Jul 122014
 

As a wine publicist, in addition to a wine blogger, I probably look at wine events in a slightly different way than most other attendees. I can’t help it. I’m always looking at how things are organized and what I believe is their effectiveness. One of my biggest criticisms of wineries in general, and especially of European producers, is their tendency to over-complicate their marketing programs. These companies miss the point that they have ONE shot at making an impression. Yet, many of them consistently try to stuff ten pounds of crap into a five pound bag. By doing so, they dilute their main message and confuse their audience. When dealing with the average consumer, this can cost you the sale of a bottle or two of wine. When dealing with influencers like wine media or trade, it can cost you more than that.

Wines of Portugal Brunch

Here’s an example… At this week’s Wine Bloggers Conference (#wbc14) the Wines of Portugal hosted a brunch for all the attendees. What a great idea! Yet, in many ways, I feel they missed the mark. Take a look at the menu above. Notice anything? They served cuisine from four different regions, each paired with three different wines. The cuisines chosen were from Portugal (obviously) and three former areas where the Portuguese had colonies/influence. What was the message here? That Portugal was once a great empire and a shadow of it’s former glory? Probably not what they were going for.

Okay, looking past that, I get that they were trying to show that Portuguese wines can pair with different types of cuisine. But, the dishes were served out of hotel trays, not plated. Okay, this may be a preference thing, but food from hotel trays rarely show well. It’s too reminiscent of the school cafeteria. Again, not the image they were probably looking for.  They could have easily communicated this more effectively with ONE dish from each of these areas, plated and served. Why three?

In addition, there was very little information provided about the wines themselves. What were the varieties used? What were the regions, and what made them unique? Why is Portuguese wine relevant? How is the health of the category overall? These are key pieces of information that they failed to communicate.

Lines at Brunch

Oddly, for 300 people, they only had four pouring stations with each of the three wines, which led to long lines of thirsty bloggers waiting for their turn. They also had to juggle their small plates of food, while attempting to taste the wine. I couldn’t really figure out how the wines were segmented, or what the message was.

Okay, so what was the overall goal here? Having worked with European clients extensively over the past ten years, I can read between the lines. The Wines of Portugal wanted to show off that they are sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and food friendly. Okay, they may have achieved that. Was it a benefit to the individual producers? Doubtful. I’d wager that very few of the bloggers in the room will remember or care what each of the wines were. They were too busy having “fun” with the food and beverage. If I was one of these wineries, I’d want to see some blog posts or social media activity specifically about my wine, not just general comments about the brunch.

So, how would I have done it differently? First, I would have reduced the number of dishes served and really focus on the best-of-the-best dishes from each region. Make the focus less on the food, and more on the wine. Second, I’d ditch the pairing idea. Few consumers care about wine and food pairing, and that is generally who reads these blogs. Third, I’d increase the number of tables for wine pouring and segment the wines by DO. This would give each of the wine regions and the individual producers a chance to shine and position them in a way that differentiates them from the other areas. Finally, I would have more information about the wines available for the attendees. Whether it be signage, handouts, maps, etc. There should be something.

So, what are the key points you want your audience to walk away with? You’ll have no more than three pieces of information you can convey, and often only ONE. What should it be? Every winery or wine region should think about that before embarking on any marketing program.

In the end, I’m sure that the Wines or Portugal will consider this event a success, but I can’t help but feel that the impression they conveyed to the group was confused and ineffective.

Jan 032014
 
Wine and politics: how do we vote?

Graphic courtesy Jennifer Dube, National Media Research Planning and Placement LLC

According to a recent study reported on by the Washington Post, what you drink can be an indication of how you vote. The research comes from consumer data supplied by GfK MRI, and analyzed by Jennifer Dube of National Media Research Planning and Placement, an Alexandria-based Republican consulting firm. Wine and politics… now we know what’s really important.

It seems that wine drinkers turn out in greater numbers than spirits drinkers overall. “Analyzing voting habits of those who imbibe, Dube found that 14 of the top 15 brands that indicate someone is most likely to vote are wines,” states the article. In addition, the BRAND of wine you drink may indicate your political leanings. As you can see from the chart above, those that drink Kendall-Jackson and Robert Mondavi skew Republican and those that consumer Chateau Ste. Michelle and Smoking Loon.

In fact, Smoking Loon drinkers are off the chart in terms of voter turnout for DEMOCRATS. The ultimate irony is that this particular brand is made by Sonoma-based Don Sebastiani & Sons, and Don Sebastiani himself served three terms in the California Legislature as a conservative REPUBLICAN. Go figure.

Nov 022012
 
Indigenous cosmopolitan: Prosecco Superiore goes “glocal”

Photo Credit: Tracy Ellen Kamens

Passing the microphone to moderator Luciano Ferraro, the reason behind Prosecco’s popularity became clear. Ferraro shared that his wife had described the wine as “’light, fruity and beautiful’” and further explained that his wife doesn’t even like wine. American journalist, Alan Tardi, concurred, saying that it was fresh, pleasant, low in alcohol, well priced and very versatile; in sum, it was “Italy in a bottle.”

As evidence of the wine’s success, Professor Vasco Boatto presented data, which showed significant growth of Prosecco (both Prosecco DOC and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG) in value and volume. Figures from 2011 showed the product’s growth to be up 63% in value and 48% in volume, in the U.S. alone.

But, Tardi also mentioned that even though Americans have embraced Prosecco with open arms, they do not fully appreciate the territory where it comes from. He added that there is still work to be done in differentiating Prosecco DOC and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG for American consumers.

Speaking to the theme of this year’s Vino in Villa event – Indigenous cosmopolitan—Enrico Finzi, president of Astraricerche, discussed globalization 2.0. While globalization 1.0 has created a homogeneity worldwide (think Coke or McDonalds), this new phase ushers in the opportunity to be “glocal.” Accordingly, globalization and local do not have to be at odds with one another. Rather, local traditions are being revived and exported out of their local territory while maintaining quality, providing a wider audience for these products, a “plurality of access.”

Building on this theme, the tasting event featured international cuisine from Japan and Russia and the main dinner paired Prosecco Superiore with food from one of Denmark’s top restaurants- Restaurant Kvægtorvet di Odense in Fionia. From the fjord shrimp with pickled cucumber and rye grains with pea purée to the roasted loin and fresh strawberries, the Prosecco Superiore rose to the occasion in each case. Proving that two seemingly disparate, artisan products – Danish food (almost all of the ingredients were brought in for the dinner) and an Italian wine – could find such synergy at the table.