Other Factors in South African Wine: Big Love?

Wine is not an island unto itself. Political events, weather, economy, safety (health, food, national) – all kinds of exogenous variables feed into consumer choices and perceptions. So news about Zuma of South Africa, the president with oh-so-many wives, certainly affects how we think in puritan America about South African wines.

Having spent several weeks recently in the CapeTown and Stellenbosch/Paarl area, I enjoyed more wines than I can remember. Even though I lifted a lot of glasses, somehow I missed out on the Zulu “Big Love” thing. Maybe next visit. But my overall impression of South AFrican wines is that they have New World tones with an Old World overlay.

In many ways, that sums up the market dynamics for South African wines too.

The recent Wine Business Monthly.com series of articles was intensely interesting to me. The article didn’t reach deeply into the mechanism of BEE – Black Economic Empowerment – the government mandate to staff more positions up and down the hierarchy of a winery and the wine industry itself – with black and colored workers, and also with women of color as a unique target group for more Economic Empowerment job formation.

I’m an old-fashioned liberal who did social work in my 20’s in the ghettos of Newark, NJ. I’m a firm believer in the need to break the cycle of poverty through economic programs. In my estimation, reparation is a good way to go, and that’s what BEE is, at core.

The South African wine industry is learning how to accommodate this mandated change in their workforce and management composition. This is happening on top of the usual agribusiness and marketing challenges that a wine industry faces.

But South Africans of all colors are a hardworking and determined people, and the wines will prevail. The Laduma program, wine tourism, wiser use of WOSA and USAPA marketing dollars will all add up.

And someday we hope to see South African wines in their own section of the shop or menu … instead of grouped into the “other imports” category. THAT’s the real challenge – getting out of “other”. I’m just not sure how many wives that will take to accomplish...

(Photo attribution: left, Pieter Bauermeister-afp-gettyimages; right AP/Jerome Delay)

Wine by the Helmet? Packaging COULD BE a lot more fun!

What hath God wrought? Walking down Polk Street in San Francisco, I spot a rotund gent on a moped, wearing Bermuda shorts and bowling shoes, no socks. Tee shirt with effects of chilly day evident. (I guess that is better than assless chaps – we have to wait for the Folsom Street Fair for that!) But it struck me that this is a demographic – the moped-riding-short-wearing-bowling-shoe-fan – that new wine packaging might appeal to. Like a motorcycle helmet-shaped wine bottle.

In many ways, wine packaging today is uninspiring. No significant change, really, in hundreds of years. I know that food packaging is culture-bound; I remember the olden days when Tetrapak had a heck of a time making inroads outside Northern Europe. And clearly, wine packaging is VERY culture-bound.

I like the concept that MÁS Wine Company introduced, that of packaging a super premium wine in a mini tank. According to their website, “the German engineered mini tank is an environmentally friendly, air-tight, stainless steel container that mimics the way wine is stored at a winery. These mini tanks are re-usable, and they keep every glass as fresh as the first.” Now if we could just move that down from the 11 or 15 liter size to something that fits on my kitchen counter…. You get the idea. New packaging ideas!

Last year at a wine shop in CapeTown, South Africa, I was amazed at the plethora of wine packaging alternatives. Doypack. Bag in Box. Cans. Tetra. A bunch more I forget. So if things are changing elsewhere in the world, they will slowly but surely make their way to the shores of this colony – you know, the place where packaging changes most slowly – the US of A.

I think that we need to help it along.

Just for fun, give me some ideas of new demographics/market niches (see my example above) and the wine containers that would appeal to them. Keep it clean. Keep the other stuff for San Francisco the weekend of September 27, 2009. (There is so much to enjoy in our Folsom Fair city!)

Retainers Stink: It’s Time for the Wine Industry to Change the Old Ad Agency Paradigm

In the middle of a recession, buyers with cash have enormous power. It’s no wonder that vendors of advertising and marketing services target their pitches toward wineries, wine bars and wine shops that have either backers or profits, or both. Those in the wine industry rightfully seek to protect their resources - in this case, their marketing budgets. That’s frustrating to providers of advertising and other marketing promotion services. But it is long past time for a significant shift in the ad agency paradigm.

