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There’s a Storm Brewing in the States

WinesofsaIn my post on 3/21—Post Updates & Dusty Bottle Items I referenced a winery in South Africa called Stormhoek that was very inventively using their Blog as a marketing tool—with great success.  Hugh Macleod at GapingVoid has blogged on them a couple of times including the genesis that can be found here and the very D.I.Y meets very cool product brochure is shown here at another Blogger’s site in the U.K.

Stormhoek winery is being imported into the states and they are repeating their free wine to the Blogosphere opportunity.  To read about the 100 Geek Dinners that will feature Stormhoek wine go here.

An excerpt from GapingVoid on the wine dinner/giveaway.

1. We’d like to do 100 dinners in 100 days, but we’re not married tothe "100 days" part. We just thought it had a nice ring to it. If ittakes longer, no big deal. And yes, more than one dinner happening on asingle day is allowed.

2. U.S. liquor laws vary from State to State. It can get quitecomplicated, but we still have to keep it all kosher within the law.

3. As with the 2005 European blog promo, the idea is not to turn bloggers into wine pimps. It’s more a case of what I call "marketing disruption".

4. It’s nice when big events get Stormhoek coverage, however both me and Jason prefer taking the "Small Is Beautiful" angle.

A large, multinational alcohol brand covering an internet idustryparty is nothing new. But a small, South African winery covering asmall, intimate, random event in say, Phoenix, Arizona is much moreinteresting. Because it’s on a more human scale.

AND YOU WANT TO REACH PEOPLE ON A HUMAN SCALE. That’s what MadisonAvenue keeps forgetting. That’s what Madison Avenue can’t get theirhead around, because their business model has no credible answer for it.

5. This idea is still evolving; it’s still in its infancy. Ifthere’s something important we haven’t thought of yet, please feel freeto sare your thoughts. We’d love to have the feedback.

Another wine blog, had this to say:

Over the past year, I have been following the Stormhoek meme over thatgapingvoid (where the drawing to the left comes from). The winery isnow entering the U.S. market and has an ambitious plan to supply theirwines for 100 (wine) geek dinners across the country. I havevolunteered to host one here in the Twin Cities on May 4, 2006 at 7:00p.m. From my Frappr listener map, I see there are several locallisteners who might be up for a nice evening of wine, food andconversation.

I signed up for Indianapolis, and as far as I know I will be hosting a small soiree to enjoy the wine in early June. 

The really cool thing about blogging is the connections that people make, via technology, that they wouldn’t have otherwise have made.  This is a pretty cool example of that. 


From the Land of Blue Sky Waters

HammsbigMy grandfather served in WWII. He left behind his wife and served as a mapmaker in thePhillipines, just as thousands of other GI’s did in the early 1940s. While he passed a number of years ago in thelate winter of 1993 it was just recently that we went through old artifacts andremembrances of his life that had been set aside with the long-ago intent ofpassing them down to his grandchildren. Mostly everything was benign, but some things like the racy GI postcards made my grandfather seem more human and adult then the woodworking,fishing, wise, gentle, “occasionally have a beer” Grandfather of my memory.

In my minds eye, aside from the frequent gatherings he wouldhave with his war buddies, I never knew much about the time he spent in theservice. But, I do know that he enjoyeda glass of wine—not fine wine, really, but homemade fruit wine like aBlueberry, or a Concord grape wine that was more of cordial on a Saturday afternoonwith friends

A couple of years ago I came across a book called Wine andWar: The French, The Nazi’s and theBattle for France’s Greatest Treasure.

I didn’t read the book then, but I plan on doing sonow. Sometimes history is moreinteresting when you have personal context to the events.

And, in the vein of “If you don’t know your past, you won’tknow your future,” my grandfather drank Hamm’s beer. Never more then one or two to slack his thirst after fishing.

I was reminded that Pabst Blue Ribbon beer made an unlikelyforay into popular culture in the past couple of years.

In our instantly ironic and immediately analyzed culture,everything seems to be recycled and everything pop culture related seems tohave a shelf life of about 15 minutes.

Oddly, this phenomenon hasn’t happened in the wineworld. Wine trends and even fads seemto be semi-enduring, lasting through at least a vintage cycle or two.

But, can this pop culture affliction happen in the world ofwine?

If the statistics are correct and members of Generation Yare coming online as core wine drinkers almost immediately after turning 21,can it be too far away?

BluenunI am waiting for somebody to license the rights to ColdDuck, Blue Nun, Lancer’s, and some of the other great wine brands of the 1960sand 70s, put a sluggable, quality wine in the bottle and do a Red Bull guerillamarketing campaign with them to bring some truly subversive change to theindustry.

Can you imagine? Instead of getting the very latest animal permutation on the bottlearchivists will be mining the wayback machine to see what labels were on theshelf during the Age of Aquarius.

