A New French Wine Brand in the US

by Eve Resnick on November 15, 2010

in International Markets

After the unfortunate recent failure of Chamarré it seems very brave to launch a new French brand on the US market.  The press release bears the rather off putting title : “300 Year Old French Winery Brings Prestigious Wine Appellations Into The 21st Century”.

The 300 Year Old French Winery is Arnoux et Fils, family-owned and operated in Vacqueyras, in the Rhone Valley. The prestigious wine appellations are Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The brands are called “Gig” for Gigondas, “Vac” for Vacqueyras and the “Chat9″ for Chateauneuf du Pape (9 is said “neuf” in French). The range also includes some “rosés” from Côtes de Rhône. All those brands are under the umbrella of “THE-Vins” (the wines).

The launch of this new brand is based on a study conducted by Sopexa, stating that “72% of respondents held a very positive image of French wines, and 81% agreed that French wines are typically reserved for special occasions. French wines have the image of being consumed less frequently, being more complex to understand and to taste, and commanding a higher price.” THE-Vins are the answer to the shyness of young American consumers towards French wines. The packaging is supposed to break “the mold of conventional French labels, while respecting and promoting the longevity of prestigious French appellations that are currently unfamiliar to a broader range of tomorrow’s consumers”, according to the press release.

The new brand is promoted through a traditional web site 100% Flash and 100% annoying when trying to get information. My questions to young American consumers are : do you know Vacqueyras? Do you know Gigondas? Do you know Chateauneuf-du-Pape? Next questions : when seeing those bottles displayed on a supermarket shelf, will you be enticed to buy them because they’re eye-catching?Are you sure you’ll enjoy them because of their labels?

My questions to THE Vins are: What is the price point? Where are your wines going to be available? Why release several brands like Vac, Gig, under THE Vins? Why not launch THE Vins brand by itself? Why dilute the brand by too many sub-brands? Why no social media presence if targeting the young American consumer?

So many questions, so few answers. The American young consumer is the favorite target of a lot of wine brands.  Just have a look at the perfect strategy of HobNob wines launched by veteran Bill Deutsch. The consumer is involved in the strategy. He is the center of the strategy. When will Europeans understand that they have to engage with the consumer if they want to succeed? I wish the best of luck to THE-Vins.

{ 9 comments }

1 Hoke Harden November 15, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Interesting approach. They’re obviously talking (down) to the ‘average’ casual drinker, trying to reduce down complexities to catchy and preferably one-syllable nicknames (Murkans being lazy and afraid of multi-syllabic and hard to pronounce French names that might embarrass them if they try to say them).

But those people aren’t…and I don’t think want to…buying French wines in the first place. I doubt this will help, unless it’s aimed at the Trader Joe/2 Buck Chuck crowd (see previous sentence for the inherent fallacy).

Making a wine more casual and ‘friendly’ and non-threatening may, on the surface, be an attractive proposition—but it alienates the standard traditional drinkers and I think does little to attract new drinkers. But we’ll see; I have been known to be wrong before. And right, as well.

I wouldn’t be the least bit interested in trying this line, and would have low expectations of quality if I did. I don’t want Vacqueyras to be ‘friendly’: I want it to be Vacqueyras! I certainly don’t want Chateauneuf-du-Pape be twitterized to Chateau9.

I am not, however, the target market.

2 Evelyne Resnick November 16, 2010 at 9:33 am

Thanks for the nice comment, Hoke. I am not either the target market – that’s why I am like you a little perplexed by this approach. To me, the breaking point will be the price point. If it is around $5 or less, it might attract customers from TJ’s. Over $5, it needs to be more convincing. Their marketing stratgey needs also some improvement. But I might be totally wrong too.

3 Stéphane November 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Dear Evelyne,

First of all I wanted to thank you because all critics and comments are welcome to us, that’s the only way for us to grow. I will try to answer your questions the best I can.
What is the price point? The suggested retail prices are $15.99 for the rhon red, THE VAC suggested retail: $26, THE GIG – suggested retail: $31.99, THE CHAT09 – suggested retail: $49.99.
are your wines going to be available? Our wines are going to be available at restaurant, bars, wine shops, mainly in urban areas. Why release several brands like Vac, Gig, under THE Vins? because we want, or try our best to promote the longevity of our appellation, and as you say, not a lot of young consumers know what Vacqueyras means. Why not launch THE Vins brand by itself? For the same reasons I’ve just mentioned. Why dilute the brand by too many sub-brands? Why no social media presence if targeting the young American consumer? We do have a facebook page and twitter page which you can easily find. http://www.facebook.com/pages/TheVins/141726979481

Í’m sorry that you find our website annoying but we have got some great feedback about it and about how easy it is to find information! Just to inform you completely, our strategy isn’t to only provide a nice label that doesn’t mean anything, we want to promote the appellation which are getting lost day after day, and before all, we are dedicated to propose to the young consumers the best quality wines we can. Our aim is really to engage with the consumer, as you can see on our website we aren’t only promoting what wine to drink with what meal but also choosing a wine by moments, because every moment in life can be of importance and a wine is made to share something. if our strategy works, our next step will be to interact more and more with the consumers.
I hope I answered your question.
Best regards
The Vins.

