It’s not all fun…

This is quite a busy time at work for me, I mean sure Christmas is busy – but it’s different in another way. What I am doing now will have an impact on our company for the next 12 months, the busyness at Christmas is hectic rather than relentless, it can be adrenalin filled – but ultimately it’s the culmination of everything I’ve done in the previous months being pulled off by other people – I become a complete bit part – a useful body to talk with customers and help them get the best possible service and wines.

What I’m doing now is tasting (quite a lot for me) and planning events, promotions, marketing things – I’m working on the things I want to see in our shops over and above the norm.

Today was a day of several parts  – in the morning I spent time reflecting and evaluating the last few weeks, ensuring that particular purchases I’ve made were priced correctly and  heading to the right places. But the I had a meeting with a gin company – they  are making a small amount of quite an interesting gin with loads of blueberry and blackberry fruit – it was very different but really quite good.

But most of the day was taken up tasting and retasting samples, first up is a quick taste through with colleagues – three of us tasted 30-40 wines quite quickly, immediately eliminating anything faulty or of unacceptable (for us) quality – the wines that at whatever price would have no interest to us whatsoever.

Once this is done we then taste by style and region, in this case a white Bordeaux that was missed at an earlier tasting, a line up of Loire wines, followed by a couple of Cote du Rhones, a new vintage of a Crozes Hermitage and finishing with 6 or 7 each of Vacqueyras and Gigondas.

It was all going so well, the Loire whilst not necessarily on sparkling form was offering a lot of pleasure at some pretty competitive price points – think St Nicolas de Bourgeuil for around £12 a bottle and Chinon for a little less and a terrific Anjou Villages for about the same. Preceeding this was an interesting (though completely not commercial and something that we were worried that our sales teams would shy away from) Anjou Blanc, a crunchy Cab Fran Anjou Rose’ (note that it was and Anjou Rose’ not a Rose’ d’Anjou – subtle but REALLY important difference!)

The little Cote du Rhones we tasted were attractive, fruity but with alcohol and sweetness in check – clean and polished but not in a frankenstein kind of way just really pretty, not overly complicated wines – they were a real pleasure.

Then came the line up of Vacqueyras and Gigondas – now I love these appellations, it’s exactly where I went on honeymoon and have loved the wines ever since – I have a huge affinity for the southern Rhone and the wines that are made there. And what I disappointment! For me all but one wine lacked the depth that I’m looking for in these superior appellations – they ask for more money that a basic Cote du Rhone – but it isn’t enough to just stick ‘Gigondas’ on the label – it still needs to taste like a £15 bottle of wine – I honestly don’t think any of these really did. Now I should say that we sell a really decent Gigondas for around £23 a bottle – it sure isn’t cheap but it is quality at whatever cost. What we were looking at was two wines that would do a bit more than just hold up a job on the shelf for us but at a more commercial price point. The question was – could we find something to link Cote du Rhone at around £10-11 a bottle with things like our Gigondas and Telegramme from Chateauneuf du Pape. But on this showing rather than hoping to find a Vacqueyras at £13 and a Gigondas at £15-16 I’m much happier to move up a little bit and go with £15 and £18 a bottle each. Sure we may not sell quite as many bottles – but this is our reputation on the line. If we sell not very good wines to meet a price point – what are we saying? That our customers aren’t worth it?

No we should say if you want Gigondas you need to pay £XX to find a good one – we tried to find a less expensive one but were not happy with what was available at that price. If we need to we’ll have to add something like a Vinsobres or Beames de Venise to the Rasteau Villages we already list.

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