Interview with Philip Goodband MW
France has lost its first place to Italy in export markets although there are some regions such as Languedoc where they have adopted New World strategies. On the other hand New World countries such as Australia are trying to increase their profitability through regionality. What should be next?
This is a big question. The future for France in my opinion is not to adopt the New World strategies. The future for France is to adopt some of those successful strategies such as marketing by grape variety for wines at a more budget level. And to concentrate on the strengths which are things like appellations, the actual terroir, aspects of wine, the unique features they have and they have built over many centuries. So, they should not throw them away. They should do more in the unseen quality of those appellations. And then marketing more successfully with the consumer.
They produce wine and believe they can sell but it is not the reality.
Right, the heritage and the history of French winemaking is about, “well, this is what we have always made and this is what we have, do you like it or not.” They should be more interactive with the consumers finding out, well, what you like within the parameters of the appellation. How can we adopt this to wines that you might like? And simple things like how do we manage the astringency and tannin in the wine to make it more attractive to people. French wine has these characteristics, has these attributes, has great heritage of appellations and that’s where they should focus more in premium wines. But at the mass market level they should use the new world strategies of marketing with the grape variety shown on the label. Because in most instances in the past they did not put that on any label. In many instances they didn’t have the description of the wine, the grape variety or indeed any information in a language that consumer could understand that. So there is a marketing job to be done. That’s very simple, you just put some information on the label.
But they don’t do it, even though it is very simple. Why?
Because they felt they were in unassailable position, if you like arrogant, they say “ok, we are French and people will eventually come and buy our wine.” That’s no longer the case. The world has changed, the generations have changed and they need to understand they are in competition with a lot of other people around the world. So, the intelligent people are already making those changes. And it is not difficult, I am not suggesting that they make completely different wines but two things; they adapt to the broad consumer’s taste, and they market the wines better. They communicate better and the easy way to do that is on the label. So, those are two things they could do to change that and they are beginning to do that. So France is in a period of transition I would say.
Do you think the things will be better after this period?
Yes I do. I think things will be better. Because a lot of very poor quality that was being produced under the old EU system is and will disappear. You mentioned the Languedoc, they’ve done it in Languedoc, we already see that happen. They are beginning to sell very well. Because quality-price ratio is good.
In traditional wine producing countries as a result of a change in consumer behaviour of younger generation how will EU deal with their wine surplus?
The EU wine surplus is being dealt with already. The change in common agriculture policy is to encourage people to uproot vineyards. Because no longer do they receive any subsidy for producing poor wine. As in 2012 it stops. So, no more subsidies for cheap wine. A lot of people already uprooted their vines. Therefore the production will go down. The real change is in getting people to produce better quality. This is the answer to the wine lake, the surplus. Because if you get people to pull out their vines, where they’re making poor wine, that’s a lot of wine that no longer will produced. Secondly, if you get those people who have good locations to produce better quality, inevitably the volume goes down. As the quality goes up the volume goes down. So, that’s the second thing and this is true in France, Italy and Spain.
Beer and Vodka seems to be king for younger generation. What can be done to make young people involved in wine consumption?
This is a big challenge because wine is now in competition with everything that you see in a bar. Whether it is vodka, beer, cocktails, no alcohol ready to drink mixed drinks, wine is in competition with all those things. First of all, wine is good with food, that’s a good way to connect. Secondly, to make wine accessible in different formats, wine should be available in small bottles, it should be available in tetrapaks.
It is available in plastic glasses in London
Yes, in Marks&Spencers. These are all techniques that I think should be used by wine. And cans, wine in cans. Many countries where they have no heritage of wine drinking there is no obstacle to drinking wine from a can. So, there are many ways attracting the younger generation. It depends which social level and which price level the wine is situated. That’s one way of getting the younger generation involved. Then as they move up, wine and food at home and of course in restaurants, but especially at home they need to be attracted and therefore not to have obstacles put in their way. The wine business is very complex and complicated. So, communication on the label and on the list and promotional tags on the shelves all have to be better. They have to be more attractive and easily accessible to that generation.
Within the context of economics of wine business is it likely in your opinion that China being in first place are to dominate market?
