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Value of social media tools: a wine label example

Do you doubt the ability of Twitter to offer valuable and tangible business benefits? Then check out this little example.

I was at the Wines from Spain tasting today and I met Sarah. In fact we were already “friends” on twitter in our various alter-egos as @thirstforwine and @bottlegreenltd but had not really met in person. In any case, this twitter-enabled chat encouraged us to taste some of each others’ wines, and in the process I was asked what I thought of this label:

Knowing that such things are subjective, I thought I’d ask for wider input, so I shared the photo with twitter. Within 20 minutes, I had 15-20 responses to be able to gauge a more general view. In this case, unlike my own personal luke-warm stance, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Check out some of the reactions below (some are not included as the messages are private):

  1. JohnG
    quaffability @thirstforwine I do like. Very nicely executed. But my first reaction is that it’s vermouth, and I think that is a problem.
  2. ryanopaz
  3. Duarte Da Silva
    wineboffin I like it. RT @thirstforwine: http://twitpic.com/17xb65 – A new ‘retro’ Rioja label. What do you think? Like?
  4. Justin Liddle
  5. Fields Morris Verdin
  6. Champagne Warehouse
  7. Somewhere is Jeannie
  8. Joanna Harris
    joanna_h85 Love them!! RT @elliott_people: @thirstforwine – Bottlegreen are a great company, fab people and product!
  9. Golly Gumdrops
    GollyGD @thirstforwine It’s attractive, but at first glance I’d think – ooo is that Cafe Rouge’s new house wine label?
  10. Seven Springs Wine
    7SpringsWine @thirstforwine Yes I like it, different, standoutish on the shelves, looks a bit ‘devilish’. Tim
  11. Emma Blackmore
  12. Laura Lindsay
  13. Int'l Wine Challenge
  14. Àlex Duran
    AlexDuran_ Fine! RT: @thirstforwine: http://twitpic.com/17xb65 – A new ‘retro’ Rioja label. What do you think? Like?
  15. Richie Roberts
    RichieWine Great label… RT @thirstforwine: http://twitpic.com/17xb65 – A new ‘retro’ Rioja label. What do you think? Like? (via @wineboffin)
  16. Nayan Gowda
    vinosity @WineChallenge @thirstforwine I would say more Nouveau than Deco, but I also like it a lot.
  17. Chris Carter
    ccarter126 Classy RT @thirstforwine: http://twitpic.com/17xb65 – A new ‘retro’ Rioja label. What do you think? Like?

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How about that for value for business? With a properly planned out strategy for getting input and feedback from fans, friends and consumers in general, twitter and other social media tools can be very useful without being complicated or time-consuming. And they can be fun too!

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Would you like a dash of natamycin with that?

Chemicals
Image by stepbar via Flickr

“There could be a hint of natamycin in your wine.” Should you jump for joy, or jump away from the glass?

What if I told you there may be a trace of resveratrol? Drink up or Throw up?

What about knowing that isinglass, bentonite and copper sulphate had possibly been used in the making of your wine? Would that make you think: “Ooh! The wine maker cares that I get a fresh, clean and clear bottle every time, I’ll buy it!” or “Cripes! This wine is adulterated and manipulated. I couldn’t possibly drink this“?

There is a bit of a story brewing concerning the first item – Natamycin. This is a “fungicide and anti-microbial agent” that is allowed in some food stuffs in the EU, so at low doses is deemed to be fine for your health. Except, it is not listed as an allowable ingredient of wine, and therefore by (EU) definition is “banned”. It now appears that new testing methods, developed in Germany, are able to detect it, and they’ve identified it in several wines from Argentina, so the law says they cannot be sold.

[Poor Argentineans! Every time we think we might see more of their wines on sale, something happens to dash their hopes (I for one will continue to buy and drink Argentinean wines).]

So where does it come from and what does it mean? Who knows!?! (the source of this may be the real story)

I (personally) am going to operate on the assumption the ban is a mainly bureaucratic issue, that the substance is safe (at low levels) and that the issue will be more about wine making processes (and who might be cutting corners) rather than any real health scare.

But what about the bigger picture?

The bigger issue relates to those other items I mentioned. Which of these are good, and which are bad? Is the average consumer going to know? Or care?

There is a movement in the wine business that says that all wines should carry ingredient labelling (see what Bonny Doon are doing) just as most other food & drink products do. The question will be, will any consumer understand those ingredients, what they mean, and what the effects are? Are we defending the consumer, or simply confusing them “for their/our own good”?

Wine is a strange beast. In principle it is simple.

You take some grapes. You crush them. You let the yeast turn the sugar into alcohol. You filter the resulting alcoholic liquid and put it into bottles. You drink it.

Except the modern consumer demands certain reliable, high quality, clean wines, clear and without funny ‘floaty bits’, harmless or otherwise. Unfortunately, to achieve that, most wines go through a few processes that may leave mere ‘traces’, for which we need to invent new tests just to know they are there, of certain substances. Does the wine drinker need to know that? I’m not sure. As long as it is safe and fair (all wineries do more or less the same), is it necessary to know as long as it isn’t actually hidden?

I’m all for educating and informing consumers that want to know more, and 110% behind the idea of analysis to ensure what they drink is safe, but after that … ?

When the EU law changed and wines had to say “contains sulphites” I personally received several calls and emails from concerned consumers that their favourite tipple was now adulterated and “gave them headaches” when in fact nothing had changed, just the label.

