Marketing Wine 101

As many a drinker has said, “It started with the bottle.”

Into the Woods Once Upon a VineIn my case, as a person attracted to both words and graphics, the unknown wine bottle reached out and grabbed me. It was a surface attraction. I didn’t know the wine, but I didn’t need to know the its inner-beauty. The packaging was enough: The title, “Once Upon a Vine,” grabbed me with its wordplay; the Art Deco graphic of the child running though the forest underscored the storybook title. I didn’t need to drink the wine, but I did need the bottle.

Thinking that the bottle would make a nice paperweight, I bought the wine. And then I flashed on our youngest daughter’s experience who, after graduating from the Denver Art Institute, took an internship at a corporate gift basket supplier in Seattle. Sarah’s job was to design eye-catching labels so that the wine (bedded attractively in high-quality excelsior and surrounded by high-end chocolate, cheese, fruit and nuts) would dazzle the eye of the recipient.

Who knows where the wine came from? Quite possibly it came from California by rail tanker car. Packaging… it’s all about packaging.

Some palates were more refined than others

Some palates were more refined than others

And thus, I hatched the idea of a wine tasting party. Yes, we would taste the wine, but the wine selections would be based solely on the basis of the label. The rules were strict. Invitees were to have neither tasted the wine nor read reviews of the wine prior to the party. It would be a blind tasting and participants would keep score. Assuming that some of the wines would be a bit rough ‘n ready, the scoring was rough ‘n ready too.

Tasters would check one of three choices: “nice,” “just OK,” and “buyer suckered by the label.” If you look at the scorecard on the left, only one wine was so bad that the buyer was judged to have been bamboozled by the marketing department. In contrast, the person who scored the card to the right judged only wine #15 as OK and all other wines failed.  In the margin, #6 earned not only a check mark but also an “awful.”

"If You See Kay" the Mad Max biker chick on the far right bottle was a favorite.

“If You See Kay” the Mad Max biker chick on the far right bottle was a favorite.

After the wines were rated, we dropped the sleeves. The wines might have fallen short of the mark, but the labels were wonderful. As were the labels on the back of the bottles. No label urged us to up-our-game by noting the subtle hints of ripe passion fruit and gooseberries accented with crisp zest of fresh sweet limes. Oh no. As I said, the competition was to focus on the labels. The labels on the backs of the bottles were as much fun as those on the front. The back of Vicious Zin, for example, read: “Hey, don’t let looks or price fool you! There’s a lot of heart and flavor in this little scrapper; a powerful bite of fruit, flavor and spice that will make the higher priced Zinfandels cower.”

100_6477“Foreplay Chardonnay,” “7 Deadly Zins,” “Woop Woop” “Hunky Dory,” “Plunger Head,” “Love Drunk,” and “Insatiable” all scored well in the label competition. And yes, some wines scored well too, but truth be told, I got carried away by the frivolity and misplaced the rankings of the wine.

I could taste them all again, but I think not. Labels abound. Maybe there is a wine just waiting to be discovered.

As for my bottle of “Once Upon a Vine,” I gave it as a prize to the winner of the best label. I’ll just have to buy another bottle. It will make a perfect paperweight.

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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1 Response to Marketing Wine 101

  1. Andrew says:

    Wondering if you noticed the word play in “”If You See Kay”, just saying it out loud helps. Working in this industry I’d have to say that while labels do sell bottles, they don’t necessarily imply good or bad wine/whiskey/etc. On the other hand, a poor or outdated label can discourage sales. One other interesting note: for brands that have been around for a long time, its been found that changing the label, even in a subtle way increases sales almost instantly.

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