The Evolution of Wine Branding

I posted this short essay on my work intranet today, randomly inspired and feeling a little wistful of my days studying media and communications back in University. I haven’t blogged in so long (sorry, to anyone out there who’s still reading!), I thought I’d share it here:

Interesting read about the evolution of wine branding!

I’ve tasted many of the quoted examples, some of which are curriculum WSET wines I have to pour for educational purposes. What are your thoughts on tongue-in-cheek labels?

To me, it seems, new-school mainstream wine brands are becoming less about tangible items (physical animals, buildings, totems) with internal symbolism to be deciphered or be attributed individual meaning by the consumer.

Rather, brand imagery is moving more toward literal, spelled-out representations of mood-driven, emotional concepts meant to quickly convey a trope or state of mind. Newest-wave wine brands are essentially capturing the spirit of their target consumer by becoming their own memes. White Girl Rosé, anyone?


(Photo of Josh Ostrovsky AKA @thefatjewish – owner and face of the White Girl Rosé brand. Photo credit: NY Daily News)

In today’s hyper-speed consumer’s world where one must get the message across in 0.01s, the brand itself is assuming the traditional role of advertising. Consumers are now the new advertisers because we now can and do a better job of spreading the word on our own.

We are far better able today, globally, to have an equal and mutual understanding of societal trends because oversharing and condensing information into the smallest nugget possible is the new norm. (For where is the fun to be had in emailing or phoning people in groups or individually, versus telling the world something quickly via text message, tweet/Vine, Instagram, or Snapchat? Moreover, why reiterate an idea using one’s own words, when one can simply regram and retweet?)

Verily, we, and technology, can process a lot more information in shorter times than ever before. We are now able to pack so much more meaning into so few words because we’ve collectively seen and heard, and most importantly, agreed on, the news happening around the world. (The dress was blue and brown!)

Even in the retail world – ideas that were internal and needed explaining to the consumer – we’ve caught on so fast that BOGO is no longer a foreign concept to us.

With regard to this article, it would seem the beverage alcohol world is embracing the “meme-ified” approach particularly as Millennials (who are straddling that divide between modern and postmodern marketing) age and make way for the nascent Generation Z (who are the pulse of new and cool, and embody the driving force behind the quickening pace of social change) to become the next fleet of new drinkers.

Marshall McLuhan’s old chestnut, “the medium is the message” still rings true today. It’s just that marketers must reshape the message to accommodate the new mass media.

Isabel Mondavi Carneros Estate Pinot Noir 2010

Although I’m staying in Toronto this holiday season, I am lucky enough to transport myself to my home of the West Coast through my wine glass almost anytime I like.
This particular cool climate Pinot Noir is deliciously fruity, flirty, and flavourful to keep me optimistic through the cold winter nights – a great wine to welcome the winter solstice and the end of days seemingly shorter than a Super Bowl commercial break.
Medium-bodied, with flavours of cherry flesh, cherry skins, soft red plums, soft tannins and just enough verve to beg for a food pairing (mine was pizza, but I’m sure you can think of something more inspired) – this could totally be approached seriously, but is better enjoyed as a happy, sunny wine. Think “sexy librarian on vacation” and you’ll get pretty close to what this Pinot exudes.
Happy holidays to anyone who’s reading, and best wishes for a glorious 2015!


Bubble Up

Ever tried to find a universally good wine pairing with charcuterie / salumi / antipasti? Try some premium Lambrusco next time; you won’t be disappointed.

This week I had the opportunity to spend a day with Cleto Chiarli, a quality Lambrusco producer, in the context of my new job of selling wines to restaurants in Toronto – and learned a lot about food & wine pairing and the background of Lambrusco.

During my day with Chiarli, I was able to taste some more serious bottlings that really made me reconsider Lambrusco’s place on a wine list. Any spot with a focused salumi / charcuterie program should certainly try offering a refreshing Lambrusco to enjoy alongside!

What is Lambrusco? It’s both a grape varietal and a type of sparkling wine. Made exclusively in the province of Emilia-Romagna – home to the cities of Modena, Parma and Bologna, as well as the world-famous Italian foodstuffs Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), Prosciutto di Parma (prosciutto ham), Aceto Balsamico di Modena (balsamic vinegar), not to mention the birthplace of lasagne. Lambrusco, understandably, flows like water in its native land and is a fine pairing to all of the aforementioned foods.

You’ve probably seen cheap Lambrusco in liquor stores before. Not much has changed for Lambrusco on the retail scene since it first arrived in Canada in the 60s. Entry-level Lambrusco can be said to be the epitome of “cheap & cheerful”: Usually under $10, semi-sweet, with a bubbly nature which altogether makes it one of the most alcopop-y of wines in the market without actually being an alcopop.

The genre suffered quality and stability issues in the North American export market in the 1970s and 80s, giving it a poor reputation, and is just now experiencing its first revival in progressive, hip restaurants in the gastro-hubs of NYC and Chicago.

Broadly, Lambrusco can be divided into dry and sweet versions, as well as by its clonal variations, the most well known being Lambrusco di Sorbara (pale in colour, resulting in a deep coral, light-bodied wine), Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro (ruby-purple wines of medium body and black fruit flavours) and Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce (deep ruby inky wines with tighter structure and noticeable tannins).

Even the semi-sweet (amabile) types offer lots of acidity and therefore still taste refreshing.

I was lucky enough to have tasted 4 different expressions of Lambrusco this week. Check out my notes and let me know if you agree that these would be fabulous enjoyed with a nice platter of salumi! These particular wines are not yet available in Canada, however watch for them to appear as of late summer.

Pairs well with Lucky Peach!

Pairs well with Lucky Peach!

Cleto Chiarli Brut de Noirs Rosé
85% Grasparossa, 15% Pinot Nero. Declassified from Lambrusco DOC due to its addition of Pinot Noir. Delicate pink carnation colour. Lifted strawberry, unripe watermelon and red raspberry aromas give way to a palate of fine delicate mousse with great finessed texture. Red fruit flavours finish long with a mineral edge.

Cleto Chiarli Premium Vecchia Modena Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC
This is the first and only Lambrusco to date that has won the esteemed Tré Bicchieri (3 cups) award from Italian wine publication Gambero Rosso. Single vineyard. Bright, deep coral in colour. A savoury combination of red berry fruits, rosemary, bay leaf and a hint of balsamic on the nose shows great intensity on the palate. Very quaffable due to its light body and tight bubbles.

Cleto Chiarli Vigneto Cialdini Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC
Single vineyard of 12.5 hectares. Deep purple in colour. A fine delicate mousse carries the nose of deep blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, black liquorice and hint of mineral through to a flavourful, medium-bodied palate with some noticeable and interesting tannins. Long dry finish. Indulgent.

Cleto Chiarli “Centenario” Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Amabile DOC
Semi-sweet style. 8% ABV due to early stoppage of fermentation. Bright, deep magenta in colour with fine creamy mousse. Red raspberry, boysenberry and blackberry flavours mingle with light tannins, creating a juicy & textured wine that finishes dry.

*** DISCLAIMER: These wines were provided to me as samples through my work. I am neither paid nor expected to blog about the wines I sell. All information posted here is purely for personal interest and should not be interpreted as the views of my company. ***