Monday, September 5, 2011

Rant: Do We Need Grape Days?

Last Thursday, September 1, was both Cabernet Sauvignon Day as well as Tempranillo Day. Did you raise a glass of either, or maybe both, to celebrate? Or were you one of the ones opposed to such grape days?  Other grapes and wines have had their special days too, and there are more to come this year. For example, October 1 is International Sake Day while October 28 is Champagne Day. But are such days necessary and beneficial, or are they merely marketing ploys?

The basic idea behind such days is to promote a grape or wine, and savvy marketers take the opportunity to highlight and push their products. The first question that comes to my mind is whether the grapes or wines actually need such promotion or not. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon is already a very popular grape so why does it really need its own special day? What does it really accomplish which warrants holding a special day of promotion?

There are plenty of under appreciated grapes and wines, such as Assyrtiko or Sherry, which would benefit much more from their own special day rather than Cabernet. They need the publicity, to boost their sales and recognition.  But many fewer wineries would support days promoting those under appreciated grapes and wines. Cabernet Sauvignon Day can draw in many more wineries, from all over the world. Thus, it is much easier, and profitable, to market Cabernet Day rather than Mencia Day.

I would much rather see days celebrating the wine underdogs, helping to gain them recognition and new fans. I want people to broaden their palates, and taste new grapes and wines. For example, Sake is still vastly under appreciated in the U.S. so having a day that celebrates and promotes it makes sense. Though Sake also does not have a huge marketing effort behind it so Sake Day does not get promoted anywhere close to as much as it should. Did you know Sake Day has existed since 1978? That makes it far older than most, if not all, of these grape and wine days.

We also have to ask who actually knows about all of these special wine days? Who is the target audience? Does the average consumer know anything about Cabernet Day, or is it something known only to wine writers and more hard core wine lovers? I suspect that the general public is largely unaware of such events, unless they happen upon a local tasting. I doubt most know about it ahead of time and make specific plans to celebrate. So it would seem that it is best known to wine lovers who already have an appreciation for the common grapes like Cabernet. So if that is the main audience, then what is the need for such a day? I just don't see it.

Wine lovers though still need exposure to more uncommon grapes and wines, and they are the ones most likely to be experimental and try something new. So, a special day promoting such varietals or wines can have a positive effect, beyond a mere marketing ploy, by enticing wine lovers to step out of their comfort zone and taste something different. And if they are also wine writers, then maybe it will cause them to further promote the grape or wine, which could lead the general public to consider trying it.

So rather than another Chardonnay Day, let us see Xynomavro Day or Madeira Day. What do you think?  


Unknown said...

I participated in our local Ca bernet Day and it was like cheering for the Yankees. They and the grape don't need the extra promotion. However, on a local level, we (wineries)got to meet and greet 70 hardcore fans; the kind of fans that will continue to evangelize for us. Your point about celebrating less known grapes is well taken. You can never rest in the department of re-education if your cause is Madeline Angevine.

elizabethdehoff said...

I think specific days can, like Bradley said, be an opportunity for wineries to bring fans together and forge new connections to customers. They can be simple fun for those of us playing along at home on Twitter. I think you're right, though, that lesser-known grapes should get their due. Perhaps tying a specific day (i.e. Cabernet Day) to a month (California Wine Month is right now, isn't it?) would help.

The problem with hard-to-find grapes and blends is that, well, they're hard to find, so that makes participation difficult for many people, especially those in rural areas or states with wacky wine laws. I would say that when setting up a day to appreciate an obscure grape, one should also set up links to sites where people can buy bottles or have their store special order them.

Rick said...

Do we need varietal days like Cabernet day?  In a word, no.

Do we need holidays like Halloween or Valentine's Day?  Do we need the Kardashians, long walks on the beach or ice cream trucks on sunny days?  Do we need coffee shops on every corner or 12,000 wineries in the world?  Do we need your blog?

We don't need many things.  If you think Cabernet Day is about promoting Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, it's not.  It's about community.  It's about challenging traditional wine media publications to show how we too can reach and influence wine drinkers on a large scale just like they can.  This is new media vs. traditional media.

It's not a marketing ploy as suggested.  It's not about promoting overly oaked California wines.  The very first event was a small effort in Nov. 09 designed to bring grape growers' spirit of collaboration into the digital world.  Farmers have supported each other for centuries, and I believe it's up to us to continue that spirit of working together online.

Here's my rant: why is it the people who should be the biggest supporters of these events are the biggest critics?  Wine bloggers and writers should be proponents of a large engaged wine audience because it's an audience interested in the subject of wine.  Isn't that who your readers are?

