Russell Brand & The Art of Selling Wine
After reading a few things recently online, I started to consider how the work of a Sales Rep is taken for granted, or completely misunderstood, or bastardized by the sea of less genuine folks that get easily filtered in and out of the dynamic world of wine in New York and beyond. And then I came across a five minute YouTube video in which Julie Taymor and Alfred Molina ask Russell Brand to portray the part of Trinculo in their upcoming production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and he responded in kind.
I’m no theatre buff by any means, nor am I a student of acting. But Russell’s riff and interpretation of Shakespeare really turned me on because of his willingness to engross himself in character. It’s not just that he can memorize lines and facts, but that he can also comprehend the context of the character enough to make the story his own. For me, this isn’t acting. This is Russell being connected to Shakespeare’s script while being confident enough to translate the story into his own words. And though none of us have ever met Shakespeare–and I’m hoping that nobody reading this is pompous enough to lay claim to knowing the man himself–I’m sure that he would have respected Russell’s work, for it’s almost too genuine to question. Like a wine that is so tied to its maker and place, it’s a performance that begs you to hold onto that moment for as long as your mind will allow.
It’s the art of selling wine. It’s not who can memorize the most facts and spew them out on demand for the accolades. It’s not the formality of the presentation. It’s not about waxing egos to lube your way to the top. And it’s not like trading baseball cards or relying on the next warm body to hand you a book with revered or magical vingeron. The art of selling wine is for the audience that cares for and loves the world of wine. The craft of selling is absolutely on par with the raw material. It’s driven by one’s inspiration and motivation with a genuine appreciation for each other’s roles. It’s up to them to craft and mold the life work of others into a tale that captivates and inspires people to taste and imagine a time or a place that might be foreign or unknown.
It’s not a question of whether the wine is good or not. That is up for interpretation. It’s about how honestly the wine is portrayed. To do this well, there must be an understanding of the foundation of principals that the wine stands upon; the Rep must be familiar with the different stages of development, just as s/he needs to know the difference between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, the roots of Nebbiolo, and that Syrah is one of best f&_cking grapes out there, regardless of what dumb ass makers do to ruin it’s character (with certain winemakers and critics to blame…).
The art of selling wine is the greatest power we have and one that many of us in the Industry (from winemaker, critic, distributor, all the way to the store/restaurant owner and worker) benefit from. But it’s the Sales Reps that have the raw talent and maturity to tell the story right, in a way that can carry and illuminate this craft to a level that inspires and captivates. I’m honored to call many Sales Reps my friends. In fact, more often than not, it’s their craftmanship of the winemaker’s story, and their personal inspiration to share it, that peeks my interest to learn and to evolve my own tastes, for we all benefit from the great performances of many on the dynamic stage of New York and beyond.