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Thresher virus lives to fight again

Hugh MacLeod over at gapingvoid, the architect of the online success of the Stormhoek wine brand, has set the question:

“In short, I think there are enough people out there wiling to have another go at redeeming the coupon one more time, even if this time the story isn’t as newsworthy to break into the mainstream media machine like it did last time.


See the full article here

I have left a comment (to be moderated) with my view. Don’t do it!

* I think that the fact that it happened at Christmas, when everyone was pre-disposed to look for a bargain, was the main reason it took off.

* I think that many potential customers for Threshers felt cheated when they understood that the regular discount is 33% and so 40% was not nearly as big a deal as they had expected.

* I think that focusing on price alone is a depressingly familiar, and dead-end, campaign concept.

Having said all this, I should point out that I spoke up in favour of the marketing success of the campaign back in December – it was clever and it was well executed. Doing it again, would tarnish that.

Hugh, Gapingvoid and Stormhoek are all well respected. Surely there is more they could do with this respect they have generated? How about a campaign to support your high street specialist wine shop? What about a plan that educated consumers about South Africa, offering better deals for buying three from that country? What about involving the consumer by getting their feedback on the wines?

There is so much that we do not do to get consumers interested in quality wine, and we do not need to feed that craving for more discounts any further.

So, Mr MacLeod, thoughts?

Who wants to win a wine competition?

It is that time of year again. Lots of forms to complete, samples to request and deliver, and monies to pay.

The 2007 wine competitions “open their doors” in March so they can announce their results at the London Wine Trade Fair (or London International Wine and Spirit Fair to give it its full title – although I see they cheat on their URL as well themselves).

Are they worth the effort and cost? So many people are involved in the logistics of organising and running these events, and so much money is spent by producers to take part. What for?

Do the consumers really care?

There may be the occasional award that captures the public’s imagination (I imagine Decanter Man/Woman of the Year has some impact in certain circles), but does an IWC/Decanter/IWSC/etc. Gold/Silver/Bronze medal mean anything to the person being asked to spend their money?

I am dubious.

What are the key influencers on consumers these days beyond their “internalised” decisions (target price, recognised brand, previous experience, …)? Is it the Press? Is it recommendations? Is it extra gold stickers on the bottle? Can they even be influenced (I think the evidence points to “yes”)?

As with many things today a good thing has been taken to the extreme, so much so that it has become worthless. If there is only one award event, then communicating its results, and its value, would be easy. When there are multiple events, with competing messages and rules, conflicting results, innumerable categories and interminable lists of “winners”, they become worthless.

Worse than that, they become one more bit of the ‘noise’ facing a consumer trying to make a decision. Instead of making it easier, they make it harder.

Of course there is no going back, so maybe the trade needs to decide what it wants, who offers the best solution for achieving this, and back a single horse instead?

New Packaging – Wine Tetrapack

I have been suffering from one of the worst chest infections in my life and have been unable to taste or even think about wine clearly for the last month, so apologies for the extended silence.

As I was shopping for milk in my local co-op convenience store the other day, I came across one of the latest novelties in packaging for wine. The tetrapack.

I have seen the format before, (I am thinking of French Rabbit from Boisset) but I hadn’t actually seen it on shelf before. I was intrigued to find this in a small store in my local area, so I bought it for curiosity’s sake. Unfortunately, when I opened it to try it, I couldn’t taste it, so I have no comments on the quality of the wine.

The wine in question is Andrew Peace‘s masterpeace Australian Chardonnay, launched at the Australia Day Tasting in January.

Is this the future for wine? Let me think about some pro’s and con’s first.

