November 3 2010
In Part II of my online awards, I continue an annual, highly subjective look at what I think is the best of what’s around in the wine scene.
Trend of the Year / Wine Media
In 2009 my ‘Person of the Year’ was winery PR, acknowledging that online wine media had made significant strides in becoming an accepted part of the wine media landscape. I’m not giving a ‘Person of the Year’ award this year and instead I’m breaking out several areas into “trend” pockets.
This year the unquestioned trend of the year in wine media is “assimilation.” Simply, the formerly unseen but acknowledged dividing line that separated traditional media from online wine media has eroded into one large bucket of “wine content.”
Sure, there are significant differences between whom a person writes for and their bona fides especially as compared to somebody else who may not have a W2 or as much legacy reputation, but you have that in any professional classification.
Simply, every paid wine writer of any merit has an online vehicle for content (most of it for free), competing for attention and mindshare with online wine media, many of whom compete capably without resources or a burnished brand masthead. Need more proof? Read mainstream wine media – Spectator, non-Asimov NYT’s, the SF Chronicle, or any other outlet that reports on au courant wine trends or happenings and ask yourself if you’ve seen that topic vetted online first. Eight times out of 10 the answer will be, “Yes.”
The leveled playing field and sentiment of the “Barbarians at the Gate” is now old news. For online wine media, the classic Pogo indictment on humanity frailty, “We have met the enemy and he is us” is apropos. This trend became fully realized in 2010.
Trend of the Year / Wine Packaging
It used to be a keg was synonymous with college kids, Natural Light beer and turning over couch cushions for a tap deposit. No more. 2010 is the year of the wine keg. The news has been steady all year. And, while the cork folks would like you to believe that the story of the year is their growth, against sharp competition, and the box wines folks would like you to believe that quality has increased in their product by a sharp percentage, the reality is that wine on draught at on-premise establishments has the staying power to radically impact wine by the glass programs at restaurants, all with a much larger financial impact than either cork or box wines, a niche compared to restaurant wine sales.
If you’re looking for substantiation of this trend, especially compared to my comments about wine media, do a Google search for “wine kegs” and “wine kegs blog” and look at the publishing dates to follow the story.
Trend of the Year / Wine Business
Meteoric Malbec growth, value wines, private labels, natural wine and even the recovery of the above $20 segment all merit consideration, but for me the largest trend that I’ve seen, that is also still largely unexplored as a topic, is an area that I call, “Velocity Labels.”
It used to be that medium size wineries would create a second tier of wines at lower price points and they were “second labels.” This isn’t a correct descriptor any longer because second labels really call to mind declassified wine, and a correspondingly lower price from a winery’s “Reserve” or “Estate” line.
As a correlating point, large wine companies also tend to create new wine lines to capitalize on consumer trends – Trinchero’s Main Street label is an example of this opportunism.
However, what we’re seeing between the notion of medium size winery’s legacy second labels and large wine companies brand development is an entirely new classification – medium-sized wineries that are creating a lower-priced, independently branded series of wines, sourced from all over, that act as an adjunct to a winery’s higher-end tier of wine with the intention to create sales velocity.
I first noticed this last year with Pétanque wine from Michel-Schlumberger Winery, a wine line that I don’t believe is being continued.
This notion of “velocity labels” was really brought home to me in an email exchange with Craig Camp from Cornerstone Cellars in regards to a new series of wines called, “Stepping Stone by Cornerstone.” In response to my query about second labels he replied, “Actually I would almost consider Stepping Stone by Cornerstone my main label as its 2/3’s of my production. Also, the wines are made from selected vineyards selected in advance for their style, not by just by buying bulk wine or declassifying Cornerstone wines. Cornerstone are really my reserve selections. To me they are sister labels.”
Another example of this is the reasonably new and re-jiggered Tamás line of wine, aimed at Millenials, from Wente.
Sister labels or “velocity labels,” call it what you like, but the development is palpable as domestic wineries examine how to preserve existing brand equity at higher price thresholds, leverage resources and create cash flow, or sales velocity with additional lines of wine ... this is my wine business trend of the year because I think the curve for this growth is only now starting to show itself.
In Part III of the 2010 Best of Wine Online Awards we get to the fun stuff – who is next in video, writing, the best product launch of the year, the best book of the year and more merriment!