In my previous blog we discussed how famous wine brands from traditional winemaking countries have become so well-established by looking at Chateau Pétrus as an example. This week I would like to see if and how the approach differs for acclaimed New World brands by looking at an iconic New World wine brand.
There are quite a few brands from the new world that has made a name for themselves. Think about the Australian Wolf Blass, Penfolds, Rosemount, Lindemans and Yellow Tail, Casillero del Diablo from Chile and of course Robert Mondavi from California, to name but a few.
Let’s focus on Mondavi. Although the Mondavi family sold the business to Constellation in 2004, the wine brand Mondavi is one of the most recognisable names in the world of wine.
Robert Mondavi is known for pioneering many fine winemaking techniques, including cold fermentation, stainless steel tanks, and the use of French oak barrels. He also initiated blind tastings in the Napa Valley, allowing consumers and the trade to evaluate wine quality.
While quality wine has been important, the Mondavi business strategy was what established the brand. Wider than quality alone, Robert Mondavi had a definite drive and ambition and business-strategy.
- Globalisation: Mondavi believed that great wines should be recognized internationally. They were among the first to export premium Californian wine and then they started producing wines in the rest of the world – Chile, Italy and France.
- Joint ventures: The overseas operations and their brands were probably an extension to the first successful joint venture between Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild of Bordeaux. This 50/50 joint venture based in the Napa Valley resulted in the iconic brand Opus One. Today, this Bordeaux-style red wine nearly always sells on allocation. This successful JV initiated more international partnerships such as with Eduardo Chadwick in Chile, with their signature wine, Sena and the ultrapremium Lucente wine brand with the Frescobaldi family in Tuscany. Another venture in France was with Vichon Mediterranean. For strategic reasons this was not a joint venture but a repositioning of an existing brand. Although the brand has had some problems, at one stage it was the fastest-growing brand from the Languedoc.
- A varied offering: Mondavi’s wines are not all top-end, but distributed over various price and quality segments. Opus One is the clear top-end wine, being almost sold in its entirety on allocation. Woodbridge is a well-known entry level with the Robert Mondavi Winery range selling from $20 for the Fume Blanc Napa Valley to $90 for the Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Experiences and Associations: Robert Mondavi’s passion for uniting wine with fine art, music and culinary artistry is reflected in the experiences and associations of the brand. Today the Mondavi winery situated outside Saint Helena in the Napa Valley has introduced an experience broader than wine. Visitors to the estate are invited to participate in a variety of tastings and events which includes guided tours of the vineyards, exclusive tastings, cooking classes and music concerts by jazz- and pop legends. The Robert and Margrit (his wife) Mondavi Centre for Performing Arts has also been established as an expression of both the family and brand values.