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Hung by their own Noose

Hung by their own noose, the Australian wine industry continues to prevent the international wine marketplace from kicking the chair out from underneath them.

Battling problems too numerous to list separate from the very manifest issues of oversupply and a U.S. image of “inexpensive” with a yellow and black color scheme, the Aussies are valiantly fighting for reputation at price tiers more esteemed than plonk.

And, ironically enough, the popular opinion scourge that is Yellowtail wine is unknowingly helping the overall Australian wine image.  For sure, Yellowtail public relations have taken a turn to the curious.  More on that in a second.

Wine Australia, the task force charged with moving the global perception of Australian wine from “Shiraz with a critter label” to “diversity and regionality” are in the midst of a yeoman’s effort to create not only regional distinction for their wines, but also a stratification system for the various wineries and their public-facing place in the consumer landscape.


Wine Australia breaks their wines into two tiers with each tier having two categories.  This modeling system roughly mimics the domestic wine marketplace and price / shelf segmentation that has happened organically over the last 25 years.

For example, the Australian “mainstream” wine channel includes two categories:  “Brand Champions” and “Generation Next.”  The Brand Champion category is best understood as mass market wines – think Alice White, or, well, Yellowtail.  Generation Next wines are more refined by quality and driven by innovation and a greater mix of brand elements – think Kendall-Jackson, for example, populace-oriented but well-positioned, even if it’s not Aussie.

The “Fine Wine” portion breaks wine into the categories of:  “Regional Heroes” and “Landmark Australia.” Regional Heroes are wines that are akin to small production U.S. wineries with spot distribution, some retail presence, but mostly on-premise sales.  Finally, Landmark Australia wines are ultra-premium wines with reputation – Penfolds Grange being a notable reference point.

This is all well and good, as is the Landmark Australia education / immersion program that selected 12 wine influencers from around the world and educated them on the depth and breadth of the ultra-premium portion of the industry.  It’s a “tipping point” model that aims to create tide pools of affinity that can grow concentrically, person to person, influencer outward.

However, reputations and brands are built over years and characteristically take time to undo.  It’s a slow burn to create public perception that Australian wine is more than purple syrup and $8 1.5L’s of sugared Chardonnay.

That is unless you have help in which case your growing fortunes can rise based on the deceitful decline of another.

Enter Yellowtail’s PR campaign. 

Wines of Australia should be tithing into the Yellowtail marketing budget to have them keep up the brand dilution, if not help them double down on the effort.

It will certainly put the rest of Australia’s wine offerings (and marketing) in good stead.

Separate from the Yellowtail advertising campaign which has the tagline, “Open for Anything” their PR campaign focuses on wine[tails]cocktails made with Yellowtail wine.


The coup de grace for me is a collaboration with designer Michael Graves (he of Target house wares fame) who has created hybrid wine/cocktail glasses.


Double groan.

I’m still bitter at Graves’ for foisting $8 potato peelers on an unwitting public.  It all starts so innocently.  First it’s a potato peeler then it’s a pizza cutter and before you know it your whole kitchen is overrun with overpriced “designer” crap from Target; teeth gnashing ensues as you look bitterly at the $55 tea kettle on your stove acting as art object as you make tea in the microwave. 

I hear Graves thinks he can improve upon the paper clip too, so insidious is his mass market design with premium pricing. 

Ahem, back to my point … 

The easiest path to irrelevance is to try to grow beyond popular ubiquity.  Inevitably it turns to brand dilution. It’s a topic I’ve talked about in the past – the “derision decision.”  It’s when something becomes too popular or strains too hard to capitalize on its popularity – like movie sequels beyond the second one – anything else beyond that becomes a pandering mess designed with dollars instead of integrity and the public backlash that follows turns the tide of sentiment to mockery.  Anybody see the third installment of the movie American Pie – American Wedding?  I didn’t think so.

To me, the cross-pollination of wine and cocktails defies understanding.  Who opens a bottle of wine to use 1 oz in a cocktail?


Yes, wine cocktails and the hybrid glassware certainly qualify as a pandering pass at trying to ascend beyond popular ubiquity. Marked by three press releases over the last six weeks, these wine[tails] are definitely a focus.  A PR rep. for Yellowtail’s agency declined to answer questions about the strategy behind the PR efforts or move off her message.

Sometimes it’s best to stay true to what you are.  Australian wine efforts at earning trust in the public consciousness (undoing much of what has been wrought by Yellowtail), is noble and it will be aided and abetted equally in its rise by the decline of a brand that got confused about what they are and who they wanted to focus on.

Color my confused, but don’t color me yellow and black.

Cocktails, anyone?

cartoon credit


Posted in, Wine: A Business Doing Pleasure. Permalink | Comments (3) |


On 12/02, 1WineDude wrote:

Very lucid points, my main man.

This got me thinking… Australian wine seems a bit fractured. What I mean is, you’ve got big companies churning out high volumes of very low-priced brands, using SE Australia grape sources to provide a consistent-tasting product year on year.

You also have a handful of older producers making wine from smaller areas of grape sources and running the gamut in their product lines from low-cost to high-end bottlings.

Under those guys, you’ve got tons of small producers all over the place.

This doesn’t sound too different from the U.S. market.  So, are we headed for the same issues here? If not, what can the Aussie’s learn from us?

On 12/02, Thomas Pellechia wrote:

Jeff, terrific post.

Winedude, if I were king of the world I’d force people to stop viewing a whole country as one wine region, if you get my drift.

This is what happens when place, product, and producer individuality gets lost in the marketing.

As a side subject in my wine seminars I always explain to people that despite what mass market wine leads us to believe, there is no such thing as Spanish wine, Italian wine, American wine, Australian wine, et al.

On 03/30, Stacey The Restaurant Coupons Gal wrote:

Wine Australia modeling system is an interesting one ... especially to me as this is right down my alley. Thanks for bringing this to light.



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