Restaurant patrons can now take home unfinished bottles of wine in a tamper-proof wine doggy bag.(Some even spell it wine doggie bag).
By Mike Carter.
Restaurant patrons can now take home unfinished bottles of wine in a tamper-proof wine doggy bag.(Some even spell it wine doggie bag).
By Mike Carter.
Joel Stein interviews Fred Franzia, the man behind America’s favorite bargain vino. He has a big mouth and an even bigger winemaking empire – one that’s scaring the bejeezus out of his elitist rivals.
Whether participating in virtual winemaking offered by places like Crushpad, owning a share in a winery, or even doing it yourself in a spare room with a Winepod or participating through experiences like Sonoma Grape Camp, the interactive experience in wine is incredibly hot right now. Wine isn’t just what you drink with dinner, it’s a whole lifestyle.
That’s why its the perfect time for a luxury club like Destination Cellars, which I first mentioned back in March. The club, based in Virginia offers members tailored experiences at over 65 winery properties around the world.
The experiences offer the kind of custom adventures you can’t get just by showing up at the winery. Private tours, lunches and dinners, wine and food pairings and special overnight stays are all part of the fun. You can also arrange special romantic wine-themed events for important moments like proposals or anniversaries. And for those who want the hands-on experience you can arrange for a custom blending session and create your own wine to take home.
An hour conversation in a special edition about wine with critic Robert Parker, from his home in Maryland. He discusses his bi-monthly newsletter “The Wine Advocate”, the powerful impact his reviews have on the wine industry and his favorite bottles. He also talks about the differences between domestic and foreign wines, the role of the winemaker and wine’s specific role within a cultural context.
Jeanine Wardman talks to Jo Mason, Wines of South Africa UK Market Manager, about the growth potential for South African wines in the UK. Here’s a sample:
What frustrates you about the South African wine industry?
When a generic image is at stake, an industry has to present a united front â€“ and a positive one. If this methodology is applied consistently a positive perception in the trade and eventually among consumers becomes the norm. South Africans are honest and outspoken, which is wonderful, but we need to be careful about being seen as disparate and fragmented. There is never a situation where everyone agrees, in any countryâ€™s generic message, but itâ€™s vital to be seen to be working together.
What is the single most current facet of the wine business of collective importance to the South African wine industry?
Green credentials. And what it means for wine packaging. The debate is heating up by the day here in the UK wine media. With the UKâ€™s largest retailer, Tesco, putting carbon emissions top of its corporate agenda it is a subject that will be addressed by everyone.
Fair Trade or Biodiversity?
Biodiversity, without a doubt. Fair Trade is a global brand and resonates with many other wine settings. Biodiversity is 100% pure South African.
South Africa is…
… well placed to make a good recovery in the UK market: investment in brands is evident (and extremely necessary); the Cape winelands have some of the best tourism infrastructure in the world and UK consumers are travelling to South Africa in droves; the industryâ€™s conservation initiatives are timely, as consumers are increasingly interested in ethical purchasing; finally, we have great wines and an impending football event that will throw South Africa into the spotlight.
Those interested in the world of wine have probably heard the bad news by now: the world is running out of Champagne. At least, this is the news coming from the Champagne producers themselves. The president of MoÃ«t & Chandon, FrÃ©dÃ©ric Cumenal, recently told the French financial paper Les Echos, â€œFor thirty years, the industry has always succeeded in coping with demand. Today that’s no longer the case. We’re at maximum yield and we will soon hit a wall.â€
There are several causes, most of which are generally good news. Economic growth in developing countries like China, India, Brazil, and Russia has created a rapidly emerging market for a wine commonly associated with â€œthe good life.â€ China alone has seen a thirty-fold increase in annual sales, from 16,000 to 500,000 bottles last year. Second, many blame Franceâ€™s strict regulations, which prevent wines produced anywhere else in the country from being called Champagne. Finally, many Champagne growers are holding onto portions of their stock, either as a buffer in case of a bad harvest year, or to sell at a higher price once they retire.
What makes Champagne, the sparkling wine from a particular part of France, so much more popular than the bubbly of New Zealand or Californiaâ€™s Napa Valley? In a word: Image.
As wine writer Hugh Johnson notes in his Wine Companion, â€œThe success of Champagne has always been based on shrewd marketing, ensuring its reputation worldwide as the only suitable wine for any celebration.â€ This has two componentsâ€”the positive connotation of the name â€œChampagne,â€ and the fact of short supply itself.
The Champagne region of France, where this sparkling wine is produced, is fiercely protective of its name. While sparkling wine is actually made all around the world, other producers, especially in Europe, are prohibited from using the name â€œChampagneâ€ on any of their wines. The term â€œChampagneâ€ therefore exudes an air of exclusivityâ€”it is the only sparkling wine in the world grown according to centuries of tradition and to the exacting standards of the French government. â€œChampagne,â€ while simply a geographical region, has thus also become a world-renowned brand.
For well over a hundred years, Champagne producers have cultivated their productâ€™s image as an essential component of luxury living. As early as 1866, MoÃ«t commissioned the popular English performer George Leybourne to write and sing songs extolling the virtues of Champagne as a reflection of taste, affluence, and the good life. In the late 1800s, Champagne producers successfully marketed their products to the middle class by promoting the wineâ€™s image as both the royal and aristocratic familiesâ€™ beverage of choice and as a luxury enjoyable by anyone, for any occasion. And today, both Krug and Dom PÃ©rignon, two of the top Champagne brands, are owned by the French luxury goods conglomerate Louis Vuitton MoÃ«t Hennessy.
But could Champagne actually be hurt in the long run? Increased global demand for Champagne, met with a limited supply, may lead many people to start shifting their tastes and preferences toward more readily available, and affordable, supplies of sparkling wine from other regions of the world. If people find it to their liking, global demand for Champagne may decline. And yet, this is unlikely: Champagneâ€™s image of quality, tradition, exclusivity, and luxury will almost surely keep the region on top of the sparkling wine market. The region may be at peak production, but as a limited supply meets an ever-increasing global demand, Champagne prices will simply go up. This is good for Champagne, and for all those involved in producing the wine.
Ultimately, it is the consumer who will be most affected by the coming Champagne shortage. For those with the money, and the will to pay it, finding a bottle of Champagne will never be an issue; everyone else may soon have to look elsewhere. And in the end, as prices increase, Champagneâ€™s image as a luxury good will only be strengthened.
Benjamin Newell is a writer living in Washington, DC. He and his girlfriend blog about wine at Undressing the Grape.
Next time you are in a liquor store looking for a nice bottle of chardonnay, or maybe a merlot, think about what drives your selection.
Is it price? Is it name recognition? Or, is it the pretty picture on the label?
More and more winemakers are counting that it is the label.
Wines in recent years have taken on new and creative names and funky labels as a way to distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace.
I find it admirable that many independent wine retailers in New Zealand have taken a stand against supermarkets and donâ€™t stock the wines they sell. Many great wine brands, their image meticulously built up over a number of years by the hard working staff on the ground in retail, have ruined their image by taking the fast buck and selling their wines en masse to big businesses who donâ€™t give a damn which wine sells and which doesnâ€™t. As long as the moneyâ€™s rolling in, quality is not an issue. Itâ€™s now left to marketing campaigns, snazzy labels and pot luck for customers buying wines, or, even more unfortunately, the customer will stay on a safe brand and stick to the same wine or style for the entirety of their drinking lives, afraid to try something new for fear of buying something they donâ€™t like and â€˜wastingâ€™ their money.
The supermarkets have sucked the money out of the wine trade for too long without making an effort to put anything back into it. Through not proffering guidance and unbiased information on the wines stocked to their customers, plus their use of gimmicks and marketing tools to herd buyers into purchasing high margin wines disguised as special offers, they are unwittingly creating generations of completely useless â€˜bin-lidâ€™ wine buyers who canâ€™t think for themselves and will one day wonder why the enamel on their teeth is melting with every glass of that â€˜cheap Savvyâ€™ with the snazzy label.
So, ask yourself. What happens when a wine finally gets onto the supermarket shelves and there is a sudden jump in sales? First, you must realise that the winery will have had to have cut their margins down to the thinnest of snips for the sale to proceed (bulk buying means bulk pricing ). How do you do that? You cut corners with quality. Secondly, what happens if sales go well and the supermarket demands more? You go looking to source wine outside of your vineyards. What if the only wine you can get your hands on is crap? Who cares, blend it inâ€¦it cuts costs, itâ€™s already selling well and how many â€˜bin-lidsâ€™ will be able to tell the difference? Most of them are already stuck on the brand, too afraid to try something else. On and on this vicious cycle descends, producing characterless brands of such low quality that the rest of us wonder why on earth people buy such rubbish? But itâ€™s a gradual drop in quality, a drop that will go unnoticed by the loyal drinkers, especially if our old friend sugar is added to mask the underlying horror.
