They’re starting to sweat out in wine country. Several major sales indeces in April indicated that the U.S. wine market—which had been holding its own while the rest of the economy swirled counterclockwise down the toilet—has flattened out, and now is tapering. Not only are people “trading down,” as in moving from Cakebread to CK Mondavi, they are also drinking less vino.
Hoping to avert a full-fledged crisis, a group of consultants has issued a top-secret report advising the movers and shakers of northern California to take action. Naturally, a copy of said report was leaked to The Wine Skewer. Among the consultant recommendations:
Consolidate. Lose all the sub-appellations; combine Napa and Sonoma counties into one powerful entity to be known henceforth as “SONAPA” (written in all caps, to command more attention).
Go lowbrow on-premise. White-tablecloth dining is dead. Take a page from Fred Franzia’s book by focusing on chain restaurants. Franzia is selling Coastal Vines Chardonnay for $10 at Ruby Tuesday; producers should bottle Lodi wine under the new SONAPA designation and make them available for $9.99 at TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s and IHOP. Gain extra publicity with a media alerts referring to these establishments as TGI Wineday’s, Grapebee’s and International House of Pinot.
Go avante-garde with food pairing. Ratings have dominated the wine media for so long that the average American no longer understands food-wine pairing principles. Take advantage of that fact, and the new economy, with a new Twitter-driven campaign designed to convince people that SONAPA wine, regardless of grape variety, pairs perfectly with Ramen noodles, mac ’n’ cheese, and all processed foods. Encourage Americans to revise “red with meat, white with fish” axiom; new slogan = “red with anything, white with everything else.”
Attack snobbery. Cellaring wine has always been more about ego than reality. Launch social media awareness campaign to convince people that all the wine in their fancy wine cabinets are now officially spoiled—so they have to buy new wines, which they can then store in wine cellars unplugged cellars to save energy. Also, shamelessly hijack concept pioneered by Wall Street Journal wine critics Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher and announce weekly “Open That Bottle…then Another and Another” nights.
Develop new packaging. Subtlety and elegance are out; utility and impact are in. For retail markets, develop new “bag-in-crate” package to hold 30 liters of wine inside rustic wood frame; huge upside in shelf presence as well as end-of-aisle case stacks. For on-premise market, develop rooftop storage and dispensing tanks; tout “gravity-flow” angle to assuage connoisseurs and attract geeks.
Abandon print. Today’s wine magazines are dinosaurs. Immediately cease advertising in wine-specific mags; also stop paying for labels to be reproduced in Wine Enth and Wine & Spirits buying guides that no one actually reads. Redirect advertising dollars into winery-logo swag and sample-bottle programs, which are all it takes to get coverage in hundreds of wine blogs.
— — — — — — — — — —
Ahem! The above text is not true. Not one bit. But if you do crave some “serious” wine commentary, please click through to my piece in the May issue of the indispensable trade publication Beverage Media, entitled “Value: the Time for Wine is Now.” http://tinyurl.com/cmuqj2