On tastings...

There are few things that irritate me more than getting tasting notes from an exhibitor while I'm tasting their product. This, for me, is one of the cardinal sins of the alcohol industry and I believe that it turns away more people than it is supposed to attract. In my classes and at the tables, we taste in silence and then I provoke answers with questions; if still reluctant, I'll throw one note out there to seed the crowd. When someone says "sweet" I'll ask "sweet like what?" and take them down the path to their own discovery. This is called respecting the consumer.

Now, I'm industry and I get what's behind this: some people are hired on a contract basis to man a table and want to show that they're "doing" something to show their worth. Just stop it right now, please. Some people who are in love with their "knowledge" and "passion" are more than willing to pour that out without a slow-pourer: restrain yourself. Some people are following orders from someone from the brand standing next to them. To that brand person, either revamp your approach to the consumer or stay in the office. Some people are new and are being instructed incorrectly: here's your turning point. Some people think they need to "sell" and my response is "you know nothing about selling". And some people just really don't care because its not their own "brand". For them: please, spare me, stay home.

As industry, I'll sometimes ask someone not to speak while I'm tasting their product, especially if I've never experienced the brand before. Interestingly, that will sometimes provoke a different discussion in the way that provides more value. But for the ordinary consumer, they register it in a different way, and here's what's key to that: you've just intimated them. They may smile and thank you, they may agree with the descriptors and be surprised by it, but you've planted something in their brain that says to them "I don't know anything about this because I'm not a connoisseur and I don't want to look stupid, especially to a stranger" and you've lost them.

This industry is not about you. Its not really about the brand. Its about the end consumer and they're smarter than we'd like to give them credit for. Begin with the end in mind.