Monday, April 30, 2007

Losing the Blue Nun habit?

Headline from The Telegraph, "Wine lovers kick the Blue Nun habit".

The gist of the story is that sales at £10+ are increasing at a fabulous rate in Tesco while Waitrose's average wine spend per bottle is £8 and Jeroboam's is £10.


So why is the average price of wine still below £4? This is because the main outlets for wine sales are continuing to sell cheap wine at a discount. It is great to hear that Tesco's sales of wine above £10 increased 75%, but they hardly sold any in the past and now they have created a Fine Wine area. It would be much more interesting to see what their average price per bottle had done over the last few years. I doubt it has increased.

However, it is heartening to hear that a greater number of people are buying a decent quality wine, and, according to the article, finding good wine fashionable rather than elitist. If this is true, and I don't see hard evidence of the fact, this is a pretty major breakthrough.

Unfortunately there is a long time to go before I quite believe the hyperbole of certain supermarket chains, as quoted in the article:

"Jason Godley, the wine manager for Tesco, said: "Britons used to be perceived by the rest of the world as a nation of beer drinkers, but this is changing fast. Many Brits think nothing about spending £10 for a bottle of wine at a supermarket and if the occasion is really special then perhaps even £100."

£100 for a bottle of wine in my local Tesco? I think not.

And as for kicking the Blue Nun habit, I think Blue Nun sales figures might dispute that conclusion.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Conversation starter

I have been looking for ways for conversations to kindle the love of wine, but maybe the place to start is where wine conversation kindles love.

My wife pointed out an article in one of those free papers for commuters last night. The centre spread, apparently a regular feature, looks at dating in London. The main article yesterday was about wine speed dating.

I have heard of a number of such events. Basically, take speed dating, add wine. The wine is the conversation starter. You learn a little about it at the start, then go around comparing notes and preferences. Not only do you get an excuse to talk to potential partners, but you get the wine and wine education thrown in as part of the deal. Excellent!

This one was organised by Grape Vine Social, apparently a big organisation, but I have also seen the WSET organise its own events (well done Nicolla!).

It may seem a little silly (unless you are single and looking for a better way of meeting people), but it says something about wine that it works in this context. I can't imagine Gin, Bacardi Breezers or Absinthe would work the same way or have the same appeal (although there may be a niche market for each, especially for Beer).

My only quibbles about the reported date are 1) the wines chosen (Hardy's, Banrock Station, Kiss Chasey?) and 2) if you are looking for a relationship, would you give all the details to the paper so your potential partner can read them the next day??

Maybe I'm old fashioned that way.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Copy cat actions

Thanks to mark e who left me a comment on my post about motivation.

"btw I suspect the trick is to get people doing something neat that others can copy. The enormous social signal of a pint glass with ice in it is just such a behavioural meme.

On wine suggestions:
Hugh at and his Stormhoek have blended something to suit the ice-cube usage occasion."

That story came out the day after I posted my thoughts I think (I regularly read gapingvoid, although he is more focused on Microsoft's Blue Monsters at the moment). Copying an action is one thing, copying a "trademark" action is another, as it will always strike the consumer of the copycat that they are being manipulated in this second case, possibly making them re-evaluate the original.

Some of the pre-teen-friendly pop groups succeded by creating dance routines that the teeny-boppers could copy (e.g. Steps?). Many others followed, with greater or lesser success, but ultimately it becomes part of the marketing repertoire and therefore loses its power.

When it comes to alcoholic drinks, I assume that the target markets are probably aware of this and therefore that the "tail" of this copying action will be short, however I may well be proven wrong.

I don't know this, but I imagine that "Herd" memories are short and that is why we keep making the same mistakes, so I guess ice manufacturers are going to be in business a little while longer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In Wines and Spirits we Trust

Been a little more quiet recently as I am attending a course all week at the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust), and studying all the materials they sent through.

This is a well known trade qualification, but if you have not heard of it, then I thoroughly recommend you look at one of their courses as a great grounding in wine.

Where we take it from there is the fun bit!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

External and Internal Motivation

I read a lot of different blogs these days, things I have come across largely through suggestions from other bloggers (that is the real power of blogging). Sometimes this is called something like "Google-drift" but when it is directed, then it is about learning and spreading your horizons.

One such blog is Herd: The Hidden Truth About Who We Are.

The most recent post chimed with my thoughts on my own recent post. If you want to understand what motivates people then you must realise that it is not just "internal" factors but "external" ones. We interact with those around us, we are part of a "herd" of sorts.

When it comes to building wine brands and motivating 20-30 year olds to be interested in wine and buy more bottles, you have to look beyond what you put on the label and what bottle it will come in, but to what factors would motivate that consumer to even get close to your bottle.

Magners did this with a combination of heavy investment in advertising (mainly tube and bus in London), breaking the mould of a stagnant category (cider) and offering a new format for its product (over ice). They got so many people talking about their product they HAD to try it - even if they hadn't seen the bottle, tried cider for years or were even thinking about the alcoholic element.

