Raising the taste bar needn’t be a numbers game

By Guy Chatfield

AS any of you out there who have worked with me over the years will know, I am no stato; since I was a child, numbers have never been my strong suit.

Unfortunately for me, and those out there like me, there is no way we can get away from the hard fact that our lives are ruled by numbers.
In the wine trade of old, there always seemed to be a pretty nonchalant attitude to making money.
The jovial old boys in tweeds who peddled ‘perfectly good Claret’ to the bourgeois with a nod and a wink are a thing of the past – the constant discussions I have with my customers who demand a ‘sharper pencil’ would testify to that!
I’ve had to get better at the numbers side of things to survive – sometimes, I feel, only just!
That being said, I definitely feel we are losing sight of what is, for me, one of the key attributes wine offers: taste.
So many of the meetings I have had over the last two years or so have been focused on price.
In quiet moments with a strict embargo on who said what, honest buyers have intimated that what they’re buying to fill the entry level price point tastes like the proverbial vinous slurry.
So why are they putting it on their wine lists?
The simple answer is that many of our customers don’t give a flying Falanghina what they drink.
As long as all the flavour is chilled out of it, the majority of punters will not question the quality of the wine they are drinking.
My heart literally breaks at the thought of this!
What’s even sadder is that the longer we, the trade, continue to drive the price of the volume wines served through the floor, the longer this situation will go on.
Before you write me off as naïve, I’m totally aware of all the arguments of profitability and squeezed margins. I’m also aware that the multiple chains in both the on and off-trades are highly competitive. But until the stand is made to improve the general public’s palate through selling better wine this downward spiral will continue.
I don’t have the answers, but I just think that if there was a concerted effort to raise the bar, the numbers would prove it to be a good thing all round.

The Cork Dork Fact:

It takes cork trees 25 years to reach the maturity where they can be farmed for their bark.