As salespeople, we all strive to develop that elevator pitch. That 2 min or less, explainer on a wine or a winery, that validates it. Before you taste the wine, after you look at the label, there needs to a narrative that brings those 2 elements together, and ultimately, this is the variable that makes a salesperson great, or not. We try to tell the quick story, if its compelling. We try to talk about the methods, if they’re compelling. We try to talk about the what makes the winery or wine unique, if it’s compelling.
So, when we talk about some of the short hand elements, they need to be rooted in something tangible, replicate-able and easily explained. We need to be well-versed in the nuances of sustainability vs Organic vs Biodynamic vs Natural. We also need to understand the “why”, because each buyer is going to have a different standard as to which they hold these wineries, arbitrarily, or not.
If we deign to be that conduit of information, we also need to be accurate. Throwing out some of the aforementioned terms may help you sell something, but if they are inaccurate, it is a massive disservice to the people that ACTUALLY do the things you are saying your producer does. It also confuses the issue for the buyer that is trying to find the through thread of a process in style (spoiler alert-there may not be one).
Further muddying things, may be the Headline grabbing article about 99% of Sonoma is now certified sustainable. That’s a pretty lofty achievement… or is it? First off-This is an incredibly important goal to strive for, especially with the part 2, set to address climate change and impact. BUT, what is their version of sustainable? To simplify, they took 4 existing sustainable standards (California Sustainable Winegrowing alliance, Fish Friendly Farming, Sustainability in Practice and Lodi Rules) and allowed the usage of “Sonoma Certified” if you meet the standards of ANY of these 4 certification programs. Critics argue that this allows for many pesticides that are considered NOT SUSTAINABLE, including Glyphosate (carcinogen) and neonicotinoid pesticides (shown to contribute to colony collapse).
This makes for a very nice press release, and again, it’s aspirations are laudable. The criticism I’d volley, is that, for something, this aspirational, shouldn’t the entire industry get onto the same page, before declaring any victories, at least agreeing to what the standards should be, industry-wide? Are the standards too low, that everyone can walk into certification within 5 years, i mean, there are a lot of wineries in Sonoma? I worry, when we tell the story of sustainability, it may stop being something important and specific. We need accuracy to tell the story, if the measures are heroic.