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The Terroir of Flavor

Jess_jacksonIn the upper reaches of the wine world, there is a simmering disagreement over the direction of wine.

In one camp, you have the so-called "Adventure Brands" that might be a blend of grapes from different vineyards to create a specific taste profile, or just simply not marketed so much based on its place of origin.

On the other hand, you have wineries both great and small that actively embrace the notion of terroir.

The Terroir-France website asserts that "a ‘terroir’ is a group ofvineyards (or even vines) from the same region, belonging to a specificappellation, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions,grapes and wine making savoir-faire, which contribute to give itsspecific personality to the wine." Some writers include history,tradition, vineyard ownership and other factors.

o, under the sub-set of the argument of "New World" wine versus "Old World" and the real difference between the two being the alcohol-level and "fruit-forward" nature of the wine (New World wines are considerably fuller in fruit flavors then Old World), you also have the terroir disagreement.

Now, unfortunately, this isn’t of real interest to 98% of the wine consuming public who just care that a wine is enjoyable and enjoyable with the company that they are sharing it with.

But, to 2% of the wine drinkers—the folks that buy prestige bottles and have the cellar this is a major source of contention.

Leave it to good marketing, though, to kind of turn this thing around.  Kendall-Jackson is a pretty big winery—they sell boatloads of their Vintner Reserve Chardonnay on end-caps at grocery stores.  But, they try to present themselves as a small winery.  It’s an interesting dichotomy and one that they seem, by and large, successful in pulling off.

I noticed in a recent ad, that features Jess Jackson, the founder, and, if I’m not mistaken, the current equivalent of Colonol Sanders as founder and eponymous spokesperson, that they are using the term "Flavor Domaine" as a descriptor for the taste profile of their wine.

This is really clever.  Because, at the end of the day, in order to build a brand you have to have a repeatable product.  People have to trust you and the product enough to know that they are going to get the same consistency from visit to visit.

This, of course, runs counter to the wine business because wine is, afterall, a highly variable agricultural product.  Year to year the product can change radically.

Ultimately, the wine business is big enough and fragmented enough that it will continue its trajectory of high-end boutique wines while the major producers produce a relatively repeatable product—as this follows what we are seeing in other industry’s where we might buy all of our daily needs at Wal-Mart, but create a personal identification for ourselves by buying groceries at Trader Joe’s and clothes from  Anthropologie—both retailers that focus on a more refined customer segment.

But the duality of the Kendall-Jackson play deserves watching because they are creating the rules in this branding exercise and not following the rules as so many other wineries seem to do.


Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (1) |


On 03/10, tom wrote:

I Think the key to what Jess Jacskson does is that he runs a huge wine company with the mindset of a boutique producers. That’s a pretty unique way of approaching this business.

In the end however, I think their message with regard to “flavor domains” is dubious, though this isn’t to say it isn’t well done.

The flavors they describe for the various appellations are not so much the flavors that result in that region but the wine styles they choose to make from that region.

It was Benziger, I think that really nailed it when it came to putting a catchy name on their approach to putting wine in the bottle based on what was in the vineyard: “Farming for flavors.”

This is exactly what KJ is trying to do on an appellation level and what the small boutique producers are now doing as a rule.

Ironically, it’s very anti-terroir. But it is the approach that has overtaken terroir: Finding good ground and making it work to producer the flavors and character you want in your wine.

You write and think really well. This is a KILLER wine blog!!


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