Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

NATURAL WINE – REAL OR JUST A MARKETING PLOY?

June 10, 2015

I can’t resist this one! Just back from a week in New York, and I read in a couple of places (on the plane, on-line, in the Times Magazine and then even back in Vancouver) about this whole “natural wine” phenomena. And, frankly, it smells a bit to me!

Essentially – from what I can make out – the concept is that wines should be made to reflect where they are grown/made, with minimal intervention from the winemaker. The concept of “terroir” has been around for ages, but this takes it to another level completely.

Parts of it I get for sure. Make the wine from grapes that grow best in your area? Absolutely…no point trying to grow/make Cabernet in a region that won’t get enough sun to let the grapes get ripe.

Minimize your use of pesticides and fertilizers in the process, even make a wine that is “organic”? I can go for that too…major wineries like Chapoutier and Beaucastel in the Rhone have been taking that approach for years.

And avoid adding too much “stuff” to the wine as it is being made and/or filtering it? I’m good with that too…no sugar, unfiltered, let the grapes show what they are made of (so to speak).

But the next part…don’t add anything at all and just let the wine “be what it is’? Well, now we have problems, at least from my point of view.

Why? Well, all I had to do was look at the descriptions of some of the wines being promoted.

“Oxidized”, “funky”, “unpleasant”, “devoid of fruit”…and those were some of the nice descriptors! If that is what a wine tastes like, then either your grapes weren’t very good – or ripe – or you don’t know what you are doing!

And, of course, it all comes at an additional cost! Can you imagine…paying more for something that doesn’t taste as good?

I think wine critic Robert Parker’s response was bang on. I am paraphrasing, but essentially he was saying this was an excuse to make unripe, unfruity wine…something that Bordeaux and Burgundy used to get away with on a regular basis for years during “off vintages”.

Sorry…call me simplistic, but wine – like anything else you choose to put in your mouth – should taste good. The better it tastes, the more I am willing to pay for it. Full stop.

As a PR guy by profession, anything else just sounds like someone trying to sell you a load of you know what!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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What’s the Real Value of a Wine Label?

April 15, 2015

Wine labels are back in the news up here, with a story that one BC winery hired some branding/marketing firm to produce a whole series of provocative labels for new wines in the hope that would drive sales. Interestingly, the story said nothing about what the wines actually tasted like…just what they looked like!

That led me to thinking – what is the real value of a wine label?

Certainly many wineries – or their marketing people – think “lots”! It seems like ever since Yellow Tail came out with their colourfully labelled, low-priced wines about a decade ago, a whole range of wineries from around the world have followed suit. Some are funny, many – at least to me – are not. And some are just plain offensive.

The history of this actually goes way back, as the Bordeaux winery Chateau Mouton-Rothschild has had famous painters produce their labels for years. That included Picasso, who’s 1973 label ended up being worth way more than the wine itself (and not just because if was from a poor year).

The goal is obvious – to have the colourful/interesting/provocative labels make those wines stand out from the competition, in the hope that people will try them over other wines.

But don’t you still have to have a good wine to back it up? And if it is a good wine anyway, why the need for all the extra work on the label (which may also drive up the cost of actual wine)?

Now I have nothing against being clever in the name. d’Arenberg’s wines, for example, all have strange and interesting names (like Hermit Crab, Galvo Garage, Stump Jump, Dead Arm). But they are just printed on the label and then it is explained on the back. And, of course, many of them are outstanding wines!

Mollydooker goes further with its illustrations…but they also make amazing wine. And let’s not forget Bonny Doon in California…their Le Cigar Volant was bit of a shot at Chateauneuf du Pape…but it was also very nice wine.

I guess my point is if you make great wine, then people will buy it. Personally, I am at the point now where if I see a bizarre label or name, I just walk on by.

Call me old-fashioned, but I want what’s inside…not what is on the outside!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

The Annual Bordeaux Release Boondoggle

September 30, 2014

Okay, it’s that time of the year again! The annual Bordeaux release happens this Saturday up here in British Columbia, which also means it is time for me to do my annual rant about it!

For those of you who have seen it before – and don’t want to read it again – feel free to skip this blog and come back next week. But for those who haven’t seen it, or enjoy it, read on!

So, Bordeaux…what art thou?

Not my favourite wine, as readers know. While it is the most prestigious, popular and – most of the time – expensive grape-derived product in the world, it is disappointing to me on so many fronts.

First is style. Except for the ultra-premium first growths and “garagiste” wines (which cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars), there is often little fruit in these wines. The opposite of California and Australia, they are full of wood, herbs and other so-called secondary aromas and flavours (pencil box, tobacco, etc.) that do nothing for me. It’s not so much theses other tastes…well, I guess it is…no, really, it is more about the lack of fruit in the wines.

And that is perplexing to me. Because you read the reviews, and they are full of descriptions like “ripe blackcurrants…ripe plums…ripe cherries…” but, for the life of me, I can count on one hand how many times I have found those flavours, even in the young wines. I understand fruit mellowing over time – and love how that happens in Chateauneuf du Pape, Hermitage, Barolo, Barbaresco, even Aussie Shiraz – but if there isn’t obvious fruit to begin with, there is nothing to mellow from!

Which is the second reason for my disappointment…the tannin level. Of all wines, perhaps Bordeaux is the biggest culprit of the “big wine” syndrome. Huge, searing, mouth-puckering tannins are the norm for even the middling wines, so heavy that it would be hard to find the fruit…even if it was there. Combine the tannins with the lack of fruit, and by the time they resolve in 8 – 15 years…well, let’s just say you have to like drinking wood chips to enjoy most of the wines.

The price is another issue, although I am not that bothered by it. I recognize the market will dictate what people will pay for anything, and Bordeaux is no different. So good on the producers for getting what people will pay. What I do have an issue with, however, is the fact that the price only goes up, regardless of the vintage. Surely, the market should also be about quality…yet very rarely does this seem to happen.

Which brings us to my biggest pet peeve…the hoopla around the release.

Almost every year, I think, we hear the same marketing promotion…”vintage of the century”, “best ever”, “will last for generations”…Then in the so-called “light” vintages, it becomes “beautiful for drinking now” or “these are great food wines”.

As someone who does PR for a living, all of this just rankles me. If – and it is a big if – you truly love Bordeaux, know what it tastes like young or old, “light” or tannic, than fill your boots and spend your hard earned money.

But every year I see the same thing. People wandering through the open cases, clutching the offering guide, trying to pick out a bottle or two of wines that start at $50 and go way up from there. I feel like saying “do you know what those taste like?”, but always force myself to just shut up (and even stay away from the store on launch days).

So, a pox on the annual Bordeaux release!

Phew…that feels better! Now back to regular life…and more balanced blogs!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com