“GRAPES FOR THE MASSES”
It’s not often that I get the chance to read
my copy of The Spec or any of the other wine rags that I subscribe to.
The pace of this past year has been such that my reading has been limited to
whatever mag I can throw in my briefcase for perusing while at 36,000 feet on my
way to my next meeting.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the June 19,
2006 issue of Forbes, and read an article authored by Ms. Helen Coster
entitled “Not-So-Fine Wine”. Ms. Coster may be a writer covering the marketing
beat, but her witty prose and thorough research deserves a nomination for
honorary Wino (“Wino Helen”, I don’t think that’s been reserved yet).
In her article, Ms. Coster describes some of
the unique and offbeat tactics being deployed by vintners to sell wine to sports
fans, including beach volleyball nuts and NASCAR rednecks. She cites an example
of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball tour that will visit Seaside Heights, NJ this
month (I’m assuming that’s close to our Wino stars since it’s in New Jersey).
Evidently, Barefoot Cellars, an Ernest & Julio Gallo brand, will be a sponsor of
that visit (I think our Wino Bob should visit just in case Stephanie Gallo will
Ms. Coster writes about some of the more
unique names surfacing in the wine biz. Goats do Roam, Smashed Grapes, Monkey
Bay, Screw Kappa Nappa, Smoking Loon, Mad Housewife, and Dog House are a few of
the brands that she says are designed to “attract thirsty young adults” (and
here, I thought it was the romantic notion of sipping a splendid Bordeaux with
the love of your life). Ms. Coster states that the irreverent brands are
primarily designed to win over young men with the whimsical names. According to
her, winemakers are going further in their efforts to widen the audience of
consumers by asking drinkers to send snapshots of “party-goers in any lively
(and legal!) scenario’ to [their] website” (direct from the Fat Bastard folks).
Furthermore, the top selling new wine in the U.S. in 2005 was Twin Fin, an
Australian import, which features a surfboard on its label (Wino Bob, have you
reviewed Twin Fin, yet, or are you waiting to smoke it?).
According to Ms. Coster, the trend was started
by Casela Wines with their promotion of “Yellow Tail” five years ago. Casella
spent $9 million promoting their product last year resulting in a $77 million
profit on $255 million in sales (okay, WJ and WB, if we had $9 million to spend
on Winostuff, we should be able to sell $255 million in stuff too, right?). She
notes that Bennett Lane and Ravenswood Winery are sponsoring NASCAR teams this
year and that Ravenswood’s catchy motto, “No Wimpy Wines!”, has helped boost
sales by 11.5%. It’s interesting in that Ravenswood is the only wine in this
group for which I have had a long-term admiration of their ability to poke fun
at the industry while creating a respectable product. In fact, I think I wrote
an article about a great wine-tasting that the wife and I had there many moons
ago (gotta go back to the beginning for that one, WJ).
Ms Coster notes that last year, 39% of adults
in the U.S. stated that wine was their first choice of alcoholic beverage,
beating beer’s 36%, the first time in 14 years that the Gallop survey had
returned that result. The only thing Ms. Coster fails to note in her thoroughly
written article is how much the results of that poll were skewed by the fans of
WinoStuff.com, a leading website for the irreverent fans of wine. I’m guessing
that Ms. Coster couldn’t bear it to reveal WinoStuff in this article since her
employer, Forbes, is more accustomed to reporting on Faberge eggs,
yachts, and Ferrari’s than a Hall of Fame, award-winning wine site run by a few
derelict techno-geeks who like finer wines than their budget can afford (oh, and
I don’t think we’ve reviewed many of the wines listed here so that might count
against us as well).
Lastly, Ms. Coster asks Forbes’ resident wine
expert, Richard Nalley, to sample some of the wacko wines. In order of
preference, he gives thumbs up to “3 Blind Moose Cabernet Sauvignon”, “The
Little Penguin Shiraz”, and “Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon”. I’ve had 3 Blind
Moose and Smoking Loon. While each is a good bargain at $9-10/bottle, I think
there are better wines with no marketing budget for the same price. But then
again, the names of those wines are nothing to write about…ah ha, it’s all in
the marketing game, isn’t it?
Ms. Coster, great article. When you’re in the
mood to write about wines again, come on over to our staff. We can’t afford to
pay you, but we’ll post your article with no edits and you’re sure to be
inundated with fan emails and possibly proposals from the fan base that we’ve
generated over the years (just don’t ask Wino Bob about the proposals until
after you write an article).
June 16, 2006