It’s not only wineries who are rethinking how to squeeze the most out of their marketing budgets. I talked to the Director of Group Sales for Kimpton Hotels on a flight to Chicago recently. He is fed up with his agency and their insistence on hefty monthly retainers, billed automatically without a report on progress toward marketing goals.

He’s not the only one who is annoyed with the old ad/promotion agency paradigm of retainers.

When I was starting my marketing career, I worked in PR for a big ad agency in Boston. At the end of every month, usually around the 24th, our group director would cast his eyes over the billables to date. If they were too low to justify the retainer, the command went out to, well, um, churn the account… not in so many words, of course, but the end result was slap-dash quick-and-dirty projects that filled the timesheet.

I learned from this. I learned it stank. It sure wasn’t consonant with my Midwestern farm girl ethics. And this is the great danger of one of the elements of that old ad/promo agency paradigm, the retainer.

So here is what I think is right for today’s recession-benighted budgets. Ask your agency to move toward more transparency in their advertising and marketing proposals. Have them put together project-based programs that work toward your goals. Each project has a budget, and it is billed 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 at beginning-middle-end. Insist on monthly progress reports for each project, even if the report is just a “we are working on the press list, we have contacted major bloggers, we have a few initial design concepts.” And be prepared to give your agency at least 30 minutes a month to discuss the report.

Is there a downside in this approach? You bet. Some agencies, used to the easy buck, will refuse to play. ( Why should they? They’re playing with your money.) Some marketing departments won’t like the peaks-and-valley billings that this project-oriented approach sometimes creates.

There are other stinky parts of the way advertising and marketing services work, too. Recently I’ve heard rumors of a marketing group who charged a $5000 monthly retainer to a wine industry supplier company, more as a guarantee that no other clients in that segment would be served by that marketing group, than for the creation and execution of a legitimate marketing programs.


Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some other ideas and war stories from the marketing battlefields with you. In the meantime, post comments with your own pet peeves, ad/promo horror stories, or just the inevitable don’t-rock-the-boat. And post comments on the warm fuzzy stuff too. Hopefully we will all learn from one another on how to get more bang for our marketing buck. A bottoming-out economy can bring some important changes. Let’s hear more about what some of those changes should be.

Stimulus Pricing Eludes Wine by the Glass

It's a confusing economic world that we live in right now. I admire the spunky restaurateurs in the up-and-coming Mission area of San Francisco, and appreciated the bravado of the "Stimulus Dinner" sandwich-board sign at the corner of 22nd and Guerrero. This French restaurant offered a delicious 3-course meal for $29. What they didn't offer was a Stimulus Wine-by-the-Glass list. The least expensive offering, their house Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, was $8. It was almost enough to make you order tap water as the beverage of choice.

I don't really understand wine-by-the-glass pricing, so I'd like some commentary here. I've heard folks say that a glass of wine should be priced so that it pays for the cost of the whole bottle. If I've heard that, you can bet that other wine drinkers and Joe/Jane-average-consumer have heard it too. It doesn't exactly make you feel warm and fuzzy at the thought; in fact, it kind of feels like price gouging.

On-premise sales are suffering as belt-tightening keeps more consumers dining at their own tables. A chat with LJ Brimfield at Piazza Market in North Beach on Sunday afternoon confirms that; their sales of value-price Italian wines are 'way up, and he attributes that to the dine-at-home movement; he gets asked a lot what wines will go with the "I'm preparing a chicken dish" course.
So if restaurateurs want to offer a Stimulus-Pricing glass of wine, just how do they price that? Is it 25% of a 3-course meal? Seems high to me. That glass of tap water just might be a serious contender for a value beverage...

What Millennials Want Included in a Wine Blog

What could be better than to enlist the help of a Social-Media-Addicted-and-Therefore-Representative-Millennial to talk about what to include in a blog targeted at this important up-and-coming consumer group? As a relative newcomer to the world of wine blogs, my very bright niece Margaret has a few recommendations to those wineries and Citizen Bloggers who might be interested in improving their blogs. I enlisted her help during schoolbreak from Indiana University, knowing that she is a constant internet and iPhone user ( junkie might be too strong a word, well, maybe not….). For several days, she took a look at the list of best blogs culled from recommended blogs noted on other sites (vinography.com, etc ) and here are her observations about what catches interest -- or not --

  • Blogs should include a very visible way to contact the blogger. Ideally this should be in a “contact-us” tab at the top of a blog, if your blog is organized that way. If not, embed your e-mail address in the “about me” or “profile” section. Why make it so hard to contact a blogger directly? I mean, we all want content suggestions, as well as comments on what we’ve blogged, right? And sometimes we'd like to have this dialogue off-line....

