Sunday, April 23, 2006

Labels sell wine!!

Especially when they show cuddly, feathery or other critter creatures. Sales of "critter " label wines have seen dramatic increases over the past five years. When a critter is on the label, Americans buy a new wine twice as often as the competition, according to the marketing information company ACNielsen. This whole phenomenon started with the introduction of Australia's [yellow tail] Even Robert Parker has good things to say about this success story from down under. (More about Mr. Parker in my next blog entry.) Last year 7.5 million cases were sold in the US alone. Jon Fredrikson, a California wine industry consultant, calls it "the perfect wine for a public grown up on soft drinks." All the more remarkable when you consider America's love affair with white zinfandel: 35 percent of US consumers drink this wine, accounting for sales of twenty-one million cases last year. But the trend is changing as the American palate matures. According to AC Nielsen, sales of Pinot Grigio ( Pinot Gris) increased 18.6 percent last year. Pinot Gris is predicted to surpass white zinfandel as the fourth-largest varietal in just two years.
It is also predicted that by 2009, the US will become the largest wine consuming country in the world. Italy will remain in second place and France is expected to fall from first to third spot. A number of factors account for this increased consumption of wine in North America. An increased awareness of the health benefits from moderate drinking as well as the fact that wine is becoming much more a part of our culture. There is a keen interest in anything relating to wine. Wine tourism, along with culinary tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry.
For "critter" labels to be effective, the wine in the bottle has to be at least consumable. No one will buy the wine again, if it isn't at least good. Yellow tail delivers more wine than the price would indicate. Not great, but it satisfies the fruity style that Americans have grown to like. There are actually some "critter" label wines that are quite exceptional.
Venturi- Schulze Vineyards on Vancouver Island has a remarkable wine behind a different kind of critter label(shown at the top of this post). Not only is this an outstanding Champagne method wine but it also answers the question of which came first: The chicken or the egg. There is no doubt that it was the Grape that came first. The label was created by Cowichan Valley artist Angela Beltane. This fresh, lively, sparkling wine is made from Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine. It is named for the mix of small and large grapes in the Siegerrebe bunches.
How long will critter label wines stay popular? Anybody's guess. But I think only long enough for the next fad to come onto the marketing scene
Happy drinking and don't forget to pet your pet.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Wine, wine everywhere.... and too many drops to drink!

The world of wine is in a turmoil. Competition around the world is changing how governments, wine organizations and vintners think about how to compete in an ever-expanding wine market. The wine glut discussed in a previous post, has resulted in a variety of responses. To complicate matters, scientists will soon be able to genetically manipulate grapes. This will not only affect the quality of grapes but also their production levels. And how will that impact the influence of "terroir"? Will it give the big corporate wine companies an increased stonghold on the world wine markets? Scientists at the San Michelle all"Adige institute in Trentino have begun mapping the genetic make up of the Pinot Noir grape. Once the genome project is complete, alteration of the grape's genetic make up will become a reality. At the University of California, Davies, researchers are looking at ways to make wines an even more healthful drink by genetically altering grapes to increase their vitamin C content.
Meanwhile the EU is bowing to US demands to allow wines finished with oak chips to be sold in Europe. It is eassy to understand why. US wine exports to the EU were worth $325 million in 2005, while EU exports to the US were valued at 2.6 billion. The market is dictating what is acceptable and the EU is now allowing the use of oak chips. The French government has created quite a stir among traditionalists everywhere by legislating the use of oak chips. Just to add another wrinkle to wine sale worries, China's Changyu Group Co.,the oldest and largest wine producer in China has set its sites on becoming one of the top ten international producers in the next decade. Well there is another way of dealing with the competition. Just close your borders. Russia has effectively done that with wines coming from Georgia and Moldova. Is this a new form of cold war? This seems to be a politically motivated event and understandably Georgia and Moldova are outraged. Is the Russian Bear just rattling its saber or will sanity prevail?
Ultimately, quality is where it will be at. Germany is using a quality, as well as innovation approach. A new glass stopper is attracting some attention. Spain as well is clamouring about quality and some excellent wines from Spain are now available. Just to keep the cork versus other closures debate going, Spain has just legislated that all DO wines have to be stoppered with a real cork.
As the old hymn implores us "Let there be Peace in the Valley", all the great grape valleys in the world. Its time for me to open a bottle of wine, grab my favourite glass and partake of "the fruit of the vine". As Galileo said: "Wine is light, held together by water". And I am ready to enjoy one of the lights of my life. Till next time and remember: God in His goodness sent the grapes, to cheer both great and small; little fools will drink too much, and great fools none at all.-Anonymous.