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Vin de Napkin - Curmudgeon Edition

More drawings on the back of napkins that expose our wine foibles.

A few of the things I have been thinking about lately include screw top closures (not a fan), I like the ceremony, the silliness of winery advertising in magazines (big money, no tracking, no measurable ROI) and, of course, the age-old wine topic of snobbery.  I can’t wait for my kids to get into wine so we can talk about demystifying wine and taking the snobbery out.  Of course, my kids haven’t been born yet, so I’m thinking this coversation will take place sometime in 2030 or so ...  That is what you call an “evergreen” conversational topic ...

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Rap + Name Checking:  The Secret Sauce to Selling Vino!

The common practice of referencing the names of wine and spirits in rap songs is both a blessing and a curse for wine producers.

Cristal became a pop culture phenomenon after being name-checked in numerous rap songs over the last decade up until the Managing Director of Louis Roederer, the producer of Cristal, denounced the rap set. Then Jay-Z, the Godfather of contemporary rap music, rebuked the denouncement as racism and subsequently removed the Champagne from all of his clubs, leaving Cristal to the people that drank it before hip hop—who that is exactly, I’m not sure, though.

Just the same, A LOT of ‘Cris” Champagne was sold as a result of references to Cristal in rap songs.

We often see wine-related product placement in television and movies, too. However, these are usually paid for instead of occurring organically ala Cristal.  A recent blog post from winery Clos la Chance discusses this and Terlato wines were placed in the most reason season of the reality show Top Chef.

Rare is the circumstance, however, where you get a triage of rap, a big-time name-check AND humor all wrapped up in one package.

The newest name-check product placement for a wine, in this case a California sparkler, is Santana DVX, a celebrity sparkling wine from guitar virtuoso Carlos Santana.

I wonder if Carlos Santana and Mumm Napa are happy or befuddled.

This morning I got an email from a friend, @chuckgose on Twitter, and he asked me where he could buy a certain sparkling wine because he wanted to gift it for an upcoming birthday.  I checked a couple of spots, sent him a note back and that is when the fun started. 

Thinking it odd to be looking for a $50 bottle of Carlos Santana wine, that’s when Chuck sent me a pointer to a couple of YouTube videos.

Made by Mumm Napa, with just one vintage available, a ’99, Santana DVX gets name-checked in the lyrics for one song by The Lonely Island, a group put together by Andy Samberg, a Saturday Night Live regular, and the creator of several SNL and YouTube sensations, including a certain Emmy winning song he did in conjunction with Justin Timberlake.  And, Santana DVX gets the royal treatment in a rap song of the same name that is a riot.

So, I guess the question is does a reference in a song, or on tv or in a movie sell wine?  I think the answer is “yes.” 

Does it move wine when it’s in a rap parody?  Well, it sold one bottle and I got my laugh for the day.

- Note -

The lyrics for Santana DVX are here

The below YouTube videos are not safe for work and not safe for you if you don’t have a contemporary sense of humor that runs juvenile.  For the rest of you … enjoy …

Santana DVX referenced at 1:10 in the song, “I’m on a Boat”


“Santana DVX”


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The Death of Conspicuous Consumption and the Rise of the Memento

A couple of years back I had the bittersweet task of helping my Mom ready my Grandmother’s possessions for sale at auction as she transitioned into a senior living center.  In that process, a funny thing happened that is very relevant to our current state of affairs and the wine world – it wasn’t the actual “things” that had a monetary value associated with them that were important, it was the ephemera, the collections of mementos and items of inconsequence from a life well lived that became important to save.

The upright piano from 1920 wasn’t nearly as important as the worn and tattered Hoagy Carmichael sheet music with hand written annotated notes from lessons decades ago.

Equally important were my grandfather’s drawings for a pier that he would build and I later jumped off hundreds of time as youth at our lake cottage.  How about a Christmas card and handwritten note from 1973 in between my grandmother and an aunt with a knack for storytelling—that is truly priceless.  Or, the bone china giveaway from a Methodist church supper circa 1967.  Or, the handwritten recipe for fried chicken that I have eaten five dozen times—those were the important items to keep, the personal items that have meaning, but no economic value. 

It’s all worth nothing, but worth everything.

I can always buy an upright piano if need be, that’s a commodity, one that is probably able to be tuned, a distinct difference from the one we let slip away from my Grandmother, but I’ll never be able to duplicate the moment or the item from when my Mom scribbled in notes from a piano lesson in 1957.

This is important to note because all trends point to the death of conspicuous consumption and a move to experiences and ephemera either first person or vicariously.
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It used to be that one saved concert tickets and matchboxes from restaurants, but that got lost in translation when rolling up to the restaurant to valet park a luxury car became more important then a small memento from the experience, but trends are indicating that we’re going back to a simpler time where mementos from experiences mean more than the status symbol.

