Oh so trendy

You’re sitting in your winery’s “how are we doing” marketing/sales/news-dissemination meeting.

You’ve heard about developments in the vineyard.

There’s been a discussion about the pros and cons of cement eggs in the winery.

You’ve heard about whether the tasting room traffic is up or down.

What you have absolutely heard is how everyone seems to be floundering about what way to go. What’s a trend to capitalize on? How can we intrigue visitors, customers, wholesalers, sommeliers? How can we keep employees engaged and enthusiastic?

Image result for riding a forklift

Here’s a sneak peek into trends that corporations are paying attention to, as recently reported by Paul Solman of The PBS News Hour.

Solman interviewed DeeDee Gordon of Sterling Brands; she’s a consultant who advises on brand building and new product development based on cultural trends she spots.

What applies most to the wine business? Here are a few of the many interesting trends:

1) “Conspicuous isolation:….People are feeling very overwhelmed by all of the data out there and so they are trying to find ways of being on the grid while being off the grid…”

2) “Hyper-experiences, people’s need to be more immersed in products and in brands.”

3) “Life framing:….taking pictures of your Sunday meal, for example, to post online…how consumers are using photography to frame up these experiences to be able to elevate their status amongst their group of peers on their network.”

4) “Frugeois: ….our commentary on frugal living. Millennials are extremely conscious of what they’re spending, so they want things that are cheap, but that are designed to function, last and look really good. Fast fashion products…”

Why not challenge a room full of your colleagues to brainstorm new programs or approaches which would embody these ideas?

I can’t resist; here are a few ideas to whet your whistle.

Conspicuous isolation: what a cellphone-free zone in your winery or tasting room? A way to emphasize how enormously absorbing wine tasting is…why dilute it with email from the outside world?!

Hyper-experiences: insurance aside, what about letting people learn to drive a forklift? Ride in an ATV to a view spot in the vineyards? Experience batonnage with their own hands, stirring those lees?

Life framing: how are you handling selfie sticks at your winery? What about making it easier? Setting up vignettes where your customers could jump right in to a nicely arranged ‘set’ to take photos?

Frugeois: maybe offer an outlandishly inexpensive tasting out of the blue one day? Just to BE outlandish? You could come up with a creative hook about why the wine is authentic and the ‘price’ doesn’t matter?!

Happy brainstorming! Remember, a great idea could always go viral.

Let them eat cake?

Part of being a good marketer, publicist or just plain old communicator (whether in the wine business or any other sector) is keeping your ear to the ground. That would include reading newspapers, as old fashioned as that might sound.

And when you are reading your local newspaper, the op-eds and letters to the editor are important places to look. Those pieces are the voice of John or Jane Q. Public—people who care enough to organize their thoughts and communicate them as broadly as they can.

And in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, may I recommend for your reading pleasure (and marketing savvy skills) an op-ed by a writer from San Francisco, Jeff Miller?

He’s letting off steam about the foodie culture in San Francisco: it’s worth reading:

http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/Food-fan-or-foodie-In-San-Francisco-it-matters-6378016.php#comments (pay wall)

“Food fan or foodie? In San Francisco, it matters,” is the headline. “As a longtime resident of San Francisco, I am tired of feeling guilty for considering food more fuel than art. I enjoy a seared scallop as much as the next person — but I am not obsessed with smoked black cod ponzu or water buffalo meatballs for $32. I think it is high time that like-minded people decry foodie-ism for what it is: pretentious, exclusionary and expensive nonsense.” Wow. Pretty succinctly said, right? Here’s why this is important to read and mull over: how far ‘away’ is today’s wine culture from foodie culture?

Mr. Miller does include a reference to Napa Valley as he talks about restaurant culture: “I have tried to simply ignore the fawning and farcical celebration of this-or-that Michelin-starred, San Francisco celebrity chef and the rapturous drivel about Napa wine lists and poetic cuisine. But over-the-top accolades and starry-eyed “reporting” now have reached such a crescendo that, before another mini-plate of seaweed in Thai basil broth is served, I must speak out for the other San Francisco…”

Where is real food? Real people? Mr. Miller is echoing the sentiments which here in Napa Valley we are seeing play out in the anti-new-winery movement. The step towards ‘real wine’ is quite close.

Miller continues: “We further assert that eating out in San Francisco and its surrounding counties is becoming a class-conscious, expensive sport for the wealthy and their acolytes…” and he recommends “…. We are instead urging them to redirect their enthusiasm to teaching people — and maybe themselves — the virtues of healthy cooking, not extravagant eating….and for returning some balance to the discourse about food.”

After you read this piece, you might take those ‘fresh’ eyes over to your winery’s website and consider what you see….just sayin’…is your winery in the ‘let them eat cake’ mode?

Understanding the Paradigm Shift in Wine Writing

Paradigm shiftIt seems like the traditional, legacy media is dropping its coverage of wine at a pretty swift pace whether it be a pull back from wine coverage in Chicago, St. Louis or San Francisco. It points to a circumstance that every wine publicist and every wine marketer must accept and embrace: YOU ARE THE DISTRIBUTOR OF WINE JOURNALISM, WHILE THE JOURNALISTS ARE THE CONTENT CREATORS.