    · Blogs that Margaret showed me as examples that use this feature best: http://www.thewinoclub.com/, http://www.fermentingthoughts.com/, http://www.barrys-wine.blogspot.com/, http://www.sharonwine.blogspot.com/ (which uses the (at) and (dot) to foil spammers

  • It is useful to put on your blog the list of blogs that you personally respect and follow. Some people call this a blog-roll. And this blog feature is perhaps most important for what we used to call “the working press”, ie those blogs associated with a print magazine, because having this feature on a publication’s blog shows that the editors and writers are open to gathering information from a variety of news sources. If you are not a member of the working press, having this list on your blog still shows that you are open to other sources of information than just those in your immediate social sphere. A good example per Margaret: http://www.sharonwine.blogspot.com/

    · By the way, those who establish links to other bloggers make it easy to build relationships and share readers with each other. Margaret says, also look at www.nichewineblog.com

  • An example of a blog that could use some graphic-artist assistance, in Margaret’s opinion: http://www.winemaking.jackkeller.net/. Her reaction: “everything is the same color, it is just a headache to read because of the small font, you have to scroll down a long way to find information.”

  • An example of a well-designed blog in Margaret’s opinion: http://www.domaine547.com/, because “the sections are clear, header bar at the top takes you quickly to different parts of the site”.

Overall, bloggers are pretty literate – not too many grammatical errors, misspellings, long boring sentences. (This comment from Margaret, who is, after all, a dual English/Neuropsychology major)

Now, of course, I need to take her recommendations to heart, and improve my own blog. And I will. Thanks, Margaret, for doing a wonderful job!

Loving Wine and Writing About it: The Light Touch

“A guy walks into a bar…” I assume that’s how a good book on the humor in wine begins. Experientially, that is. Verbally, an excellent book on this topic begins: “Que Syrah Syrah”. That book is Vintage Humor for Wine Lovers, written and compiled by Malcolm Kushner. And not only is Mr Kushner an author, he is also a great promoter of his work and so you may have seen this book reviewed elsewhere.

In fewer than 150 pithy pages, Kushner takes us in short sips through puns, proverbs, and just plain funny stuff. Organized into 13 chapters by topic, the book exemplifies Kushner’s core philosophy: wine should start and end with a smile.

I‘ve pulled out some of my favorites but you should gift this book to yourself for those days that you – or your friends—need an extra pour of smiles.

“A regurgitated beverage doesn’t go with anything.”

“ Q: What’s the difference between God and a wine critic? A: God doesn’t think He’s a wine critic.”

Pickup Lines & Responses: “Would you like another glass of wine?” “Do you really think our relationship will last that long?”

A FAIR DEAL: A prominent female executive returns home after a conference in Paris. As she steps off the Concorde at Kennedy Airport, her waiting assistant notices that she is carrying a case of Chateau Petrus 1990. “Nice wine,” says the assistant. “Thanks! I got it for my husband!” responds the executive. The assistant pauses for a second, then nodding her head enthusiastically, says: “Good trade!”

And to end it all, as a paean to our times, there’s the cartoon on page 96 with the punch line: “What’s the right wine to go with severance pay?”

Smile! We’ll all get through these times faster if we can find some humor in the day-to-day!

Marketing to Hispanics Part Two- The Controversy: If They Don’t Speak English, Forget Them?

400 Million people speak Spanish worldwide. 45 million of those Hispanic consumers live in the USA; they are the largest so-called minority group in the USA. Their economic power is impressive; to some, their English-speaking skills are not. So – should we simply not market wine to these Hispanic consumers? Consider that in the next decade, the U.S. Hispanic market will be a $1.5 trillion market.