This is not to say that there is a death of luxury goods.  No, that’s not the case, but there is mounting evidence that spending money for money’s sake is going the way of the dinosaur.

If you buy into this notion, the fact that the recession is going to have a lingering hangover on our psyche for some years to come, and you couple this with the thought that people love “free” and love being included, then you start to understand how luxury marketers, particularly higher price point wines and wineries, need to calibrate their engagement from a marketing perspective for the years to come. 

Nobody is buying the expensive Cabernet just because they can.  For that matter, nobody cares if you drank a high-priced Cabernet.  What people can care about is the experience that you had while drinking that Cabernet and the intimacy that you can share.  And, frankly, the experience may be completely ancillary to the wine, so the job of the winery marketer is to make sure your wine has product placement in the story of somebody’s wine life.

According to Trendwatching.com report on “Status Stories,”

As more brands (have to go) niche and therefore tell stories that aren’t known to the masses, and as experiences and non-consumption-related expenditures take over from physical (and more visible) status symbols, consumers will increasingly have to tell each other stories to achieve a status dividend from their purchases.  Expect a shift from brands telling a story, to brands helping consumers tell status-yielding stories to their peers.

Or, this quote from Wine Business Monthly, taken from the Harvard Business Review:

“Tomorrow’s consumer will buy more ephemeral, les cluttering stuff: fleeting, but expensive experiences, not heavy goods for the home.”

Or, this quote from leading social media analyst, Chris Brogan, and a post titled, “The Importance of the Physical World,”

One thing that I feel is missing with all our focus on how social media will change the world is an eye for what we can do to introduce the physical world back into the equation. I’m going to correct that in a few ways in upcoming projects, as I move beyond preaching about how cool blogs are and into making experiences that help with building remarkable business communications experiences.

What these disparate quotes tell us is that wineries and winery marketers had better get smart fast about how they associate their wine with an experience.

Wineries, good wineries, do this everyday in the tasting room, yes.  Unfortunately, only a small fraction of people who enjoy your wine will ever visit the tasting room.

Instead, I would start working on negotiating a piece of schwag into every customers hand, direct to consumer, social media, tasting room and as much as is practical into the three-tier.  I would create something tangible that acts as a symbol for a brand “status story.”

What can these be?  Well, they are only limited to your imagination, but think non-traditionally.  Arbor Day is coming up at the end of the month – give away tree saplings if your winery has a certain tree species predominant on your property.  Or, for fodder, I would spend a bunch of time on Esty.com and think about something that you can commission that ties into your wine brand.  Or, create a takeaway booklet on your winery, or do one of the ideas that I have always loved, but never had the occasion to do – create a branded Viewmaster with disc slides of photos of your winery.  Give it away for free on your web site and charge just enough shipping and handling to cover your costs.

The overall point is that our collective psyche has changed and the old ways of spending money as a symbol are over.  Now, we’re going to spend money for an experience and that experience won’t be, “We had a $500 dollar expense account dinner and two bottles of Silver Oak” eliciting envy and admiration, it will be, “We had an awesome dinner with some fabulous wine and this is what happened, and, oh, yeah, check out this cool … such and such ... a piece of the experience”

All those kooky suburban housewives who have been scrap booking for the last decade?  Yeah, we are all going to be re-starting our matchbook collection, keeping wine labels and tracking a stream of ephemera from our life experiences, items that aren’t worth much, but are worth a whole lot, because they are the stories of our life, with a small memento.

Additional Reading:  Trendwatching.com—Perkonomics


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Vin de Napkin - French Folly

I am not going to say that the French have the corner on stupid, because we do a pretty good job ourselves, but it does seem that more often than not, everytime I read something related to the French and wine, there is some level of head-scratching peculiarity associated with it.

It’s as if they pull their head out of their ass long enough to call us “Ugly Americans” and hurl some sort of symbolic molotov cocktail at us.

Consider these three recent items -

1) Referenced from Vinography.com—the EU is banning wine imports if the labels use the word “Chateau”
2) A French winegrower tries to poison his wife because she was working too hard in HIS vineyard
3) World Consumer Rights Day is today, on a Sunday, and the U.S. Champagne Bureau is rallying public sentiment

Just to mess with the U.S. Champagne Bureau, I’m tempted to call them urgently today, indicate I’m on deadline, and see who they can muster up for a quote.  Dubious, I tell you.

Just goes to show you that truth being stranger than fiction isn’t confined to petty crime.

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Looking Back

Headline from my post on 3/15/08—Around the Wine Blogosphere—miscellany post covering The Wine Business Monthly daily news summary, bottle shock (the real kind, not the movie) and making wine vinegar.  Note to self—a year later—still need to buy the vinegar mother after a friend got caught trying to smuggle one in from France.  Oops.


