PR lessons in shock and awe
By Musty Bunches | 25 March 2003
Who says the wine industry isn't at the cutting edge of current affairs. In these troubled times, it has played its part in softening the blow of disaster, while all the time maintaining its dignity, mixing with celebrities such as Francis Ford Coppola and veteran rocker Sting, as the Oscars dazzle. Let's just not mention the fish guts…
To begin with, a tale that cannot fail to warm even the hardest of hearts. Following the unscheduled arrival of several tonnes of crude oil on the beautiful north-west coast of Spain, the country leapt to the rescue of the stricken fishermen. Men and women, young and old made pilgrimage to Galicia to help wash Saudi Arabia's finest off stricken cormorants; collections were held and money was given. Even the country's wine makers leapt to the rescue.
First of all, the government donated over 2,000 bottles of plonk to the helpers - presumably for drinking rather than removing the oil, though the track record of Spanish wines makes this far from clear.
Then a group of 17 Riojan wineries pooled their resources to sell 5,000 bottles of Rioja Reserva, the proceeds of which will be donated to the stricken fishermen.
Musty's sure that the fact that the wine is from 1997, the worst vintage of the last ten years, is just a coincidence and not, as some critics have unkindly suggested, a good way of dumping unsellable stock.
Perhaps this will set a precedent. With the war now raging in Iraq and many predicting a possible humanitarian and ecological disaster, Musty would like to offer the following comfort to the beleaguered people of Baghdad. There may be a cruise missile with your name on it coming down the street, but if it's any consolation a case of 1997 claret probably won't be far behind.
Francis Ford Copulate's multi-million dollar spending spree continues. Following the movie director's purchase of the Cohn Vineyard in Napa for US$31m - that's 141,000 a hectare, if you're interested - the filmmaker is rumoured to be preparing a sizable bid for Robert Mondavi's wine list. "There's very little good humorous writing around at the moment," said a Hollywood insider. "And the Mondavi pricing policy is the funniest thing he's seen in years."
Mr Copulate isn't the only celeb spending bigga da bucks on vineyards at the moment either. Yesterday's news rocker Sting has bought 40 hectares of vineyard in Chianti, the production of which is apparently intended "solely for friend and family".
At current production levels for the Chianti DOC, that would leave the former Police front man and self-styled Friend of Wildlife with something like a third of a million bottles to drink - or nearly 1,000 bottles a day. Somewhat higher than the recommended European daily target of three glasses. Rock 'n' Roll? Forget it. Nowadays it's more Rioja 'n' Barolo.
Whirr, whirr. Skitter skitter. What's this? Ah - the latest stories coming in over Musty's special 'non-news wire', spewing out reams of ticker tape all over her vodka-soaked desk.
First off to Burgundy, where the BIVB has shocked the wine trade by its decision not to create a new appellation this week. "We just thought that 70 was enough," said a spokesman. "And there's nothing in the rules to say that we have to create areas - we just do them when we feel like it."
"I just feel let down," said one peasant who had been hoping for AC status for his back garden, which produces six bottles of wine a year. "All my neighbours have their own AC; I want one too. It's impossible to sell your house without one."
Next, a hot non-story breaking from Europe, where reports are coming in across the continent of bottles of Rosemount selling at full retail price. Riots broke out in stores in the UK, where disgruntled shoppers locked a store manager in a freezer full of chicken drumsticks, complaining that their supermarket had "doubled the price" overnight.
Meanwhile, in Cologne, an elderly shopper fainted at the checkout when the price was rung up, and had to be revived with a particularly pungent bratwurst.
"I don't understand why people should be shocked at having to pay full price," said a Southcorp spokesman. "It's not like we've ever done anything to make them think this is a cut-price brand."
Next a terrific example of PR blindness in a press release about the Argentine wine Lo Tengo, recently arrived in Europe. The product features a flashy label with two dancers doing the tango. Moreover, when viewed from different angles the legs 'move'.
"In a market already saturated with ephemeral gimmicky products, Lo Tengo breaks new ground by sporting the first-ever lenticular label…" says the brand's agents. Extreme sarcasm or extreme stupidity? You decide…
Bad news for sellers of isinglass in Australia. A couple of months ago, new food allergy labelling regulations down under mean all food products need to come clean about any possible traces of fish or nuts.
And since the fining agent is made out of the swim bladder of the sturgeon, it means that bottles of Aussie Chardonnay fined with the stuff might face the unappealing prospect of having a "this product may contain traces of fish" sticker on the bottle, which might, just might affect sales.
But most worrying of all is the precedent this 'transparent labelling' system sets. Just imagine if such foolish honesty were extended across the wine world. Bottles of claret might have to carry labels saying "this product may contain traces of wine from the Languedoc".
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PR lessons in shock and awe
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