The Good, Bad And Corked In Sales Pitches
I have been buying and selling wines for almost 20 years now, and a master sommelier since 2005. So, I have some experience with sales pitches for wine. Some have been quite compelling, and some have been simply stupid and hilarious.
Here are some of the top “worst” sales pitches I’ve ever heard. I have not shared these before but I am in a giddy mood, so I hope you enjoy them.
I was once in a sales meeting with about 60 other salespeople, and one of the wineries was presenting its three wines. They were all from the same grape and the same region, but three different price points. But it was obvious that the representative did not know anything really about the wines. She simply stated,
“The first one is picked when the grapes are under-ripe. The second one is picked when the grapes are riper. And the third wine is picked when the grapes are fully ripe.” I kid you not! One of my coworkers turned to me and asked me with a laugh, “REALLY?!”
I had one person tell me that I should buy the wine because “the wine is made on an island and you live on an island. It would be perfect for you.” I had to be polite and only laugh inside my head instead of asking him, “Did you really just say that?” I did not buy the wine.
I visited a winery once and was told that it was selling the most expensive dry rose in the business at the time. The sales director told me, “You don’t even have to taste it. I’m sure you’ll sell a ton of it in Hawaii.” I did laugh out loud that time. I’m not sure if he found that amusing or not … at the time. I did taste the wine, but never bought it. It was too expensive for the wine’s quality.
I once had a sales rep come into the restaurant where I was working and blind taste me on a Pinot Noir. He wanted me to guess where it was from and how much I thought it was worth. I guess he was trying to prove a point about the wine without me knowing its origin, price or any other context. I tasted it and it was corked! He said he blind tasted it with another person earlier and they thought it was high quality Burgundy. Only corked Burgundy smells and tastes like that.
Maybe the funniest one was I had someone come to me offering me the opportunity to feature a wine in the store I was working at as an exclusive. I tasted the wine and I thought it was mediocre, at best. When I indicated to him that I did not find the wine very interesting, he proceeded to offer me a 10 percent discount. I still said no. Then he said 20 percent off. No. Then he offered 30 percent off. The answer was still no. Then he started to insinuate that my palate was not very good and that I truly didn’t appreciate the complexity and quality of the wine. It’s never a good idea to insult the person to whom you’re trying to sell the wine, not that I have the best palate in the world. And on top of that, why offer me a discount?
When I buy wine, I always think of the quality in the bottle first. For me, that is the most important detail. But these sales pitches, funny or not, certainly don’t help.
Recommendation: 2012 Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc “Les Setilles” Chardonnay ($22) This is always in my top 10 values for white Burgundy and Old World Chardonnay, in fact, and the 2012 could be at the top of the list. The fruit this year is perfectly ripe, with bold flavors and a richness that is beyond its humble appellation. This is great for simply roasted chicken, sautéed mushrooms and fish with butter-based sauces.
Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier.