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02.11.2008

Wine Marketing Techniques That Need to Stop

OK industry folks, listen up. You've all got products to sell. You need to make a living and feed your kids. But there are good ways to market wine, and there are stupid ways. It's time to end the stupidity.

California Wine Month, Year, Decade, Day, Afternoon
Which brilliant lobbyist or bored politician came up with this idea? For years I've been trying to figure out what the hell the idea behind this non-event actually is. So let me get this straight. The governor puts his signature on a piece of paper (which he probably doesn't even read). Then a lot of press releases go out over the wires saying "It's California Wine Month" (oh, if I had a nickel for every one I've gotten) and only one or two lackluster journalists with nothing better to do around the country write cutesy stories about it. And then... wine sales go through the roof? You've got to be kidding me.

"Last year we won a Silver medal for this wine at The <insert crappy, middle of nowhere> County Fair"
This is so wrong on so many levels. You won the medal last year, so what does that have to do with this year's wine!? And for the sake of argument, let's say you just won a medal for this year's wine. Good for you. But who cares? County fair medals are only marginally more respectable than those PHD degrees that you can pay $49.95 for by mail. Sure accolades are great, but gold medals from fairs aren't worth your effort. Mostly because they're so easy to get, and pretty much everyone who wants one can have one. If I only had a nickel for every gold medal winning wine I tasted that ended up being awful....

Wine Brands for Women
This is just plain insulting. Sure, men and women are different, but every wine that is "targeted" towards women implicitly suggests that what women really want from wine is better branding, rather than better wine. Frankly some of the best palates I know are women, and they could care less what color the label is.

Wine Brands for the Millennials
Ditto on the insult, folks. You're not going to convert new wine drinkers by pandering to them and repackaging wine as some hip new beverage. The much coveted Millennial generation spends more money on eating out than any other generation before, and we're not talking about fast food. This generation may have some of the most refined palates of any American consumer, and what they're going to care about is how your wine tastes. Not how it's packaged. So just go make great wine, and then think about how to get the story of your wine out in ways that Millennials can easily find it. Your winery does have a Facebook page, right?

Green Wine
I know. I know. This is like telling people to stop selling umbrellas when it's raining outside. But really people, come on -- does the fact that your winery is carbon neutral, solar powered, raptor friendly, biodynamic, etc, have to be your crowning achievement? Of course you should be doing these things. They're morally right and economically sound, but they shouldn't be used to sell wine. They should be used to make better wine that costs less.

Paris Hilton
Enough said.

Critter Wines
Telling people to stop making wines with animals on the labels is like telling crack dealers that they'd make more money being shoe shine attendants. It's true, putting an animal on the label of your wine makes it sell some (quite large if my fuzzy memory serves) percentage better. But just because we can, doesn't mean that we should. If only because once you start, there's no telling where it could end. We're running out of the cute animals, for starters. Now we're on to the large cud-chewing mammals, and frankly they're not what I like to think about when I pick up a bottle of wine. Even worse, the next thing you know people will start marketing wine made by the critters, and then....well, then I think we're pretty much looking at the end of civilization as we know it.

Readers: which ones have I missed?

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Make good wine. Price it right. Then tell good stories about it to people who care. Spend your marketing dollars on sincerity, not on sizzle.

Thanks to Arthur at redwinebuzz.com for the link on the critter wine.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud