Whatever marketing gurus say, wine-buyers simply want a guide to price and quality

by Michael Cooper / 24 August, 2016
Despite winegrowers constantly being urged to “tell your story”.
Photo/Thinkstock
Photo/Thinkstock


As consumers, we all want background details about our favourite wines: the history of the winery; the identity of the owners; how they grow their grapes and make their wines; their challenges and triumphs. At least, that’s the marketing theory.

I once asked Hugh Johnson, for decades the world’s best-selling wine writer, about the key to his success. “Always tell a story,” he replied. For wine producers, the message is similar: tell your story, and make it a telling story.

That’s the approach being adopted by Australia’s First Families of Wine, a collective of 12 multigenerational, family-owned producers. After a dinner hosted by the group, Mike Veseth, the US-based editor of the blog The Wine Economist, wrote about how he enjoyed the families “telling their stories up close and personal … There is real wine in real glasses; real people tell their stories and make their case.”

But how reliable are the stories? One multinational operating here, which has snapped up several long-established brands, recently confused the date of arrival in this country of one of the immigrant founders with that of his eventual plunge into wine production. Thousands of back labels were printed, featuring a date for the company’s first vintage that was wrong by 28 years.

One well-regarded producer in Central Otago criticised wine writers for penning lists of tasting notes, rather than telling winemaking stories. Yet the same winemaker is reluctant to divulge the name of the company’s majority shareholder, on the grounds that he is “a private person”.

The wine correspondent for London’s Sunday Telegraph for 16 years, Robert Joseph believed that his readers wanted to know about the places and people behind wine labels. His editor told him repeatedly that they just wanted advice on what to buy.

“When I began to think about the reality of this wine-needs-story mantra, I increasingly saw my editor’s point. Quality, style, price and the impression one might make on friends all come higher on most people’s lists than any kind of story”.

LS2916_48_wine_GV15(2)Wine of the week


Bannock Brae Marlene’s Gruner 2015 ••••½

From gruner veltliner – Austria’s favourite white-wine variety – this Central Otago wine is full of personality. Fermented in old barrels, it is full-bodied, with fresh, rich, citrusy, peachy, gently spicy flavours, a “salty” streak and an appetisingly dry finish. $25

Follow the Listener on Twitter or Facebook. 

Latest

The future of gangs in New Zealand
101322 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z Social issues

The future of gangs in New Zealand

by Philippa Tolley

Best of RNZ: Gangs have been a feature of New Zealand society for more than half a century. Philippa Tolley takes a look at what future lies ahead.

Read more
How some Germans are countering the extremist views of the far-right
101320 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z World

How some Germans are countering the extremist view…

by Cathrin Schaer

Germans face a familiar dilemma in finding ways to oppose the views of the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Read more
White Noise: Who is shaping Auckland's future?
101439 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z Auckland Issues

White Noise: Who is shaping Auckland's future?

by Kate Newton

Some Aucklanders have more say in their city's future than others.

Read more
Stephen Fry revisits the world of the Ancient Greeks in Heroes
101242 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z Books

Stephen Fry revisits the world of the Ancient Gree…

by Lauren Buckeridge

In his delightful way, Stephen Fry dips back into the ancient world with more stories of tests, quests and feats of old.

Read more
Comedian Jo Brand on the benefits of not giving a toss
100970 2019-01-20 00:00:00Z Profiles

Comedian Jo Brand on the benefits of not giving a…

by Diana Wichtel

Jo Brand’s deadpan style is deceptive, as some blokes have discovered to their very public cost.

Read more
Green Book: A racially themed road-trip drama that stays within the white lines
101345 2019-01-20 00:00:00Z Movies

Green Book: A racially themed road-trip drama that…

by James Robins

Green Book joins a long tradition of civil-rights era movies that barely scratch the surface.

Read more
How I caught Marie Kondo's tidying up bug
101329 2019-01-20 00:00:00Z Television

How I caught Marie Kondo's tidying up bug

by Diana Wichtel

Four episodes into Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, something snapped.

Read more
The vital importance of full sleep cycles
100962 2019-01-20 00:00:00Z Health

The vital importance of full sleep cycles

by Mark Broatch

It’s a myth that older adults need less sleep, says University of California professor of neuroscience and psychology Matthew Walker.

Read more