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Great with … wine.

I was alerted to a new US based wine branding business earlier today.

Wine That Loves™ is a concept that has been seen before, at least in this country, in Tesco under the name “Great With” (something like Great With Chicken and Great with Fish). They did not last, but some wines did OK for a time.

This new drive supposedly comes from a top sommelier with credentials, Ralph Hersom, so I would assume the wines themselves are of a reasonable quality.

On the positive side, many people starting their personal exploration of wine want to have it at home, and most likely with food. The sheer range of wines available in most countries is off-putting if you have no knowledge, so any pointer as to what is “good” will help. I know that the limited food matching suggestions on the back labels of supermarket wines can have a big impact on their success, so it makes sense to offer this information up-front.

The problem for most regular wine labels is that they want to appeal to the broadest possible group of people, so they try to be helpful whilst also not trying to turn anyone away.

“This wine is great on its own, but is a perfect match for fish, chicken, beef, vegetables, pasta, and any other food I don’t have space to mention.”
Not very useful.

These wines, on the other hand go to the other extreme.

Wine That Loves Pizza“.
Erm, nothing else? Might it not be OK with some pastas then?
“No!” Screams the bottle. “Buy Wine That Loves Pasta for that instead. Oh, and it must be Pasta with Tomato Sauce

What I find particularly unusual is that they don’t even seem to want to tell you what the wine is. If you do use this as an introduction to wine, then you might discover that wines can be a great match for pizza and pasta, but how do you then take it to the next level, ‘Fly Solo’ as it were? Maybe it is on a back label, but the site certainly doesn’t give anything away. In fact their descriptions are somewhat vague and unhelpful, but simplicity is a key I suppose.

From the perspective of building a Wine Culture, I applaud the effort to reach new audiences with a very specific message. However, taken to the extreme this could result in the further commodification of wine as merely a food match, so maybe this should be accompanied by some ongoing wine education?

Oh, and if I were starting a company like this, I might include some mention of how to get hold of the wines that have been so carefully selected and packaged. Just a thought.

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.

Thoughts?”


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?

Cultural Bonus

I hate it when that happens.

I pretty sure it must have been when I was following a link of another blog, and I came across a short article about the benefits of having a stronger culture of wine. Then I lost it! Who wrote it and where can it be found???

The writer was suggesting that alcohol abuse was more likely when the history and culture of wine is divorced from the product. If you know something about where wine (or alcohol) comes from and how it has evolved, you are more likely to treat it with respect. Of course it was much more eloquent than that, but this was the overall point I got from it. And I agree.

What is wine, or beer, or any spirit for that matter, to an 18 year-old? In most cases, something they have only very recently started to discover, and have no context for. If they did experiment with alcohol it was probably in secret and as a way to get drunk for fun. If they had been able to experiment openly, or had been able to join in conversations about it, that bottle in Mum & Dad’s sideboard might seem less mysteriously alluring.

I applaud the sentiment of the French governing party discussions about teaching school kids to appreciate wine, but I don’t think that schools are the right places to do this. These are things that should be learned at home, with family and friends. This is not always easy, I realise, but replacing it with school lectures is not the answer. Seems to me that would be the fastest way to turn them away from it completely. This is one place where the media can play a positive role, and I am not talking about propaganda, just fun and informative content.

Alcohol abuse is a serious problem that does need to be taken into account. A drunk fellow passenger on the last train home the other night, throwing up in the carriage at my feet was a stark reminder of this. However, demonising alcohol does not work, so why don’t we try being more relaxed about it, allowing both kids and adults to see the positive as well as the negative aspects of alcohol is surely much better?

Damp Squibs

As could have been predicted, the result was not nearly as dramatic as the trade, the media and the excited consumers might have hoped.

The EU Courts ruled to keep the status quo relating to the payment of duty on wine (and other duty-payable products) imported for personal consumption.

To be honest, I expected this. The law as it is is already very complicated to monitor, and I could already forsee all sorts of ways to get around the remaining Customs oversight if it had changed. Pragmatically, the Court decided that only wines bought in person, in another EU country, and transported back by the consumer themselves would not be liable for duty in the home country.

It is important to note that this ruling did reiterate that even for “personal consumption” purposes, there is a maximum volume of 90L that you can bring in. I do know that a lot of people assume there is no limit, and they also assume that they can ship it without paying further Duty. In many cases the values are too small for Customs to bother with, but the rules are there so you ignore them at your peril.

So, are we any further forward after this? Well, this argument helped to highlight the future benefit of harmonising tax regimes so as to remove this difference, but governments that charge high duty will still need the money, so they will only collect it elsewhere if this source dries up. I will not hold my breath until the UK decides to lower duty on wine & spirits for UK consumers.

Secondly, it did make wine (and cigarettes … shame we have to be connected all the time) the topic of a national conversation again. Unfortunately this was, once again, all about price and “savings”. In practice all you would save was the duty anyway, so it would disproportionately have benefited cheap wines. Not ideal.

Lastly, it did highlight that such a move would push most small merchants over the edge financially. Some of them got a chance to say this to a wider audience because of this story, so maybe, just maybe, there will be some consumers out there who take this to heart and decide to support those merchants by buying their wines from there instead. One can dream.

Show Wines

Another extended absence, but it was worth it.

This summer was a great opportunity to spend more time in Rioja and get get to know the culture there properly. It is really worth getting immersed in other cultures as you see so much more than you get to see by visiting it for a few days. Obvious, of course, but it is not about studying, so much as of absorbtion. There is only so much you can be exposed to in a short trip, but just being there for 3 weeks means you pick up on all those little things that just happen while you are there.

A particular point of interest was the variety of sizes people ‘serve’. We are so used to standard, legally-enforced measures that our wine experience is naturally limited to what we can manage to drink. If you are drinking 175ml or 250ml glasses each time, there are only so many you can try. But when you go from tapas bar to tapas bar in Logroño you get served everything from thimblefull glasses for €0.50 a glass (35p!!) to larger glass for a few Euros.

On the other hand, most punters are not interested in which wine it is that they are drinking in this context, and I don’t really know why. One for the future.

Back to the main topic. Yesterday I attended the 2nd Wine Show in London. Whatever you might say about the range of wines on show, the fact that consumers can wander around, taste and learn about wine MUST be a good thing – as long as it is not an off putting experience of course. I will follow up on a few of my tastings in the next few days, but I would recommend you consider it next year (keep an eye on http://www.wineshow.co.uk) and you might even see me on a stand there next year.

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