F*** the Two-Buck Chuck, says Slate

So after Mike Steinberger, writing in Slate’s new wine column, trashes Trader Joe’s “Two Buck Chuck,” he goes on to list some inexpensive greats that I’ve mostly not tried. While calling Salice Salentino “the world’s greatest pizza wine” could ignite quite a discussion, I can back him up so far as to say it’s quite nice with a good gourmet pie. But his apparent fascination with French wines is itself an impediment to finding great cheap wines. By my informal calculation, France’s brand equity in the wine world exacts a 20%-40% premium over, say, an Australian wine of similar quality. Plus, you know, dealing with the French still gives me a bit of a bad taste despite the fact that they were (I admit it) basically right about all that war stuff earlier this year.

We are the trend

A good article on interest in wine among younger consumers from the Kansas City Star.

Interesting tidbit:

The Scarborough report said not only are young adults buying more wine, but they are willing to pay more for it. Wine consumers ages 21 to 24 are twice as likely than the average purchaser to spend $20 or more on a bottle of wine, the study stated. Those ages 23 to 34 are 76 percent more likely to pay for a high-end wine, while people older than age 65 are 74 percent less likely to pay top dollar, the study suggested.
Champagne purchases are more common among the 21-to-24 crowd.
Johnson said young drinkers also are risky in their wine experiences. They will opt for a bottle instead of buying by the glass, she said.

Target market

Hey, we SDSers are apparently at the forefront of a new wine trend. That, or we’re the unwitting dupes of clever marketing. Yeah, the wine drinker of the 21st century, as envisioned by today’s wine makers and described in today’s Wall Street Journal (sorry, you’ll need a subscription to actually read this article, but I’ve saved a copy of it if anyone is interested), is hip, under 35, and willing to pay more than their older, wiser parents for some fermented grape. Well, yeah, so there’s a $12 a bottle limit for SDS, but my older and (arguably) wiser father–who is an elitist in his own right, but definitely not in wine consumption–defines “expensive” wine as any juice that requires an implement other than one’s bare hand and a paper bag to consume, so in that we’re definitely upping the ante on defining an affordable bottle.
Continue reading “Target market”

“Cellar Marketing LLC”

The CEO of a new client is also working on CellarMarketing.com as something of a hobby. It is not a slick site like Wine.com but I like the approach. Especially interesting is the “wine-tasting assistant” accessible by the left nav; it actually brought up some wines I’ve enjoyed. As we all look for the wines that will kick ass in SDS competition, this may be a good resource.

“Why wine costs what it does”

The NYT has an article this morning with the very straightforward headline Why Wine Costs What It Does. I’ve obviously been thinking about this a lot as I wonder just how much our little wine club might costs.

To that end, here is a good guideline:

Quality and perception are hard to separate. “You can get a really great bottle of wine for $40,” Mr. Motto said. “Beyond that, it’s something that depends on how discriminating you are, how important it is to your life, how much you can afford.”

I’m going to suggest that we focus on wines under $20, and maybe do an occassional “splurge night” where we spend up to $40. Does that sound reasonable, or is all of this just completely outrageous in a world where children are starving?

Leading us to wine, and making us drink

Yes, Paulette let the cat out of the erstwhile bag with her mention of “Swallow Don’t Spit,” our new wine club. Our motto: “Tastes good going down.” Whatever serious oenophiles suggest, we think it would be a sin just to taste and wine and then spit it out. To the dregs, baby! And then there’s the bad-taste joy of the double entrendre–we can never pass that up.

It turns out that a lot of Americans do pass up the joy of the grape. I always knew we Yanks were behind the game, but until today I did not know how far. My new boss handed me a copy of Wine Enthusiast today, to (I’m not joking) research a possible pitch to a major wine and spirits conglomerate, and you can imagine my surprise to read in this article that there are only 19 million US once-a-week-plus wine drinkers. Per capita consumption is only 10 bottles a year, compared with 23 in the UK and 76 in France. Understandably, these businesses consider the US a major growth market, if only they can unleash some fairly seismic cultural shifts in our appreciation of that most varied and storied of all the alcohols (taking a page, no doubt, from the astounding creation of the “A Diamond is Forever” myth in the 1930s). [Thanks to David for the Atlantic link.]

It’s a great article about the ways that winemakers have gotten savvy to branding as the best way to increase consumption and revenues. One of the biggest needs is to make wine more approachable to us Americans, given our natively democratic mistrust of frequently effette wine culture. (Translation: we’re provincial hicks scared of foreign words.) One expert quoted says that US consumers want wine to be “fun, to be approachable, less of an intimidating beverage.”

We at Swallow Don’t Spit aren’t intimidated by much of anything, and consider pretty much anything this side of Finnegan’s Wake as approachable, but we will cop to wanting to up the fun factor. This will be no Frazier-esque Seattle salon des vins. We are re-writing the rules, and working on that per capita consumption at the same time. Maybe we can even turn our approach into a profitable marketing strategy for Wine Inc.

So when IS this first bacchanal going to happen? Paulette and I will have to take this one offline and figure something out. We’ll keep you posted.