Tag Archives: Big Wine

Winebits 407: Locations rose, Big Wine, craft beer


Locations roseThis is how hip rose has become: California winemaker Dave Phinney’s Locations wines are huge critical and popular hits — wines made in different parts of the world (even Texas) with top-notch winemakers under Phinney’s supervision. They’re known for the big country initial on the label — F from France, I for Italy, and so forth, and as huge, alcoholic fruit bombs — not something I especially enjoy. So what’s the newest Locations wine? A 15 percent French Locations rose, because if the hipsters want brose, Phinney is going to give it to them. The wine lists for $17; given the price and the high alcohol, I couldn’t bring myself to buy it for a review. Even the Wine Curmudgeon has his limits. But if someone wants to write a review, I’ll be happy to run it on the blog, even if you like the wine.

The big get bigger — or something: Diageo, one of the biggest drinks companies in the world, has decided that wine isn’t big enough for them, and will probably sell the the handful of wine companies that it owns. That these are huge brands, like Sterling and Rosenblum, makes the decision even more intriguing, since Diageo is a top 10 wine company in the U.S. But Diageo, based in Britain, wants to boost its stock price and, as the financial types like to say, “reassure investors” that it wants to make more money. This has always baffled me; what company doesn’t want to make more money? If this happens, look for Sterling and its Diageo brethren to go to some sort of leveraged buyout company, which will cut costs and take the brands private.

Big Beer? It’s not enough that we’re probably going to have just one beer company accounting for one-third of the beer in the world, but now it looks like craft beer — much of which isn’t all that crafty anymore — could be bigger than the California wine business by the end of 2016. That’s according to figures compiled by Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight, who found that craft beer is growing three times as quickly as the California wine business. Given that growth, it would total more than $29 billion, about $1 billion more than California wine. So much for premiumization.

Post-modern wine marketing

wine marketing

Wine marketing is not just about shelf talkers anymore.

Wine marketing, like the rest of the wine business, has always been done the same way — some junk written on the back label, mostly useless, and the cute labels that have been the biggest innovation over the past couple of decades. Otherwise, unless there is a shelf talker (the printed card attached to the shelf under the wine with a score or description of the product), you’re on your own.

That was always fine with the wine business, which assumed that anyone who went into a store was going to buy a bottle, so what was the point otherwise? There is even a term for this — “building a brand,” in which the distributor and retailer work together to sell you certain wines.

This is one reason why there has traditionally been so little advertising, TV or otherwise, for a $40 billion industry. Ketchup ads are everywhere, even though the ketchup market is 1/80th the size of wine.

All of which is changing, thanks to our friends at Big Wine. They understand, in a way that their forebears did not, that wine has become just another category in the food business, and it needs to be marketed like ketchup. We may not see TV spots with fresh young things touting wine the way they do yogurt, but we’re going to see more and slicker efforts to get us to buy specific wine brands.

Perhaps even more important, these ads will focus on consumers who don’t buy wine in the small retail shops that have traditionally been the backbone of the wine business. As an executive at one of the biggest wine companies in the world told me a couple of weeks ago, the future of wine retailing is Costco, Total Wine, and grocery stores, so expect Big Wine to target consumers who shop there. This is revolutionary for wine, where it has always been about making a decision on brand in the store. You may want red wine for dinner, but which red wine? Big Wine, knowing no one is around to help you pick a specific red wine at a supermarket, wants you to decide on their brand before you go to the store. It’s all about brand loyalty, the same way it is with Heinz and Tide.

Hence, these two marketing efforts, which are just the beginning. This spring, Little Black Dress, the $8 brand owned by Fetzer (which itself is owned by Chile’s $1 billion Concha y Toro), did a spa day sweepstakes, where “entrants will be asked to tell Little Black Dress about their best friend and why she deserves a day of pampering for a chance to win two $300 gift cards to a local spa.” I can’t imagine too many of the Winestream Media’s favorite “oaky and toasty, redolent of cigar box aroma” wines doing this.

Or baseball wine. Seriously. Nineteen teams have official wines, made by some company called Wine by Design and part of the “MLB® Club Series wine collection.” Who cares what the wine tastes like? It has my team’s logo on it, so let’s buy a case.

Again, this is about cutting the tie between retailer and consumer, which has always been essential to selling wine. Big Wine doesn’t need the traditional retailer, and it’s going to do everything it can to usher in post-modern wine marketing.

For more on wine marketing:
Chateau Ste. Michelle, wine marketing, and wine blogging
Diet wine, and why we’re stuck with it
When Blue Nun ruled the world

Winebits 403: Big Wine, wine scores, wine regions


big wineThe big get bigger? An industry analyst says Diageo, one of the biggest wine producers in the U.S., should merge with beer giant SABMiller to increase profits as the global drinks business slows down. Talk about Big Wine: the combined company would total $8 billion in sales, and its products would include Miller beer, Johnnie Walker scotch, and Rosenblum and Sterling wines. How do we know the speculation is more than gossip? The news story included the word synergies, as in the combined company would save money because it had them. As regular visitors here know, synergies — which, like unicorns and wood nymphs — exist only in the minds of those who believe in them, and are always given as an excuse for a multi-national merger. Because, otherwise, what’s the point?

A wine snob temper tantrum: The Italian Wine Guy, who knows more about Italian wine than almost anyone else in the world, recounts his experience with a wine drinker, and it’s not pretty. The customer wanted a 100-point Robert Parker Brunello, and he wasn’t going to suffer anything as foolish as advice from one of the most knowledgeable Italian wine people in the world. What’s worse is that the customer was rude about it, treating the Italian Wine Guy as if he was some idiot foisted on the customer by an inept store owner. This is the harm in scores, regardless of anything else: If all we do is buy wine by scores, we cheat ourselves of all wine has to offer. It’s snobbishness of the worst degree, as bad as the snobs who make fun of people who drink sweet wine.

Calling wine by its regional name: The U.S. and the European Union have been arguing for some 20 years about strengthening the international agreement that prohibits U.S. producers from calling their sparkling wine Champagne and stops French companies from calling their potatoes Idaho. Now, though, the two sides may be close to an agreement, thanks to a U.S. compromise. The article, from the Conversation.com website, is long and little legalish, but it does a good job of explaining why these trade laws exist, why the U.S. traditionally didn’t care for them, and what might happen next. Who knew Feta cheese was a deal-breaker?

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