In the near future, wine bottles will be “encouraged” (though I don’t think forced) to carry the pregnant-women-should-not-drink-alcohol symbol, a “responsible drinking” reminder, the usual legal source and content information, and the reminder that “this wine contains sulphites/sulfites”. I wonder how much further this will go, and whether, in a few years’ time, there will be any space left for the name of the wine maker and the name of the winery?

I hope that the reaction to this particular ‘event’ is not too bad for the Argentinean wine industry, and I also hope that common sense prevails. The rules in force are strong, the tests are in place and consumers are protected – let’s also hope that bureaucracy, even if well-intentioned, does not damage the wine industry for no particular gain.

What do you think? Would you like to see ALL ingredients listed on a wine label, or are you happy as things are? Do you trust the tests to keep you safe? What would you do with the information if it was provided? I look forward to hearing what you think of this issue

<end rant>

For the record:

  • resveratrol is, in theory, good – it is associated with positive effects on the heart … but there is the rest of the body to consider!
  • isinglass is used (by some) to get “bits” out of your wine, and all of it falls out of the wine (actually called ‘fining’) or is filtered out
  • bentonite is a clay that is a good filter for wine, nothing stays in the wine
  • copper sulphate is a bad substance on its own, but in tiny quantities can remove “off odours” (stinky, bad egg) from wines and is itself them removed too
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A closer look at VOGA wine packaging

For some reason, probably because it is the only wine I mention available more widely in North America than here in the UK, my most popular and enduring post concerns the packaging of a wine called VOGA.

VOGA wine bottle

VOGA wine bottle

In the interests of giving readers a little more of what they want, I decided I’d buy a bottle when I spotted it in Canada recently, and find out a little more about it.

I’m still amazed, as I was when I wrote my last post, that this producer can make any money with what must be incredibly expensive packaging. It isn’t quite a diamond encrusted bottle, but the investment required to buy these unique bottles and add several layers of closure (see pictures below) must be awfully high.

One of the main reasons most wineries (whose margins are small compared to beer or spirits companies) use standard shapes of bottles is that they are produced in large quantities. This makes them easier to source, and cheaper – something rather important in these cost-cutting, margin-slashing times. However, clear differentiation is difficult to achieve on wine shelves so I commend them for trying.

I heard at one stage that these wines were to be available in the UK, but the importer mentioned at the time does not have them listed on their site, so I assume it fell through. My enquiries through the VOGA site remain unanswered several weeks later – not great customer service.

I don’t write tasting notes on this blog, but you can probably find some recommendations on Snooth, but the VOGA Quattro did match a spicy pork dinner well :)

Layers of packaging 2 & 3 (Plastic Cap, Plastic Seal & Cork)

Who can? The Wine Can can!

Who can make drinking wine from a can actually look cool and an attractive proposition?

Until today, I thought nobody could. But now, thanks to TheDieline.com I believe I may have found the answer:

The Wine Can


(photo borrowed from TheDieLine.com – please visit their site for more photos and other cool designs)

Not ANY old can, but a gloriously modern looking package with matt colours, nice graphics, and it is easily recyclable (I believe).

Of course, this is only at the prototype stage, but apparently the designers are looking for investors (and presumably wineries) to get involved and get this to market.

Of course, the issue will be cost. As with all innovations, this will probably be expensive, at least at first, on a per unit basis. The effect will be either to make the wine in this can appear more expensive than it is (limiting sales), or will require the marketing/distribution company to fill it with cheaper wine to offset this.

That would be a shame. What would be interesting would be to see an innovative, premium priced brand take the plunge and provide good quality wine in this package to attract early adopters to buy it AND enjoy the wine inside.

I’m always on the look out for packaging that is interesting, so if you know of any other such developments, please do let me know.

Who took all the glass?

In this age of environmental consciousness (and general lack thereof) there are certain things that really stand out as wasteful.

The packaging on fruit and vegetables, the coating added to tablets for washing clothes and dishes, and packaging materials for goods bought over the internet (if couriers could just be trusted to treat ‘fragile’ goods properly much waste could be avoided).

One thing that I don’t normally object to is glass bottles for wine. I must say I am still of the belief that this is the best alternative at the moment, even if recycling rates could be improved.

I was struck, therefore, when I saw a bottle on the shelf of my local Co-op that looked ridiculously large and heavy, and not only that, was selling for £3.99 (that’s around $8).

J.P. Chenet is already known for its quirky bottle shapes which have helped to increase its brand profile. But this bottle, from what appears to be a premium range, was like the original bottle after a course of Mr Universe quality steroids.

I was intrigued, so I parted with the paltry sum and took it home.

Now, I have weighed a number of other bottles in my rack and the average weight is around 1.25kg when full, so imagine my surprise when this came in at 1.623kg – thats a 30% increase.

So that is where all the missing glass in Europe has gone!

Maybe in future, those consumers just getting into wine might, instead of using the time honoured calculation of “best value”: BV=ABV/RSP (otherwise known as ‘most alcohol for your money’), might instead say something like:

“Wow, this Argentinian Chardonnay weighs a ton and is only £4.49!”
“That’s nothing! Over here is Chilean Cabernet is a ton and a half and is just £4.27 if you buy three bottles”

Let’s just hope that we live to see the day – or maybe not.

Oh, and unfortunately the wine delivered exactly what the price promised, not very much. How could it, after spending so much on packaging??

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