When a wine is very much connected to a region, should one try to get it more awareness by branding the region first, before branding the wines? This is a pertinent (if difficult) question when reading the last study conducted by Wine Intelligence and presented during the London Wine Fair in May 2009.
Wine Intelligence collected their figures from 2,000 wine drinkers in the US and 1,000 in the UK. They show very clearly that most drinkers ignore Malborough (identified as a cigarette brand) and don’t know very well Barossa.
In Wine Brands, I had two examples of region branding: Cahors, in the South West of France and the Tri-Valley in California. When I was writing the book those two regions were just at the beginning of their work. Tri-Valley had just launched a new tag line, “Our roots are showing” and a new web site with all the geographical and cultural information. When I googled Tri-Valley this morning, the tourist information site didn’t show up first but in 7th position. Worse, I had a few hesitation before clicking on the link, wondering if I wasn’t going to be directed to some hotel accomodations or restaurant lists.
It doesn’t seem like their awareness strategy and branding worked very well as the Livermore wineries didn’t benefit from their exposure. What about Cahors? After 2 years of work on the Malbec grape, a slight movement towards recognition is seen. The new tagline, “Cahors the original Malbec”, gets attention from Malbec lovers, mostly in the US already aware of the Argentinian Malbec.
Is branding a region a good strategy for a wine? To my humble opinion, it seems it is efficient mostly if you can link tightly the region and the appellation. In the case of the Tri-Valley, there is no wine connected to Tri-Valley, the appellation being Livermore. For Cahors the region and the wines – as well as for Bordeaux, Napa or other places – are deeply linked. By increasing the awareness of the place, people will more easily connect the place and the wines. It will also help the local wine tourism.