Author Archive: Brad Maier
Monday, July 9th, 2007
I’ve been struck by something recently when walking around my local grocery store. The small bottle of wine is becoming more and more prevalent, no longer is it relegated to the low rung wines and airplane bars. Why is the small bottle important? Because it could represent a drastic but important change in the wine industry and with it a whole new group of buyers, not to mention increased sales figures for wineries.
The current traditional 750ml bottle size presents several related problems; mainly because it is a lot of wine for less than 3 people to consume. As a result it becomes relatively expensive for two people or less to drink. This is increased by the fact that you’re paying for wine you may not end up drinking if you don’t finish the bottle quickly enough after opening (depending on your stance on how long wine truly keeps). Switching to a smaller bottle would allow for more purchases by single people and it would bring the price point of good wine down to a more approachable level, bringing me to my next point…
As new people come to wine they don’t necessarily have the knowledge to always make the correct decision when it comes to a wine purchase. It becomes an unfortunate circumstance when someone spends a lot of money on a wine that is a wrong choice for their personal taste preferences (see www.tastevine.com). The small bottle allows for experimentation. Case in point, what is one of the most popular choices at a wine bar? The wine flights because people don’t trust their knowledge of wine to put all their money in one basket and people like variety. Its much more interesting to purchase a flight and experiment than it is to pick one bottle and drink it all night.
As an extension of that, the real advantage in wine sales with young people in America may come from the all-american six-pack model. Why aren’t wines being sold in small bottle flight-packs? You’d be dealing in a medium that young people know, keeping the price points low, and allowing new wine drinkers to experiment while mitigating the risk (and price) of picking a bad bottle. Sure there’d be increased costs of production but it is my belief that the resulting increase in sales would more than make up for it, not to mention the goodwill and brand loyalty you’d gain with young people. It may not be possible for the smallest of boutique wineries but for the mid-level to major level producers it seems like benefits of attempting it will far outweigh the costs. Have you seen an increase in small bottle prevalence where you live?
Thursday, June 7th, 2007
One of the things I like the most about wine is the small shops that sell it. Yes there are big distributors and outlets, but it is amazing how important and interesting the network of small shops can be. While they may not have the selection of the larger stores, the small shops are communities that prove invaluable when it comes to learning about, talking about, or finding wine. If you are looking to learn more about wine, visiting your local merchant is a great way to do it and maybe make some friends in the process.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that wine has been so slow in coming to the online table, is that it has always had the feel of a small and networked community in the real world. Much like the social communities now found on the web, this wine shop network is one of the few places in business today where they will make every effort to go out of their way to help you. As someone who is relatively new to the depths of wine, I’ve found it incredibly important to pick the collective brains of the owners of a small network of shops around where I live. Sure, some shops are better than others and you do have to experience a lot (visiting a lot of wine shops might not be the most terrible thing in the world), but by frequenting the shops near me I have been able to pick up on the knowledge of the staff and this has helped me accelerate my learning curve a great deal. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the recommendations of wine store staff.
Typically I’m skeptical when a store employee recommends a product to me. Perhaps it is the entrepreneur in me that wonders why they are telling me to buy this specific product and what’s in it for them. I can honestly say, though, that most of the people I’ve met who work in or own a wine shop do it out of love or passion, they genuinely love to share their experiences and their new finds; much like members of today’s online communities. Sure, some shops may get special benefits from pushing a certain wine (that’s good business) but on the whole I’m rarely disappointed by wines that the shops recommend to me.
When it comes to the wine shop I think it is important that a wine newbie find one they’re comfortable with. The shop can become a knowledge resource for you as you learn and the experienced staff there can become friends and mentors on your journey into wine. While you might pay a little more at your local shop than you would at a big box outlet, the knowledge you can gain and the people you can meet more than makes up for the money you would save by shopping elsewhere. The next step of course is to successfully transition this wonderful real world community to the world of web 2.0. Thankfully advances are being made with the advent of sites like Corkd, Calwineries, and Tastevine, which approach different segments of the younger market.
Now if someone were to ask me for my opinion on how the small wine shop could do a better job of staying in business, I’d take them back to my previous post. The details I’ve previously outlined apply as directly to the wine shop and the entire wine community as they do to the producers themselves. If any members of the wine community are still a bit unsure of how to make the leap or are interested in making the leap, feel free to contact us.
Thursday, May 17th, 2007
To the Wine Community at Large:
I write to you as a firmly established member of what is typically called the “Millennial Generation” and I have a bone to pick. Mainly it is a result of a recent phenomenon in the community, one I like to refer to as the “dumbing down of wine.” It seems to be an increasingly popular opinion that in order to bring wine to younger and newer audiences, wine needs to be brought down to “our level”. Unfortunately for the marketers it is almost instinctive by now that we will reject most things that people attempt to target to us. We like to adopt things ourselves. Look at the successes and failures in mainstream viral marketing. Most things that succeed do so because young people want to have them, not because they were told they need to have them.
Wine doesn’t need to change the way it is, but it does need to change the way young people are told about it. Some believe that wine has to be trendy or cool or fun or marketed like beer and hard alcohol to become popular with young people. They point to trends in marketing in music and magazines and tech gadgets and tailor their wine approach to these same tactics. The problem is that they are missing the ways in which wine has a competitive advantage.When it comes to young people, wine will never win a competition with beer or hard alcohol on trendiness or shock value or sex appeal. It’s like marketing a horse by telling people its a cow because you think cows are what people want.
I’d like to let you in on a little secret about young people. Just around the time we reach legal drinking age we also start to have a desire for sophistication or a desire to be seen as an adult. We’ve done a lot of moving on from our teenage years and, contrary to popular belief, the majority of us are not a bunch of binge drinking, hard partying, pierced, and tattooed hooligans as we are portrayed in the press. The majority of young people today are smart, ambitious, inquisitive, and above all we’re sophisticated and discerning consumers (even if we’re not yet, we like to think so). This is where wine can compete. Make us feel sophisticated, after all this is one of the ways it is marketed to adults. Wine is a complex and beautiful drink with a great history and a great culture. This is something a lot of the Millennial Generation would love to learn about but the marketers don’t think we want to learn the story. Sure we have our idiosyncrasies and like cool stores, but most of all we want to be treated like the adults that we are. We don’t like to be talked down to, we are willing to ask if we don’t know something, and we certainly don’t like it when older people feel they have to dumb stuff down for us.
Truthfully, millennials shun wine because:
- the price point of good wine is a bit high
- no one has really attempted to market wine to us in the middle ground (Meaning someone needs to meet the millennials with a good wine at a decent price and speak to us at a level somewhere between wine kindergarten and hoity-toity wine college).
I feel I may be getting a bit drawn out, but for now I’ll leave you with this:
- We hate when marketers treat us like we have no attention span or sophistication. Speak to us like the adults that we are and please please stop the race to the bottom when it comes to marketing wine to Millennials.
- Stop dumbing it down to broad-reaching food pairing suggestions and one flavor wine descriptions. We are interested and we want to learn. If you want to sell us wine then be willing to teach us and to take time with us. Part of wine’s appeal is it’s complexity, let’s not lose that for the sake of selling out.
- Finally, if you want to integrate some of the things we enjoy like social networking and other technological concepts, why not get a member of our generation to help you. Please don’t have a member of an older generation try to create products for us without our input. Remember how cool you thought some of the things your parents created were?
I would like to say that I do appreciate the strides that are being made in the wine world. Hopefully with a little input from young people the incredible culture that is wine can spread even further.