You can see them here and there all the way down the wine aisle of the supermarket: Brightly coloured bottles with bold or garish labels and names, which are a million miles from the traditional estate-based vintages. Paul Gander reports how marketing departments, it seems, have at last got their hands on wine, attacking new audiences with a vengeance.

Statistically, the logic of these forays into new demographic markets is irresistible. Amelia Nolan, international brand manager for BRL Hardy's Wicked Wines range in Australia, puts the proportion of all wine drunk by 20 to 29 year-old women in her home market at just 7%. In comparison, women over 30 drink, on average, 44% of the total giving brands every incentive to tackle the under-30 market, for both women and men.

BRL Hardy's Wicked Wines

The task appears, on the face of it, to be more straightforward with young women. A year ago, Hardy launched the Wicked range, comprising Lust, Greed, Envy and Flirt, in the Australian market. Each 75cl bottle being coloured differently - yellow-gold for Lust, for example, and red for Greed.

Since the launch, Hardy has also found that the fruitier, low-alcohol types of wine sell better in this women's market than others. "The consumer who is buying a radically bright bottle, with a clear film label decorated with what looks like a tattoo, is going to want particular types of wine," says Nolan.

"There is a Generation X of females who are very image conscious," she says. "They have to feel that their wine suits them in the same way as a lipstick or a perfume might do."

Building on what it has learned, Hardy has launched a 25cl miniature of the successful white wine Lust, and is marketing a red version of the same product. Using the winning formula of low alcohol and a fruity "tingle", this Shiraz-based wine comes in a purple bottle. All of the bottles are produced in standard glass and then coated with a metallic, high-gloss finish.

Like Hardy, fellow Australian exporter Cranswick Premium Wines feels it has sound evidence that the young female market is a prime target and believes that wine drinking among UK women in general is growing annually by 6.5%. In Germany, the figure is 6.2%. Despite this, says the company, almost 80% of new wines are aimed at the male consumer.

Cranswick Premium Wines

Cranswick's Image range, which is already listed in UK supermarket Tesco, has three "styles" of wine - a Chardonnay, a Verdelho and a Cabernet Merlot. Each wine is packaged in pastel-shaded frosted bottles, with an irregular-shaped silver label and strong graphics.

"In many ways, the wine market is still quite traditional," says Cranswick marketing manager Michelle Forster. "But this is changing fast. There are many drivers for this change, among them increasing female consumption and the growing number of female-friendly bars, like All Bar One." Australia is leading the way in this kind of brand and packaging innovation, Forster believes.

However, not everybody feels the need to tap into this younger growth market. Group marketing manager for Pernod Ricard in France, Tim Paech is responsible for global brands such as Jacob's Creek, Wyndham Estate, Long Mountain and Etchart. With Jacob's Creek in particular, values are firmly traditional, says Paech, with a presentation that has barely changed since its launch in 1976.

"To be honest, we have such an opportunity with the traditional, classic wines that we have, we don't need to develop a new proposition targeted at younger consumers," says Paech. "With some of these packaging and branding concepts, we fear there is a novelty value which we do not really buy into."

"With some of these packaging and branding concepts, we fear there is a novelty value which we do not really buy into"
Tim Paech

Individual brands, which pursue this novelty route, may not last, Paech believes. "But it has occurred to us they play a role in introducing younger consumers to wine, and in offering them a consumer-friendly taste," he says.

Despite this scepticism, Paech does see some longer-term benefits coming out of packaging innovation. These include the "flange" bottleneck, irregular pressure-sensitive labels using high-quality graphics, both of which originated in California, and clear capsules around a branded cork. "There's also a lot of talk about cork taint," says Paech, "And about the screw cap possibly being the most effective closure for wine, followed by the synthetic cork."

But Paech is not alone in believing that the true value of these technical developments lies in the benefits they bring to the market, which targets the traditional, mature wine drinker. Rainer Kloos is MD of South African importer and prospective exporter Cape Vintners. For him, the take-off in wine drinking begins at around the age of 25, but he is dubious about efforts to enlist the younger drinker.

"I don't know to what extent you can do that with packaging alone," says Kloos. "I've seen blue and yellow wine bottles here, but to woo the consumer with zany packaging alone is probably not going to work. It depends what's in the bottle, and they may simply not have acquired the taste."

Kloos does not even believe that the younger female consumer, for example, is any more brand conscious than the older male. "I'd say that 90% of people who buy a particular brand of wine or champagne do so for the image," he says.

Cape Vintners has developed its own range of wines for export, and is currently gauging interest among foreign agents. Like fellow South African brand Kumala, the company is positioning its red and white wines with an ethnic feel. In fact, the two principal products, Bomvu and Umhlophe, mean respectively "red" and "white" in Zulu, and Cape proposes native African graphics to match.

For Kloos, the secret of a successful export brand is a good wine, a good trading relationship with local dealers and a good distribution network. The packaging and branding details are of secondary importance, he says.

If he and Paech are right, then they will, in a few years' time, be reaping the benefits of the packaging and brands that are now attracting younger consumers - the brands which may, or may not themselves, still be on the shelf alongside the Jacob's Creek and Wyndham Estate.

New Directions In Drinks 2001: Key consumer, product and channel trends for the twenty-first century