For the second year running an emerging leader from Central Otago has taken out the national title of Bayer Young Viticulturist of the Year.
What she has to say about how wineries are connecting with their consumers was one of the many thought-provoking sessions at the conference.
Having worked alongside luminaries such as Elon Musk and Richard Branson, Dickinson knows a thing or two about where the world is heading in terms of technology.
Having recently worked with a Californian wine company installing new technology, she also knows a thing or two about where wine consumers are going in the future.
While there will be many who might not like what she had to say at Bragato, her clear picture of what wineries are doing wrong when it comes to consumers, is well worth considering.
After analysing customer data for the Californian company, she forthrightly told them; “I don’t think you are speaking the same language as me. I do not understand half of the words you are saying (when you talk about wine).
“They thought they were so great about technology and innovation in the wine industry, that they totally forgot about the people they were selling the wine to.”
Dickinson said she buys wine as a gift, either to present in her home to friends, or to take to someone else. “I don’t see your wine as a product, I see your wine as a gift.”
When the company personnel came back at her and said “what about tannins and terroir,” she quickly cut them down to size.
“I don’t go into a shop looking for tannins. I don’t even know what that word (terroir) is or how to pronounce it properly.
“I was told it has to do with soil, so I said ‘hey, I don’t go into a wine store and go what soil do you use?’ I go into a wine store and say I’ve got a barbecue and we’re having pork.”
Being so focused on the “tiny details” especially on the label, makes the wine “boring” to a large segment of the consumer market she believes.
In her research of American consumers, she has found that a large majority of people want a wine that is fit for purpose, (ie; a barbecue) and has a pretty label.
But most of all they want that wine to be consistent. If they like it they want to know they can go back and buy it again and it will be the same as last time.
“Don’t tell me the difference between 2012 and 2015, I don’t care,” she adamantly claimed. “I don’t want to buy a 2014 and a 2016 and realise I don’t like one of them. I just want it to be predictable. And a lot of American customers were like that.”
Now this is where purists might be a bit put out. Inconsistency is a part of the world of wine. No two vintages are ever the same.
“It’s sad isn’t it, because you are all like; ‘oh this is terrible because we love our wine, we put so much effort into it.’
Well some do she did admit – but nowhere near the number winemakers would like to think. Dickinson said she understands that purists will think her comments blasphemy.
“Well that is cool but only 10 percent of the population cares as much as you, so go market to them. But 90 percent of the people, especially those off shore just want to buy something they like, that tastes good, that reflects who they are.”
Her comments were taken on board by the Californian company she was working with – and while many were initially reluctant to agree with her strategy, they have come around to her way of thinking.
“They totally changed the way they marketed their wine, the way they talked about their wine. They removed all the jargon and they watched the sales go through the roof. It broke their hearts, because they cared about the details – it was just the customers didn’t.
“It’s a really hard thing to ignore your pride and joy but you have to remember the people who are buying it, want it to be a part of their story, they want it to be consistent and they want it to reflect who they are, not who you are.”