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Wine Zones – A focused celebration of a wine region!

Whilst doing the WSET Wine Diploma I have learnt how to “deep dive” into a particular region to really get to grips and fully explore it.  For me this involves understanding the geography and landscape of the region, the climate and how it affects grape growing, the wine styles and grape varieties that come from the region, and some notable producers.

Over the next few months, I want to bring these deep dives to The Wine Parlour in the form of

  • Focused tastings around a region
  • Social media posts on Instagram telling the story behind the region
  • A wide selection of wines from recognised producers
  • An opportunity for increased trade by introducing the right wine makers to the distributors – insuring the fit is good and works financially
  • Creation of a micro sites offering trade and consumers better understanding of a region and its potential

The first of these will be The Sherry Wine Zone and then later in the year we will be delivering the Beaujolais Wine Zone in time for Beaujolais Nouveau.

If you are a trade body or winery looking to increase awareness of your region please contact me to see if we can work on a Wine Zone delivery program for you.


Marketing For Wineries & Vineyards


In conjunction with my PhD work, I am working towards the following publication in 2024

Marketing For Wineries & Vineyards

This will be a comprehensive marketing manual / handbook specifically for the wine industry.  It will feature, history and case studies of the main marketing considerations for wine, a practical guide covering the key topics and challenges for a marketing team, how to’s with do’s and don’ts and best practise examples, and an overview of the key business models and frameworks that a winery need to be familiar with.

As this work progresses, I will be publishing summaries and extracts that vineyards can download for free and use to improve their marketing.  The first of these will be “wine labelling and why it matters”.

  • Core elements of the main publication will include
  • Marketing audits and how to use them to create better distribution strategies for wines
  • Creating your brand – Story telling, provenance, terroir and how to find your true point of difference and stand out
  • Building your brand – Moments, how to find the right moment for your wine and make it resonate with consumers.  How to engage your audience through marketing and social media
  • Wine labelling and why it matters
  • Trade Marketing – How to appraise routes to market and the marketing support required for each one
  • Key metrics and how to appraise the effectiveness of your marketing strategy
  • How to encourage repeat purchase and forge deeper longer lasting relationships with consumers

Preparing for exam day!

Exams are a pretty blunt instrument for assessing knowledge – but they are what we have to work with on the WSET Wine Diploma.  Whatever our knowledge level or capacity to answer a specific question, let’s not let the exam derail us before we have even put pen to paper!

This is my own preparation plan…..

On Exam Day! Expect to be nervous, channel this energy.  Going into exams, people can feel a sense of anxiety, nerves, or similar feelings.  These can distract you, reduce your ability to concentrate, or at their worst send you into a complete panic.  Expecting to experience these emotions, imagining them in your mind and rehearsing them, is the easiest way to overcome them. Nerves if managed correctly are a good thing because they raise your brains intensity to think.  Nerves mean it matters – they don’t mean you can’t do this.

Plan how you will spend the Monday before the exams carefully. It is really easy to spend the day before any exam panicking and trying to cover too much subject matter.  Think carefully about a plan for the day before hand and a set of things to revisit that suits you and your revision to date

When you read the exam questions you will naturally gravitate to the ones you think you can answer well.  Have a view on when to answer the questions you feel best able to answer and when to answer the question you are least comfortable with, but still want to tackle.  If a question particularly resonates with you, read it again at a slower pace, to ensure you can answer the actual question set – not the question you would like it to be.

Plan what to read or do in the hours before the exam.  You need to warm your mind up so it is ready to concentrate on the subject – without overloading it to a point where is cannot focus and goes into panic or overdrive.  Either of these two mindsets is likely to mean you don’t answer the actual questions on the paper.  Before the exam, I will briefly review how a standard red / white wine is made, and the typical characteristics of broad growing environment for acceptable quality wines.  This will be enough to get the mind thinking about wine and hopefully accessing my studies.

Once the first exam is over – do not think about it again.  Referencing back to answers, wondering exactly what you wrote, wondering if you answered the question correctly or not, disrupts your brain and diverts away from answering the next set of questions.  How you did on another paper is not relevant to the questions you now need to answer.  You need to have a routine that enables you to relax, rest, and then get your brain ready to go again.

Have a reset memory in your mind for the exam.  Think deeply on a few different occasions about a particularly positive memory you have connected to this journey – where you were super happy to be studying for your wine diploma.  If your mind goes blank during an exam, or if you feel unable to begin a question – think of this memory.  It will reset your mind and allow you to access the knowledge you have, even if it is not as detailed as you would like it to be.

