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Monday Manifestos
Relevance Measured At Varying Price Levels

By Stephen Eliot

We get more than our share of press releases, bulletins and otherwise useless annoucements from and about those in the business of wine cluttering up our electronic mailboxes every day. Every now and then, however, an entry stands out and beckons a second, serious look. A fascinating piece showed up in my inbox at the end of last week that set me to further thinking on the issue of “relevance” in the contemporary wine scene.

In our last CGCW post, Charlie questioned the usefulness of the latest wine buzz word, “relevance”, and those who might see it as some absolute trait that defines a wine’s worth. Relevance, he reasonably concluded, is in the eye of the beholder, and every wine drinker is fully capable of deciding what is or is not relevant to them. Well, it seems that there is at least one new set of metrics that just might measure what “relevance” means in the realm of restaurant wine sales.

It turns out that the new tablet wine app called Tastevin developed by Labrador Omnimedia not only provides management tools for restaurant wine sales, inventory management and the like, but the sales data it tracks and collects is leading to some eye-opening conclusions about diner preferences when it comes to buying a bottle or a glass with dinner.

It seems that patrons of lower-priced restaurants, defined as those whose entrées are priced between $10 and $30, preferred red wines, in particular blends, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir while sales of Malbec and Prosecco were significant as well. At medium-priced eateries, those with entrées running between $31 and $60, Chardonnay emerged as the top varietal wine by the glass, while Cabernet Sauvignon led in sales by the bottle, and those dining in the priciest places, where entreés cost over $60, favored sparkling wines and Chardonnay.

It is fairly clear that what is “relevant” to one set of diners is less so to another, but the bigger story here might well be how such relevance ultimately becomes a sales tool and, perhaps, permanent.

"This opens a new window on wine sales on-premise in America," says Janeen Olsen, wine marketing professor at Sonoma State University, and co-author of Wine Marketing and Sales. "This is exactly the kind of information wineries and restaurants need to make smart marketing and sales decisions in the future."

Now, meeting demand is paramount in any business, but it seems to me that tightly embracing such data necessarily perpetuates the status quo, and it has always seemed to me that the business of food and wine is one that thrives and finds its own relevance in being ever new.

Relevance is many things to many people, the restaurateur, the wholesaler, the winery and the wine drinker, and it defies summary definition.

The more I think about it, in fact, the less relevant the word “relevant” becomes. I confess that what is suddenly relevant to me is a couple of aspirin and another cup of coffee to combat the headache that thinking about it has caused.


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by Michael Colarusso
Posted on:4/1/2013 7:36:46 PM

I have been a subscriber since the early '80's, have a cellar, and am lucky enough to be a one percenter.  I simply can't bring myself to pay the freight these days for just about every wine in the latest issue of CGCW.  I'll find something else to drink.  If wineries are scaring off people like me due to pricing, how can this be a viable business model?

Wine Biz--Viable?
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:4/2/2013 12:13:12 AM


Two quick comments.

--The latest issue contains more than a few good values. It is those wines that most of us drink on an everyday basis.

Prices are racing ahead of people's ability to pay for the wines they used to drink. That has been going on for decades now. But somehow, with the expansion of wealth in this country and abroad, there is very little evidence that the biz is losing its viability at the high end.

Ooops. Make That Michael.
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:4/2/2013 12:14:22 AM

Apologies re the name.

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