If this happens, instead of “NO F*CKING MERLOT” as madefamous in the move Sideways, we’ll see a groundswell of Internet-based support,web sites, etc exclaiming, “No Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill.”

And, finally, speaking of Merlot. Swanson vineyards owns the domain, With an obviously vested interest in ensuringthat Merlot wine stops its free fall in public perception, they are conductingseminars in major wine cities across the country.

My suggestion to them, however, is that there is not asingle person on earth that doesn’t like to have fun. Their approach to countering the “Merlot as wine for theunsophisticated” appears to be decidedly wooden. Loosen up, guys and have some fun with it, you’ll get a ton moremileage out of it.


Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice—Cluetrain Ma

Atlas_shruggedA New Lingua Franca
Part 4 of 4

I could have also called this last post "The Age of Reason."

When talking about the Cluetrain and humans talking to humans in a normal voice—there’s a practicality that is arising that is manifesting itself as a new reason for a "new" wine language.  I pin this on, generationally, a new audience coming to terms with the enjoyment of wine. 

Atlas Shrugged might be the book most referenced in popular culture that nobody has read.  Newspaper flaks say that the normal newspaper is written to be understood by a 4th grader.  The New York Times is written to understood by an 8th grader.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is written to be understood by 3rd year philosophy majors.

Wine reviews are written to be understood by oblique men with a short finish in their 50’s.

At its core, according to Wikipedia, Atlas Shrugged is:

Independent, rational thought is the motor that powers the world. In the book, "men of the mind" go on strike,allowing the collapse of what only they hold together — a peacefulcohesiveness Rand claims that humans, particularly those whoseproductive work comes from mental effort, may create wherever forcefulhuman interference is absent. Given no alternative, they removethemselves from the "looters." The title is an analogy: the rationalmen, like the Greek god Atlas, hold the world on their shoulders; in the form of a strike, they have chosen to ‘shrug.’ The book is rooted in Objectivism, the philosophical system founded by Rand.

But, in practical terms, it can be argued that "Men of Mind"—wine consumers—are rising up from the tyranny of forceful human interference.  But, instead of, perhaps, removing themselves from the interference, they are creating a new language that fits their rational mind.

That language is the new lingua franca.  The movement was started by Joshua Wesson at his Best Cellars stores on the east coast.

The founders of Best Cellars have spent a total of 25 yearsworking in the wine business. We’ve written books and articles on wine andfood, won awards, spoken to tens of thousands of wine lovers at events aroundthe world, and wedged our noses into countless glasses of fermented grapejuice.

The idea for Best Cellars, however, didn’t come from us.

After years of conversations with wine lovers, we came to recognize that manypeople we met who liked drinking wine were put off by the "world ofwine;" its mysteries, rituals and often steep tariffs.

Everywhere we went, people asked us the same questions. How could they find outwhat a wine tastes like before buying? What could they do to better make senseof the dizzying number of countries, regions, grapes and labels? And mostimportantly, where could they shop for wine in an atmosphere that allowed themto feel comfortable making a purchase?

That’s why we say the idea for Best Cellars didn’t come from us.

It came from you.

Best Cellars has been around and this model has started to widely penetrate the consumer-end of the wine space, yet it hasn’t moved from the winemaker’s out to consumers.  This intermediation is occuring based on need from retail.

This movement has really come to a head with the very, very good book Wine Styles:  Using Your Senses to Explore and Enjoy Wine

WINE STYLE offers a new way of dealing with wine. Itdivides the white wines of the world into four taste categories and the redwines of the world into another four. What could be more important about a winethan how it tastes?

WINE STYLE helps you discover which taste category, or style, of winesuits you best, and enables you to ask for that style of wine when you buy winein a shop or a restaurant. It also helps you become a better wine taster. Itwill help bring you more enjoyment from every bottle! This book takes theemphasis away from the traditional wine lingo of grapes and regions, and placesit right where it belongs—on you and your taste. May it empower you to find alifetime of pleasure in wine!

What’s happening, really, is that people are dissatisfied with the way they are being spoken to.  There’s a disconnect.  In corporate speak—we are not in alignment on the issue.  In corporate jargon, we are not singing from the same hymnal.

But, the difference from the corporate world and the consumer world is the people can rise up and create change—perhaps not as seismic or as quickly as can occur in other industries, but its happening nonetheless.  People seek to understand.  And, when they don’t they either disengage interest, or they ratchet up the change in order to have the situation fit their needs. 

This human looking for human voice is occuring around us right now.  We won’t need revisionist history in 10 years to account for the subtle changes that occurred around us with this new lingua franca.  Atlas is Shrugging.  It will be self-evident.





Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice—Cluetrain Ma

Trader_joesBarbarians at the Gate
Pt. 3 of 4

In 1991 a band from Seattle, Washington heralded in Generation X withthe lyric from their anthem, “Smells like Teen Spirit.”

