Foodie Friday, and this week our focus is on wine. Like many of you, I enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner. Over time, that can add up in terms of keeping the cellar stocked, so I try to find inexpensive, well-made bottles. I’ve found it’s not hard to find quite a few that retail for under $12. Some of the better wine I’ve been drinking lately actually doesn’t come in a bottle at all – it comes in a box.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you’ve never tried box wine, you’re not alone. Box wine represents less than 5% of all wine sold here in the USA. Compare that to 20% in Europe and nearly half in Austrailia. What do they know that we don’t? Maybe that each box is generally the equivalent of 4 bottles and it will stay fresh for 3-4 weeks after you open it due to the vacuum sealed bags that are in each box. Unless you drink a typical bottle in a day or two, it oxidizes and the taste can become funky, no matter how well you reseal it. But there is a broader business lesson here as well.
Box wine is a win-win for both the wineries and the consumer. The numbers I can find say that the cost to produce the box is less than the equivalent 4 bottles and the carbon footprint is less than half. It is way more convenient (try to carry 8 bottles vs. 2 boxes to your car). Obviously, it moves more wine while providing a great value. Why hasn’t it caught on here? Maybe because some producers focus on making the wine as cheap as possible which often results in an inferior product. As a great article from Food52 said on the topic:
In the U.S., boxed wine is plagued by associations with Franzia and college drinking games; when the technology first came out, cheap brands seized upon the budget vessel and filled it with contents that fully deserved the terrible reputation they gained. And the reputation has stuck.
We all need to think about the “bad actors” in our business segment. How are they screwing it up for the rest of us? Sure, it’s easy to say “well, they make the rest of us look good by comparison,” but the reality is that a significant percentage of consumers paint with a very wide brush. While I think we all know great, honest lawyers, auto mechanics, advertising professionals, etc, those businesses have terrible reputations.
Consumers now assume box wine is low quality and won’t buy it, and because they won’t buy it, producers hesitate to make it. It’s too bad that what is an obvious win-win becomes everyone’s loss due to a few bad actors.
This Foodie Friday we’re going to talk about wine. I realize some of you are not fans but I think a good glass of wine can enhance a meal much as finishing salt enhances the flavor of a perfectly ripe tomato (I have those on my mind these days as well!). I don’t think of myself as being very knowledgable about wine but I do know what I like when I’m drinking it.
(Photo credit: Uncalno)
One other thing I like about wine is the simplicity of it. You get a bunch of grapes, stick them in a solid container, crush them, and wait. In theory, the natural yeasts that float all around us should find their way into the juice and begin turning the sugar into alcohol. Strain it and it’s wine. Of course, it if was that simple, we wouldn’t refer to a winemaker‘s art. In fact there are lots of decisions the winemaker needs to make – what kind of grapes, what kind of container, at what temperature to keep the juice, what kind of yeast (if any) to add, how long to let it ferment, how long to age it, and even where to make it. All are factors that affect the final product. Which of course got me thinking about business.
Business at its core is equally simple. Create a product or service and sell it for more than it costs to make. Just as with wine, however, it’s all the decisions you take on the way that dictate how the final product turns out and what sort of success you have with it. Do you do what some wine makers do – try to create a flavor profile that is “popular” and go for big sales or do you make something that might sell less but be of a higher quality?
One thing about which you’ve heard me rant is being authentic. Bad wine uses wood chips and artificial flavors. Great wine coaxes out and maximizes the flavors inherent in the grapes. Be transparent too. That doesn’t mean giving away all the secrets about why your business – or your wine – is better. It does mean, however, that you don’t hide bad reviews and you admit when a vintage (or an outcome) isn’t everything you want.
Simple isn’t easy. Wine – and business – are simple at their core, but translating that simplicity into success is much harder. When it’s right it’s incredibly satisfying to me. To you as well?
Friday at last and while you might be expecting a lengthy piece on the history of corned beef for our Foodie Friday Fun approaching St. Patrick’s Day, I couldn’t really find any great business points buried in there. Oh sure, we could have a chat about multiculturalism since corned beef is a food staple in many cultures (and strangely it came late to the Irish culture and it’s really more American Irish than it is native to the Old Sod) but that seems a bit forced.
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
So for today’s Foodie Fun I want to think about blind tastings, specifically wine tastings. There have been many examples of unexpected results when all the trappings of a wine are taken away (big name, fancy bottle, vintage year, even what grape). The most famous of these if the Judgement of Paris which one could claim was the birth of the modern California wine industry and was commemorated in the movie Bottle Shock. In 1976, California wines were rated higher than many top French wines in a blind tasting held in Paris and judged by mostly French wine experts. Of course, these same judges believed it would be easy to spot the “inferior” California wines and had any one of them conducted the tasting and written the results on their own, they might have been laughed out of their profession. Which is, of course, the business point.
There is an old saying that no one ever got fired for buying (pick one – IBM, AT&T, Microsoft, etc.). It means no one gets fired for making the safe pick and choosing an industry leader. While there are other companies out there with better products or offer similar quality as the market leaders at lower prices, they come with the risk of ridicule should there be a problem. Speaking as an independent consultant I can tell you that bigger companies, where decision-making is often a group matter, seem to feel most comfortable hiring other big companies – you all know the top consulting firms. It’s an easy decision to justify. Too bad – if they were to taste us blind – have a telephone conversation with the people doing their work as well as to look at our fees – the might get the same or better outcomes at better rates. That’s not just in my field of consulting – many businesses overspend and get inferior results because they don’t do a blind taste test.
If you’ve got concerns about using companies other than the big guys in any field, raise those concerns directly with the firm that rated more highly even thought they’re not the brand name. Build the answers – service levels, delivery dates, etc. – into the contract. Ignoring your business palate when it’s telling you something is better – even if it’s a brand with which you’re unfamiliar – is silly. Who knows – you just might find a $10 bottle that puts the $50 swill to shame.
Image via Wikipedia
Well, the power finally came back on late yesterday after five days in the dark. It was an interesting departure from broadband internet access, cable TV, and hot water. More on that next week.
For now, as promised yesterday, here is the second of our business tidbits the personal energy crisis caused me think of. Since it involves a restaurant here in town, I thought it appropriate for our Foodie Friday Fun post. We were having to eat out since cooking on the stove (the gas still works) is hard in the dark and without a range hood the place is kind of smoky and smelly (in a good way, mind you!). In the process, I learned a little something. Continue reading