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Showrooming for wine?

Showrooming has emerged over the last few years as a common trend affecting high street retailers. More and more consumers shop online and without the costs of maintaining a physical store the online retailers can often provide better deals and flash discounts. If you haven’t heard of it, showrooming is basically when you visit a bricks-and-mortar retailer to try on, test or find a product that you have no intention of purchasing in the store, and then buying it online for a better price. A number of websites recently ran a story about a speciality food retailer in Brisbane, Australia that is now charging people $5 to browse; essentially an entrance fee. It is their attempt to reduce showrooming in their store and they will refund the $5 when the customer makes a purchase. The strategy was rightly and soundly ridiculed as misguided. So is showrooming relevant to the wine industry? I think that it could be starting to, in wine producing regions at least. Consider the Cape winelands in South Africa. The Cape wine tourism industry is one of the best in the world. The natural beauty of the winelands is incredible, the people are (generally) friendly, the tourism infrastructure has taken leaps forward in the past five years and there is great value in terms of cellar door wine prices, interesting restaurants and unforgettable experiences. Hundreds of thousands visit the Cape winelands every year. South African wine producers, like most internationally, are under huge financial pressure and the revenue from visitors to cellar doors is an increasingly important element of the bottom line. But wine tasting started out primarily as an opportunity for consumers to taste wines before they buy them and it this is still the case. However, locals have more buying options these days and the cellar door is no longer always the best value place to buy. Writers like Neil Pendock have been vocal on the rise of discount wine retailers like GetWine, where branded bottles are sold off at significant discount. (The impact on brand equity is another topic altogether) Their prices are lower than the mainstream retailers but generally also lower than the cellar door. The producers may claim that the vintages the discount retailers are flogging are not current, but that doesn’t matter much to most wine drinkers, especially in the price brackets available. Now you can spend a day in the Stellenbosch winelands tasting at some leading producers. Then simply... read more

Su Birch steps down as WOSA CEO

Here’s the press release from WOSA, detailing Su Birch’s announcement that she’ll be leaving in September 2013, having been in the position since 2000. SU BIRCH TO LEAVE WOSA After 13 years, WOSA CEO Su Birch is to leave the organisation charged with promoting South African wine exports, to pursue a personal project that, she says, she has been deferring for “too long”. Birch, this year’s winner of The Drinks Business Green Awards Lifetime Achievement and a former winner of both The Drinks Business Woman of the Year and the International Wine and Spirit Competition’s Women in Wine Award, was identified last year as one of the ten most influential personalities in the world of wine by UK market analysts, Wine Intelligence. She will remain in her position till the end of September. This is both to hand over to the new incumbent and to allow her to oversee The Beautiful South, the first Southern Hemisphere wine trade exhibition that takes place in London that same month, and which she was instrumental in conceiving and organising. A search for a replacement was to be conducted as a priority over the coming weeks, she said. Birch has played a key role in advancing South Africa’s reputation as one of the most progressive amongst wine-producing nations in driving eco-sustainable wine production. Under the banner “variety is in our nature” she has actively promoted the country’s competitive positioning in producing a rich variety of wine styles. She is also credited with spearheading South Africa’s far-reaching Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI) that has seen producers set aside substantially more land for conservation than the equivalent of the national vineyard. She has been one of the major advocates of the country’s Sustainability Seal, the first industry-wide initiative of its kind anywhere in the world, to promote production integrity from the vineyard to the consumer. This was followed by the introduction last year of an Ethical Seal, also the first of its kind, that confirms the implementation of fair labour practices by wine producers. At an international level she has also been one of the key drivers for co-operation amongst normally competing New World wine-producing countries, playing an important part in bringing South Africa, New Zealand, the US, Chile and Argentina together at the annual international trade fair ProWein, where the countries annually present a collective showcase. The Beautiful South is an extension of this approach in which Argentina, Chile and South Africa will present... read more

Elemental Bob – My Finite

Two years ago at the London International Wine Fair I tasted Elemental Bob The Turkish at the South African young guns stand. The wines are made by Craig Sheard who by day is the winemaker at Spookfontein. Last week at Wines of South Africa UK’s Braai Day dinner at High Timber I had the opportunity to taste another wine from Elemental Bob – the 2010 My Finite. My Finite is 100% Pinotage from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. It is an expressive example of the variety and at 15% alcohol there is plenty to it. But the wine doesn’t come across as overcooked or overbearing. The oak provides good structure and a bit of spice, while not going any near coffee Pinotage territory, thankfully! It’s backed up by bold fruit and there is a bit of fragrance too. It was awesome with the meat, especially the traditional style... read more

Applying FMCG trends to wine marketing

The Brand Genetics website recently posted an article about a University of Cambridge’s Dragon’s Den style event with senior executives from global FMCG leading companies. One of the things to emerge from the event was a list of the top 40 innovation trends for global FMCG brands. It was provided by a group of people who you’d expect to know what they are talking about and the list is well worth consideration when looking at brand strategy over the next five years.