Remain positive and always remember you have earned the right to enjoy this experience!

Crossing the confidence chasm when you are preparing for an exam

As we go into the final 10 days of preparation for the Wine Diploma exams, if you are anything like me, it is quite likely you may experience a sudden bout of anxiety or a real drop in confidence.  This is quite typical.  When you begin to study a subject, you don’t know anything, so the fact that you don’t know what the exam questions might be at the end of your course is irrelevant – you couldn’t answer the questions anyway.

However, as you prepare and study more, that relationship changes.  You have a lot of information in your brain, you have knowledge, yet you still don’t know exactly what the exam questions will be.  This is very disruptive for a human brain and therefore we start to consider whether it is better to never know what the questions are or to push back the moment of realisation further into the future.  On your study journey, there is often a “confidence chasm” we fall into as we climb the mountain!

You can easily break this cycle of self doubt, worry, or even panic, which otherwise can really disrupt your study time.  Once you have done this exercise, you can continue with your original revision plan and concentrate properly.

Focus on a very specific subject within the syllabus and write a distinction level paragraph about it.  For example, write a paragraph about what exactly whole bunch fermentation is.  20 mins intense focus on a small topic will break the self doubt cycle and take you out of the confidence chasm.

Then you can return to your original study plan and continue as you intended to.

Usually, you only have to do this exercise once, but if not 2 or 3 of these exercises will work.

We have all put in a lot of work, there is still time.  With the right plan that works for you, you can definitely pass this exam in the way you want to.

Australia Wine Industry – SWOT Analysis

Australia flag package - Country flags



  • Customer orientated approach to wine making with wineries open to changing styles and techniques means Australia can innovate quickly when it needs to
  • Recognisable quality brands all over the world and good distribution into independent and national retail distribution provides a strong reliable customer base that can ride out short term trends or fashionable wine offerings
  • Variety labelled wines and clear messaging from now recognised credible family familiar brands give consumers confidence in the wines even when knowledge is limited
  • Flexible Geographical Indicator system means wineries can decide whether to deploy a broader GI and perhaps blend grapes (to perhaps suggest great value) or at the other extreme showcase a winery name and its local town (to suggest outstanding quality)
  • Highly versatile range of wines, able to make almost any style of wine to any quality or volume
  • Access to international expertise (flying winemakers & imported expertise embraced and readily available)
  • Wine Australia is one of the strongest and most dedicated trade bodies in the world.


  • A significant weakness is water availability and its scarcity in some places which has led to it becoming a precious commodity often essential for irrigation purposes. When water is unavailable, vines can suffer considerable damage and vine stress can go beyond positively enhancing grape growing.  Where irrigation is possible and required, it can be very expensive to install and maintain, as well costly to run.  In tern this pushes up the price of wines made from irrigated vines.
  • Underneath the marketing, bulk wines or wines at lower price points tend to have been chemically adjusted or balanced
  • Bulk wines often show little or no typicity and this means they are not as good as similar priced and positioned wines from other countries such as Chili
  • Some of the largest brands such as Yellow Tail give the country and reputation / credibility issue
  • The geographical zones, regions and sub regions are not always familiar to consumers, and they then become redundant as the consumer has no idea of aging, techniques, quality standards from the simplistic approach to labelling
  • Export is a critical part of the industry and as seen with China markets can collapse.  Dependency on export is risky by nature
  • Large companies can mean small high quality producers are overlooked and or ignored


  • Cool climate areas: Tasmania, Yara Valley, Adelaide Hills can create wines that are of outstanding quality and recognised as being in that category, increasing the reputation and prices of all wines from Australia
  • Many regions are still not recognised by consumers, yet these can make terrific wines.  This gives an opportunity to show and tell more of Australia’s vast typography and geography eg Heathcote for Shiraz…
  • Opportunity to market single vineyards or smaller growing areas to niche audiences who can learn about the specific microclimate and its impact on the wine.  These producers can use digitial marketing and social media to reach and serve a global market
  • Opportunity to reintroduce varieties or source cuttings from other parts of the world and grow new styles and varietal wines, eg Italian wines such as Vermentino
  • Old vines message and Barossa Charter has not been used as a branding vehicle, but there is increasing global interest in old vines and Australia is well placed to capitalise on this
  • Wine Australia has significant grant funding from the government to promote Australian wines globally and out spend of countries with less investment