A while back, when I posted the first note in the MARKETING TO HISPANICS series, a comment came in from a reader. Here it is:

“I do not see why anyone is surprised that non-English speaking Latinos are not being marketed towards. Both posts come from Latinos who are wine lovers and speak English, as do most of the Latino middle class. They are who retailers and wine marketers are interested in, not the non-English speakers because of simple socioeconomic reasons. Those who do not speak English are, and forgive the blanket statement, for the most part poorly educated, and of lower income bracket. They as a group are not wine drinkers. Why would a retailer invest money in a mirror site that will return little or negative gain?”

Sofia Echeverria K of Sell It In Spanish, our original Guest Blogger on this topic, responds:
“Since when does the term “well educated” necessarily mean that someone is bilingual? The current president of the United States is not bilingual and that definitely does not make him “poorly educated”. That’s a very Anglo-centric way of looking at the world, and it’s just plain shortsighted in today’s consumer environment.

A significant number of bilingual Hispanics (like myself) prefer to purchase goods from retailers that take the extra step and try to reach the Hispanic market in the Spanish language as well as English. There are many reasons that this sort of linguistic courtesy resonates with us. And, a company that markets in Spanish as well as in English puts out the "wow" effect even to Anglos. You think: they must be doing well to invest efforts into this bilingual marketing, their product must sell internationally very well, etc...

But if the content of a site is not culturally relevant to Hispanics, language alone will not drive consumers to it. Likewise, it is equally shortsighted to think that bilingual Hispanics can be reached with general marketing efforts based on the fact that they speak English.

I also believe, that is not accurate to say that "non-English speaking Latinos are not being marketed towards." The majority of businesses want to sell to whoever is willing to buy what they are selling. Hispanics are potential customers of everything. We shop, travel, go to school, have kids, work, die, etc just as everybody else does. We are being marketed to, but not in the most efficient way.

It is not a matter only of linguistic courtesy (if you are fully bilingual) , it’s a matter of market value. Instead of trying to cram what is culturally relevant to Anglos and bilingual Hispanics onto one website, why not highlight what is culturally relevant to Hispanics in a Spanish site or with Spanish content? After all, the beauty of being bilingual might not be in speaking English, but in speaking Spanish.

Ironically, Spanish content (such as marketing wine in Spanish) could be perceived as a luxury in your marketing budget. But since Spanish is the second most popular language after English in the US, the day is not far off that having Spanish content on your site will be a requirement in order to have a place among the best brands. "

Even today, if you manage a brand in the wine industry and are looking for growth, remember that it’s as close at hand as your largest so-called minority group. Don’t be afraid to market to them.
You can contact Sofia directly at sofia.keck (at) sellitinspanish.com or leave a comment here


It’s not really my son’s fault that he forgot to give me all the keys to his new apartment in Boston. But there I was on the Thursday before Easter, having to trudge down Tremont Street near Dartmouth in the South End and find a place to work on my blog. HORRORS, turned on my laptop, went to log onto blogspot, only to find out that Stephi’s on Tremont did not have free wireless! What’s with that?

My first instinct was to check my wireless connection stuff, since blankety-blank Vista on my new Lenovo laptop keeps shutting it off. My next action was to talk to the manager and ask how to sign onto the Stephi’s network that did finally show up as a wireless option. The last action was to camp onto the low-bar LinkSys available from the not-so-high-toned-but-obviously-very-with-it deli across the street.

I could have moved. But why? The wine-by-the-glass list is good and reasonably priced. Frei Brothers (Russian river) 2007 Chardonnay, $8. Martin Codax (Spain) Albarino 2007, $8. Macmurray Ranch (Sonoma) Pinot Noir 2006, $11. (Okay, that’s a bit high for recessionary times…but good). L’Oca Ciuca “The Drunken Goose” (Tuscany) Sangiovese Blend, $7.

The booths by the window – open, and it was indeed lovely weather for a BoSox game !—were big enough for a few glasses, a Panini, my papers and my laptop. It was all good. Except for the internet problem. I spoke to the day manager, who was actually a bit huffy that I’d even ask to be given the password to use their network. Something about “what other restaurants do this?” Well, let me tell you, my Beantown Buddy, this is a crux of the East Coast-West Coast divide. And I’m not even a millennial who needs to be connected all the time.

