Taste the difference

13 June, 2008

Involving customers in promotions can boost sales - and give you a laugh

Saints be praised! Hang out the bunting and dance in the streets! I thought for one horrible moment

I was going to have to write a dreary article about the boring subject of waste collection and recycling, but I can save that for another week.

No, like a kitten pawing at a feather

on a spring breeze, at the last moment something else comes along and distracts me. One of our wine suppliers (who has asked to remain nameless, for reasons that will become clear ) is very good at keeping my attention. They run interesting

themed promotions, bring producers to the shop, and generally act as though they like having our business.


works for me, as I've retained their services for many years, and it feels like we have a proper relationship rather than just a

"cash for goods" arrangement. All the two-way traffic between us means that when they run a carefully thought-out promotion, I try

to buy on it. They've gone to the trouble of devising it, and usually there's something

I can sell to our lucky wine-buying customers.

So last weekend, we debuted our

Aromatic Whites for Summer

range, and it went down as well as might be expected. By this, I mean that about half

the people who tried the wines thought they were very good, but didn't buy them, a quarter thought

they "smelled funny" (would you say "aromatic", perhaps?), and a quarter thought they were interesting, and bought one of the three on taste. And that one annoying guy who comes along and tries to get drunk for free didn't show up, which was a bonus. He blotted his copybook by downing a half pint of Lindisfarne

Mead a few years ago (I foolishly let him pour a "sample"), and I've never forgiven him .

As well as this promotion, a couple of months ago our supplier brought

an Italian producer

by. He was showing four wines, three of which were Chianti in the more modern style, at varying prices. These were delicious, but their flagship wine (not a Chianti, but rather in the


Tuscan mould)

was clearly faulty , on top of which the bottle we tried had a

gamey wildness to it, which I ­associate with northern Rh ône wines, and said so.

The producer looked a bit bemused by this,


said it was possible as some of the

Syrah in the blend was a northern Rhône clone. Score! That WSET Advanced Certificate (Distinction) wasn't just a fluke then.

The top-level Chianti showed very well, having a lovely sour cherry fruitiness and a good streak of acidity that makes Chianti what it is, along with a bit of modern fruit-forwardness that ensures a broad appeal. It was pricey, the sort of thing

we would only sell a couple of bottles of a month, but what the heck

A wine this delicious will sell on its own merits, surely? Well, that was my reasoning when I ordered it, but imagine my chagrin when I opened the case and got the first bottle out. Damn, that's an ugly label. No-one's going to pay fifteen quid for a wine with a label like that.

So, we've Blu

Tacked our own plain white labels on the front of the bottle, expounding the virtues of the wine, and apologising for the faux-Modernist art and layout of the label. That will make people look at it, for sure, and then the sale is halfway there.

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English wine: a happy harvest for Christmas

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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