GEORGE BALLING: The power of communication

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Back when I was still working in my first career the founding partner and CEO of the firm I worked at pulled me aside after a meeting and said, “you really should spend some time talking one on one with” one of my colleagues, “you will be surprised how much better things will go once you start communicating.” Throughout both my careers I have taken nuggets of information from those I worked for and with, this one is an idea I still hold dear. The CEO of our firm was right things really do go better when those we work with, for, and customers and suppliers communicate.

It is true in the wine business as well as most other pursuits. On the supplier side some of our best relationships and best selling items come from those we have been fortunate to spend some time with. Time getting to know their wines and what goes into them. When we understand all of the decisions that go into producing wine from fruit sources to vinification techniques to adjusting approach for the vintage, we are better able to match a bottle of wine with a customer. This communication is what gives us true knowledge, beyond information, the knowledge that allows a deep understanding of the products.

The most important communication though is between a customer and their favorite wine professional. We recommend that consumers get the lion’s share of their wine from one shop. In addition to getting access to the best and most sought after wines it affords you the chance to get wines you like on a consistent basis.

Human nature might cause a wine consumer to just not go back to a shop where they have purchased a bottle that did not meet their expectations. I would suggest though that is a place you want to go back to. But here is the rub… You have to communicate, tell the wine professional what you didn’t like about the bottle you bought and be specific as you can. When I am working with customers I always learn more about their palate based on what they don’t like than on what they do. This is the knowledge base that develops that helps you get a bottle of wine you like nine times out of ten. It is also why we invested in a system that remembers every bottle each customer has ever bought.

We recently met a new customer who ironically enough lives just down the street from us. We made that connection quickly as an aside, but what has been so rewarding for us in this new found relationship is that our customer has been very good and very specific about letting us know which wines work for them and which don’t. From the first time they came into the shop they have been articulate about their limited experience with wine, and their ability to describe it using wine “speak,” but they have also said they wanted to learn more, and understand what they like and don’t so they can purchase wine with confidence.

Their willingness to talk to us about what they like and don’t has not only made for a rewarding relationship it has made our job easy! When you start talking to a wine professional don’t be intimidated, we all start our wine journeys from different spots and at different times in our lives. We come at it from different life experiences and with varying palates. Worry less about using wine “speak” and just explain what you like and don’t with each bottle. Chances are most every wine professional who is good at their job has started in a similar place to you and has used the non “wine geek” terms you are using to describe a wine, from “yummy” to “kind of thin” and from “bitter” to “stinky” we have all had that same feeling about a wine.

While none of us really wants to drink a bottle of wine we don’t like, trying some that are not our favorites is part of the trip and can truly help refine your choices to get the right bottle for you most of the time. As wine professionals our goal is always to get you wine you like, and like a lot so just as my former boss used to say “start communicating you will be surprised how much better things go!”

If there is a topic you would like to read about or questions on wine you can email George@thedinnerpartyshop.com or make suggestions by contacting the Healthy Community section at the Coeur d’Alene Press.

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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party — a wine and table top décor shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. George has also worked as a judge in many wine competitions; his articles are published around the country and is the wine editor for Coeur d’Alene Magazine (www.cdamagazine.com). You can learn more about the dinner party at www.thedinnerpartyshop.com. You can get all of these articles, as well as other great wine tips by friending us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.

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