The Grapevine

Educating Your Wine Shop Customers – Does Vintage Really Matter?

January 27th, 2016

Of course vintage matters. But why? [level-members]

It’s so basic a question that I’d be willing to bet a lot of wine people would have to think a moment before answering. You can see them cocking their heads a bit as they try to sort out why that’s not the stupidest question they’ve ever heard.

But then you have to get into the reasons vintage matters and that gets more complex. While someone truly uninitiated into the world of wine might think vintage, being a year, is all about age, we know that’s not it at all. It’s about what that year was like. Hot, cool, wet, dry, steady, immoderate … the growing conditions that are so critical to how a wine tastes are really what “describe” a vintage.

And, again, that might seem ridiculously obvious, but remember two things.

  1. Not everyone is as knowledgeable about wine as you are.
  2. An enormous percentage of consumers in this country are disconnected from the agriculture.

Yes, wine comes from grapes, just like beef comes from cattle, but beyond that, they don’t think beyond the shrink-wrapped package they pick up in the supermarket or the bottle (or box) they pull from your shelves.

So you may make more progress in talking about growing conditions and the variability of any agricultural production in explaining why vintage matters. Even better is setting up verticals across a few typical and atypical vintages for reasonably priced wines that are not mass-produced. (Those big-label wines being much more consistent from year to year, of course – for better or worse …)

In other words, use the whole idea of ‘vintage’ not as some pie-in-the-sky concept but as the more prosaic farming reality it is. Doing so is another way to create real passion and enthusiasm among your customers. When you’ve really got ‘em excited, you can dive into the whole world of non-vintage wines and back-blending.