Wine marketing myopia? A wake-up call

I can’t help but the world of wine is moving slowly. That’s to some part the nature of wine business where important decisions, such as what grape variety to plant or what quality to aim for, are the basis for many years ahead. The driving force between producers’ adaptive responsiveness in regard to changing consumer wants and needs pushed by a powerful consolidating retail sector (in the major markets) is one of many huge challenges. But as if this ‘natural’ inflexibility wasn’t enough, the wine biz is still pervaded by self-impeding and unconstructive conservatism. And this is not at all limited to the producer level. Also legislative bodies and involved industry organisations who set the regulative and marketing framework for producers are often just a bad reflection of a widespread myopia (see the high fragmentation and dead slow modernisation in the EU). Moreover, the wine industry is a minefield of business’ lead by people who obviously, over the many years of passionate work, lost their sight of what happens outside their company.

Therefore, a cultural change along with changing personal attitudes is essential. Change may involve conflicts. A new, very well-educated generation willing to take over and steer the ship to new horizons is often held back by seemingly wise words such as: “We’ve never done this in the past!”. But developing strategies and sail toward new goals does not necessarily need to go along with castling personnel. So many complain about not having time for things like marketing, obviously because they think producing wine, that they personally like most, should be enough to earn a living. Contrariwise, create capacity to breathe, read, listen, communicate, connect, building relationships and understand what happens outside the box is the name of the game. Yes, tradition may be important and is certainly part of the wine business, but that doesn’t mean that consumers are willing to buy your wine for granted, surely not just for tradition’s sake.

Don’t get me wrong! There are many positive exceptions of successful transitions and fruitful initiatives, and I wish that these will prove the rule over time. Initiatives like ‘Generation Riesling‘ or ‘message in a bottle‘ in Germany set the right impulse for new directions of communicating and organising a forward-looking image of German wine, to give an example.


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Micro-brewery movement – The way we see beer changes

Some tremendous developments can be observed in the world of beer. Time’s past when beer was just a booze consumed in raw quantities and was solely distinguished between light and dark. Although consumption has declined over the past decades, beer ist still the number one alcoholic drink in the world with almost 190 billion litres consumed last year, compared with seemingly tiny 28 billion litres of wine (Euromonitor).

Back in time traditional beer countries like Germany used to have thousands of small breweries – almost 13,000 in the 19th century. Nowadays this number is at about 1,300 but growing as more and more small breweries start-up a new business. Also in the US the market comprises more breweries since decades (over 1,900).

Of course, the market changed immensely: mobility, lifestyle, knowledge, preferences, market power, distribution, internationalisation etc.

The beer consumption in the major markets is in decline, for a long time already. Flavoured beers or beer mixes are getting mainstream. This is why the interest for crafted beers with unique flavours awakes. One reason why the average beer prices in these markets are not in a free fall is the strong value growth in the premium segment. The positive trend of crafted beer now reaches a wider consumer base at least in the mature Western markets. Here especially micro-breweries hit the headlines. Micro-breweries offer handcrafted, premium qualities with distinct flavours from carefully sourced ingredients. That’s the combination that makes it a unique selling proposition.


Watch this video and discover how much beer and wine have in common: tasting descriptions, glasses used, food pairing etc. – Micro-brewery beers in Germany

Surrounded by GFC and economic crises, consumers may wish to set themselves back in good old times. Consumers seem to be driven by tradition, heritage and real craftsmanship. This nostalgia offers security and comfort we are so much searching for. The heroic stories of authenticity mentioned in a previous post showcase the potential of these values. Furthermore, compared to other alcoholic drinks, beer naturally has a relatively low alcohol level which accommodates the health conscious consumer.

Source: martinswinelust ©

Also Australia sees a similar premiumisation trend in beer. However, consumers demand for authentic high-quality beer, preferably domestic premium lager. Casella Wines realised this trend and launched a new beer project recently. The McLaren Vale Beer Company in South Australia produces its Vale Ale; a small range (4 beers) from an unfiltered dry lager made with German hops to a pale ale using hops from Australia, New Zealand and USA (see picture above). Another micro-brewery beer that I discovered by pure accident is the Knappstein Reserve Lager. This was during my first stay in Australia for vintage in Clare Valley in 2007 only one year after they (re)opened the new micro-brewery. All worth a try!

Also watch out for micro-distilleries!

