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Tag Archives: wine marketing

Downton Abbey claret — wine merchandising for dummies

winerant

downton abbey claretLet’s get the review of the Downton Abbey claret ($17, purchased, 13%) out of the way first: I liked it. It’s a Bordeaux blend with some blueberry fruit and a rough, gritty style that’s typical of cheap French red wine, the sort of thing I’ve been drinking most of my life. In other words, plonk.

The catch, of course, is that it isn’t cheap, costing about twice as much as it’s worth. But that’s the point, isn’t it? That $17 pays for more than the wine. It pays for the experience, and that’s what Carnival Film & Television Ltd., the show’s producers, are counting on. That, and that wine drinkers are as stupid as we’re supposed to be. More, after the jump:

Sex sells — even for wine in the 1970s

lancers2

The goofy thing about this 1979 TV commercial for Lancers Rose is not the clothes they’re wearing or the woman’s hair (kids, ask your parents and grandparents about those) or even that it’s for Lancers. The wine, still available but not nearly as well known, was a million-case seller in the years before the U.S. wine boom in the 1980s.

What’s most interesting is that the woman needs a bottle of wine to serve the rock star; the inference is that any woman in the target demographic who has a bottle of Lancers in the fridge will end up entertaining a hot guy. Update the clothing and hair, change the musical style, make it a little more risque, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a similar ad for a current brand. Yellow Tail, perhaps? Or Little Black Dress?

I’ll leave any judgements about what that says about the wine and advertising businesses to you (and a tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to robatsea2009 at YouTube for the video).

One billion bottles of Yellow Tail

winetrends

yt.jpegOr more than 10 billion glasses, if you’d prefer.

Despite everything — the jeers from critics, the blame for sinking the Australian wine industry, its role as one of the first livestock wines — Yellow Tail has thrived. How about these numbers?

The company, despite its struggles with the pricey Aussie dollar, recorded its best year ever in fiscal 2013, with sales by quantity increasing 8 per cent. Meanwhile, some 11 1/2 million cases a year are sold in the U.S., making it the most popular foreign wine in the country. That’s impressive to begin with, and even more so for a brand that didn’t exist before the beginning of the 21st century.

In all of this, Yellow Tail helped change the way Americans drink wine, as important as Two-buck Chuck and the arrival of the multi-national wine companies. If nothing else, it was one of the first of the international style wines, fruity and easy to drink, and it was cheap.

Yellow Tail boss John Casella makes no apologies for this. I’ve met him twice, and each time I was part of a group made up of wine types much more highfalutin‘ than the Wine Curmudgeon. Casella just stared them down, politely, and his refrain was the same: “If consumers want a simple, fruity wine at a fair price, what’s wrong with giving it to them?”

Nothing, of course, which is why his company has produced 1 billion bottles. I’m not a Yellow Tail fan, and only one of the wines has been reviewed here in almost eight years. They are too fruity and too simple; I prefer wines that are more interesting, and there are many at the same price.

But lots of people don’t like those wines, or can’t find them, or even know they exist. And this has helped Casella build what may be the most successful wine company in Australia. That’s the thing to keep in mind when you read the other pieces about Yellow Tail’s milestone, articles that will almost certainly focus on the stuff in the second paragraph of this one. Yellow Tail’s success makes the company so easy to dislike that too many of us lose sight of why it is successful — and what that means for wine.

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