On the positive side;

  • It weighs less so it is cheaper and more environmentally friendly to ship
  • The opaque carton protects the wine from the harmful effects of bright sunlight and UV
  • It is a sterile, sealed environment unlikely to become “corked”
  • It gives greater surface for marketing messages and useful information
  • It is easier to store; no wine rack required
  • I believe it is supposed to be recyclable
  • It is not all that different from the bag-in-box format we are already familiar with and which is becoming more popular
  • On the negative side;

  • It has been done before for the cheapest of the cheap wines in the days that these were undrinkable (things have improved even at this level in the wine trade), and is therefore tarnished with this perception
  • It is still made from plastic and various metallic compounds, so how environmentally friendly can it be?
  • You get no visual clues at all about the wine. Think of the attractions of rose wines, deep gold sweet wines, etc. All wines will look the same, or at least the colour the marketer/printer want you to think it is
  • Bottle shapes have always been a differentiator, not just on weight for ‘better’ wines, but classic regional shapes like the tall bottles from Alsace, or embossed Chateau-neuf-du-pape
  • It is not all that different from the bag-in-box format we are already familiar with
  • None of the pros and cons immediately jump out at me as “killer” reasons for or against. This packaging is likely to be used only for cheap, young wine to be drunk immediately, so convenience will matter. And if, on balance, it is more environmentally friendly to produce and dispose of, then even better.

    So, is this the future of wine? I don’t consider myself an old-fashioned wine purist. I am all for the screwcap and other modern closures for example. However, I am not convinced by this format for the simple reason that it further reduces wine to a mere convenience beverage, one that happens to contain alcohol and be made from grapes.

    If we are to educate consumers about responsible drinking, encouraging them to drink wine but to do so in moderation and hopefully at a quality level that will bring them pleasure, then it is important we do not “dumb it down” too much.

    Wine branding is not only about building a name and image for the producer, or even of the region, but for the product category itself. This isn’t about being elitist (although I recognise it could sound that way), it is about building a sensible Culture of Wine. Quality packaging is integral to that I think. That isn’t to say we should stick to glass per se, but I would like to see something better differentiated than a carton.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think this is it, but it is certainly something to ponder further.

    Kids must drink

    A strange sight greeted me the other day in Sainsbury’s.

    It might have been there a while, but I had not noticed. However, when I did, it struck me as quite odd, but relevant. It was well away from the wine aisle, and not even a gondola end promotion. It was in the chiller cabinet. The fresh juices to be precise.

    I was picking up some apple juice for my daughter when out of the corner of my eye I spotted the word “Merlot”. I knew something wasn’t right as I had already glanced around the regular haunts for wine in this supermarket. On the eye level shelf in the chiller cabinet were two different plastic bottles of grape juice. One labelled “Chardonnay”, the other labelled “Merlot”. Apparently these are grape juices made from these varietals somewhere in “the vineyards of Italy”.

    All of this was quite shocking.

    First of all, we are advertising the grape varietal names most often associated with alcoholic dinks, namely wine, to the major consumers of grape juice – kids.

    Secondly, I always assumed that grape juices could only be made from table grapes, not those destined for fermentation, as the former are sweet, juicy and less ‘complex’.

    Is this a good thing? Well, I clearly remember growing up drinking “my wine” when my parents had theirs, so this is not new, although that was labelled simply as “Welch’s grape juice” (I still remember this – odd). It also means, in theory, that grape growers in certain areas have a new potential outlet for grapes that cannot be sold as wine, but that I would need to research more as I still can’t quite believe this is a simple case of not fermenting the grapes.

    In Spain, younger drinkers do like their glass of “mosto” (must) so I guess this is our equivalent, even if ours has to be packaged, shipped, branded and sold for a lot more.

    It does indicate, though, that these grape varietals have now been so ingrained in our national consciousness that they can be used for products that are not wine.

    Varietal labelling has come a long way in 30 years.

    Artisan Wines

    Just a quick post on a more positive topic.

    Although I will not be posting tasting notes here I thought I would congratulate Artisan Wines for a small selection I bought from them recently.

    Although they seem to be a small operation they have done everything right to get me to join their list and buy interesting wines from them.

    As well as offering some mixed cases so I can get to know their wines, they were well packaged, they kept me informed of how my order was progressing, and when they arrived they came with notes on the wines and the producers. Everything I need to get to know about my wines.

    It is also everything I need to talk to others about the wines!

    All that is missing now is an opportunity to build a conversation with them and others who have bought, and enjoyed, these wines. Very Web 2.0 of me, I know.

    More people and wines like this please!

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