Good Grape

Caveat Vini

by Tim Elliott on January 16, 2011

Good Grape is one of my favorite wine blogs. Written by Jeff Lefevere, who is my collaborator on the Unfiltered podcast, the blog always digs deep into the world and business of wine. I think of it as the New Yorker of wine blogs as it’s rare to see wine coverage of such depth in the blogosphere (or really in mainstream consumer press).

Good Grape mastheadSo I was interested in Jeff’s adventures with Groupon as chronicled in his post yesterday. If you are plugged into social media marketing, as both Jeff and I are in our day jobs, you have no doubt heard about group buying sites like Groupon and Living Social. The idea is simple; present a compelling offer — many times 50-75% off retail — and set a minimum threshold of buyers for this offer to lock in. If you reach that number, everyone is charged for the deal and gets their coupon to use for the product or service. If the threshold is not reached, the merchant does not have to extend the discount. This method ensures there is a large enough group of customers for the merchant in order for them to justify the discounts. And it encourages people to share the deal with their social graph on Twitter and Facebook extending the advertisers’ reach.

Jeff’s adventure started with a $75 voucher for online wine merchant Barclay’s Wine he bought for $25. After perusing the selection at hand, Jeff became enamored with their selection of library wines and decided to purchase a bottle of 1996 Gran Vino Enologica Rioja, Gran Reserva. Since he only paid $25, Jeff thought he was safe betting, “the house money,” on his selection. But when he received the wine he quickly came to the conclusion something was amiss.

Before telling the rest of this tale, a quick aside for some hard-won, personal advice. When you see a smoking good deal in wine, it’s rarely a deal at all. In my experience, I’ve only been able to get a couple of steals; one was at a trusted fine wine shop that just need to move some inventory. The other was a Ridge Merlot from the 1970’s at Trader Joe’s for $4 back in 1983. Every other time I’ve taken a flyer on some unbelievable deal, I’ve been disappointed or worse. But Jeff’s deal here sounds like a decent bet as the wine sold for $62.50. The deal part comes from his Groupon voucher.

Going back to Jeff’s wine, it look promising on paper with a glance at a vintage chart showing an 85 from Robert Parker and an 88 from Wine Spectator who noted, “Balanced wines with good fruit and firm structure.” Gran Reserva, the highest designation for Spanish wine, was made by many producers in 1996 including Marques de Riscal and Bodegas Montecillo. So this was a good vintage for Rioja wines overall if Jeff had consulted internet sources before his purchase.

When the wine arrived Jeff noticed a couple things that concerned him. The label on the bottle looked brand new and the bottle itself seemed very light for a wine bottled in the late 1990’s. His first concern would not have raised any red flags with me since I saw piles of unlabeled Rioja in caves when I visited there in 2007. Known in the trade as “shiners“, not labeling wines in Spain is a common practice as this allows the producer to label for the importer and not affix those ugly strips to the bottle you often see with French and Italian wines. So it’s not a surprise that Jeff’s wine was labeled last year when it was sold to the importer. But the light bottle would have concerned me as a producer would not bottle their most prized wine in a cheap bottle nor go to the trouble of re-bottling a great wine just to save a few Euro in shipping costs.

I’ll let you hit the source link for the rest of the story but let’s just say this is a cautionary tale for anyone buying older vintages from unknown producers. A bit of pre-purchase Googling is always recommended.

via Good Grape: A Wine Manifesto

Wine Marketing in the Consumer Content Era

by Tim Elliott on July 19, 2007

Editors note: This is a cross-post of my “weekly” post over at Jeff Lefevere’s Good Grape blog. Since I’ve been silent there for a while, expect some more frequent posts some of which I’ll cross-post here.

It’s been a while since I posted here at Good Grape so I thought I would get back into action with a meaty topic I think a lot about in my day job as a wine marketer.

How has wine marketing changed in the era of consumer generated content?

At one end of the spectrum is the ground-breaking work by Hugh MacLeod harnessing the power of social media to reposition Stormhoek as a “social object.” You can check out Hugh’s account of his campaign by viewing a 25 minute video of a talk recorded at the PSFK Conference in London last month.

What is most interesting about Hugh’s story is how simply — and almost by accident — he implemented a global marketing campaign in a very fragmented and traditional industry. Like a lot of wine brands, Stormhoek is a volume play where critic’s scores, aggressive sales practices and shelf-talkers are the standard marketing approach. So what did Hugh and Company do? They engaged the blogosphere and started a global conversation about their brand. The result was more than doubling sales in less than 2 years for an investment of about £20,000 (approx. $41,000 USD).

