The Heroes of Our Industry

A lot of people think that selling wine is easy. That selling an actual case, (12 bottles) let alone pallets of the stuff, is something anyone should be able to do as long as their product is good and the price is fair.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As long as I've been doing this, (something like 24 years now) I am still amazed at how damn hard it is to actually sell a case of wine. I'm talking wholesale here, not retail. While that's a challenge too, it's a different animal altogether as there's something special that happens when customers come visit the winery. For one thing they are generally happy, on vacation and EXCITED to taste our wines.  But the wholesale side is quite another matter. Buyers for restaurants, hotels, and liquor stores are generally a pretty tough crowd despite the fact that buying wine is supposed to be, well…fun!

Before I continue, I must confess an ugly secret. I stink at sales. This is not an exaggeration. While I'm a whiz at making small talk, telling “our story”, and tasting people on our wines, actually taking an order seems to require some other mysterious skill that I just haven't mastered, despite years of sales training and on the job practice!

And, I'm always humbled when I spend time in the market, which is exactly what I did for most of last week. We conducted what is known in the industry as a “sales blitz”.  This is essentially an all out attack to see how many customers we can see in a day  with our distributor sales rep. Who, in my book, are the unsung heroes of our industry. 

Unsung heroes. The people we can all thank for the availability of wine, as we know it today. The people who through sun, rain, sleet or snow make sure your favorite brands are available at your favorite establishments.

It takes a certain kind of person to flourish in this profession. For one thing, they need healthy hamstrings and knees. It's not easy getting in and out of the car 30 times a day. Patience is also key. So are comfy shoes and a positive outlook. (Think perma-smile, especially in the face of hearing “no”.) It helps too if they like coffee, since caffeine-induced enthusiasm can be enormously helpful while making the final sales pitch.

Most importantly, these special people need be able to put it all behind them. Because the next day, they'll hit the streets and start the process all over again…and again, and again, and again.

And that, my friends, is how hard it is to sell one case of wine.

| | Comments (2)


russell said:
February 13, 2009 1:02 PM

Thanks for your kind words to all the reps poundin' the pavement.
Two things come to mind while reading this - the first is when I applied for a sales position in the industry, I was coming off 5 years selling automotive plastics and was asked if I minded hearing NO! I just smiled and replied NO.
The second is the old adage the sale doesn't start until someone says NO!
Knee replacement cancelled for now, but . . . .

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
February 15, 2009 11:46 AM

Thanks for leaving a comment Russell. It's really true, the people who sell our wines are among the hardest working folks in the industry. Day after day, they make their account calls trying to get placements. And, with zillions of labels out there, it has become quite cut-throat...very different from the days when my folks used to sell wine out of the back of their station wagon. I have the utmost respect for anyone selling wine for a living these days. Thank goodness they can come home at the end of the day and pour a glass of something good. I bet you didn't get to do that in the automotive industry!

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Kim published on February 13, 2009 12:27 PM.

Nominate Your Favorite Wine Blog! was the previous entry in this blog.

A Night to Remember is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


This is a blog about what it's really like to be in the wine sit back, take a sip and enjoy!

about me

our wines

our winery

our events

contact me

privacy statement

favorite posts

A Lifetime in Wine

Top 10 Traits of the Successful Family Winery

The Dreaded Family Meeting

Board Meeting Jitters

Is the Future of the Winery in Danger?

The Case of the Overweight Bottle

Wine and Dementia

Wanted: Talented (Normal) Individual for Family Owned Winery

A Sea of Wine

The Heroes of Our Industry

monthly archives


Hopes & Dreams

Owning a Coastal Cottage

Sailing for 6 Months

Getting a 100 Point Score

Favorite Haunts

Coast of Maine

Dry Creek General Store

Dry Creek Kitchen

Healdsburg Bar & Grill


Sonoma Country Antiques

Baci Cafe & Wine Bar

The Farmhouse

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

Bad Ass Coffee

Bistro Ralph

Bits of Press

Food & Wine Magazine

The Wine News

Wine Enthusiast

Wine Spectator

Press Democrat

Sunset Magazine

Connoisseurs' Guide

Dan Berger's Vintage Experiences

Cruising World Magazine

Oprah Magazine

The Washington Post

Coastal Living Magazine

Wine & Spirits Magazine

People Magazine

SAG Awards Magazine

Forbes Magazine

Favorite Magazines

Coastal Living

Down East


Country Living

Quarterly Review of Wines

Wines & Vines

Wine Spectator

Wine Enthusiast

California Grapevine

Connoisseurs' Guide

Practical Winery & Vineyard


Vineyard & Winery Mgmt

Blog Buddy List


Hip Tastes

Pinot Blogger

All The Best

Julia Flynn Siler


Winery Web Site Report

The Pour - Eric Asimov

Dr Vino

Steve Heimoff

Start Up Ladies

Good Wine Under $20

Blind Muscat

The Wineroad Blog

Gabe's View

Wine Peeps

Vici Vino

Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk

Uncork Life

WineVine-Imports Blog

The Wine Witch


Honorable Mentions

Wilma Hits The World of Blogs
Most Intriguing New Wine Blogs of 2008
Midwest Wine Guy
Winery of the Month
Julia Flynn Siler
Meritage wines - and a fascinating glimpse into family business
Winery Web Site Report
New Winery Blog: Wilma's Wine World
Start Up Ladies
Insider's View of Family Owned Dry Creek Vineyard
The Glue that Keeps the Whole Thing Going
Atlanta Dish
Blog of the Week
Blind Muscat
The Merits of Meritage
Boston Wine Expo exhibitors, and the reason why winemakers are so darn happy