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EU’s liberalisation of planting rights – and what’s left over

Beside all talks about economic crises in the EU, discussions such as the following almost incidentally appear and still are of significance. The planting of vines in the EU is regulated as part of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). So far nothing new. However, the regulation provided that the limitation of vineyard planting rights will be abolished from 2016. This in turn means that anyone would be allowed to plant vines pretty much anywhere in the EU. Incroyable! Subsequently, associations and member states turned up the resistance as they feared the extension of highly mechanised low cost vineyards at the expense of traditional vineyards (e.g. steep sloped or terrace vineyards). The counter-argument is based on the risk of loss of identity, mass production, potential oversupply and a drifting down of prices. International competitiveness vs. protection of tradition and sustainability!?

European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Cioloş, Source:

After three meetings of expert groups the solution of the commission tends to be a relatively flexible approach, but consensus is still to be reached. Thus, member states and their relevant regional organisations responsible for protected designations of origin (PDO’s) and geographical indications (PGI’s) would self-govern the planting of vines therein. Plantings for wines without mentioned indications (Non-GI’s example: Vin de France Merlot 2012) would be liberalised. A protection clause would be implemented to prevent an unabated expansion of this category.

It is obvious that the producer’s organisations would receive more liberty but also responsibility. The governance of the GI’s planting rights requires sensitivity with respect to involved brands on national, regional and producer level. Additionally, more flexible planting rights for Non-GI’s could definitely improve the competitiveness on international markets. Quantities are flexible, the price competitive due to low-cost production, and product declarations (incl. brand, origin, grape variety, vintage) are in no way inferior to new world wines.

A last meeting of the expert group will be held in November. A final agreement can be expected in 2013. A blog dedicated solely to this topic offering more details can be found under

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Would the ‘ARVO’ project work for wine?

What the Casella family achieved in the past years is extraordinary, regardless some criticism from domestic colleagues. Their ‘Yellow Tail’ is one of the most successful Australian wine brands present in all major markets. Recently, the company launched a new project. And who would have thought that the beer market is the new playground of the family. A recent joint venture agreement with Coca Cola Amatil can effectively be launched as the ‘Australian Beer Company’ in December 2013.

The clue is the project itself. The main objective was and still is to create the perfect Australian Lager! Consumers were asked to join the project by using a smartphone App sharing their idea of a perfect Lager by uploading images of every beer they drink and submitting its taste rating (App limited to 3 uploads per day to avoid some over involvement :)) An image recognition software detects the brands from a database. Additionally, by using the smartphone, data of location, time of the day, or weather conditions based on one’s location was gathered giving information about the perfect lager experience or situation. After collecting the data it was about to find the right style of Lager that matches the preferences best. ‘ARVO’ is the name of the beer that can already be bought in two versions in most major liquor stores in Australia. One of the two styles will soon be voted and awarded as the perfect Australian Lager. See how it worked:

My question is: Would this project also work for wine?

The idea of ‘crowd brewing’ as a form of product customisation and consumer involvement by using smartphone apps when planning to launch a new product is great. But would it work with e.g. “Creating the perfect Australian Riesling”? (if this is possible at all? – As a German I have to say that ;)) Is wine a too complex product? Is wine too place-bound or the wine consumer too much diversity-driven? Tell me what you think and leave a comment.

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My Top 5 Wine Songs

I guess we all love wine and I am sure music as well. There are songs telling all kind of stories in all kind of genres. From time to time when listening to music I notice songs where wine or a wine situation appears out of nowhere. It surely happens to you too. These songs are as different as wine can be. I proudly present to you: Martin’s Winelust Top 5 Wine Song Charts

#5 Eric Clapton – Bottle of Red Wine

#4 UB40 – Red Red Wine

A fantastic song in Reggae-style

#3 The Busters – More Fun

Continuing with some breakbeat – a much loved Ska band from Germany. This is from 1992 when the band was still at the very beginning of an amazing career. Makes my feet move… The wine lyrics:

“I go out to dance all night
sniff cocaine cause that’s alright
drink champagne my girls are nice
I dress up like miami vice
my car is fast my glasses are black
lobster is my favourite snack…”

#2 Pro Pain – Crush

Oooh! Hard stuff that. One of the bands that brought me to learn playing drums in my teens. Be careful when pushing the play-button! The wine lyrics here:

“25 bucks and a bottle of wine
The pressures on but I feel fine…”

#1 Udo Juergens – Griechischer Wein (German)

If you never heard of Udo then… it doesn’t really matter. What matters is, Udo sings about Greek wine. This is old school German Schlager with a wink and a smile.

Any other suggestions Mesdames et Messieurs? What are your favourite wine songs?

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