Competitions - Why we don't really do it, and what's changing
Lots of people come to the market stall and if they don’t know who we are they ask if we have got any awards for our wine. It puts us in a bit of a tricky situation because it’s only a few times in our pretty long history that we’ve had enough wine that we could enter a competition. For the last 25 years or so we’ve only sold through local farmers markets (mostly) and our capacity to therefore sell lots of bottles has been limited. The choice we’ve made is often to make the number of bottles we think we can sell through markets and then sell the rest of our grapes to other vineyards who need them. We’ve very rarely had over 1,000 bottles to hand and you need that as a minimum to apply for any major, ie National or International competitions. Then there is the cost of applying. They are never free and they all require producers to send at least a case of wine and cover the courier cost. Should you win something you will need to pay for the stickers as well. As a little business without a marketing budget and (at least in the past) not a great drive to expand, there has never been a strong need for us to be in competitions. We’ve had a loyal base of local customers who love our wine and we’ve sold all our wine every year. We have over time applied for regional competitions when we’re members of regional groups a number of years ago, and slightly eccentrically also went in for a Germany based competition a few years ago (I suspect because it was not very expensive), and we’ve always walked away with something shiny or a nice piece of paper.
So what’s changed to make us put our wine in for a big competition this year? Firstly it was quantity - for the first time in a long time we have over 1000 bottles made. It was frankly in error. We had an expert give us an estimate of the amount of grapes we would have come harvest (this was summer 2018) and we planned accordingly thinking we had a quite manageable harvest. Then come harvesting time we found it very different. But we were committed, we had our picking bins, our volunteers and our hire van, and the grapes were so fantastic. They were too good to leave and too late to sell. Then there’s the changing times. The vineyard is now run by me (Sophie) and it’s inevitable that I’m going to want to do things differently. As a little business to survive we do need to raise awareness of ourselves - locally first and everywhere else next. So I’ve been on a bit of a mission for the last year and a half to tell people we exist and to let them see for themselves what we do and how we do it. It’s still early days but with a new website and the magic of facebook it is happening - the world of opportunities is rapidly opening up.
Finally, it’s hard not to notice that vineyards are everywhere. From 200 odd when we started there’s now well over 600 and it’s now time to start competing. There’s a lot of new vineyards making a lot of noise but there are still little established gems out there, if you know where to look. No one really has the time to research and dig out the little people who don’t make much noise. So in my limited capacity - I’m starting to make noise and I’m excited to see where that leads us.