My Wine Business class has ended, but it has sparked an ongoing curiosity about business decisions that are made regarding wine.  Whereas before I could spend a good hour trolling the aisles of the local liquor store, looking at bottles and thinking about what I might like to serve with dinner that specific night, I can now spend an entire afternoon among the bottles, picking them up, feeling their weight, looking at labeling choices.

In other words, my Pinterest and Twitter accounts are sitting idle.

Recently I picked up two very interesting bottles of wine that were cloaked in paper packaging.  Both are bottled by the same Truett Hurst, but neither shows up on the Truett Hurst website.  (Click here.)  Instead, the wines are advertised on the Wrapped for Any Occasion website.  (Click here.)

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 1.23.34 PMThe first wine is called “Shucks Fish Chardonnay”, and the busy label tells me that wine should be available in supermarkets, that drinking wine should be an unfussy pastime like fishing, and that I should throw this wine down the hatch – “Catch and no release”.  I am also offered a recipe for shrimp skewers on the label, and Mark Twain’s Mississippi River is evoked in the flavors of the wine.

The second wine is “The Wine with No Name”, a red blend.  This also busy label tells me the wine is barbecue friendly.  It is also good for drinking, marinating and pig bathing, in case you have a sow in need of soap.  There are recipe ingredients offered, but no cooking directions.  No classic authors are mentioned, but there is a picture of a pig in a bathtub as well as a few cowboy boots.

From the Wine Business class, I learned that by marketing your wine as an “occasion” wine, you are limiting your potential audience.  Example:  Champagne is for very special celebrations and New Year’s Eve.  Prosecco, in contrast, is making a killing by not being so limited to “special” occasions.  It’s Monday – the perfect night to open a bottle of Prosecco!

Let’s look at the Schucks Fish Chardonnay.  The label says very clearly “Schucks Fish is sure to pair well with which ever SWIMMY friend you’ll be putting on the plate tonight.”  As much as it makes me cringe, I know a lot of people who say outright “I hate fish!”  They will look at this label and grab the bottle next to it.  Sale lost.

In a similar fashion, if it is snowing outside, and the grill is covered in a foot of snow, will I walk right by the “BBQ Friendly red blend”?  I have to use the oven after all.  From the packaging, most vegetarians would find another wine option, even though they might be grilling amazing veggies that night: the label implies meat, and only meat.  Yet another sale lost.

From the Wine Business class, I also learned that there is great interest in marketing to Millennials.  Part of that specialized marketing includes education; this is a generation with unique purchasing characteristics, also tempted away from wine by interesting cocktail selections.

A closer look at the Wrapped for Any Occasion website indicates a winery that may be making an attempt to educate and sell.  Imagine walking into a wine shop, needing to bring a bottle to a gathering with your Millennial friends.  What to pick out?  (There’s a crazy looking woman touching bottles, picking them up, almost talking to them.  Steer clear of that aisle.)  What should I bring?

Enter Wrapped for Any Occasion.  The categories of wine available are:

  • Summer Fun
  • Red Wine for Red Meat and White Wine for White Meat
  • Enchanting Evenings
  • Fish Feed
  • Dinner Party Friendly
  • Everyday Soirée
  • Backyard Barbeque

Even more interesting, most labels offer ideas on food pairings.  Yes, the idea that only red wine goes with red meat is ridiculous, but it is a starting point in the educational process, and the approach is entirely un-pretentious, something not necessarily typical of the wine industry.  Wine snobs abound, making it difficult to learn about wine, unless you are impervious to sniffs of superiority.  The Wrapped paper labels, busy with text, drawings, seeming confusion, are in fact a welcome mat to the world of wine.

“Let me help you out with that wine selection.  Have you thought of bringing an appetizer too?  Here’s your grocery list.”

What do I think?  Is this brilliant marketing or a complete bust?

For this consumer, the proof was in the purchase.  Two bottles came home with me, admittedly, after pawing over them for quite some time in the store.  The meals planned were neither for swimmy things or barbecuing on the grill.  The labels were crazy busy, but they implied a sense of fun, that the wine was meant to be shared with friends, laughter present, and probably good food.  They said “don’t take yourself too seriously”, a message I happily embrace.

About Claire Ziamandanis

Claire Ziamandanis is Professor of Spanish at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. Over her 20 years at the college, she has been a champion for study abroad, establishing the first affiliation for Spanish students, and then working with the Study Abroad office to open the doors to students from other majors. Claire loves travel, food, wine and Spanish but not necessarily in that order!

One comment

  1. I have to say I am a sucker for labels. It’s not necessarily what they’re telling me about the wine or the instructions they may give about food pairings. I just like the aesthetics of a beautifully drawn (see Marziano Abbona’s gorgeous vinos) or cleverly graphic (all of Hecht & Bannier’s bottles) label. So on that front, I’d definitely have been drawn to the two bottles you took home!

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