Their work day starts at 2:00 am. They begin processing late night orders from restaurants and bars so the shipments can be organized and ready to go by 8:00 am.
They arrive at 9:00 am. They review the cashier reports—matching registers with the computer system—and check the standing orders—comparing the numbers with sales for the last week, month, and year.
This is the world of wine. A backbreaking, data processing, and numbers crunching world. A world where there is almost as much cleaning as there is wine making in a winery. Where heavy lifting is a literal job requirement throughout the industry. Where numbers and logistics rule. Because it’s not just about the grapes; you need to have the fermentation tanks ready, the barrels ready, the bottles ready, the orders ready, and all the means to get everything from here to there ready. Where “freight on board” and currency exchange issues matter. Where the quirks of customs officials can make or break your delivery, possibly leaving your wine sitting in a hot warehouse.
But many sit and swirl and sip. And dream. To own a winery in Tuscany. Burgundy. Napa. Barossa. Tokaj.
Most people can’t afford it. And even if you were given a winery, the reality of agriculture and the competitive market would soon kick in. Where Mother Nature’s whims can wipe out a portion or all of your harvest and play with your sanity. Or a government policy change in a different country can devastate sales in your biggest market. Where you’re constantly bombarded with big and little questions: Are you using the right grapes? The right clones? The right yeast? The right production method? The right vessels? The right labels? The right marketing? The right transport? The right pricing? Will it storm after bud burst? During harvest? Will Phylloxera or powdery mildew or Pierce’s Disease or any number of pests and diseases kill the crop?
There’s a joke in the wine world: How do you make a small fortune in wine?
You start with a large fortune.
Most producers aren’t like those in Champagne, where it only takes 9 Euros to make a bottle of Champagne, yet they still charge a premium. (Think about that the next time you’re paying for that bubbly.) In fact, take out the high-end and icon wines and the rest of the wine world—from the grape growers to the producers to the distributors to the retailers—gets small margins. Really.
Why do people do it? Simple. They love wine. At least most people in the industry do. Because of that, they put up with the backbreaking, data processing, and numbers crunching work—the world of farming and logistics and marketing—because the final product is worth it.
And I think that is sexy.