“Here we are now, Entertain us.”  

Five years later the Internet entered into the public consciousnessnot as the “Information Superhighway,” but as something that was usable andreal.

 In a society where information is transparent, changeimmediate and value nebulous, many believe that we are entering a period wheretwo consumer paths emerge—commoditization and value-added services. 

Certainly to the 40 + million members of Generation X andthe 70 + million of Generation Y, time is measured in moments and memories and “what’sin it for me?”

In order to make conversations amongst human’s sound human,it’s not enough to sell wine based on price or selection. And, especially in the age of informationtransparency, it’s not enough to have that knowledge embedded in humans in theform of service—at least in the world or wine, we know that human voicesfrequently don’t sound human, at least to the majority of the rest of the wineconsumers. 

To paraphrase former President Bill Clinton, “It’s theEntertainment, Stupid.” 

The world of retail is changing around us. Winery tasting rooms, who sell an experience,who tell a story certainly know this, as some estimates put purchase capturerates for visiting customers at better then 90%.

From the Book, The Entertainment Economy:

Increasingly, businesses will have to incorporate what hecalls the ‘E-factor’ (entertainment factor) into their offerings, be they goodsor services, in order to be competitive. Wolf calls this "hedonomics"­ the science of understanding the ‘fun-focused consumer’. Fundamental to thisis his notion that society’s concept of time has changed. The pressures ofwork, family, social obligations, etc., have forced us to compartmentalize ourlives into a series of highly segmented boxes of time. And, just as natureabhors a vacuum, we don’t like to have any of those boxes unfilled (or’wasted’). So we turn to entertainment to fill the unscheduled portions of ourday. This societal change, plus the development of distribution technologiessuch as the Internet, has fueled the tremendous growth of the entertainmentindustry. 

Grocer’s will still capture their share of the market, buttraditional rust belt wine shops that haven’t updated their shop in 20 yearsleeching an aging customer base dry with dusty bottles and sales on 1999 vintageswill soon be as relevant as the Dewey Decimal System is to ninth grader’swriting a term paper.  

Trader Joe’s knows this. That’s why a grocer with stores in just 20 states captured the nationalconsciouness with the $2 Buck Chuck wine and has states lobbying for itsarrival.

It’s fun to shop at Trader Joe’s. And, they merchandise well, which means thevoice they use to communicate with me might not be person to person, but itshuman because it helps me navigate the wine aisle and buy, predominantlyprivate-label wine, that I’ve never heard of before and will soon be pleasedwith.

Nirvana_smileyExcerpt from this magazine:

As legend has it, he was sitting on a beach contemplating the future of anew retail landscape when he came to the conclusion that people were usuallymore at ease and more receptive to new things when they were on vacation.

This was long before the term "retail anthropology" was coined.But Coulombe knew instinctively that everything depended on understandingconsumers. As such, his vision for Trader Joe’s was to offer shoppers a littleadventure by stocking items they couldn’t find elsewhere at prices thatwouldn’t empty their wallets.

It was then he decided on a tropical theme for the stores-right down to theloud print shirts on employees, fishing nets on the walls and a thatched roofbar in the back for sampling that looks like something out of a 1960s"B" beach movie.

All together, these are the elements that make a trip toTrader Joe’s a unique and fun experience for consumers who often think ofsupermarket shopping as exciting as a trip to the dry cleaner or the dentist. 

Some observers question whether Trader Joe’s will maintainthe same philosophy as it continues to grow across the U.S. and becomes a more noticeable competitor to conventional supermarkets. Theanswer seems to be yes. As one industry observer put it: "This is a chainthat has succeeded simply by being itself."

Or, if you’re a member of Generation X & Y, legions ofpeople that have grown to distrust advertising, Trader Joe’s is simplyauthentic.   

In the world of wine,Trader Joe’s sells a lot of wine, but what’s their secret sauce in the wineaisle? It’s value prices, yes. But, more then anything, it’s the entertainmentfactor combined with the human voice they use to communicate with customers oneon one because they merchandise with sales copy virtually every wine that isshelved.

20050628026_andrea_watches_george_sattuiPeople like the fun value in Trader Joe’s and they like thatthey walk out of the store knowing a little something about what they justbought. 

According to Law student Sayuri Sharper, in a recent SanJose Mercury News article,

“Albertson’s is like a real chore,” said Sarper, who pausedlast week to sample some pineapple cherry upside down cake at the Los AltosTrader Joe’s. “This is a lot more fun.”

Hmm … maybe there’s something here for somebody bringing anew wine retail model to market—make it authentic, and make it fun … or, inother words, speak in a human voice to other humans—not just provide a serviceto a customer, in a traditional retail model.  But, really speak authentically,conscientiously and with passion to somebody else and above all else speak alanguage and in a voice that they understand.  The Barbarians are at the Gate and not likely waiting for anybody to welcome them in.


New World



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