So, hereâ€™s what you do. Write a letter to the wine buyer at your local supermarket chain ( if you donâ€™t think theyâ€™re doing enough that isâ€¦you may be perfectly happy with the wonderful descriptions on the back of the labelsâ€¦â€™itâ€™s like a million butterflies floating in your mouthâ€™â€¦yeah right.) requesting unbiased and informative talkers on as many wines as possible plus information on the winegrowing regions and vintages. The supermarket will inform you of who best to write to. Write to your local rag (preferably one with as many â€˜bin-lidâ€™ readers as you can appeal toâ€¦this is a mission to save them, remember) raising the subject and your wish to change the situation. Finally, use an independent wine retailer. Look for a good shop that has a varied selection and knowledgeable staff who will guide and direct you into making a purchase that suits you.
These huge chains wonâ€™t spend any more money than they have to, so a little bit of negative publicity never hurts to get the ball moving. If they can tell me about a Chinese fruit they stock for two months a year, then I want to hear more about each New Zealand wine they sell. These retail giants with their huge buying power might have the wine industry by the throat, but it is possible for them to play a little bit fairer and take a little bit of the wine education load off the shoulders of the better retailers.
By Paul Brannigan.
It’s the secret dream of every oenophile: give up the desk job, move to a vineyard and spend the days crafting wines. Then reality sinks in–bills, obligations, bills–and the dream becomes a passing fancy.
But it’s actually never been easier to make your own wine, often from the comfort of your nonvineyard home. Today’s garagistes (French for the enthusiasts who create vintages in, well, garages) have upscale equipment and packaged kits to help them make their wines. Wineshops and vineyards are offering blending seminars, tutored tastings of grape varietals where you can create your own blend and take home a bottle of the mix. But for those who want the full winemaking experience, Crushpad, a San Francisco urban winery, allows clients to create a custom wine, from vine to uncorking, without having to move to wine country.
Crushpad is the creation of Michael Brill, a former home winemaker who once ripped up his San Francisco backyard to plant Pinot Noir and Syrah vines. He found that lots of people shared his desire for a wine-country lifestyle but lacked the millions of dollars needed to make their dream come true. Tired of his career in software marketing, he quit his job and created Crushpad in 2004 to connect amateur winemakers with West Coast vineyards. It’s the best of both worlds. Customers get access to far finer grapes than they could grow themselves, at a fraction of the cost, along with on-site expertise to guide them through the process.
At Crushpad’s new 30,000-sq.-ft. (2,800 sq m) warehouse headquarters, customer involvement varies. Purple-fingered zealots sort through the grapes, while others sit at home in foreign countries fine-tuning their wine plans on the Web. Using Crushpad’s online services and consultations with the staff winemaker, home enologists select grapes from specific vineyards (or provide their own) and are then led through the Crushpad 30, a list of options and decisions about the winemaking process: Duration of skin contact? Natural or cultured yeasts? What type of bottle closure? Customers must commit to at least one barrel of wine, which ranges in price from $5,000 to more than $10,000, depending on the wine they make. One barrel produces about 25 cases, or roughly $17 to $40 per bottle.
Once the process has begun, home winemakers can remain in daily contact with their products via CrushpadWine.com where the Crushpad staff posts regular and contagiously enthusiastic fermentation updates and harvest reports (“From Southern California to Eastern Washington we’re seeing grapes turn from green to red–the sign of veraison and a warning that the picking dates are only 40-60 days away”).
The process continues remotely with online chats with Crushpad employees and a webcam that allows customers to keep a watchful eye on their wine. They are also encouraged to visit Crushpad’s processing center whenever a major step in the winemaking–such as grape crushing, bottling or labeling–takes place.
After a slow start, Crushpad is blooming. In 2004 it produced 200 barrels. This year there will be more than 1,000. And Brill hopes to create more Crushpads to take the winemaking process closer to urban enologists. First up is Tokyo, where Crushpad Japan recently opened, bringing West Coast winemaking to the Far East.
It comes as no news to anyone that the American people love their animals. What did come as a surprise to me is that we also love animals on our wine labels. Yes, a study released earlier this year by ACNielsen confirms that wine labels with animal images are becoming increasingly popular in this country.
