Eden Valley’s message on a bottle
Monday 28 November
Eden Valley Riesling producers have launched a proprietary bottle, embossed in the same vein as Chateauneuf du Pape. And the first vintage using this bottle - 2011 – is hitting shelves now.
The green flute has a symbol on the front representing the rolling hills of the Eden Valley and the region’s name is also embossed. It gives the region’s wines much better on-shelf presence and gives confused consumers a better idea what to expect if they’ve tried an Eden Valley Riesling before.
While it’s early days for the bottle, the region’s two biggest producers, Yalumba and Peter Lehmann, have not come on board for the first release. The price per bottle - some quote 90 cents, others more, others less - is perhaps a little high, particularly in the current economic climate when producers are looking to cut costs. However, a special mould had to be created to produce the bottles hence the high cost. What’s more, the Eden Valley is not a mass producer so the economy of scale is certainly not there to bring costs down.
Yalumba’s Louisa Rose, explains their decision. “The issue for us is that it’s quite expensive and our brands are much bigger than most. It’s a commercial decision at the moment but I think it’s a great idea.”
And Ian Hongell, winemaker at Peter Lehmann, adds “We are not using the Eden Valley bottle because we have our own proprietary bottle.”
Yet, if the biggest producers came on board, they would have the economy of scale, and the project would have more clout.
One of the area’s most renowned producers, Henschke, has bottled its 2011 Julius Riesling in the proprietary bottle but Stephen Henschke admits, “Not enough are using it but I think more people will be influenced to start.”
I certainly hope more producers do come on board. It is a small region that is technically part of the Barossa zone and there is very little awareness of the area.
Thus far the Clare Valley has achieved a higher profile status for its Rieslings but with greater unity and widespread adoption of this bottle, there is an opportunity for the area to become known as the premium Australian Riesling region. It should take a leaf out of Central Otago’s book, which has become known as the leading new world Pinot Noir producer through its collaborative marketing efforts.
There is a real opportunity for the region: Eden Valley Rieslings offers fresh wines that are clean and modern, and would suit the current consumers’ appetite for vibrant, unoaked styles. With moderate alcohol levels (12-12.5%), lemon, lime and lavender aromatics, they would appeal to a wide audience.
Yet it is relatively unknown: as part of the Barossa, it often gets overshadowed by its bigger brother. The proprietary bottle is a good start to increase its recognition, but it shouldn’t stop there.
*Packaging manufacturer Amcor produces the proprietary bottles. I have contacted them, asking for details on production costs, price per bottle and units sold thus far but they have not responded to my calls.
Turning people on to wine…
Wednesday 23 November
There’s been some great debate on the twitter lines since I posted my blog stating only 7% of regular wine drinkers are highly involved. Quite frankly, they couldn’t give a monkeys about tannic profile nor malolactic fermentation.
Now we have a question, how do we get more people, particularly young people, drinking wine. Clearly, we need to have a bit more fun, and stop taking ourselves so seriously as @NicoJamesBCN and @gormanmcadams posted.
Which brings me to wine tastings. I’ve just attended a cocktail competition, where the average age of contestants didn’t even reach the mid 20s. These bartenders are passionate about booze but they also love to have a good time, turning up in fancy dress just because they could. There were oompa-loompahs, pandas and pirates aplenty. We could learn a thing or two from them. I’m not advocating we all dress up as characters out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory instead of starched shirts but it does help you to have a bloody good time.
Wine tastings and competitions are unimaginative, particuarly large consumer events with tables around the edge of the room and the winemaker stood at the table telling us about what fruits we should be tasting. It’s the same old format every time. No wonder it puts young and old off.
In another tweet from the lovely Robert Joseph, he said: ‘We’re in the same hole as classical music. We have to make ourselves more attractive’ adding, ‘The problem is ours not the consumers’. We’re obsessed with them needing education.’ He has a point. What if people just want to drink the stuff and be damned with the preaching?