  • Climate change is having a major impact in Australia.  A) Increased average day time temperatures are making grapes either grow faster and have less phenolic ripeness when harvested, or not growing at all because the vine is shutting down. B) Extremes in temperature are happening more frequently.  Flash flooding, severe frosts, prolonged periods without rain etc etc can wipe out a crop in 24 hours. C) Bush fires and smoke taint from fires can damage or destroy vines
  • The cost of labour in Australia is rising very quickly and this means in remote areas with unappealing mico climates it is becoming difficult to find and fund the labour resources needed to run a vineyard
  • Australia does make a significant amount of bulk wine.  This part of the market has become saturated and over supply has meant wine has to be sold at cost or sometimes even thrown away
  • Australian wine companies often depend on export markets which are becoming more volatile.  For example there is currently a trade war between China and Australia after a period in which Australia has shifted export focus to this country
  • Australians themselves have an ever growing access to wines from around the world, diluting loyalty and interest in their domestic market.
  • The once innovative wine making techniques and marketing strategies have now been adopted globally to greater or lesser degree.  Australia’s innovations can now be found in competing countries like South Africa, Chili, Argentina, New Zealand as examples.  Even in European countries many of the once innovative approaches to wine making are standard

A range of support services I offer to wineries

SWOT Analysis Framework

A key element of understanding wine regions at WSET Level 4 is being able to appraise the relative strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats they may hold.

The SWOT analysis is a relatively well-known evaluation tool used in many business circumstances and beyond. Too often though, the tool is used in an over simplistic and generic way which renders the analysis pretty unhelpful and fairly basic.  A powerful SWOT analysis on the other hand combines useful, personalised insights that are quantified in some way, and then evaluated against the wider operating environment.

Here’s some top tips around how to undertake a really good SWOT

Keep the discipline of recognising that strengths and weaknesses are internal factors, whilst opportunities and threats are external. Do not get them confused or overlapped.

Strengths and weaknesses should be quantified relative to competitors operating in the same environment. For example, if every wine region has a good climate for growing grapes, it is not a strength, its just a fact of life!  How much better is it in terms of yield potential or price per kilo of grapes?  If a wine region is susceptible to hail, how often in the last decade and what is the financial impact on the year’s crop?

Opportunities and threats are external factors which need researching to understand their potential. Opportunities are only opportunities if they can be grasped by the business and are not financially or for any other reason out of reach.  They should be realistically achievable, specific, and quantified by return on investment.  Weaknesses are only weaknesses if they are holding back the businesses’ potential over and above that of competitors.  The lost potential should be quantified and explained.

Strengths should highlight genuine competitive advantage.

Weaknesses should highlight key areas of underperformance relative to the market set.

Threats should show the potential to change the businesses performance in a negative trend.

Opportunities should show business potential that it is realistic to acquire.

The SWOT analysis considers these points in the context of the supply chain and how the business is affected by both it’s suppliers and customers and their markets.  Whilst detailed and insightful, they are also very easy to understand and draw conclusions from.

Over the next few weeks I will be producing my own set of SWOTs for every wine region covered in the WSET Diploma

Here’s my first one, it’s on Burgundy!


Corona Virus – The Beginning

The Corona Virus is very frightening.

I first heard about it before we left for our three week holiday to Sri Lanka.  Back then it was something happening far away in China.  The thought of it becoming a global pandemic affecting every single aspect of life in every country did not occur to me.

Then we saw what happened in Italy and how the government struggled to cope with the pace of infection and the level of support all aspects of the population required.  The term “lock down” seemed very dramatic – but now very familiar.  Even at this stage, I did not expect to see the full crisis unfold in the way it has.

When the warnings began in the UK we took action straight away.  We upped our hygiene protocols and we began to do some scenario planning – most of which seems irrelevant now.  The main considerations were protecting staff from infection, protecting customers from infection, raising awareness of the virus, reducing stock and inventory levels, trying to improve our cash / liquidity position.  Slowly less people wanted to be out on the streets, slowly you could feel a greater level of stress and tension.  At this point we were not ready for what was to come next.

Receipt Bank

receipt bank




Experimenting with this today!  Does anyone else have positive or negative experiences to share??



System Migration

We have just installed a new till / PoS system into our shop.

Initial results have proved positive. The useability is good and the records appear accurate. Next week we will begin to reconcile stock activity as well.

Along side this, we are moving to Xero accounting software.  My aim is to modernise our system reporting structures and in doing so save time and improve accuracy.  Watch this space as I begin to share tangible results, progress and frustration!