David Forer, sometimes known as ‘Dave the Neighbour’ for his sweet and friendly nature, had taken to loitering outside his house in San Francisco with a glass of wine, hoping to catch his neighbour’s attention. He had good reason: Sarah was a master sommelier, and he yearned to learn more about wines. In time, his ploy worked and she inducted him into her wine circle, alerting him to the Master of Wines program. David was not always an expert in wine. His background was in mathematics and statistics, and he worked as a researcher in the pharmaceutical industry at the time.
Forer may have been born in England and educated in Canada, but he lived in San Francisco for 20 years before moving to Spain to follow his passion. More than a hint of Silicon Valley has travelled with him to the old world. He is a man of many ventures: an investor in wineries and start-up wine technology companies, co-owner of a vineyard in Priorat, and a disruptor as a strategist in branding and communication.
Wineries are focused on making wine. Totally understandable. However, the way wine is branded and marketed has not evolved much, at least in Spain. Both consumers and those in the wine trade are captivated with the legacy of wine. However, the downside with unchanging established practices is that there is insufficient focus on the customer, and on how the brand is communicated. Forer is passionate about improving this.
His penchant for authenticity can be perceived in his development of brand strategies, and in his writing. He is not afraid to speak his mind. Leveraging on his vast accrued knowledge and network in the wine world, Forer has also undertaken a pet project, a book on Cult Wines of the World.
Q. Whilst doing what you love for work, can you share both the challenges and the joys that you encountered?
The innovation I am most passionate about is communication.
Spain is in a position to take off in the global market. I believe we can give customers what they want without compromising on the positive aspects of tradition. The challenge I face with many small and family-owned wineries is the resistance to change. This is due to the culture of honouring all traditions passed down for generations. In Silicon Valley, there is a proclivity to constantly examine processes and challenge yourself. I would like to bring some of this energy and innovation to the wine business in the old world to make it more successful.
Communication is not just how strong your story is, or about convincing someone to buy your wine. You need to listen to your customers and be able to differentiate your brand amongst the thousands of wines in the market. This can be done visually with the label or packaging. It can be how you communicate your story to consumers. You cannot depend on your story staying intact through the traditional distribution chains –if it is not compelling enough you may end up having to compromise on the quality of your wine because you will have to compete predominantly on price.
I never expected to own a vineyard. I have studied wine for many years. Even so, you do not know what it really takes until you dip your feet in and try to make your own. It is a challenge to listen and to understand what the land is trying to say, what it wants to give you. It is a joy to make a wine you are proud of, one with soul, that speaks of the place and its history.
Wine is a product that can connect people with something genuine and authentic. It is personal. It is grown, made and nurtured by people who care about it. At its best, wine is not just a commodity; it is a fusion of history, tradition, geography, and people. It also has the power to bring people together through the sharing of an experience.
Q. Which wine or type of wine has made you happiest? Can you tell us about this experience?
The most impactful wines in my life have revolved around occasions and people. It does not have to be a superlative wine to affect you.
I was 18 when I had my first wine. I was at a French bistro in Toronto with my mother and brother who was home from university. He ordered a simple white Bordeaux. I observed how this wine transformed the mood at the table, and how it suited the ambience of the restaurant. I marvelled at how wine could transform an occasion from normal to special.
A more specific wine which has had a great impact on me is German Riesling. A good, well-aged Riesling gives me shivers of joy. It was first introduced to me by a retailer, and I remember liking it very much. After that, I had the good fortune to be acquainted with a collector in San Francisco who would pull out extraordinary vintages of German Riesling. At one time, it was a 1976, probably the best vintage in the last century. The depth of emotion it triggered in me was shocking. I never imagined wine could taste like this. It is now a large part of my own cellar!
Q. If you were to drink this wine again, which 5 people would you share it with and why?
I would say Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. Their book, the World Atlas of Wine made a big impact on me and my appreciation for wines.
Robert Parker. I have heard that he is just the sweetest, nicest guy and I would love to share a bottle with him. Hopefully, it will not be the only bottle either, as I have heard that he has quite an eclectic wine collection!
My wife Melinda. She is always the life of the party. Besides, I know it would be torture for her not to be there to share it with me.
My business partner Franck Massard because he has been an amazing partner. He has also been influential in bringing me into the wine industry. Most of all, he is the king of conviviality. He loves the joy of being at a table and pulling corks from bottles!
Hero Picture Credit: Sonia Tan