Wine writers, me included on occasions, also have to lighten up. Writing should primarily be entertaining, and informative second. Don’t fill the page with sleep-inducing facts. We need a page-turning Bill Bryson of wine to make us laugh. There’s so much to do but we need to put our heads together to come up with a light bulb moment.
Only 7% of wine drinkers ‘highly involved’
Sunday 20 November
There are 430 million wine drinkers around the world but only 7% of regular drinkers are ‘highly involved’.
Those of us who work in the trade might think the world revolves around wine but for most normal people, it’s just a drink.
Lulie Halstead, director of Wine Intelligence, which published these findings, told delegates at Wine Future, “Consumers have little interest and commitment to wine.
“They enjoy it but it’s not the be all and end all of their lives,” she added.
And while we’re all tweeting and facebooking ourselves to death, it appears that in many markets regular wine drinkers aren’t much interested in social media for recommendations and commentary.
Social media is relevant to just 13% of regular wine drinkers in the UK, 21% in the USA and 13% in France. However, 62% of regular wine drinkers in China’s tier 1 cities (Beijing, Shanghai and so on) find social media relevant.
So, outside of China, who are we tweeting and blogging to? Ourselves. There’s nowt wrong with that but reaching the consumer might be harder than we first thought. But then again, ten years ago social media was all but nonexistent so it appears that we are at the start of a marathon of interaction.
Room for growth in Hong Kong wine market
Tuesday 15 November
Hong Kong is the new darling of the wine world but walk into a local restaurant in the Special Administrative Region and tea is the drink you’ll most likely sup.
The official statistics show wine is on the up: in the first eight months of this year, the value of wine imported reached HK$6.6 billion (US$850 million), representing a 65% increase year-on-year
However, after spending a short period in Hong Kong, it seems that wine lists in many Cantonese restaurants are still basic, glassware leaves something to be desired and, white wine was served warm on a couple of occasions.
I was also surprised to see that BYO is a big deal in Hong Kong.
In a bid to better understand the Hong Kong wine market, Debra Meiburg MW has published a Guide to the Hong Kong Wine Trade, based on a survey of all the SAR’s importers. “37% of the market is direct sales that’s unique to our market. These are mostly being taken into restaurants because we have a big BYO scene,” said Meiburg. “If your wine is on a retaurant list it may never sell”, she added.
However, there is still plenty of potential for growth, with very few importers focusing on Chinese restaurants: “We have heard complaints that there’s too much competition in Hong Kong but they are all chasing the same market. No-one is chasing the Chinese market. The market is not saturated.
“Everyone is entertaining their clients in western restaurants. We have fine Cantonese cuisine that is being ignored.”
What future for Wine Future?
Thursday 10 November
Wine Future is over for another two years.
Did things improve after the car crash first day?
Well, it didn’t get any worse. And there were some interesting insights worthy of a news story from Prosecco estimating it will quintuple in size by 2035 to one billion bottles plus some revealing statistics: Wine Intelligence’s Lulie Halstead revealed social media was relevant to just 13% of regular wine drinkers in the UK but 62% in China. Food for thought
On the last afternoon, I did a tour of the conference, getting folks’ opinions. The main benefit of the conference? Networking. How often do you get Jancis Robinson, Robert Parker and co. in the same room? It was a great opportunity to reconnect with contacts and old friends and meet new ones.
I am also much more knowledgeable about the Asian markets thanks to Jeannie Cho Lee, sommelier Yang Lu from the Peninsula, Shanghai and Don St Pierre Jnr of ASC.
The conference finished with a final debate on the ‘future of wine’ with an illustrious panel. Yet it failed to deliver any excitement. The conference should have gone out with a bang with the high profile names on stage but instead ended with a fizzle, with many shuffling out before the conclusion.
If there is to be a future for Wine Future (and there’s plans for Brazil 2013), exhibitors and other delegates have to speak out about the issues they had, not just confide that they agreed with what I said in my blog in a private moment (although thanks for the support)!
I want more debate, smaller break off seminars and less time allowing the biggest players in the industry to tell us about their company. What do you want?