Teaching consumers about wine, one person at a time

wine education
Rose? Who’d have thought?

The Wine Curmudgeon embarrassed himself on Saturday, but it was for a good cause.

A 20-something woman was buying wine at one of Dallas biggest retailers on Saturday, trying to make sense of what was on the shelves in the rose section. Fortunately for her (or not, as the case may be), I was nearby, talking to one of the store’s employees. The result? A lesson in wine education.

“You should have seen your eyes light up when we talked to her,” said the employee, who will remain anonymous so he can keep his job. “You looked just like a little kid you were so excited.”

And why not? The woman needed wine for a coed baby shower, and she left the store with a dozen bottles – six roses, three reds, and three whites, all around $10. I’m not sure who was happier, the woman because she got lots of great wine without paying too much, or me because she was open, eager, and willing to do something besides buy more premiumized California chardonnay.

Yes, I made suggestions (and kept apologizing because I didn’t want to get in the employee’s way), and yes, she bought WC favorites Texas rose and Gascon white. Mostly, though, I was curious about what the woman wanted to do, part of my fascination about how consumers buy wine. The Winestream Media could care less about that; it’s too busy telling us what to buy without consideration of price or palate. Big Wine does focus groups to find out what kind of wine we want to drink, but that’s different from the actual buying process.

And she wanted to learn. She wanted to know what she could buy that would make the group happy, taste good, and not cost too much money. And when the employee found her those wines, she was eager to try them – so eager, in fact, that she was planning a taste comparison between the Texas and French roses. This is what happens when you talk to consumers instead of talking down to them and when you find out what they like instead of trying to confuse them so they’ll buy something that you want to sell them.

And the three of us had a laugh when the woman said the “real” wine drinkers in the group were bringing their own bottles to the shower. Which means they’ll miss drinking some great, cheap wine.

Finally, my thanks to the employee, and not just because he didn’t throw me out of the store. He was everything a great wine sales type should be – he was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and respected the customer’s wishes. This contrasts with a dreadful experience I had the day before at another retailer, where I was treated rudely because I was confused by the pricing, where the same employee led another customer on a winespeak merry-go-round to sell her junk she didn’t need as I was walking out the store.