Next time you visit Home Depot take a walk through the section where they sell drill bits.
Drill bits are the instruments which are used to drill holes through materials. There are bits for drilling holes in concrete, ceramics, wood, brick, plastic, steel, iron and copper. In short, there is a wide world of drill bits.
And you know what is interesting about those bits? They are shelved based on their use. Bits for drilling holes in concrete are located next to other bits which can be used to drill holes in concrete. They vary in diameter, brand and length. But, the bits which are used to drill holes in concrete are all shelved next to one another.
So too for bits for ceramics, wood, brick, plastic, steel, iron and copper: bits are shelved based on their functionality.
Now. Let's take a trip down to our favorite local wine retailer. How are the wines shelved?
The worst offenders shelf their wines based on the winery with all of XYZ Brand being shelved shoulder-to-shoulder with one another. Cabernet Sauvignon next to Pinot Gris next to Merlot next to Chardonnay: no logic or sense to the placement.
Only slightly better are those retailers which shelve their wines based on regions. You've seen them: "FRANCE", "SPAIN", "ITALY" and my personal favorite "OTHER". Yes, come sample the wonderful wines of "OTHER"!
Getting closer to a reasonable approach are those retailers which shelve their wines based on varietal. But, even this approach has its limitations as the characteristic of a grape varietal can vary widely based upon where the grape is grown and how it is processed. You'd be hard pressed to believe that a steely French Chablis was borne of the same grapes as the oaky Chardonnay offerings from Napa - they are so very different.
So how to shelve our wines, then? Let's go back to Home Depot and arrange wines by their functionality.
About fifteen years ago I visited a wine shop in Traverse City, Michigan which had their wines arranged by the food with which they were best paired. Over the shelves were crude wooden cut outs of cattle, chicken, fish, cheese, etc.
Just like Home Depot this small retailer in Traverse City found sanity in shelving their wines in a way which made sense to their customers. An individual looking for a good wine to go with beef had only to meander under the wooden cut out of cattle to find their wine.
I know that it is a wild idea. But, maybe, just maybe the wine-drinking public would be more accepting of our products were we to make their use a little less daunting.