Sunday, April 29, 2012

How Does a Brand Taste?

Writing about size of production recently reminded me of interactions with larger producers compared to smaller operations.  Big is not inherently bad.  Big can streamline and take advantage of economies of scale, therefore bringing incredible value to the market.  Big works beautifully for assembly lines and products that are the same every time.  However, big does not react well to change and big does not equate with uniqueness.
My interactions with wineries producing large volumes has been unimpressive.  New wines are referred to as line extensions and their justification arises from market positioning, not exciting new vineyards or outstanding grapes.
As an example, a Shanken News Daily from March covered the "major overhaul" of an Australian producer "that includes a realignment of its product tiers, new packaging and new wine styles."  Peter Lehmann's GM, Jeff Bond had this to say: "Our first goal was to add new wines and new styles to keep the Peter Lehmann brand relevant."  He goes on to mention "restructur[ing] the brand family into tiers that are more defined by customer and channel" and "enhanc[ing] the packaging to deliver a stronger link."
Notice that no mention of taste appears.  This is why I avoid most wines available in grocery outlets everywhere.  The goal here is not to pick on Peter Lehmann wines but to point out the complete lack of attention paid to the actual wine by too many large-scale producers.  They are enhancing the packaging, not the liquid within.
Perhaps an analogy will help.  When I choose to go see a concert, I do so based on the music of the band performing, not based on how they dress or what merchandise they offer.  I want real music, even if sometimes that means a song that sounds off.  For me, lip-syncing has no place in concerts, no matter the flashy stage show.  You decide where your tastes lie.


  1. I realize you aren't singling out PLW, but you are selectively reading the Shanken report.

    There's lots of discussion about wine flavors and wine styles, as in this small excerpt from the much longer story:

    Art Series is a reflection of the color and fun experienced as Peter Lehmann captured an idea and moved a dream to a reality. The wines have been produced to ensure they are all about freshness, youth and flavor. The Art Series wines are lighter (in style but also in some cases alcohol), more aromatic and geared more toward the millennial and female consumer. While many of the wines remain Barossa sourced, we are also looking to adjoining regions such as the Adelaide Hills enabling the introduction of new consumer friendly wines such as Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Semillon Blanc to be added to the range.

    Marketing is not a dirty word, practiced by wineries of any size. Marketing works hand in hand with winemaking to craft flavorful, satisfying wines that appeal to people for many reasons, and particularly where PLW is concerned, high among those reasons are the wonderful vineyards and grower partners providing fruit to winemakers with real talent and skills and access to resources that a large entity brings.

    1. Marketing is certainly not a dirty word. Ignore it and watch sales suffer. My point was simply that the emphasis of the "major overhaul" was clearly not the wine itself. Years of watching brand roll-outs from inside the industry bore this out for all too many producers. Shouldn't the most important reason to reinvent, rejuvenate or create a brand be the wine itself? Any good marketer knows you lead with the essential story before showcasing nuances. Too many kick-off meetings discuss the wine too far down the bullet list. The story on PLW only served to remind me of this unfortunate state of affairs.