Article from Costa News ( March 2010

Wine Questionnaire Results Bring About Industry Change




 I’m writing this on the eve of my biennial trip to Barcelona, Catalunya’s capital which also becomes the focal point for Spanish wines every other March as the itinerant Alimentaria organisation once again takes a grip on this, perhaps Spain’s most vibrant city.

 This year, no doubt mostly because of the current financial crisis that continues to darken bodegas’ doors this normally humungous fair is now only huge, taking just one of the massive pavilions rather than the two of all the previous years that I’ve been attending. However someone needs a slapped wrist, or worse, as in fact there is also another famous wine fair going on at the same time, ProWein in Düsseldorf!

 Bodegas are stretched enough financially without expecting them to have a significant presence at both events. The enormous expense of exhibiting at these fairs has to be budgeted for and when the anticipated expenditure forms land on the accountants’ desks with a resonant thud – well it can be considered as a stand too far!

 That said there will nevertheless be an enormous presence in Barcelona where all the DO’s of Spain will be represented and where there will be hundreds of bodegas showing off their wares. I love it – it’s a chance to meet up with old friends in the business to see what they are doing new, but also to see what other bodegas and areas of production are about too.

Six years ago I came back with the news that there was a major change in the Spanish wine world. Here there has never been any arrogance shown about making and marketing wine. A healthy marriage of time-served tradition and modern innovation continues to exist in Spain where fathers who learned from their fathers before them are advising their sons (and daughters) who in turn are adding their newly learned methods and technology – it’s very much a reciprocal relationship. The result is that Spain rides in the vanguard of modern European winemaking as well as in modern marketing techniques.

 Three Alimentarias ago there was a noticeable change in the labels that bodegas were using for their wines. Gone were the gothic lettering and drawings of old churches, often all covered in wire too. New eye-catching designs were all the rage then and they continue to be so – with different colours being used and all manner of ways of convincing the consumer that this wine is the one to choose before the others. Look at the wine shop and supermarket shelves. The graphic designers and artists have been given their head and wine bottles really are attractive nowadays, enticing us to buy.

 However the results of a questionnaire I recently asked people to complete suggests that wine label design needs to be revisited. I’ll be emphasising the point whilst I’m there and as with my recent revelations about how wines under five Euros can easily be found in bodegas (resulting in a concentrated advertising campaign to attract clients away from the supermarkets and back to the bodegas) I expect that changes will be afoot.

 34% of respondents said that they read both the back and front labels of wine bottles before they bought. Presumably the sometimes flamboyant and certainly almost invariably visually attractive front labels attract us in the first place but then for more information we go to the back label. However for me it is quite a shock to learn that 54% only occasionally check the back label. Clearly it is the front label that sells the wine.

 So how does this affect the marketing men and women? Well whilst it is  important to make the bottle stand out it is also clear that all other producers are doing the same. So how can we be convinced to choose one wine over another, when it is apparently only the front label that we are considering?

 It seems to me that more information has to be given on that front label, to better inform the consumer. Wine made from old vines for example is often an advantage as Cork Talk readers will know, because old vines produce fewer grapes but those that do appear are all the richer for it, creating deeply flavoured wines. Usually this information appears on the back label.

 Wine is often matured in oak casks, this can be: semi-crianza (less than 6 months in oak; crianza (at least six months in oak); reserva (at least a year in oak) and Gran Reserva (a couple of years in oak as a minimum plus further bottle-ageing). Also different oaks French, American, Hungarian etc impart different flavours and nuances. Plus there is toasting to consider, how long was the wood kept close to the fire as the cooper crafted his barrica – this too makes a difference to the wine.

 But hang on, whilst we want to advise, we don’t want to bore the client and give too much information! As you can see it’s a marketing nightmare, a dilemma that has to be addressed. Bodegas that want to sell their wines will have to have a look at their label design to see how they can continue to attract the consumer whilst also giving at least some of the information that is on the oft ignored back label!