But, that’s why I need an iPhone. So I can visit the less developed countries of the world and continue to do my thing. So, stay tuned. .. or maybe it’s “connected” or “friended” or “followed”, in today’s social media jargon?

And okay, just to keep the record straight, it WAS my son’s fault. And it is my motherly duty to tell him so.

HAPPY EASTER, GUT YONTIF, and take time to smell the flowers and sip the wine.

Interested in Social Media? Better get on Mashable’s list!

Social media is not “exactly” free; there is a time-cost. How do you decide where to put your social media time-budget? It’s hard to remember how I got turned on to Mashable last month, but it has improved my Social Media IQ faster than a Kaplan course. How rapidly is Twitter growing? What about Facebook? What are the important elements of an authentic website that attracts Millennials? It’s all on Mashable … if you can handle the several-daily email feeds. My heartfelt suggestion for wine marketers: learn how to handle it.

It's easy to get a swamped feeling from the FeedBlitz frequency of Mashable articles. But don't. Just let the Mashable feeds sit in your inbox until you need a break. (A midday bowl of breakfast cereal -- that healthy lunch-on-the-run-at the-desk -- goes well with Mashable, for example). At the very least, a quick scan of Mashable first-paragraphs will keep you current.

I predict that there will be a Social Media Trivia game emerging soon, and I intend to be a contestant. I know now that Twitter grew 1382% annually, and just in February-March alone, 76.8%. Check it out. That’s the kind of information that Mashable accumulates, and it’s a very useful guide to the solid facts of social networking.

The info on Mashable is good, and it’s also readable. Short articles. Disciplined sentences (we could all learn from that!). Articles like “5 Essential Traits for Community Managers” with great tips from author Stuart Foster like “The ability to be yourself in print, on Twitter, and via other types of communication is extremely important”. And the article on Tweefind and its ways to rank Twitter users. And oh ecstasy, the resources on their Facebook Week event! Be selective, and you’ll find Mashable to be a valuable resource.

p.s. Since this is all pretty new to me, I subscribe via e-mail feeds. It's easy to do.

GOING SOLAR: GuestBlogger from Flora Springs enthuses,"We went live with solar power in December 2007, and haven’t looked back".

Sean Garvey writes: "As part of the third-generation team that’s been working to take our family-run winery into the future while maintaining the artisan winemaking legacy created by our parents and grandparents at Flora Springs, the addition of solar power to our winemaking facility enhances our well-being as a business as well as our values and mission. My cousin, Flora Springs General Manager Nat Komes, and I are earth-conscious kids, and we were eager to make our winery as green as possible.

In 2005 we began the process for organic certification in our 650 acres of vineyards in the Napa Valley (22% of our vineyards are now certified organic by the CCOF, and more acres are added each year). Solar power seemed like an obvious next step.

We faced a few challenges, however. The first was convincing the rest of our family: we’re accountable to our entire family, who serve as shareholders in our winery, and going solar requires a large capital commitment. Our mission as a winery has always been to respect and understand tradition but strive to push beyond and fortunately we all share in this belief. The prospect that the green benefits would also help us to save money in the long run only made our decision easier.

Next, we faced logistical issues. Our Napa Valley winery is located against the western slopes of the Mayacama mountain range, on a steep hillside bordering Rutherford and St. Helena. The stone building that houses all of our red wine production was constructed by the Rennie brothers in the 1880s, and we didn’t want to touch their historic structure. Other buildings on the property are well-shaded, and there’s no way we were going to move our ancient oak trees.

My uncle John, Flora Springs’ President, decided to contract Novato-based iPower to install our solar panels. iPower’s architecturally-trained designers and full time engineers came up with a plan to place the solar panels on the hillside behind our winery, and to mount them on a custom-designed structure that doubles as a storage and shade area.

We went live with solar power in December 2007, and haven’t looked back. The panels take up approximately 6,500 square feet, and generate about 100,000 kWh annually, which covers all of the energy needed for our offices and red wine production. Our solar panels, while large, are out of sight—we know they’re there, but most visitors do not.

The marketing benefits may seem obvious, but we don’t want that to overshadow our main focus, which is making great artisan wine. The feel-good benefits are also clear: it was natural for us as a family-run business to see our actions as part of something larger that will positively affect both our family and our community for generations to come."

