Thursday, July 30, 2009


I am finding my opinion ship is drifting into familiar waters yet again. Just when I have become comfortable with the big Leviathan of the wine world - Southern Wine & Spirits - I am being told that just after the creation of a fourth division within the company, the three previous divisions of SWS here in Kentucky were Crane (mainstays are Fosters, MMD, Pasternak, part of Constellation, Ste. Michelle and Estates), Crown (Empson, Palm Bay, another part of Constellation, Pernod Ricard) and Bluegrass (Diageo and LVMH). Number four was created for Beam Estates. Now, number five represents the new consolidated Constellation Brands (what was represented by rival RNDC of Kentucky, as well as from both Crane and Crown divisions).

5 separate sales reps for one company? That is suppose to be good customer service? This is a joke right.

Apparently not.

Why should this matter to you? I like to think of myself and my wine department here at LD as a buffer, shielding customers from unnecessary bullshit and bad wine. My guy Alfonse says it best when he tells the customers, "we taste all the bad wine so you don't have to." However, in an age where time is a commodity we have less and less of each day, the suits up the distribution line think it smart to clog things up further by giving me more portfolios to wade through, and more sales reps to find time for - not what you would call sound, efficient business, but what about the three tier system is actually logical, right?

What infuriates me the most about this is that there isn't a damn thing I, or any of my competitors can do about this. We are, in laymens' terms, screwed.

I don't want to be a Republican or Democrat about this and start bitching before anything has actually changed yet, but having been in this business for some time, and while remembering when Diageo did this brilliant move maybe 10 years ago - arguably the dumbest thing ever executed in this business to date, forcing wholesalers to create a separate division within whatever house they were in, hiring morons for a sales force, and jacking up prices so only a handful of supermarkets wanted anything to do with their brands. (You smell that? It must be those f'n sour grapes again!)

I was reading Steve Heimoff's blog today, and he continues to stir the proverbial pot with another "painting wine bloggers with a bad brush stroke" post. I stated I wasn't going to blather on about it and just do what I do and not worry about the naysayers, but, man, Steve - you need to prove nothing to the wine world - why keep going on about this crap? Seriously. You are one of the few wine writers who will maintain their relevance in the future because you live in both the print medium and the virtual one. Just keep doing what you do and it will all shake out in the end.

Got an invitation to attend this year's Road Trip Washington Wines - Washington State's version of Oregon Pinot Camp, where wineries host a group of rag-tag wine industry types (retailers, wholesalers, restauranteurs and the like) to experience firsthand all the great things that Washington state wines have to offer. I haven't gotten the full itinerary yet, but having spent years earlier on, envisioning a little town of Prosser, WA as the place I'd hoped to retire (before the cost of a house their went through the roof), I can't wait to see it all. Due to depart in October, for 4 days of blog and Twitter fodder.

Most of the blogging world is returning to normal as most of my blogging brethren are returning home from the second American Wine Bloggers Conference (representation locally came from Cheap Wine Ratings' Tim Lemke and My Wine Education's Kevin Gerl). Gathering from all the various tweets from the more infamous of wine bloggers, a good time was had by all. The next WBC was announced, and unlike the previous two (which were held in California), next year's is in, you guessed it, Washington State. Yee-haw! I am there.

The next couple of days are a bit harried so I probably won't be posting until Monday. I've got a supergroup to talk about, alongside Tequila and a bit of Burgundy.


tempusvin said...

Did you really mean to call all of us on the various sales teams out here "morons", or was it just aimed at a specific few. Regardless, we usually work hard, do the best we can, and we don't get to make these decisions. They are forced on us the way that they are forced on you. We make the best of them. Maybe spend less time blogging and more time tasting all that bad wine so that your customers don't have to?

k2 said...

No, it isn't a blanket categorization by any means. No, what I was saying was that the reps that Diageo hired in their beginnings as a division (I have dealt with them with Glazer's in OH and SWS in KY)were apparently just bodies - and when it comes to SWS, the expectation of being provided with sales reps that know at least something about wine (due to the large number of Master Sommeliers in their employ) is quite high. Maybe that is unfair, maybe not. The point I was trying to make is that the wholesalers are master complicators, and by forcing more sales reps from the same company on me, I am angry and annoyed at that prospect. I have a number of sales reps that work really, really hard, not just for our stores, but for all of their accounts. But in the case of SWS, I have already had issues with 4 sales reps, and have had to have them removed from our account. We they morons, perahps that is too harsh. But were they difficult and exasperating, hell yeah! I mean you and all the other hard working sales reps out there no disrespect. Yet in SWS's case, when the megacorp keeps making things more difficult, when they should be simplifying things (which is more efficient and cost-effective), I am at a loss for anything other than contempt.