The Oenophiliac

Bringing you stories from the world of wine and beer.

VIDEO: why the wine trade must engage consumers

The wine trade faced up to some tough accusations last week – wine aisles are “boring”, in-store signs are a “nightmare” and “wine speak” alienates consumers.

That was according to a line-up of marketing and FMCG experts from outside the industry who spoke at the first consumer forum, jointly hosted by Harpers and consumer website WineOption in London.



The forum kicks off Harpers’ Get Engaged campaign, which will focus on helping the trade talk to consumers in a better way.

Andrew Marsden, grocery marketing consultant, said wine aisles in supermarkets were “boring” with “little theatre” and “look like you’re shopping for detergent, only it’s intimidating – we’ve done exams and talk in a language consumers don’t understand”.

“It’s unbelievably difficult to shop,” he said, adding that the trade forgets about basic selling principles, to sell the benefits, rather than features. “We sell wine by colour, country of origin and whether it has bubbles, but it causes confusion over the sheer number of products.”

Olivia Ocaña, chairman of the Big Wine Festival which hopes to attract 120,000 consumers to its June event, said it would “offer something for every consumer”, including families and children, as well as selling wine and collecting data on customer preferences and purchases.

Tony Dann, president of ConeTech, which uses spinning-cone technology to produce lighter-style wines, accused the trade of “shortsightedness” – instead of thinking of the future it was “cynically” focused on cheap deals, and was “ignoring the billion-pound” lighter-drinking category.

Helen McGinn, who blogs at Knackered Mothers Wine Club, asked her readers for their top complaints about the wine trade – they responded by saying they felt alienated by “wine speak” and thought in-store signage was a “nightmare”.

Responding to criticisms of supermarkets, Waitrose buyer Andrew Shaw said grocers need “a groundswell of support from the supply base” to help them better engage with consumers. “It’s easy to buy wine and make wine, but selling it is the biggest challenge,” he added.

Story by Gemma McKenna

Courtesy of Harpers Wine & Spirit Trades Review


As a seasoned wine retailer the topics above struck a chord with me, especially the area of ‘Wine Speak’.

One of the reasons I started my blog was to try and simplify wines, including terminology.

Like so many people in the wine trade we have had the benefit of training, the general public haven’t. When I engage a customer in conversation I ascertain, via dialogue, the level of knowledge they may or think they may have. This then allows me to dictate how I proceed in the conversation.

Growing up and watching programmes like ‘Food & Drink’ made understanding wines difficult. We used to laugh at the metaphors being televised. Great if you’re in the trade, somewhat arrogant if you’re not. Back in those days, watching Jilly and Oz run their pieces was comical but at the same time had you thinking…Duh!! What!!?

It can be nice but a touch egotistic.

 16 years in the trade have taught me that people will run if you bamboozle them with too much info.

In short, before opening your mouth, remember who you are talking to. Keep it short and simple yet at the same time educate your listener. They will appreciate it more later.


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This entry was posted on December 2, 2011 by in News..

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