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Capitalism, Karma and Building Juju in a Down Economy

Assume for a moment that in a capitalistic society, not everybody is going to win in the race to the finish line for profits this year.

Every single person I have talked to over the course of the last three months has said that his or her business is holding steady.

Wine is “in.” Wine is the new “Black.”  Yet, I heard a saying yesterday that in regards to business, “Flat is the new Up.”

Nobody is willing to accept a manifest destiny of losing – a very American sentiment.  On the other hand, maybe its delusional positive reinforcement—that would be very American, as well. 

Is this what 2009 holds for us?  If we can maintain and get through then we will be all right?

Certainly, news around the wine business is not positive for smaller producers. With the double whammy of price point and limited distribution options, getting inventory out with some velocity to aid cash flow is a challenge.

However, if this is the case, if we are all hoping to hold steady, instead of grow, I have a suggestion that at least makes our efforts seem worthwhile.

To paraphrase basketball player Kobe Bryant when he remarked about the upcoming season, “Turn my game down?  I’m ready to turn my game up.”

Put differently, in sales there is an old axiom that every Sales Manager knows that goes, “Absent results, you better have activity.”

The tendency during times like these is to bunker down.  But, with three significant, enduring trends swirling around the wine business:

1) The Green Movement
2) Social cause engagement
3) Social media

Is now really a good time to bunker down?

When you have 11’s in blackjack you split those and double-down, doubling the size of your bet, but knowing that the odds of a payoff against that bet are in your favor.

Now is the time to turn your game up!  Now is the time to double-down.

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On Goodwill and Juju

I do not hold too many beliefs sacrosanct. That is, I do not have an intractable belief system that leads me to resolute dogmatism.  Instead, I am open to a “live and let live” philosophy.

In that live and let live quasi-Buddhist philosophical vein, one thing that I believe to be true in my heart of hearts is the notion that you reap what you sow, life is a circle, what you do comes back to you.  Good deeds come back to you in the form of goodwill, or juju.  In Newton’s scientific law, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  I very much believe in Newton’s law for the metaphysical.

In this philosophy, on building Karma, according to Buddha:

In this world nothing happens to a person that he does not for some reason or other deserve. Usually, men of ordinary intellect cannot comprehend the actual reason or reasons.

According to Buddhism, this inequality is due not only to heredity, environment, “nature and nurture”, but also to Karma. In other words, it is the result of our own past actions and our own present doings. We ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and misery. We create our own Heaven. We create our own Hell. We are the architects of our own fate.

Now, mind you, at the same time, you have a sector that follows the archetype of business that is metrics driven who say, “What can’t be measured can’t be managed.”

I am calling bullshit on that.

On Whuffie

You cannot measure goodwill, which is the only currency a good business has, particularly wine where brands are dubious and taste is subjective. 

This is exactly the reason that wineries of all stripes, absent results, should be doubling down in creating a halo of positivity and influence.

Why?  Because life is a circle.

There is a philosophy around online engagement called “Whuffie” which is translated from a science-fiction book called, “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.”

This ties directly into engagement in online activity, which is not readily measurable, and the counter argument to engaging in online activities.  The thinking goes, “why do it if there isn’t a trackable ROI?”

“Whuffie” is, according to Wikipedia:

(In a post-modern world) Whuffie has replaced money, providing a motivation for people to do useful and creative things. A person’s Whuffie is a general measurement of his or her overall reputation, and Whuffie is lost and gained according to a person’s favorable or unfavorable actions. The question is, who determines which actions are favorable or unfavorable? In Down and Out, the answer is public opinion. Rudely pushing past someone on the sidewalk will definitely lose you points from them (and possibly bystanders who saw you), while composing a much-loved symphony will earn you Whuffie from everyone who enjoyed it.

There are few details in the book about how this system actually worked; most of the explanations given are very general, like this one: “Whuffie recaptured the true essence of money: in the old days, if you were broke but respected, you wouldn’t starve; contrariwise, if you were rich and hated, no sum could buy you security and peace. By measuring the thing that money really represented — your personal capital with your friends and neighbors — you more accurately gauged your success”.

A non-fiction book called The Whuffie Factor publishes in April, a guidebook to engaging in online success in the form of goodwill.

My suggestion, natch, my wish, is that everybody in the world of wine, takes this moment in time and builds up their juju, their “life is a circle” credibility, their “whuffie,” by addressing and engaging in the three things that act as enduring trends for positive change – online engagement, environmental concerns and support of a social cause.

If for no other reason, even if you don’t believe that life is a circle, if you’re a take no prisoners, scorched earth, capitalist apologist, then, as an old Sales Manager said to me, “Absent results, you better have activity.”  We’ll let your “Whuffie” judge your juju, your karma, if that’s the case.


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