting room] line up may include a wine of that style. But he is convinced the new generation of wine drinkers and new generation of wine makers are both moving past that. Quips Roberts, “When new generations take over, nobody makes “dad’s wine”, you know?”
The US BevX 2017 session, Leading the Commitment: Owners Investing in Quality, will include Ed Boyce of Black Ankle Vineyards, Chris Pearmund of Pearmund Cellars, Gino Razzi of Penns Woods Winery, and Christine Vrooman of Ankida Ridge Vineyards. The event will take place from February 22-24, 2017 in Washington, D.C.