Wednesday 15 March 2023

Undocumented moments in wine: apparently I have to allocate mine

I’ve just started selling my wine for the second time in my life and I’ve come to some realisations. 

  • Allocations are not just for the type of winemakers I thought they were.
  • Winemakers who allocate their wines do so because they have to, not because they can.
  • Excel spreadsheets are as vital to a winemaker as, say, buckets.
  • I have over-sold my wine.
  • I can’t drink any more of my wine.

I’m not looking for sympathy — though I’m pretty sure this is the reason last week my friend built my first excel sheet (ty Théo!) — but I am still hoping someone will soon write the book on how all this stuff works. "The Novice’s Complete Guide to the Stuff You Should Know about Making Wine that’s not about Actually Making Wine" and yes I’m aware there are schools, thanks, I didn’t go.

Cue tiny fiddles, I know.

The Stuff I Should Know but don’t that I’m currently struggling with will be in the chapter on how not to seem the keeno who will sell to anyone, the asshole who sells to no one, or the idiot who clearly didn’t read the preceding chapter on recording stock (see pg. 1 ‘Excel’). While we wait, you can use me as Case Study 10000, subheading: Learn from real life mistakes [name has been changed to protect my identity]. 

While I'm here, I’d also like to make some requests. 

Let there be lists! Numbers, bullets, reminders, prompts. People like me need lists. My diet is garlic, chilli — and lists. I write stuff down even after it’s done for the satisfaction of crossing it off. I am a freak! And I'm sure I'm not alone. (Oh, add lots of olive oil). To-do lists and don’t do this-lists, I need them all. I wouldn’t even mind to have the same info re-iterated in both. Example 1.0 could go:

Do: attach price list when you ask your clients to please place their orders. 

Don’t: forget to attach price list when you ask your clients to please place their orders. 

Do: wait to hear back from your biggest buyers before you open your client list.

Don’t: open up your client list before you hear back from your biggest buyers.

I’d also like lists of ways how to say the things I want to say, but in a better, less honest, more professional way. Like, instead of ‘I was probably drunk when I said yes’, try ‘Farts! It slipped my mind, I’ll have to check’. Instead of ‘So actually you can ignore the mail I sent you three minutes ago asking what you’d like to buy (no prices attached) because I realise now that I have negative amounts of Gamay’ it would be better to say… what exactly? ‘Sorry sorry sorry I’m a n00b and I’ve overso—I mean, under-estimated demand for my wines I can note you down for next life but in the meantime how about some some volatile Chardonnay?’

General question: what’s worse, telling clients no then yes or yes then no?

Is it better to ship big and far to places I’ll never go (though ahem Vortex, waiting on that invite to Tokyo) than 12 bottles to places I can deliver myself? Is selling to four bars in the south of France selling to three too many? Does the same maths apply for a single arrondissement in Paris? To Switzerland which is polite, erudite, punctual and, looking at the order, thirsty; but if I’m to follow the advice and allocate proportionally: tiny? 

Do I reserve for my ‘non-wine friends’? To trade with my winemaker friends? I’ve already drunk a lot of traded wine on credit (to ‘trade’ in French is to ‘troc’); the bottles I owe are marked in red and BOLD in my stock.

Who do I work for if my work is unpaid and my wine over-subscribed so now I have to buy other people’s wine because I can’t afford to drink mine? Every year I say I’ll make a personal tank, not for sale but for me. What’s the difference of doing this and trying (and I’m failing) to hold back 12 bottles of each cuvée? Now there’s a price on my wine, the more I don’t sell, the poorer I’ll be (what’s funny is that when it’s still in tank you can drink what you want because somehow it still feels free).

To conclude: this is me announcing that from now on I will be allocating. This decision has been based on what my supply, demand, and other people tell me. I have learned from my own mistakes that it’s more stressful to let people tell you what they want than to tell them what they can have. I am afraid of my excel sheet. It is a mosh pit of colour with its boxes of green, caps, highlights, requests in one colour and reality another, double digit negative numbers, and it is SCREAMING AT ME. I have miscounted what I can give, underestimated what people want, and am genuinely grateful that anyone wants anything! Of course I’ve said yes. What’s ’12 de chaque’ in the scheme of things? 

Now I’m just waiting for someone to write the chapter on how to say not what I want, but honestly what I mean. That please forgive me, I wasn’t even drunk, and I'm trying to be respectful of what everybody wants, but I didn’t have excel and I'm not a professional and I thought I’d have enough because I’ve never made so much and that it’s totally my fault that your 12 has gone from reasonable to too much now the for-far orders of 120 de chaque are in. 

Email going out soon.

Love, a total no0b 

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