2 Mar 2013

Promoting wine in retail outlets

My work and other inclinations lead me to travel a bit and I am often struck by the fact that France, where I live and which is one of the major wine producers in the world, seems to singularly lack imagination, and even elementary good sense, when it comes to encouraging people to try and enjoy its wines in bars and restaurants. 

One of the best examples of this is what happens (or rather what does NOT happen) in the major rail-stations and airports in France, when compared with what I see in other countries. I have already spoken on this blog about the comparison that is to be made between the way wine is treated at both ends of the Eurostar rail link between Paris and London, as well as here about the too-often appalling way some restaurants and bars in France treat what should be a source of pride, customer satisfaction and revenue for them. Such people (and unhappily my example is far from unique!) are ignorant about the produce they sell and very poor at serving customers.

In London's St. Pancras station one can try up to 44 wines by the glass (and in proper wine glasses) in the wine bar, not to mention the separate Champagne bar. At Paris' Gare du Nord the wine selection is miserable and unworthy, and is served in glasses better suited to cleaning one's teeth. In Rome airport one can taste a good selection of wines by the glass, well served and with delicious snacks. I have yet to find anything like this in a French airport. Why this carelessness and lack of interest? A mystery! And one should remember that airports and rail stations are often people's first and last points of contact with a country and hence tend to leave a strong impression on tourists. And France earns big money from tourism. So what the hell are they waiting for?

If someone wants an idea, I tried out a wine bar in Atlanta's international airport a few months ago that has some good ones. Not only is this place well sited, but it has comfortable chairs for clients, a very decent and truly international wine list with a good selection by the glass, and quality glassware to match. And also a great additional promotional idea which is to propose small themed tastings of three different wines that use the same grape or come from the same region, or have some other link to make them comparable. There was a choice of four or five different themes the day I went through and I selected the syrah theme, which included an Australian, a Californian and a Chilean wine. The wines are presented on a small wooden tray with a paper undercloth that explains each wine and its origins. And the wines were excellent too. A perfect way to while away an hour between planes or when waiting to board. Wake up you French restaurant people!