In my visits to cellar doors, I’m coming to the conclusion that there are basically four types of cellar door visitor. This is by no means conclusive – I think there is much more work needing to be done: my advice to cellar door staff:

Gammas – Typically couldn’t care less what you tell them or what they’re drinking. Half the time they are not even sure where they are. They are on a day out, they want to have fun and somebody suggested doing wine tasting. They actually prefer cider, but who cares. If they are at all interested, they ask questions along the lines of “Do you make the white wine from the grapes before they turn red?” – good logic, but displays a stunning lack of knowledge about grape physiology (or does it?). They might buy a bottle by accident. Cautionary note about Hen Parties – they look like a bunch of glamorous Gammas, but lurking in their midst are almost certainly a couple of Betas and possibly an Alpha.

Betas – Love your Betas, talk to them and give them generous tasting measures. Betas are people who are developing a genuine interest in wine, but who perhaps don’t feel that they know enough about it all to be confident in their own judgements. A tell tale sign of a Beta is a visible copy of a guide book – a Halliday, Oliver or Decanter.  Treat them well no matter how silly the questions may seem. They will buy a couple of bottles and may become a really good long term customer.

Alphas – Beware the Alpha. Never ask an Alpha if he or she wants to taste – they wouldn’t be at the cellar door if they didn’t. The only exception to this is if they are there to see the wine maker, who they probably know, in which case they wouldn’t be talking to you anyway. You can ask what they would like to taste. Alphas approach cellars doors with very specific goals in mind. Do not wax lyrical about “buttery aftertastes” or “floral notes” – an Aplha would have picked them up the moment you poured the tasting measure, along with a good sense as to how long the bottle has been open. They find normal cellar door winespeak highly offensive – they already know or very soon will find out far more about this wine than you can tell them. Alphas may or may not buy. Rich Alphas probably have all the last ten vintages anyway and will be on the mailing list. Not so well off Alphas will be thinking hard if this is “the right wine” for the day.

Romulans – Romulans can be Alphas, Betas or Gammas. The thing that separates these people from the others is money – they have stacks of it. They have your annual salary in loose change in their driver’s pocket. They also have been given information that your wine is the one to buy. You can give them something to taste, but they probably won’t bother because their focus is on a doing a deal – they really want to get hold of ten cases, a hundred cases, the entire years production! Now it doesn’t matter if you’ve got 20,000 cases of vinegar that you can’t shift – you have to make the deal difficult. Romulans thrive on this stuff. Eventually sell them what they want, and then be rude to them – it’s all grist for their “deal story” mill. As they’re walking out the door hand over for free, one bottle of something “special”.

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