The other end of the spectrum is where 99% of the wine industry is at the moment with their heads in the sand about the internet and little clue about social media. They live in fear someone uneducated consumer will bad mouth their wine on one of the new Wine 2.0 sites such as Cork’d. This level of spin control and anxiety is understandable given the subjective subject of wine tasting where a $2 Chardonnay could be judged superior to a $40 Chardonnay.

But I have three words of advice for winery owners – Join the conversation!

We have seen a few brave wineries start blogging and engage the growing wine blogosphere. Although the jury is still out on their efforts, I know wine has been sold and word of mouth has resulted in new customers.

Don’t have a tasting room? Use your blog to create a “virtual porch.”

Have a limited marketing budget? Spend some time reading and responding to wine bloggers and they will say some good things about your wine and drive traffic to your blog.

The theme of this week’s Wine Industry Technology Symposium underscores the urgency of wineries adopting new online marketing strategies. My favorite quote was from wine podcast superstar Gary Vaynerchuk from Winelibrary.com who said in his talk to , “Embrace your website as your business.” Amen, brother; I hope a few wineries there got the message.

So the bottom line is that wineries who are not part of the social media conversation are doomed to let consumers determine their word of mouth. Like any online endeavor there are trolls but if you engage and extend the conversation you are more likely to encourage partisan customers to come to your aid. If you do nothing, you are likely to suffer in “Google Hell” for some time.

All it takes is a bit of time and focus. The rest — like what Stormhoek has done — could be history.

Marketing Wine To Millennials

by Tim Elliott on January 28, 2007

The Muse Jester

Editor’s Note: This is the first of at least 52 posts for the Good Grape blog over the next year.

While tasting at yesterday’s Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) Festival, I came across an interesting new brand that is targeting their wine squarely at the Millennial Generation. Muse Winery has launched this wine as “Mingle” and not the more expected “Zinfandel” because the Millennial buyer is looking for different wine taste experiences and is more tolerant of unconventional blends than their Baby Boom parents. Mingle delivers on the different blend front with Zinfandel being joined by Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon instead of the more common Petite Sirah and Carignan. The result is quite nice with forward black cherry fruit, a touch of black pepper and smooth tannins. I rated it a very good 86 on the 100-point scale. It’s not just the wine, but also the packaging, that will appeal with this demographic as Muse has created a colorful label, unconventional bottle shape and “Peel, Pop and Pour” cork closure last seen on inexpensive sherry and port.

For readers not familiar with the Millennial Generation, I’ll back up and give you some background. Born between 1979 and 2002, Millennials follow GenX and The Baby Boom in the generations since WWII. Now coming of drinking age in large numbers — they are 100 million strong in total — this generation is the first to get into wine in a big way since their parents Baby Boom cohort. Unlike their parents, they are not looking for status wines or cellaring, preferring instant gratification. Wine should be unpretentious and just good to drink with Millennials who also look for food friendly wines. They are also squarely in the value category from a price perspective with the sweet spot being between $10 and $15 USD a bottle.

From a marketing perspective, Millennials present several opportunities for wineries. Since they are really just looking for a pleasant beverage for enjoying with food, scores and awards are not important. This means no brand building in the pages of Wine Spectator, Decanter or Wine Enthusiast magazines. Millennials are also the most wired generation, never knowing a time without the internet. This presents the wine marketer with the opportunity to market online and add social media to the mix. I’m currently working with a consulting client on launching a brand to this generation and a My Space presence and podcast are key elements of our marketing plan. We are also spending time on simple, colorful and attractive labels, unique bottles and Stelvin twist-off closures.

So it’s not business as usual selling wine to Millennials but it is pushing the state of the art for wine marketing forward. Anything that compels wineries to embrace blogs, podcasts and online communities is alright with me.

Guest Blogging at Good Grape

by Tim Elliott on January 23, 2007

Jeff from Good Grape has decided on what subjects he would like me to write about for his personal blog feed won on the recent Menu for Hope campaign. As I posted to his blog, I will be writing a weekly article on one of three subjects: Wine 2.0, Italian wines and wine marketing. Many of those posts will be cross-posted here but sometimes I’ll just point you to his blog for the weekly entry.

I’m looking forward to collaborating with Jeff for the next year guest blogging at Good Grape. We are also working together on a new podcast we’re calling “Unfiltered” which will make it’s debut tomorrow; stay tuned.