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Malbec World Day 2013 – a refreshing generic campaign

Tomorrow is the third edition of the awkwardly-named Malbec World Day. It is an initiative of Wines of Argentina, where Malbec is now recognised as the national grape variety, with more than 30,000 acres of vineyards. It is a stand-out generic wine campaign in its approach, epitomised by the promotional video below. I can’t think of many other regional or generic campaigns that are such a departure from the usual trying-not-to-be-pretentious approach. Malbec popularity is increasing. It is generally made in a juicy, approachable style. It pairs well with food and when you look to the new world producers it offers really good value. (Majestic Wines have a load on promotion at the moment.) An initiative like World Malbec Day (or Malbec World Day if you prefer) is an innovative way to try and bridge the gap between the stereotyped person who pays attention to wine industry campaigns, and the regular wine drinker. I can’t quite picture a group of street artists sitting around swirling a few glasses of Malbec after a night out putting their work up. That’s a bit of a stretch. Will you be opening a bottle of Malbec tomorrow? MalbecWorldDay 2013 – Malbec Takes Over The Streets! from Wines of Argentina on... read more

Great wine packaging for Villiera Starlight MCC

Loving this packaging from South African sparkling wine innovators, Stellenbosch stalwarts and generally great value Villiera Wines. It’s been bouncing about on a few sites in the last few weeks and after initially thinking that it was a bit tacky and bordering on over-engineered, I have really come around. The clever use of the die shape for the label gives the bottle an illusion of flow, softness and sultry curves. The design has a combination of fashion meets technological design. And the outer carton design looks to hit the right notes for retail merchandising. Villiera Wines owner and winemaker Jeff Grier is an experienced and savvy marketer and this new product taps into a number of topical and key marketing and product trends. Starlight non-vintage Méthode Cap Classique comes in at under 10% alcohol. It is off dry, with 7.5 grams per litre residual sugar. It is on South African online wine seller Cyber Cellar for just R89 – very affordable by MCC standards. It’s got 20% Pinotage to go along with the more traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, ticking both the ‘innovation’ and ‘proudly South African’ boxes. And it’s all delivered in refined and stunning packaging. Starlight MCC sounds like another winner to add to Villiera’s portfolio to me. Now I just want to try it! Pity about the promo video clip… Classically South African in its cheesiness, but at least taking a light hearted approach. Thank God it had nothing to do with the Harlem... read more

Should I be drinking more Malbec?

It was an evening of Malbec at our wine club this past weekend. As a single varietal it is a wine that I don’t drink that often, but after Saturday’s line up I think it’s worth looking at more often. Malbec tends to be a part of a blended one, as opposed to being bottled on its own. First wine was from South African winery Doolhof. Interesting that quite a few of us, relatively novice wine tasters, picked it as being South African… This Wellington winery has developed a reputation for their Malbec recently, as one of the relatively few single varietal examples from the Cape. It also picked up a Gold at the 2010 Decanter World Wine Awards. The 2009 Signatures of Doolhof Malbec had a broad appeal. Lots of sweeter fruit and a bit of caramel on the nose, but backed up with good structure and a bit of freshness in the middle. A commercial style, but seemingly made from good fruit and with care. I’d happily drink it with a meal. 2009 Signatures of Doolhof Malbec is available from SA Wines Online for £14.99 The second was a more premium style Malbec from Argentinian producer Deumayen Wines. The 2007 Trez Reserva is the wine released by this producer, a collaboration between  three friends. According their website, the vineyards for this wine are situated in the Alto Agrelo, 1,100 meters above sea level. It had that intense inky colour characteristic of Malbec and was much more savoury than the Doolhof. Cherry and aniseed were two of the words I scrawled on my piece of paper. This is a powerful wine, living up to the aromas that it showed upfront. It opened up nicely in the glass and I went back for a few more tastes after we had finished. Robert Parker evidently gave this wine 92 points to boot! 2007 Deumayen Trez Reserva Malbec is available from Good Wine Online at £21.60 If you are looking to try a few examples of this varietal I see that Majestic Wines are still running a promo on Malbec. There look to be some interesting wines at very tidy... read more

Tesco manipulating wine prices to fool consumers

It’s nothing new, but here’s a great example of UK supermarkets manipulating wine prices in order to fool consumers into thinking that they are getting a great deal. This is not a secret (or a new practice) but it should not be allowed. This wine is on the shelf at £9.99. £9.99! Just think of the fantastic wines that you can get in the UK for £10 and then you have something like this. It has to be on the shelf at that price so that Tesco can ‘promote’ it at £4.99 as being a great deal at 50% off. In fact it is on the Tesco website at the discounted price. Is it technically a discount? Yes. Is it worth anything close to £10? Ummmm… no. Not ever. In this case and a hideously labelled South African Pinotage Rosé called Wine Route. It’s from Accolade Wines, which lists a number of generic supermarket brands in it’s portfolio, including Echo Falls, Banrock Station and Kumala. I refuse to purchase this wine on principle, so I can’t give you an opinion on the stuff in the bottle, but I’ll put a fair wager on the fact that it’s awful, engineered rubbish. The 11.5% alcohol on a South African Pinotage Rosé said to have raspberry and tropical flavours will alert those with some winemaking knowledge to the manipulation likely involved. Pinotage Rosé can be a delicious summer wine and it’s one of the styles where Pinotage has an opportunity to convert some of the anti-Pinotage brigade. So I am not against it as a wine style. But more consumers need to understand what they are getting when they buy a wine in a UK supermarket that is 50% off. Most of the time its going to be bollocks in a bottle. The wine itself is likely only worth a few pence and likely to give you a headache in the morning. Simple solution? Don’t buy it. And tell a... read more

The most valuable wine brand in the world

Wine brands don’t typically spring to mind when thinking of global superbrands. Within the wine industry, of course there are the big players but when comparing them to other industries they are pretty small fry. So what is the most valuable wine brand in the world? That would be Moët & Chandon, according to the 2011 Interbrands listing of global brands. The Champagne brand sits at number 77 on their list and is said to be valued at $4.38 billion. Moët & Chandon is the only wine brand in the top... read more

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