GUEST BLOGGER Sean Garvey is a Third-Generation vintner. He's also Director of Communications & Production for Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards in St. Helena, California

Wine Snobs Don’t Necessarily Keep a Wine Bar in Business

I pitied the wine bar proprietor when my Haahvaaard friend took him to task for his wine list, after the jazz band finished. “Look,” she said, “I’m a wine snob, and if you really want to appeal to the NPR market, you’ve got to do better than this.” Sadly, she missed the point – the wine bar owner had upscaled the EXPERIENCE, and that’s good business anytime.

Like many wine bars in recession-challenged cities like San Francisco, Café Royale (Leavenworth @ Post) has reformatted and reformatted again. Owner Les Cowan has put together an incredible list of events: live music many nights, always Jazz (no cover charge) from 6-8 p.m. Sundays, comedy acts, artists’ receptions. Something for everyone!

Last Sunday, the Gregory James Quartet was playing mellow jazz. My friend knew the girlfriend of the lead guitarist – that‘s why she was there. Join us, was the text message. And so, I did. It was great until those well-toned taste buds spoke up. Not mine – hers.

I’m not a wine snob. I’m a wine fan. I’m also a proponent of this great American (and worldwide) business of wine, and my taste buds are obviously not up to Harvard snuff (although my student loans were…). But I liked Les’ list. Good tasty wines at wine-by-the-glass prices that keeps the place open, and accessible to a local clientele. And those regular locals are the folks who keep a wine bar in business.

Café Royale’s list features a respectable 20-or-so wines. It is varied and affordable. In the reds, a Torres Tempranillo 2004 is $9/glass, $34/bottle. Monte Vina Zinfandel 2003 at 8/30. In whites, a Benvolio Pinot Grigio 2006, 8/26. Norton Torrontes 2005, 8/30. Jekkel Gewurtz 2005, 8/30. And to tickle the sweet tooth, Warre’s Optima tawny port 10 year, $10 a glass.

Check it out. Oh, and check the wine-snobbism at the door when you enter. Put on your party hat and tip it a bit for the wine bar owners who make it possible for us commoners to enjoy art, performance and music with a nice glass of wine in our hands.

Snarky Comments: Who Needs 'Em?

First, a rant: I don't care if Story Inn or Hoosier Inn or BedMeDown Inn makes a profit on a wine event. What I care about is that consumers are exposed to a variety of wines in an atmosphere of education, fun, and responsible monitoring of consumption. What we all care about in this business is that it KEEPS GROWING. Or, that's what we should care about.

Blogging is a serious communication form for us "citizen bloggers", as OWC calls us. It's also one of the most important pathways to the new marketing paradigm that's lumped in with the ubiquitous moniker Social Media. So when I get a snarky comment, I feel like I'm entitled to hit the delete button on the "moderate" (aka approve or disapprove its publication) blogspot tab.

Last week, for the first time, I disapproved my first snarky comment. It was what I considered parochial, mean-spirited, and not in the best interest of the growth of the wine industry.

The comment was made about the upcoming Indiana Wine Fair, to be held in two weeks at Story Inn. Something about how it was misleading to call it an all-Indiana wine event. Something about how the owner of the Story Inn might make some profit from this event. Something that was ... fitting for a cat fight in a high school girls' bathroom. That kind of snarky comment.

Oh, I've been called a PollyAnna more than once. I despise territoriality and corporate politics; that's why I left Corporate America early-on. I adore people who have passion, are willing to work hard on a project, aren't afraid to get down on the farm and put dirt under their nails, and who take the risk of promoting a cause that may or may not pay off.

That's what the organizers of the Wine Fair at the Story Inn have done: all of those things above that I adore. And if they make a profit some day, well, that's the American Way.

Any other questions or comments?

If they are constructive and bring something to the party and are in the best interest of growing this industry, they get posted. If they are snarky, then ... not.

Hmmmm, I think this is referred to as a "publication policy". Gosh, that is so old-media. So be it.