I felt compelled to do my own research on this topic so one evening I stopped by my local liquor store to check out the wine selection. Sure enough I was greeted with a veritable zoo of animals on labels. There were Dancing Bulls, Leaping Horses, Black Swans, Little Penguins, Kangaroos, even a hippopotamus courtesy of Fat Bastard Wines (which is French would you believe). This very informal research confirmed that there seems to be a much larger selection of wines with animal labels than ever before.
In the wine industry these animal labels are affectionately known as “critter labels”, and the trend began back in 2001 with the introduction of the Yellow Tail brand of wines into this country from Australia. Pictured on the label is what looks like a kangaroo (but which is in fact supposed to be the yellow-footed rock wallaby). These wines had labels that looked striking, were priced very reasonably and they tasted great â€“ so they became a runaway success. So much so that they spawned an entire new “category” of wine.
The ACNielsen study has some hard data confirming the popularity of this new wine category. In the past three years there have been 438 new Table Wine brands that have been successfully introduced in the American market (those wines that sold more than $20,000 annually). Of these 438 new brands 77 of them featured an animal on their label, around 18 percent. Combined with existing “critter label” wines, sales reached $600 million in 2005 out of a total of just over $4 billion, based on ACNielsen sales data from supermarket point of sale purchases.
“Critter-labeled wines are on the rise, quickly gaining share in the table wine category,” said Danny Brager, vice president of ACNielsen’s Beverage Alcohol team. “The sales generated by new brands featuring a critter outperform other new table wines by more than two to one.” That’s right, taken across the board new critter-labeled wines have proven in the marketplace to be more popular.
“While placing a critter on a label doesn’t guarantee success, it is important that wine makers realize that there is a segment of consumers who don’t want to have to take wine too seriously,” said Brager. “Not only are they willing to have fun with wine, they may just feel â€˜good’ about an animal label presentation.”
With hundreds of new wine brands being introduced each year, wine makers realize that they need to stand out from the crowd if they are to make an impression. The easiest and most cost effective way to stand out is with an attention grabbing label on your bottle. The wine industry has also realized that there is an increasingly large segment of consumers who are attracted by fun labels. They want to buy a non-pretentious wine and they don’t want to pay a fortune. These are the people who walk into a liquor store and supermarket and have no idea what they are going to buy â€“ they decide by looking at the labels.
The Yellow Tail wine phenomenon is the perfect example of this. From Casella Wines, a small family-owned winery in New South Wales, Australia, Yellow Tail went from zero to the number one imported wine in the US in just two years. The first year the Casella brothers expected to sell 25,000 cases of wine here, they ended up selling 200,000 cases. That was back in 2001. In 2005 they sold 8 million cases of wine. Yellow Tail Shiraz is now the #1 selling red wines in America (not just imports but ALL red wine). In the crowded and highly competitive US wine market with over 6,500 wine brands, Yellow Tail has become the #1 wine brand, and it took just five years.
OK, I realize that Yellow Tail’s success is not just because of their label. They have a great product that is reasonably priced â€“ the Shiraz is just $6.99 â€“ and they have a very loyal base of repeat customers. But could they have become #1 without their unique label? I don’t think so. One of the biggest barriers they faced was getting people to try the wine in the first place. With what looks like a brightly colored kangaroo on the label on a black background, it is a visually striking label. It was able to break through the clutter at the retail store with this label.
Perhaps the biggest indication of the success of Yellow Tail is the number of copycats it has spawned. Penfolds, Australia’s leading winery, was obviously disappointed in missing out on this opportunity, so they responded with the launch of the Little Penguin brand of wines. There is now a deluge of animal themed wines, so much so that ACNielsen is tracking their sales now. Despite all this new competition Yellow Tail remains the most successful wine brand in terms of total sales.
Although the wine business is somewhat unique there are lessons here that can be applied to any industry. One lesson is that with a high impact label you can make inroads even in a conservative and image conscious industry such as the wine industry. Your label should be working hard for your product. It should be informational, be a sales and marketing piece, carry any necessary regulatory information, and at the same time be eye catching. If you are selling your products at a retail store, then your label needs to perform well in all these areas for your product to compete with other more established brands.
Your label is your sales tool. The success of Yellow Tail wines demonstrates that in any competitive industry a good label can help bring success. Of course, it doesn’t have to feature a critter, but a visually appealing and eye catching label will always help sales.