4 Evelyne Resnick November 22, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Hi Stephane,

Thank you so much for your answers. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer. I stand corrected for the FB page but I think it is rather recent as it was not in line when I wrote my article. Great move.

I did not taste your wines and I cannot have any opinion on their quality. I have to take your word for it. I speak only from a marketing point of view: don’t you think your price point is a little high for young consumers? An other question raises when you read Robert Parker’s comment: a wine to drink over 3-4 years. Do you think young Americans can cellar wines for 3-4 years? Do you think they will buy a wine 3-4 year-old on a shelf considering that most American wine consumers buy a bottle to drink it in the next 3 hours?
Again thanks for taking my opinion into consideration. I am very interested in your initiative and will follow it over the next months.

5 Stéphane November 23, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Hi Evelyne,

I don’t think that the price point is too high since again, consumers aren’t only buying a fun bottle but high quality wine since we want to make sure that these consumers will buy our wines again. About parker, which actually shows that our quality is there, I’m not sure that “a wine to drink over 3-4 years” means that you shouldn’t drink it now, but rather to drink from now and over the next 3-4 years. Our wines are definitely ready to drink now as we are well aware that young consumers aren’t into buying wines to keep it in their cellar for years. That’s the beauty of our range and the most difficult part, offering true appellation that are accessible and respecting the terroir, Hervé Baligand, a young sommelier of the most famous 3 Michelin star restaurant in the world explains it the best. He says “The collection of THE VINS is a true concentration of pleasure made available to everyone. Each wine combines the respect and tradition of the terroir from which the appellation originates, while remaining accessible and easy to appreciate.” I hope that you’ll be able to taste our wines soon.

Thank you for your interest
Stéphane

6 randulo November 23, 2010 at 5:15 pm

A word on the web site. A conversation I had with a Bordeaux First Growth can be boiled down to a few sentences here: A winery/château is used to conducting visits that are guided. You can’t let people run around, putting their hands in the bottling line or stepping on the pumping over hose. On a web site, you need to get used to the idea that visitors in general do not like sites that splash up a page they didn’t ask for. One begins to read the little text and suddenly it’s covered by what the sommelier thinks. Although the French often insist on putting music that starts playing automatically on web sites, many people, the majority of American wine drinkers I’d say, find this obnoxious. There’s always the chance that the music you choose will totally put people off even if they don’t mind music. Do you really want to play that game?

I think these, among other potential irritations, will put people off which is a shame because the actual use of Flash and design on this site is actually original and pleasant.

Finally, I have to temper my comments with some encouragement. I think it’s a great thing to take the initiative! Too many producers sit and bitch about the current situation without making an effort to actually make their own audience and you do deserve an ‘E’ for effort in that realm! Sur l’Internet, il n’est jamais trop tard pour corriger le tir (sauf sur Twitter).

/r

7 Evelyne Resnick November 26, 2010 at 11:20 am

Hi Stephane

Sorry for the delay in answering you but I am working an an experience around your brands and hopefully it might help you. I lecture in business schools on wine and digital strategies especially in branding strategies. I am going to submit to several groups among my students a case study on THE Vins and an other French brand launched in the US recently. This study will be conducted in December and January.I’ll let you know the results.

Randulo,

Thanks for your comment. I agree with your conclusion: it is really great to see French entrepreneurs trying a new international adventure. Kudos to the founders of THE-Vins!

8 Stéphane November 26, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Hi Evelyne,

That sounds really interesting and I’m sure it will be of great help.

Randulo, I agree with you about the pop up, it will be removed.

Thanks,
Stéphane

9 randulo November 26, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Kudos to you Stéphane, for listening to feedback. What I’m about to say is not directed at you or your site but is a general problem of all web sites, especially wine web sites, and even more especially French wine web sites. Before I continue to beat on Flash, it’s just a technology, not the devil incarnate. My opinion is, most of the time, it’s poorly used.

I wrote an editorial years ago, the title of which was “The web site you want is not the one you need”. The worst offenders are chefs. They commission a site, get a beautiful design, approve it, like it and that’s the end of it. Pity the poor prospective customer when she can’t find the opening hours, or the menu or the phone number or address without sitting through what the chef thinks is a cool experience. If you actually care (not you Stéphane, the “one” we Americans never like to use) about using a web site for the customers, find out what they think and how well they can find what they want on the site.

I remember going over to a singer’s house once with a non-musician friend. When we left, he remarked, “Sheesh, he’s sure in love with himself!” It was true, but I asked what made my friend say it. “His living room is covered with pictures of him!” If you think about this, it’s a little like these awful chef sites. They may be nice looking, the designers will talk about “immersion” and “experience”, but if you push people away in the first few moments with needless movement – aka Flash – no one will see it. People want a nice looking site, but chances are, they go to the movies to be entertained, or watch DVD. Web sites have to be amazing to compete with those experiences. Let’s face it, few are.

I do like the design of your site, it’s clean, original, not too sober or dark, and the motion of the backgrounds is not unpleasant. The question to ask now is, what exactly will visitors be looking for? And if you can answer that one, how easy is it for them to find it?

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