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  Editorial Issue 94, March 2011   
It is the Bottle Making the WineIt is the Bottle Making the Wine  Contents 
Issue 93, February 2011 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 95, April 2011

It is the Bottle Making the Wine


 Sometime ago I had the chance, just like many other times, to visit a winery and to engage the owner in conversation on the wine, the way he makes it, about wine making and viticultural choices, the way he commercializes the fruits of the vineyard. It is always very interesting to visit wineries - and in particular vineyards - to watch the soil, to enjoy the view and how the vine expresses itself in that specific context. We talk about territory, to understand it before meeting it in the glass, of the relationship between the producer and his land and grapes, of the vision about making wine. Very interesting and amazing subjects indeed, full of the passion of a job and an ancient culture renewing with the arrive of every new season. We taste wine, drawing young wine off from tanks and casks, sometimes a baby wine, immature and unripe however full of wonderful promises. We uncork bottles, filling one glass after another, talking, smelling, talking and discussing, expressing opinions and ideas, all around wine, that wine.


 

 A subject strictly connected to wine, at least for the ones who make it and made a business of it - which legitimately requires to earn profits - is commercialization. We talk about prices, they ask opinions about the price one is willing to pay for that or the other bottle. We also talk about how positioning a wine in the market and how to communicate that wine to consumers. Once wrongly considered as a marginal factor by many, today even small and modest producers understand the fundamental strategy of communication in order to be successful. And communication is not about what you write in promotional materials, in promotional brochures and folders or labels, in other words, the kind of clothes you choose for dressing up a wine. It seems a marginal factor, nevertheless, it most of the times determines the success of the work of a whole year.

 After some bottles, this producer shows me what is considered among the most representative wines he makes: uncorks the bottle and pours some of the content on my glass. I watch the glass, I smell it and then I taste it, continuously observed by the producer who tries to catch my reactions and my movements in order to understand my opinion about the wine. «So, what do you think about this wine?» he asks me. «Very good, like always. Here the 2006 gives an even more charming elegance», is my answer. He proudly smiles and soon after he becomes serious again: «Well, as opposed to the past, this year I am having a lot of problems in selling this wine». Maybe it is because of the crisis of these years - I think - or maybe he changed his distributor and maybe he is not as good as the previous one. He confirms crisis does not help at all and the distributor did not change as well. He confesses he changed the bottle, a need in consequence of the renewal of the bottling line.

 Some may probably think this producers began to bottle his very good wine in bottles with a screwcap or other alternative closures, therefore abandoning cork. This is not the case: the cork is still there. What has changed is the type of bottle. This wine has been bottled for many years in a “Bordelais” bottle, the one technically defined as tall and distinguished from the “regular Bordelais” for being taller of about two centimeters and, generally, having a thicker glass. For the rest, nothing has changed at all: same label, same cork, same capsule, same price. «How could it be possible bottling a wine to a regular Bordelais bottle has caused a drop in sales?» - I ask him - «there must certainly be more than this». The producer sadly shrugs his shoulders and says this is what happened and what his distributor told him, these were the impressions of clients, restaurateurs and wine shops.

 Popular wisdom reminds us that “you don't not judge the book by its cover”, nevertheless in this case seems the cover has made the book. We certainly live in quite “bizarre” times, our society has given appearance an exaggerated and exasperated value, by tragically eliminating merit. And this is true for wine too, there is no doubt about it. By seeing a tall and impressive bottle you think about a wine of better quality; a shorter bottle makes you think about lesser wine and or lesser value. After all, not even to mention, it is what the producer put in the bottle to make a wine great, not how the bottle looks like. What happened to this producer is not however a singular case. I heard many times the regrets of producers who experienced a drop in sales after having changed an aesthetical or functional detail of the bottle.

 Of course similar changes do not always mean a substantial negative change in sales, but it is however interesting to notice this kind of reaction in consumers. For the sake of truth, there also are producers who had an increase in sales of a wine, even in a significant way, after having changed the label or the bottle. Whereas it is understandable the change of the label may be cause of confusion in consumers, the height of a bottle - not its shape - should be less confusing. Changing a detail in the “dress” of a specific wine does not confuse or keep faithful consumers away: they buy that wine for the content of the bottle and not for how it was presented in the shelf. It is also true a bottle, by itself, when showed in the shelf of a shop, must compete with all the other ones in order to get the preference of a consumer. And you know, the eye has its ways for getting caught, anyway being attracted only by how a bottle looks like is not a quite good way.

Antonello Biancalana






   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 94, March 2011   
It is the Bottle Making the WineIt is the Bottle Making the Wine  Contents 
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