The "cider conversation" has now spread wide enough that Magners cannot even cope with the demand from across the UK and the entire cider category is growing massively. They continue to advertise, but now it is about reach, not innovation; the consumers are doing that themselves.

Now, where is that wine conversation? How do we get 1 million 20-30 year olds talking about wine, any wine? Ideas on a postcard, please.

Wine over ice? No!
Apple wine? That's just silly!
Chilled red wines for summer? Now there's an option. Hmmm....

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Appealing wine drinkers

The audience that could potentially have the most appeal to wine makers and retailers are those aged 20-30 who could then develop their interest in, and expenditure on, wine for the rest of their lives.

So how does wine manage to appeal to this appealing audience?

This is one of the things I am trying to think about on this site so I was interested to see that it was the main headline of research carried out for Vinexpo (the world's largest wine show in Bordeaux every two years) with young people in the UK, US, Japan, France and Belgium.

(According to my sources - Harpers and OLN) Their recommendations were:
  • provide a younger image - moving wine away from the drink parents enjoy

  • change the perception that it is a drink associated with higher social classes

  • demistify wine

  • provide guidance

Well, I'm not greatly enlightened by this and if this is new thinking for the French, then they are a little behind what is happening elsewhere already.

To be fair, there are a few things that are interesting, but contradictory.

They say, for example, that young people say they are interested in wine because it is seen as "sophisticated", but then they talk about demistifying it and changing its image to something more youthful. A very fine line to walk there. Surely it is better to build upon the existing image and make it relevant, not pop the bubble of wine's mystique?

Also, they mention that young drinkers like traditional packaging (not tetrapack?) but that they also like branded wines that are not too obviously targeted at the young. Agreed! We are all much more sophisticated consumers of marketing messages these days and wine has to fight its corner along with Nike, Coke, Playstation, Nokia, et al.

Finally, they say they find the category confusing, so they want more varietal labelling. This is something I have trouble with as the two are not strictly related. It would be awful if, in their desire to chase this market, retailers chose only varietal wines that conformed to a specific taste profile. Does a varietal label really give more information, or is it just another "brand"?

I think there ought to be a campaign called "Variety, not Varietal!" (maybe there already is?). I think I should deal with this separately in more detail in future.

The thinking still seems to be that individual wineries and retailers can shape this market, but I think that this is unlikely. As I said above, there are a lot of competing demands for the attention of these young adult consumers from brands not just in drinks, but in every moment of their waking life. How is wine to be relevant and interesting to them?

What wine needs is a real, reasonable, fun and fashionable conversation to emerge concerning wine that 20 somethings can participate in, learn from and then use to improve their experience of drinking wine. That will need a much more concerted campaign by everyone involved in wine. Or lots of luck!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Independent Wine Education

First they go an cancel a perfectly decent wine column by Richard Ehrlich on Sunday. Then, they do a tie-up with the Independent to create a "Seven Day Wine Course" with Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR).

What is happening with wine at The Independent?

The inserts in the newspaper are coming out every day this week sponsored by, and with content provided by, BBR's Wine School to generate interest in their Wine Club. The content is reasonable, considering you only have the equivalent of 4 sides of A4 to cover "Burgundy" (plus Champagne hidden on the back) and "Rhone, Loire & Alsace", including main varietals, maps, vintage charts, etc. But the tone is odd.

My reading of these "fliers" (they are only folded A3 and remind me of cheaper conference inserts in trade mags) is that they are not sure who they are targeting. The content has to appeal to the "average Joe" reading the Indy, but are they interested? Is this taking a "populist" approach to bring in new wine buyers? I doubt BBR are interested in that market. Is it taking a high-brow approach, appealing to knowledgeable consumers who ought to consider buying better wines?

Neither I'm afraid. If you have to state that the main varieties of Burgundy are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, then great, educate people! But then don't immediately follow that with a statement like:

"Yields have to be kept low, however, for optimum quality."

"Yields"? "Low", how? "Optimum quality"?

And as for the design and layout, this looks at least 20 years out of date if not more.

I am not knocking BBR as I am sure their intentions in this are good and they are even trying to implement pretty up-to-date technology (see comments here and here). But I am not sure how much this "course" will help the cause of the UK Wine Culture. Couldn't they have spent just a little bit more on editing and the layout, or is there some subtle message here I am missing?

Monday, April 02, 2007

The price of success - $3.99 a month

Interesting development to happen straight after my last post:

A special announcement from Vinography

Seems like I am in good company in reading Vinography, but I don't think I shall be parting with the money. Sorry!

[EDIT: of course, it could all be a big April Fools joke - the timing is suspect and of course designed to get tongues wagging, but it would seem unusual to quote WS like this?! Does it make it more or less likely to be a fake since it is pretty much what Neal Martin did with]

[CONFESSION: If it is a joke, that's twice I've fallen for one today! Doh!]

[FINAL EDIT: I suppose I could claim extenuating circumstances: wine with dinner, the fact that here it is after midnight, so technically no longer April Fools, ... but the truth is, I fell for it. At least I know that Spaghetti doesn't grow on trees]