Thursday, September 10, 2015

Another Way to Select a Wine

People use points, recommendations, price and labels to decide which wine to buy. I rely mostly on past experience but sometimes, interviews and marketing quotes play an important role in finding brands I want to support.

Often wine discussions revolve around whether you want to buy (and drink) a corporate brand or something more independent. The approach I'm talking about today, however, is completely focused on large production wineries, no artisanal products here.
I regularly read Shanken News Daily, put out by Marvin Shanken of the Wine Spectator, because it brings me information about the business of alcohol: wine, beer and spirits. Some of my favorite reading involves interviews and discussion of expanding brands. One of my favorite quotes (featured in an earlier post, read it for more about why this struck me) is "Our first goal was to add new wines and new styles." That had nothing to do with having a great wine that didn't fit in the current portfolio but was all about feeling the need to invent to keep things fresh. That might be okay if you're rolling assembled parts off an assembly line but wine doesn't work like that. You can't just conjure quality grapes out of thin air.
Treasury Wine Estates' CEO Michael Clarke acknowledged that in another Shanken News by saying, "Mother Nature is your partner." (See the whole article here). However, he also says scalability can come from "sourcing breadth." That's marketing-speak for buying grapes for the brand that are outside of current sources. While this is not inherently concerning, perhaps the new source is next door or shares similar characteristics. It might also mean a new wine will be added to the portfolio which won't change the current offerings. In my experience, it means finding some cheap stuff to increase volume without compromising quality so much that consumers notice.
With all of that in mind, this quote is delightfully refreshing, "We're always mindful of what the next opportunity might be, but it's not part of our culture to throw out a lot of new products and see what sticks...We focus on doing what we do best." Hallelujah! That comes from Sam Bon, national sales manager for Bogle Vineyards, in an interview with Shanken News Daily. Bogle produces some really solid values that often get overlooked until you actually try them. The labels aren't flashy but the wines are well made and they produce (and sell) a lot of them. Their projections say they will sell 2.5 million cases in 2015. The Chardonnay and Petite Sirah are the best varietals offered, in my opinion, but don't be afraid to try anything they produce. When sales managers talk like that, it is good news for the brand and, ultimately, the consumer, i.e. you and me.

Add on: While binging on Breaking Bad, I found this scene which has Walter White and Jesse Pinkman celebrating a cook with a bottle of Bogle! Perhaps this is not the ideal marketing exposure for the winery but I thought it was worth this postscript.