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Wino-dynamic

How is a consumer expected to care about Bio-dynamic or Organic wine?

According to a study, consumers are confused. I wonder why?! With regard to why they purchase:

Biodynamic is less important than Organic
Organic is less important than the vintage
Vintage is less important than the winemaker
Winemaker is less important than the region
Region is less important than the country
Country is less important than the Varietal
Varietal is less important than the price
and finally,
Price is less important than the “deal” or “offer”

How is the average wine buyer to even start to consider whether the wine is either organic (which they at least have heard of) or bio-dynamic (which they certainly haven’t)? They aren’t even quite sure if the varietal name they have heard before is red or white.

The problem with marketing in the wine trade to some extent is explained by the fact that the differences, if any, between any wines are all at the top of that list, and therefore far beyond the interest levels of the consumer.

Therefore we have the following options:

Give them a(nother) deal
Join the me-too brigade focused solely on the varietals
Spend millions in the hope to increase wine “education & understanding” amongst consumers
Give them another, very different, reason to buy YOUR wine

Stormhoek are doing this last one. Magners have done it in cider. Levis did it for jeans.

As Hugh says, “go after the magic”.

Unfortunately, in the commercial arena, bio-dynamics are still just hocus-pocus, not magic.

On glassware and wine experience

I have never been a big believer in the Glassware cause. When I read that Riedel has launched their latest glass design especially for drinking Mavrodaphne or whatever, I usually ignore it.

However, I have been away for a week staying in what was otherwise a very nicely furnished cottage in Cornwall. Unfortunately, their choice for wine glasses was limited to a heavy glass beaker in the shape of a martini glass.

I didn’t really care as we were not drinking expensive wines most of the time. However, when we did buy some better wines (including a Pipers Brook PN from Tasmania with thanks to David McWilliams at BinTwo in Padstow) the wines were obviously great, but really struggled to show their true colours.

It makes you wonder how many people are put off wine by a combination of selecting the wrong wine for the occasion (Zinfandel with Fish & Chips?), poor storage (reds stored next to the cooker!), wine faults and poor glassware. Any one of these could be enough to turn away those who did bother to open a bottle, and they are more than likely to turn up in combinations.

Of course glassware is the least of these, but it nevertheless shows that you need to consider many different issues if you are to understand how others see and interact with wine, even potentially minor and uncontrollable variables such as the choice of glassware.

Next time I’ll pack some better glasses, just in case!

Conversation starter

I have been looking for ways for conversations to kindle the love of wine, but maybe the place to start is where wine conversation kindles love.

My wife pointed out an article in one of those free papers for commuters last night. The centre spread, apparently a regular feature, looks at dating in London. The main article yesterday was about wine speed dating.

I have heard of a number of such events. Basically, take speed dating, add wine. The wine is the conversation starter. You learn a little about it at the start, then go around comparing notes and preferences. Not only do you get an excuse to talk to potential partners, but you get the wine and wine education thrown in as part of the deal. Excellent!

This one was organised by Grape Vine Social, apparently a big organisation, but I have also seen the WSET organise its own events (well done Nicolla!).

It may seem a little silly (unless you are single and looking for a better way of meeting people), but it says something about wine that it works in this context. I can’t imagine Gin, Bacardi Breezers or Absinthe would work the same way or have the same appeal (although there may be a niche market for each, especially for Beer).

My only quibbles about the reported date are 1) the wines chosen (Hardy’s, Banrock Station, Kiss Chasey?) and 2) if you are looking for a relationship, would you give all the details to the paper so your potential partner can read them the next day??

Maybe I’m old fashioned that way.

External and Internal Motivation

I read a lot of different blogs these days, things I have come across largely through suggestions from other bloggers (that is the real power of blogging). Sometimes this is called something like “Google-drift” but when it is directed, then it is about learning and spreading your horizons.

One such blog is Herd: The Hidden Truth About Who We Are.

The most recent post chimed with my thoughts on my own recent post. If you want to understand what motivates people then you must realise that it is not just “internal” factors but “external” ones. We interact with those around us, we are part of a “herd” of sorts.

When it comes to building wine brands and motivating 20-30 year olds to be interested in wine and buy more bottles, you have to look beyond what you put on the label and what bottle it will come in, but to what factors would motivate that consumer to even get close to your bottle.

Magners did this with a combination of heavy investment in advertising (mainly tube and bus in London), breaking the mould of a stagnant category (cider) and offering a new format for its product (over ice). They got so many people talking about their product they HAD to try it – even if they hadn’t seen the bottle, tried cider for years or were even thinking about the alcoholic element.

The “cider conversation” has now spread wide enough that Magners cannot even cope with the demand from across the UK and the entire cider category is growing massively. They continue to advertise, but now it is about reach, not innovation; the consumers are doing that themselves.

Now, where is that wine conversation? How do we get 1 million 20-30 year olds talking about wine, any wine? Ideas on a postcard, please.

Wine over ice? No!
Apple wine? That’s just silly!
Chilled red wines for summer? Now there’s an option. Hmmm….

Appealing wine drinkers

The audience that could potentially have the most appeal to wine makers and retailers are those aged 20-30 who could then develop their interest in, and expenditure on, wine for the rest of their lives.

So how does wine manage to appeal to this appealing audience?

This is one of the things I am trying to think about on this site so I was interested to see that it was the main headline of research carried out for Vinexpo (the world’s largest wine show in Bordeaux every two years) with young people in the UK, US, Japan, France and Belgium.

(According to my sources – Harpers and OLN) Their recommendations were:

  • provide a younger image – moving wine away from the drink parents enjoy
  • change the perception that it is a drink associated with higher social classes
  • demistify wine
  • provide guidance

Well, I’m not greatly enlightened by this and if this is new thinking for the French, then they are a little behind what is happening elsewhere already.

To be fair, there are a few things that are interesting, but contradictory.

They say, for example, that young people say they are interested in wine because it is seen as “sophisticated”, but then they talk about demistifying it and changing its image to something more youthful. A very fine line to walk there. Surely it is better to build upon the existing image and make it relevant, not pop the bubble of wine’s mystique?

Also, they mention that young drinkers like traditional packaging (not tetrapack?) but that they also like branded wines that are not too obviously targeted at the young. Agreed! We are all much more sophisticated consumers of marketing messages these days and wine has to fight its corner along with Nike, Coke, Playstation, Nokia, et al.

Finally, they say they find the category confusing, so they want more varietal labelling. This is something I have trouble with as the two are not strictly related. It would be awful if, in their desire to chase this market, retailers chose only varietal wines that conformed to a specific taste profile. Does a varietal label really give more information, or is it just another “brand”?

I think there ought to be a campaign called “Variety, not Varietal!” (maybe there already is?). I think I should deal with this separately in more detail in future.

The thinking still seems to be that individual wineries and retailers can shape this market, but I think that this is unlikely. As I said above, there are a lot of competing demands for the attention of these young adult consumers from brands not just in drinks, but in every moment of their waking life. How is wine to be relevant and interesting to them?

What wine needs is a real, reasonable, fun and fashionable conversation to emerge concerning wine that 20 somethings can participate in, learn from and then use to improve their experience of drinking wine. That will need a much more concerted campaign by everyone involved in wine. Or lots of luck!

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