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3 Essential Lessons We Investors Can Learn from Top Winemakers

“It takes 10 years to learn from the vineyard, and another 10 years to learn the wine from that vineyard.” — James Molesworth

Metaphors and analogies are powerful teachers and offer behavioral adhesiveness. In other words, the ideas and lessons they present stick in our memory, and can thus more easily become part of our routines. Sports metaphors are everywhere, but I believe this analogy of investors and winemakers is also extremely powerful.

James Moleworth’s perspective introductory quote is based on his career over three decades in the wine industry. Similarly, my own decades as a full-time investor yield a similar axiom. Not as frighteningly long term as his ten-and-ten perspective, but nevertheless, mine is perhaps closer to five-and-five.

If a winemaker can take two decades to hit a really consistent stride and produce top tier wines, investors who aspire to produce consistent out-performance and profits must also embrace a willingness to play the long game. Hence, keep in mind these three essential lessons:

  1. Investors should accept that their initial learning and growing phase will take years. Achieving mastery is worth the effort, but you don’t get vaccinated with that ability in a one-day seminar. You must experience the seasons of the market and appreciate how you react to bullish, neutral, and bearish scenarios. During these years, you are blending disciplines, tinkering with your methodology, and beginning to demonstrate competence. Yes, you are mastering the vineyard. A vineyard of your investments.
  2. Next, you move into the winemaker phase. You are harvesting what you learned. Like fine wine, successful investors can only be replicated with age. Of course, you need appropriate grapes to provide your foundation. But with each passing season in the markets, your wine (aka your skill set) will age and mellow, and you’ll begin bottling out-performance and consistent profits. This is very akin to the passage of top-tier winemakers. If you aspire to consistent outperformance as an investor, you too must be willing to take a similar journey. I often paraphrase this quote: “I worked all those years to become an overnight success.”As both an investor and connoisseur of fine wines, I want to assure you that both passages are worth the effort — truly!
  3. The third and final lesson is really the umbrella beneath which all this resides. The axiom is simple. Play the long game. Your portfolio will be healthier. Life will indeed be better.
“An investor who has all the answers doesn’t even understand the questions. Success is a process of continually seeking answers to new questions” — Sir John Templeton

Sir Templeton certainly played an exquisite long game. Now, here’s a bonus addendum that’s totally separate from the three essential lessons above. Writing this blog has put me in a wine frame of wine! I’ve always maintained that wine journalists such as James Molesworth should teach college literature classes, because they are some of the best wordsmiths out there. These are a few hypothetical examples of how talented writers might describe bottles of vino:

  • This wine is broad in feel but not lacking in cut.
  • It’s lushness doesn’t sacrifice it’s racy edge.
  • It’s bracing with hints of youthfulness buried there.
  • Expressive waves harnessed in this elixir.
  • A plump kiss inlaid seamlessly within the bottle.
  • It’s overt personae glistens with purity yet lurking beneath is a polished sophisticated racy element.
  • It forms a tensile matrix steep in feel yet laced with bravado.
  • It’s taut and coiled with much energy in reserve.
  • The vibrant bristling core that hasn’t unwound yet.
  • It sings beguiling notes expressing a hedonistic overall manner.

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