Wine 2.0 – An Irreverent Review

Wine 2.0, a massive San Francisco event at CrushPad on the eve of April 2, left me a bit confused. Overall I’m not convinced that social media is really conducive to a social event. There were heavy overtones of a serious wine event, fraught with New World technologies (social media) and Old World wine snobbery. For that essential wine event light touch… well, a little levity was hard to find. One fun gem, tucked away in a corner, was a little orange book in a jam jar: the JarGon. Billed as “the ultimate conversation piece” and produced by very clever folks at The Imagineering Company LLC, it is a small small book covering a big big subject: the buzzwords of wine. My personal favorite? “Reserve: A term with no real legal meaning in the U.S. It implies that the wine is from the better part of the production; but it’s not.”

Seriously, folks, the event was spectacularly well organized, with huge screens RSS-feeding both real-time Tweets and comments on other social media sites. You-tube videos and more serious wine TV episodes were being recorded every way you turned. Wineries poured from approachable high round cocktail tables instead of the usual stand-behind-the-barricades-and-fend-off-the-ruffians trade show tables. The place was packed.

And there were some serious wines and some fun-loving winemakers. As always telling a good story, Jeff Stai, “El Jefe” at Twisted Oak Winery (Murphys, CA) reached behind the bottles of Spaniard and did some barrel samples of 2007 Torcido (a Grenache) and 2007 River of Skulls (a Mourvèdre). Among my favorites of their products is the rubber chicken-original recipe, which notes that debauchery is sold separately. Jeez, I thought it was all just part of the wine tasting scene.

Tearing myself away from the prospect of body-damaging fun was difficult, but there were lots of diversions. On the more serious side was the chat with Nick Buttitta, of Rosa d’Oro (Kelseyville/Lake County, CA). Rosa D’Oro specializes in Italian varietal wines, and their Primitivo was as complex and spicy as an Italian Zinfandel should be. Hard at work pouring, Nick’s son Pietro Buttitta exemplifies all that’s good about family owned wineries: intensity, passion, belief.

I could go on and on. But it’s late (the event was supposed to end at 10 p.m., but there was no rush for the door then) and … I have some reTweets to do.

Habla Español? Your customers do, notes GuestBlogger

Almost 40 million Spanish-speakers live in the US today, and that number will rise to fifty million by 2015. One third of today’s Hispanic population uses the internet frequently, and the number will rise logarithmically in the future… so why wouldn’t the wine industry, with its growing emphasis on web-based selling and promotion, pursue this segment aggressively? Yet, less than one per cent of U.S. websites offer information in Spanish, and the track record in the wine industry is worse than that. These facts should be an eye-opener to wineries and retailers!

To get ahead of the competitive marketing curve, it makes sense to invest marketing thought, time and dollars into this market so you don’t lose possible sales.

Businesses in the wine industry should recognize that incorporating Spanish into their websites, or better yet, creating a “twin” Spanish-speaking website that mirrors its English language website, will not only increase their sales within U.S. Hispanic consumers, but with other Spanish speakers around the world.

Create Distinct but Related Messages

The variety of cultural and socioeconomic segments within the Spanish market means that the market is not homogenous. This requires that businesses in the wine industry create distinct but related messages to these groups in order for their marketing to be effective. Furthermore, wines that themselves have Spanish or South American roots should logically be marketed in the language of their origin.

Today, 400 million people speak Spanish worldwide. In the next decade the U.S. Hispanic market will be a $1.5 trillion market. Because of the perceived luxuriousness of wine as a retail product (even though for some of us wine is a dinner-table necessity) the wine business has always had an extra challenge in its effort to compete for the Hispanic population’s dollar.

Language-friendly advertising is crucial to overcome consumer resistance.

Today’s current economic environment is creating opportunities for smart winery marketers to get ahead of the curve. NOW is the right time to take advantage of this expanding market. Doing that is not only smart, but necessary.

GUEST BLOGGER Sofia Echeverria K, born in Guatemala, attended Central America's most presitgious college, Universidad Francisco Marroquin, to study law, following in the professional path of her mother, grandmother, aunt and cousins. She finished her studies cum-laude at University of San Francisco in San Francisco, CA., majoring in economics, and entered the social media/marketing business as a designer of customer loyalty programs for a millenial-oriented web-based company. As a consultant, she provides services to wineries, retailers, and service-based companies to assure that their approach to the Hispanic market is correctly targeted and correctly written. Contact her at sofia.keck (at) sellitinspanish.com