Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bursting the Bubble - The Battle for the Luxury Sparkling Wine Market

July. Slow period. Vacations. Nothing much happening. Right?

If you think this is the case, then go right ahead. But right now major campaigns have been launched to capture a share of the lucrative sparkling wine market. I came across two wineries with similar looks to their rebranding efforts. It got me to thinking, “What is going on here?

First the Champagne. Louis Roederer is a well respected house, making top quality sparkling wine. Not as large as the big brands like Moet or Veuve Clicquot. Not as geeky as the grower Champagnes, the “farmer fizz.” Antonio Galloni offered this recent glowing review: “The NV Brut Premier is a gorgeous Champagne at this level. Fresh, perfumed, zesty fruit emerges from this accessible, medium-bodied Champagne. The Brut Premier reveals an irresistible, immediate personality, with terrific balance. It is without question one of the finest NV Champagnes readers are likely to come across as well as one of the best relative values in the region.” Inotherwords it is not a wine to snub your nose at when someone hands you a glass.

Still there is this battle to capture the luxury sparkling wine buyer. Sometimes a rave review from Antonio Galloni isn’t enough. Often, the buyer doesn’t read wine reviews. The buyer isn’t that into wine. But the buyer is looking for luxury and quality. The problem is getting their attention.

This is where image comes into play. There are all kinds of ways to get someone’s attention, but classic method sparkling wine houses in France and Italy are looking to get back some of the business they lost to the worldwide recession and to Prosecco. First world economic regions are bouncing back, at least for the wealthy. And there is a huge oil boom in America. 200+day dry aged steak is on the menu. And people, some people, are looking to spend, celebrate and sip in the lap of luxury.

Roederer’s campaign is a turn from their conventional marketing ways. Enter color on the labels. Enter bright, attractive, abstract packaging, appealing to a different esthete. When I first looked at the gift boxes I didn’t quite get it. Who are these for? (not me)… And then I started thinking outside of the gift boxes. Like perfume, the lure is most important.

And then in Italy something almost identical happened. Bellavista winery came out with their new packages, even more colorful and full of the emotional style that is quintessentially Italian. Again, I asked myself, “Who are these for?”

I realize the lures are not trying to attract me, which is a good thing. The lure is young, mobile, slightly more upscale sparkling wine drinker who is looking for a brand that breaks away from the traditional sparkling wines, whether they be Champagne or Prosecco. In the case of Bellavista the target is to find someone tired of cheap, sweet Prosecco but not French Champagne. If you know folks from the Franciacorta production zone, they have their own identity and they are trying very hard to imprint their uniqueness on a new generation of sparkling wine drinkers. The bright colors, the abstract packages, the excitement, the emotion, all these aspects are meant to lure people to their brand.

Coincidentally, these two brands are connected in their respective campaigns, in that they appear to have been drawn from the same (ink) well.

None of these package developments say anything about quality. But they infer excitement, change, luxury and it is as if quality is taken for granted. Thankfully both of these houses, Roederer and Bellavista are top quality classic method sparkling wine houses.

But this is just setting the scene for the battle which will be waged in the coming months. Sparkling wine is more often drunk during the fall and winter holiday seasons. And while many Italians and French people will be lying on the beach in the coming months, the sparkling wine houses will not be resting, sleeping or even napping. The stakes are high, and these two houses raised the bar with unusual and provocative rebranding. We will see who succeeds on the battleground for the luxury sparkling wine market, and hopefully along the way enjoy a bottle or two.

written by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I will be interested to see how the numbers stack up when the sales are computed and whether the packaging seemed to be a factor.

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