The world of wine is an interesting place. Just last week I shared some thoughts arising from a discussion at Vinexpo Hong Kong on how being successful online, actually holds a challenge or two that we should keep in mind. (Read more) And it is general knowledge how positive I am about online marketing!
So, this week an article on Drinks International challenged one of my other passions: regionality.
The article by Holly Motion quotes a speech by wine consultant Mike Paul and his view on establishing regional wine identities. And it is difficult to disagree with him. While I believe that quality and an unique identity are to be found in the site specific nuances of terroir, I also understand that it something that is very difficult to relate to the end consumer. And that is Mike’s point.
“With a lot of these regions we are just adding confusion in the consumer’s mind. There is an astonishing level of confusion. One can think of Rioja; champagne; more recently of prosecco; New Zealand perhaps connected with Sauvignon and Argentina connected with Malbec. But actually there are an awful lot of initiatives out there and you just really wonder whether they are achieving their goals.”
So that makes me wonder as well. While we might better our quality and style by practicing terroir-specific vini- and viticultural practices, how does the story get to the ultimate consumer? And is getting our regional story to the ultimate consumer, the (or one of the) reason(s) why we are going all site-specific?
We know in the end it is about selling your wine, making a profit, but does regionality actually support this? What about the wine buyer who has to buy into your philosophy and quality to make the wines available to the consumer? And the wine journalist who are looking for a fresh angle and original story? I believe terroir and regionality are important when it comes to the quality of our wines. They do give you a point of difference when talking to wine buyers. They definitely give an interesting story to the wine writer.
But how many consumers actually read the article, remember the story and select from the supermarket shelve based on this information? Is the regional story not all lost on the ultimate consumer?
Sometimes it is not. Take Mike’s example of Prosecco. Prosecco as a regional wine is very successful. In fact, so successful that it is actually threatening to the originality of the product.
“Prosecco for all its strengths has its weaknesses. If you asked people to name a wine they would probably say prosecco and the comments would be mainly favourable. However, if you asked them to name a prosecco brand, good luck. Prosecco is almost overflowing its region. It’s like they created a monster, a friendly monster at the moment, but I have a feeling they have slightly lost control of it… Prosecco is more a style of wine people like than a wine from a region, which means it can be copied by other regions in Italy and beyond.”
Similar to what happened to Pinot Grigio in the UK market some time ago.
But in most other instances, are terroir and region and site more than what consumers want to know? Perhaps it is. Perhaps we do over-estimate people’s interest in wine. Perhaps we are so caught up in what we do, that it is difficult to understand that people are not interested in many of the technicalities and actually only want a bottle of wine for an occasion: a bottle of reliable quality, or one that will impress friends or one that comes at a reasonable price.
It is also true that for many people South Africa is not actually one of the first wine countries to come to mind. Are we not putting ourselves up for disappointment when we want consumers to understand about specific sites?
Perhaps! But perhaps the quality that results from planting in the right spots will tell the story for us? And the buyers and the writers will support our efforts? I am not questioning my belief in terroir, but there is lot to think about when it comes to how we relate this to the consumer. Some weekend thinking!