Posts Filed Under commentary
Earlier this week, I was quoted by author, veteran wine competition judge, and personal friend Michael Cervin on his big, Boozehoundz. In that article, Michael included my now-exceedingly-repetitive advice on wine PR, along with much more helpful words from others far more versed in the wine PR field, regarding the value of public relations in helping wine brands to get their message out to their perspective customers/fans/consumers/etc.
Michael’s article has immensely insightful information on the how and why of communicating wine brands messages; what that article doesn’t discuss is how few wine brands have actually crafted a viable message in the first place, and therefore aren’t even in a position to use the helpful information therein.
I have become more acutely aware of this issue during 2016 and 2017, specifically and most vicerally during my travels to regional wine events and subsequent tours of those wine areas. It’s astounding how few of those regions have crafted anything close to resembling a message tailored to the markets that they wish to penetrate. In most cases, they don’t seem to have actually identified the specific markets to which they’d deliver a message if they even had one.
In more than one instance this year, I’ve attended regional panel discussions targeted to the press in which representatives from across the silos of those wine regions – farming, production, oversight, marketing – not only do not have a message about their region to pass on to the press, but use the platform to either engage in internecine arguments, or to ask people like me “what do YOU think our message should be?…”
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Each year, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) releases their predictions for the U.S. wine biz for the coming year, and every year I have my (typically snarky) commentary on the report (which, I should add, I usually find to be insightful – the report, I mean, not necessarily my snarky commentary).
The SVB report is Northern-California-heavy, which makes sense, given their clientele. It often makes also contains predictions that one might generously call “favorably perceived” by that clientele; in the 2017 report, for example, we’re told that Millenial consumers will move from imbibing blends into imbibing varietal wines, and will also pay more for the privilege. Which probably has a lot of perennially under-compensated Millenial wine lovers saying, “ok, sure, with what, the money I make by selling my f*cking blood?!??”
What I want to focus on for 2017, however, are two aspects emphasized in the SVB report, one of which the U.S. wine biz seems to be on board with (albeit a bit late), and another with which the U.S. wine biz seems to be, well, not so on board…
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A couple of years ago, I undertook a rather statistically-irrelevant and thoroughly un-scientific study regarding the Biodynamic tasting calendar (based on the lunar-cycle farming techniques espoused by Rudolf Steiner). This study had a single participant (me) who knew next to nothing about this calendar, who downloaded one of those mobile apps that tells you what type of day it is on the BioD calendar. I then tasted through wine samples pretty much every day, as usual, and noted whether or not any given wine seemed to taste really good or really nasty, and what BioD calendar day type it happened to be.
Presumably, I would have enjoyed more of the wines on so-called “fruit” days, and wines would have tasted nastier on “root” days; thus postulateth the Biodynamic calendar, anyway. My tasting results? In summary: totally random, with no correlation to the BioD calendar days at all.
The results of a much more scientific and potentially relevant experiment into whether or not the BioD calendar impacts how a finished wine tastes were recently published. The results of this New Zealand based study found that the tasting impact of the BioD calendar was, essentially, nada. From the study’s conclusion:
“…the findings reported in the present study provide no evidence in support of the notion that how a wine tastes is associated with the lunar cycle… Consumers expecting a wine to be more expressive and aromatic on Fruit days might actually perceive them as such through top down cognitive effects.”
In other words, it’s possible that any impact of the lunar cycle on your wine tasting is just all in your head….
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It’s with some hesitation that I mention to you that I was recently quoted in a Metro.us article about my thoughts on the rebranding efforts of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, most of which were probably too obscenity-laden to print.
I’m not hesitant about the article itself, mind you, but I am hesitant about giving the PLCB any more attention at all, at this point. Primarily because there’s no love lost between me and the PLCB.
Actually, there’s no love between me and the PLCB, period. I hate the PLCB.
My friend Lew Bryson, also quoted in the article, puts it best when he describes the PLCB attempting to rebrand itself: “lipstick on a pig.”
To adequately describe how utterly f*cked up the situation regarding alcohol sales is under the state-run PLCB monopoly here in PA, I refer you to PA Rep. Adam Harris’s comments in a December HeraldMailMedia.com article, in which he describes PA liqour reform legislation that went into effect in 2016:
“…the two key components that most people will notice is that they allowed for the sale of wine in grocery stores and other outlets and, beginning in mid-January, beer distributors will be able to sell down to the single unit, including allowing for mix-and-match sales of six packs.”
Eighty-three years after the end of Prohibition in the USA, Pennsylvania residents can buy wine and beer in the same way that most other states have already allowed for decades. Maddeningly, almost incomprehensibly, that is touted as progress under the PLCB and monopoly system in PA. Nothing is said, of course, of the issues with prices, how in-state wine producers’ products are treated, overall selection, shipping limitations, store employee knowledge-levels, and quality of service; because, hey, you’re allowed to mix a six pack now!
The PLCB remains a nightmare for knowledgeable PA wine consumers, who will only constitute a growing number of the population, given how easily wine product information is disseminated and consumed in our current, ultra-competitive wine market. And the fact that it remains such an anachronistic but powerful body in that market ought to scare the entire wine segment, at least a little bit, because no monopoly is going to make doing business easy on the back-end (there just isn’t enough incentive for mutuality – think about it).
It’s long past time to retire this dinosaur, and privatize the tiers of the alcohol business in PA; not just for the benefit of the Commonwealth’s residents, but quite probably for the benefit of the entire wine industry.