I think a lot is talked about China. China is a huge market, many many millions of people. But at the moment it is a very confused market. The thing is we don’t know very much yet about the Chinese market and the way Chinese market may develop. There have been a lot of noise about expensive Chateaux which have been bought by people who have lots of money and simply they want to buy something as a trophy. If we talk about the market in generally, we have to remember China does not have a wine culture. Therefore it will be many years before they have enough knowledge to be able to buy with any kind of real knowledge. At the moment a lot of wine is being sold to China. No one knows where it is going. Is it being drank, is it being traded between people, is it being stored in the hope they will make the profit later? There is a big lack of knowledge. So, I honestly do not know whether China is going to be as significant market as people think.
Do you think England will become a wine producing country because of the climate changes? I mean not only in sparkling wine.
(Laughings) I don’t know, it could be. To be realistic England will always be producing relatively small. If climate changes continues to give us more good vintages than bad every ten years, let’s say, gives us seven good vintages out of ten, then England will definitely produce more wine. England may become like New Zealand, maybe. Already we are showing some very high quality sparkling wine. That would be something we can do very well. If climate change continues maybe we could be a very good producer of still white wine as well.
The tasting panels designed by Generic Promotional bodies seem to be intensive and tiring campaigns. Tasters are expected to taste too many samples per unit of time. Is there an alternative to this?
Ultimately we are talking about wine. Wine has to be tasted and evaluated. I think it’s up to the individual taster to decide how many wines they can sensibly taste. Because each one of us you and I, we are different. In my view in the morning or afternoon about 60 wines is maximum. But there are some competitions and some panels where they have to taste more than sixty. I think that’s frankly, my view is, too difficult.
This could cause incorrect decisions.
Yes, there is a risk. None of us have a monopoly of wisdom. That’s where I think these ratings, people like Robert Parker’s or whoever’s it is, there may be indications they should never be taken as 100% fact. And the panels need to be managed in such a way that you are not asking the tasters to taste too many wines at any one day. I mean the en-primeur tastings in Bordeaux are just impossible. You can only form a very rough thing, you can’t make a definitive judgment. You cannot do that. All you can do is to rate the wines and say: my view is; I’ve been through them all and this one is 5, this one is 8, this one is 7, on the basis of my taste on that day.
And then you should evaluate them again.
Yes, then you have to look at them again. And that’s what we have done today. We looked to the 2010 vintage. To look at them again gives you a clear idea. That confirms what I said or I am disappointed with that or that wine is fantastic. So, it is always an ongoing assessment and you can never have the right answer at the beginning. Because wine changes all the time in bottle. It changes because it is a wine, because of its storage conditions, changes because of how I am feeling. I may be having a rough day, I may have too many things on my mind. Panels are useful; they are indications. But be careful in the ratings, always be careful.
How do Masters of Wine impact the wine industry? In some countries such as Gerece there is only one Master of Wine. Is it possible to measure their contribution to wine marketing?
No, it is not possible individually except in well known cases. Like Jancis Robinson, for example, where you can say she is hugely influential. As a group I would say we are influential and we have a reputation. You only have to look at the number of people who want to become Masters of Wine to realize that is a fact. At the moment we have about 300 Masters of Wine. There are now today more than 300 people studying to be a Master of Wine. That is the first time we have had more students than members of the institute. I think that says everything.
In what areas of wine do you think Turkish wine industry should improve itself and how do you reckon?
The Turkish wine industry is not well known. I think the government in Turkey is on the one hand want to encourage wine industry but on the other hand politically can’t, so the taxes you pay are very high and that is a disincentive.
And also it is not allowed to sell wines through internet anymore
That makes life very difficult. I think in terms of Turkish Wine in the UK, if I speak about the UK, it needs to promote itself in the way it has; you have asked journalists to come to Turkey, you have had tastings in London Wine Fair. I think you have to continue, these things are not activities that can be just done once, you have to continue and to continue. Because you build a reputation.
I think the opportunity from now, is for Turkey to decide at which level to reach its price level. In my view there is no future in trying to sell wine cheaply. Therefore the wine quality has to be a focus. They have to seek advice from people who know about style, they have to understand their consumers. Turkey has to adopt a little bit to make the wines attractive to their target audience. So, it is an ongoing communication of the trade, changing and adapting to give a more accessible style and not to be too worried about having unfamiliar grape varieties. So, if you sell them in premium level with high quality, they become much better in value and people who again to buy them will be people who are really interested.
Thank you very much for your time.
That’s my pleasure, I hope you found it interesting.
Very much so, thanks.