The Wider Topic Of Business

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.

A range of support services I offer to wineries

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!



An old firend!

I had coffee from my Window Coffee Shop mug this morning.

The business closed earlier this year to refocus on different ways of sharing great coffee with people.  The Window is a great example of a small business which has truly great marketing and branding.  There is a new coffee shop there now, but people will always talk and remain loyal to The Window.


2014 looks bright for entrepreneurs willing to take risks!

I read this article this morning.

Norwich has plenty going on and many community based groups that support start-ups.  I wonder whether there is a “gap” for incubator type spaces for SME’s and start-ups to build on the momentum that groups such as Sync Norwich have achieved this year.

The Testing Phase in Start-ups!

I have recently been working with a couple of start-up businesses who are going through a first phase of testing.

This is an interesting, scary, exiting, exhausting time for start-up entrepreneurs as they grapple to come to terms with how the market actually responds to their proposition.

Here’s a check list of learnings and out-takes I have picked up

– Keep the focus on usability and service – back end technical efficiency can follow later

– Test early and test as much as possible

– Don’t start testing unless you have enough resource to implement the learnings very quickly

– Don’t let technology be a barrier – simulate technology to understand its likely effectiveness

– Minimise the barriers to customers exploring your product or service even if this makes their overall experience seem more onerous in the longer term

– Being all over any customer response at all is essential

– Be agile

That’s it for now, but I’m sure I will find more things to add to the list in the next few weeks.

Are you working in the start-up arena?  If you’re interested to talk more about these issues then drop me a line –