Come again? How and why would you want to do that?
Well, think about it. There are an awful lot of people out there who don’t like wine the same way we do. They don’t like the taste, they don’t understand which wines they might like even if they did and it’s a whole lot easier just to ask for a beer, cider or gin and tonic instead. So if you are ever going to convince that kind of consumer to give wine a go, then you’re going to have to do more than just past them a corkscrew and give them the latest copy of Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book.
You mean you have to cajole them?
Not exactly, but you have to give them very different reasons for wanting to give wine a try. It’s why we are seeing such a growth and interest in wine-based drinks that might have the wine purists turning up their discerning noses in disgust, but it’s what flying off supermarket shelves. Echo Falls was leading the way in creating the wine fusion market. There might be grapes in your glass, but what you can taste is the “zesty” white peach, strawberry, raspberry or grapefruit that has been added to make it into the kind of drink lots of non-wine lovers might want. Which they clearly do as the fruit fusion category has exploded to reach over £70m in sales in just two years.
“We are seeing pure and simple wine being sold in funkier packaging, like stubbies and cans that are designed to look more like a craft beer. ”
But is this really the future for wine?
If the overall wine industry wants to have a future then, yes. After all every consumer market has to persuade the next generation to buy into their category and their brands. We are not all born with a disposition to drinking Coca-Cola, munching Walkers Crisps, or snacking on a Mars bar. If we want to convince the next generation of drinkers looking for an alcoholic sugar rush on a night out to drink wine, they we’re going to have to play by the same rules that have got people, particularly younger drinkers, queuing up at the bar for the latest in fruit-flavoured vodkas, gins and ciders. Only then will we then have a chance of slowly persuading them to tone down the added fruits and sweetness and just go with what comes straight from a vineyard.
It all sounds rather depressing?
Oh, get over yourself. Go back to when you first started drinking wine. The days before you nosed a wine, and rolled it around in the glass assessing its colour and legs before getting it anywhere near your mouth. You were hardly reaching for a glass of Nebbiolo or Pimitivo straight out of college. No, the chances are you were introduced to wine by drinking a bottle of cheap, cheerful and, yes, sweet Lambrusco. We’re not re-inventing the wheel here. We’re just become a bit more knowing, and calculated, in how we entice new shoppers, particularly younger ones, down the wine aisle.
OK anything else?
Look at the rise in Prosecco. For a lot of mainstream Prosecco drinkers they don’t think they’re drinking wine, they’re just having a ‘Prosecco’. It has now become a brand, a drinks category all in itself. Look at Aperol Spritz. How many customers who order an Aperol Spritz actually know or care they’re ordering a sparkling wine, Prosecco, soda and Aperol - whatever that it is? It just looks cool, refreshing and what everyone else is drinking. But for bars, restaurants and retailers it’s become a very good way of shifting even more bottles of Prosecco. As are wine-based cocktails, where wine is the foundation for a drink that brings in a whole variety of flavours and spirits.
So is that why we are seeing wine being sold in all different types of packaging now?
Now you’re getting it. Yes, not only do all these types of wine-based drinks taste different from a standard wine they look different too. We are also seeing pure and simple wine being sold in funkier packaging, like stubbies and cans that are designed to look more like a craft beer.
What else is happening with brands?
The expansion of the wine category into these new areas is both a threat and an opportunity for established wine brands. There are those brands that don’t want to lose any of their wine credibility by moving into newer ‘non wine’ areas. Then there are others that can see how they can use the strength of their brand to take consumers into other categories and drinking opportunities. Let’s go back to Echo Falls. It now has its own summer berries flavoured vodka and don’t be surprised to see it move into flavoured gins or spiced rums in the future. Consumers are becoming used to seeing brands being stretched right across all grocery categories in search of new profits and growth. Look at Innocent Drinks that has seamlessly moved from smoothies and into the health and wellness category with coconut water blends and sparkling waters. Or Lynx deodorant that now covers all areas of male grooming from shaving to hair products. There’s even news of Dunkin Donuts launching its own craft beer range.
So it’s wine but not as we know it?
Very much so. Look at the 19 Crimes wine brand from Treasury Wine Estates. It has become phenomenally successful in a short period of time not because of the quality or story about the wine. No, its appeal is being driven because of the augmented reality technology that is being used to make the label. Criminals being sent to Australia for committing one of 19 Crimes, burst into life and start talking to you via an app. It’s opening up wine to younger consumers who are permanently attached to their smartphone and see the world through new technology. So yes, as you say. It’s wine, but not as we know it....