When you make and/or sell wine for a living, you accept the fact that you most likely will need to submit your products to wine publications, competitions, newspapers and bloggers for review. You don’t have to submit your wines to these entities. There is no statutory law that says you have to submit your wines for review. But there is a much larger law at work…the LAW OF THE MARKET.
Brands can be successful without submitting to this third party scrutiny. However, it is much harder for a brand to gain traction and ultimately become successful if they don't submit their product.
I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with the business reality that I make and sell a product that I have to submit for third party validation in hopes of receiving high scores, gold medals, wine of the week features and lots of favorable social media buzz.
What I LOVE…
- I LOVE the fact that the largest wine companies in the world have to submit their wines exactly the same way I do. It is one of the few times (and perhaps only) that I have a level playing field against the larger companies. No matter how much marketing, advertising or sales dollars a large company spends, a high score, gold medal, or favorable review provides me with the most powerful argument to a distributor/retailer/restaurateur that my wine is worthy of their time and shelf space. I have the best marketing that money can’t buy...objective third party validation.
- Third party validation is a critical component in the wine category. There are few consumer products in the “consumable” category that have a “review” structure that carries the weight of the wine structure. Go through a grocery store and look at the shelf talkers, case cards and internal points of sale information on wine compared to any other product in the store. It’s overwhelming.
- As anyone who sells wine in the $12-20 retail price point will tell you, the most powerful marketing tool you have is a 90 point or greater score from a major wine publication. Some wine shops have entire sections devoted to 90 point wine. It can turbo boost the awareness and success of a brand, even if it is only for one vintage.
What I HATE…
- Wine is a subjective product. Subjectivity and human nature make for interesting scores, competition results and article comments. I have scratched my head over low scores and underwhelming competition results on some wines that I thought were really good (don’t fall in love with your own product, it leads to your own subjectivity issues). Unpredictability is not the friend of any business.
- Our entire industry has become too sensitive to the “90” point score. Hey, didn’t I just say that was the most powerful marketing tool in the industry? Well, yes I did. But I hate the fact that if a wine receives an 89, the impact of the score is tremendously diluted. 1 point? Really? That’s harsh. Even my old high school history teacher Ms. McCarthy would bump me to 90 for an A- (who am I kidding, she couldn’t stand me).
I look at the entire “third party validation” structure like I look at my favorite Golden State Warrior, Draymond Green. If Draymond is on your team, you love him. You love the passion, the relentless energy and the competitive fire. If Draymond is on the opposing team, you probably hate him and think he should have been suspended by the NBA earlier in the playoffs.
When you get a great score, a gold medal or favorable article you appreciate that we have such a deep and far reaching third party validation system in the wine business because it helps introduce consumers to our products. I will let you imagine what we think when we get a substandard score, no medal or bad write up!
Human nature is a bitch…no wait, that’s what Draymond called Lebron.