One of my favorite “pro” gigs is penning the In Focus section of Publix Grape Magazine, which I will happily continue doing for so long as they’re willing to ask, because I have so much freakin’ fun doing it. I learn more than I’d otherwise suspect every time I write for the seasonal magazine, both in researching and in trying to take complex wine topics such as yeasts, oak, and acids, and make them palatable (see what I did there?) to non-geeks. You know, normal people!
For the 2013 Winter edition of Grape, I solicited the help of my winemaking bud Steve Matthiasson in breaking down the topic of wine sugars, much like yeasts break those suckahs down in real life (see what I did there?… whatever…). Corkscrews are the topic for the Spring, so go subscribe (for free) if you don’t want to miss it.
But I’m not blogging to talk about that, I actually want to talk about another aspect of the Winter release of Grape, in which I’m quoted on the topic of cute wine labels. Namely, are they good or bad for wine, and would they appeal to Millennials?
I’m one of a few wine geeks quoted in that article, which understandably but unfortunately didn’t quote my lengthy caveat that if wine brands like Skinny Girl and Cupcake are selling, then there must be good reasons for that and it doesn’t really matter what I or any other critic-type-person thinks about them. Interestingly, the article also mentioned Gnarly Head and Smoking Loon, which I don’t consider as “kitschy” as Skinny Girl or Cupcake (loons are not cute, and neither are gnarly old vines), but I’ve long considered them decent bargains because they’re getting nice old vine fruit from places like Lodi at suppressed prices, which translates into really decent wines in some cases…
Although not mentioned in the Publix article, Bogle is another brand that’s offered up as perennial example of this kind of bargain wine hunting, with good reason, but that’s not a brand I’d describe as “cute” Hello Kitty? Cute. Gnarly vines and birds with bad social habits? Not so cute.
While I’ve nothing personally against cute brand names / labels, I do have something against crappy wine; and too often, crappy wine gets gussied up with cute branding, because otherwise it’d have to go out as bulk juice for a fraction of the profit. But if those wines are decent, and are taking advantage of older vine fruit (or even just good fruit) at low prices and passing the savings on to you, then that’s nothing but good for the wine biz. As for Millennials, don’t expect them to flock to cute branding just because; they’ve been the targets of marketing ploys longer and more intensely than any previous generation, and they know marketing bullsh*t when they smell it (often from surprisingly far distances). In fact, their BS-detectors are trigger-happy to a fault; if it even remotely resembles marketing ploys, it’s likely to turn them off from trying something, even if the product is decent. Anyway, this all ground that’s been covered here extensively.
I’d summarize the other experts’ takes on the topic from the article (including Elin McCoy and Jon Thorsen of ReverseWineSnob.com (who seems to be popping up everywhere lately… go, Jon!), but they’re surprisingly similar to what I’ve described above, though all are worth checking out.
Ever bought a wine based on a cutesy label? Shout it out… it’s okay, you’re among friends, we won’t give you any too much sh*t about it…