This, of course, never used to be the case. All the major media had good wine coverage and good circulation and distribution, assuring that if you or your client were covered, word would be spread by the folks who created the content.

Today, with the legacy media reducing their coverage and its circulation being gobbled up and cut up, there does remain a vibrant independent and largely new wine media that is exploring the subject on blogs, podcasts, online media and elsewhere outside what were the normal information distribution channels. However, few have much reach or circulation.

What this means is that the subject of the coverage (the winery, the importer, the distributor, the retailer, etc) must do the distribution.

That subject as information distributor model has a variety of tools at its disposal:

Your Email List
Your list of trade/accounts contacts
Your tasting room or Retail Store

If any of the many wine writers and commentators endorse your project, it must be you who gets that word out to those you hope will see it and take it to heart.

This is such a profound and certain and cemented shift in the way companies and concerns use third-party media endorsements that it qualifies as a paradigm shift.

Yes, there remain various media that, when they give you an endorsement, their distribution of that endorsement will get the job done and get their word out. But that list is shrinking on a daily basis. Perhaps this will change. Perhaps media companies with large circulations will return to serious coverage of the most important and refined and culturally significant beverage the world has ever seen. But don’t count on it. For now, you are on your own. Either be the distributor of the content created by the media or don’t count on good coverage having any impact at all on your brand and product.

Describing Wine…Is There a Different, Better Way?

TrueTasteWhether you are a publicist, a marketer, a hospitality professional, a winemaker, an owner or a consultant in the wine industry, at various times you are going to be called upon to write a tasting note or description of a wine you want to sell. How should it be written?

This is a fundamental question that has no right answer. Well, that’s not true. “I like it” simply won’t suffice. Neither will, “Damn!…Yumalicious!”

If you are like that vast majority of people, you will end up writing a tasting note or wine description that strings together a series of flavor descriptors: “A nose of ripe Cassis, summer herbs, vanilla and hints of chocolate, etc, etc, etc.”

Read any wine review and the chances are 10-1 that this is what you’ll get. In fact, since this is exactly what consumers and the trade have been trained to embrace when it comes to wine descriptions, you are probably better off not going too far outside the box.

But I want to bring to your attention a new, very small book by Matt Kramer, the renowned wine author and wine columnist for The Wine Spectator. In True Taste: The Seven Essential Wine Words Kramer makes the case that a simple string of flavor descriptors really tells the reader (or consumer) anything about your judgment of the wine and that it is your judgment of a wine that is most likely to contain the kind of insight that is truly useful.

Kramer believes that we (consumers, members of the trade, and writers) ought to think of wine not so much in the context of specific smells and tastes, but rather in the context of “Harmony,” “Textures,” “Layers,” “Nuance,” “Finesse” and “Surprise.”

Put another way, what if the description of the wine on that product sheet explored the degree of “harmony” the wine possesses and why? What if the description dwelt on the way the wine is revealed through “layers” of aromas, tastes and textures? Perhaps the way the wine delivers up unexpected or revealing messages about the terroir its fruit was grown in is the content of the wine description.

Kramer, in this really wonderful small book, is an advocate of moving way from the scientism that has had a grip on wine writing and wine descriptions since the academics introduced the notion of product quality descriptions that were easily communicated and put on display. Instead, he calls on us all to embrace a more subjective approach to wine writing and writing about wine.

What’s notable about this suggestion is that its much easier for a publicist or marketer or winemaker or another member of the trade to follow than it is a professional wine writer or wine reviewer since we have more leeway in how we talk about wine.

Kramer’s “True Taste” is a book that every member of the wine trade would benefit highly from reading two or three times (it can be opened, read and finished within an hour or two). You are likely to come away with a new understanding of how your wine can be presented to your customers. You may come away with a new appreciation of what a wine can represent. And in the end, what a wine represents is the key to a buyer’s purchasing decisions.

How far does The New York Times reach?

Please take a minute to read Bruce Schoenfeld’s article in the Sunday May 31 New York Times Magazine called “The Wrath of Grapes.”

The sub-head defines the piece as “…a band of upstart winemakers is trying to redefine what California wine should taste like — and enraging America’s most famous oenophile in the process….”

In a ‘mainstream’ consumer newspaper you will see a story detailing some fairly inside-baseball wine industry marketing issues. How interesting, right?

Just as importantly (PR 101, we might say), this piece has sparked discussion across the blogosphere and elsewhere.

I thought I’d gather some of the reactions to Mr. Schoenfeld’s piece in one convenient place, namely, here!

The lengthiest responses are Ron Washam

Steve Heimoff

Tom Wark (who of course is also the other founder/writer here at Swig)

Next are several writers and online forums who discuss the article:

Dr. Vino

Robin Garr

David Rosengarten



And The Colorado Springs Independent.

If you’re a marketer in the wine business today, you might enjoy reading through these assorted commentaries just to make sure you know where YOU stand on these issues….and…..who knows, maybe even contribute a comment here or there?