This weekend I was asked by a friend to help pour wine in his shop. Located about 75 minutes north of Manhattan, roughly on the border of New York and Connecticut this retail operation is located in a decidedly middle class area and while they have a small but well selected higher end selection of wine the art majority of the wines on offer come in under $20 a bottles, reflected the realities of the market.

 

I was asked to pour, and of course promote a bit, a half dozen bottles of wine; five white wines and a a sparkler. The wines were as follows.

Casal Garcia Vinho Verde $9

 

Angeline Sauvignon Blanc $14

 

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier $14

 

DMZ Chardonnay $16

 

Leitz Eins Zwei Dry Riesling $16

 

Col Vetoraz Prosecco $15

 

What was a bit curious though was not the del;action of wines here, though in all honesty I am impressed with the selection which offers this stores clients a fabulous selection of great and interesting wines, along with all the usual suspects, in the price range their clients feel most comfortable staying within.

 

There is a lesson to be learned there of course, buy smartly, educate the customers who are interested in being educated and offer them enough variety that they can continue to learn about and explore wine while remaining your loyal customer. All worth noting of course but what I found most interesting this day was the sales breakdown for the wines we were pouring. Can you guess the breakdown?

 

First a few words about how the wines were presented and what I was talking about. The wines were mostly kept on the counter as we worked through them quickly, though the Casal Garcia, Angeline and Col Vetoraz all had multiple bottles visible on the counter in an ice bucket. I like all of these wines but having just returned from Portugal, where I actually visited Casal Garcia/ Quinto do Avellada I was probably the most enthusiastic about the Casal Garcia but my messaging on each wine was roughly as follows, and represents my honest opinion.

 

Casal Garcia Vinho Verde: Simple refreshment in a  glass.
 
Angeline Sauvignon Blanc: Solid sauvignon Blanc with more citrus and melon character than grassy aromas.
 
Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier: One of the greatest values every year, crisp yet fruity with a hint of flowers and spice. 
 
DMZ Chardonnay: A super fresh and subtly oaked Chardonnay that competes with many at twice the price. 
 
Leitz Eins Zwei Dry Riesling: Crisp, minerally, and lemony with just enough sugar to balance the acidity and keep this juicy and refreshing.
 
Col Vetoraz Prosecco: My favorite Prosecco, crisp yet creamy with lovely fresh fruit character and easy to drink.
 
So there I was, pouring away, happily chatting with customers, something I do admit to missing from me days in retail, and selling wine. I had in mind an idea of what might prove popular and what might be a hard sell but that didn't affect how I interacted with customers, and what I poured for them. I was just happy to walk them through the whole flight as I was to pour them only the Chardonnay, because that's what they like. At the end of the day a little clean up was in order, and a little feedback from my buddy the owner. So what did we sell? I was just a little surprised. 
 
 
You guessed already right?
 
Well here's roughly the ratio for wines sold:
 
Casal Garcia Vinho Verde $9: 4 bottles
 
Angeline Sauvignon Blanc $14:  4 bottles
 
Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier $14:  2 bottles
 
DMZ Chardonnay $16: 2 bottles
 
Leitz Eins Zwei Dry Riesling $16: 2 bottles
 
Col Vetoraz Prosecco $15: 3 bottles
 
For each bottle sold of the more expensive Chardonnay, riesling, or Chenin we had sold two bottles of the less expensive Vinho Verde or Sauvignon Blanc and one and a half bottles of the comparably priced Prosecco. I have to admit to being a little surprised. Given the national sentiment towards Chardonnay I would have thought the DMZ, which is quite a nice example of Chardonnay, particularly for the summer, would have sold more. In fact I expected it to be the top seller, after the Casal Garcia, i mean you can't ignore the effects of a crisp sip of Casal Garcia afar coming into the store on a 90 degree day, especially at its sub $10 price.
 
And then there was the Prosecco, which was a bit on the high side of this selection, but it all was what it was, and then I went back to the pouring bar to get my stuff and it struck me, all three of the top sellers were sitting right there, in the ice, well displayed, fresh and glistening! Could that display have played a subliminal part in people's choice that day? I would have to replicate the event to be sure but I have to say that in all likelihood it did. The Casal Garcia sold on price but the Sauvignon Blanc and the Prosecco were no cheaper than the rest of the wines, and to be honest I probably gave the sauvignon Blanc the least praise and yet there it was.
 
So what's the lesson here? There might be a few but the first is absolutely that your customers most likely are trusting their palates. I think and relayed the thought that both the DMZ and Pine Ridge are great values and yet my audience this day didn't really bite on that messaging. what they did bite on was seeing the bottles nicely displayed. Enticingly displayed given the weather. So when you're out in the trenches selling, feel free to regale your customers with your stories and opinions but don't be surprised if they just buy the bottle that is most attractive or attractively displayed. Don't take it personally, it's just how our brain is wired, but do try and take advantage of it! We actually sold one bottle more of the Leitz riesling than either the Chardonnay for the Chenin. Who'd of thunk?