We don't need to celebrate one grape for an entire day.  But on September 1st over 5,000 people did.  If you think you can do it better, step up and do it.  I'll support your efforts.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Bradley:
I am sure wineries and wine stores benefited from Cabernet Day, but I agree that supporting less known grapes might have been a better exercise of power.

Hi Elizabeth:
Yes, there would be some difficulties in days for less common grapes, but nothing insurmountable. Helping people find the grapes would be one big step. It would also be more indicative of the power of such days if such lesser known and available grapes can be better disseminated.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Rick:
Thanks for presenting your side on this issue. I do see Cab Day as promoting Cab. It may have other purposes, but at least part of it is promoting Cabernet. If Cabernet Day is not about promoting Cabernet, then why did you choose "Cabernet" for the day? Why not Albarino or Monastrell Day instead?

If it is about community, about challenging traditional wine media, then why select such a popular grape, which the traditional media has covered ad nauseum? Traditional media has failed to provide adequate coverage to so many other grapes, so why not select one of those for their own Day instead? With Cabernet Day, you simply repeat what traditional media has done, offering little, if anything, new.

Even if the first Cabernet Day was an experiment, why continue using the same grape? Move on and support lesser appreciated grapes. Show true power in a more difficult venue. Cabernet is like low hanging fruit, easy to pick.

I am not opposed to the basic idea of grape Days, but I simply don't think popular grapes like Cabernet and Chardonnay should be the center of such Days. My blog often champions lesser known and under appreciated grapes. Bloggers have the power to promote those types of grapes when traditional wine media often gives them meager coverage. Hold a Xynomavro Day and you will get my full support.

I am not a marketer by profession, and probably could not do the same type of job as you. But that has not stopped me from promoting Days for lesser known grapes and alcohols. And I don't recall your support in the past.

For example, I have been discussing and promoting Sake Day since 2008. Sake Day, which began in 1978, is celebrated every year on October 1. I also tried to promote Sherry Day on Dec. 6 last year. Did you participate in any of those Days?

You have proven you can successfully promote a Day for a very popular grape like Cabernet. But can you do the same for an under appreciated grape?

Rick said...

Glad you posted this, Richard because this is a topic worth delving into.

From a macro view I'd say the varietal "day" concept needs an overhaul. Too many people are taking my concept and not doing it right, which is in turn watering it down. I don't mind when people use my idea, but I never get an invitation to help or even be a participant.

From a micro view each of my events are an elastic network that shares a common "mechanism" or application to social media. This mechanism can be applied to just about anything.

To your point, I did go with Cabernet last year because it was low hanging fruit and an easier grape to prove the concept. Going forward my long term vision was to build momentum and widen the scope to cover other adult beverages, regions or topics.

In December I've been thinking of an event that covers any grape under the idea of "your favorite holiday beverage" but the hash tag hasn't come to me yet. That would open it up to any beverage for any holiday that the community wants to present was their favorite to share with friends. If you have ideas on this concept, I'd like to hear them.

This year, I spent much of my Cab day effort on Chinon, Cab Franc from CO and Mexican Cab based wines. It's not just about Cab Sauv. From what I've read, many people discovered something new on Sept. 1st which is part of what it's all about, wouldn't you say?


Larry the Wine Guy said...

Unless you want to merely use the public as a tool to promote your own wines, of course you do Cabernet Day. That's what people like. You can, down the road, do Teroldego Day or Petit Verdot Day, but getting people more excited about wine is exactly what these events are about.

Rick Bakas has it exactly right. We don't "need" Valentine's Day or Kim Kardashian. (He's wrong, though, about ice cream trucks. We do need those!)

But these events are fun for people. Educating people about other varieties is good, but is less important. Getting people excited about the wines they like may get them on their own to try other wines. And if not, so be it. Wine is for the People! Not for the Marketers!

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Rick:
I look forward then to your future efforts to see what develops. Though honestly, the "holiday" beverage theme doesn't excite much either. Though it is probably a step up from a Cabernet Day. Holiday wine recommendation posts are rampant, including in the print media. So it is not as much an original idea, although such a theme could involve more esoteric grapes and wines.

Maybe you could twist the theme a bit, "wines you would gift a wine lover which the recipient is unlikely to have ever tasted before."

I am pleased that you devoted your Cabernet efforts to a bit more offbeat Cabs.

Do you have a breakdown on the 5000 people who participated? How many of those are in the wine industry? How many were just average consumers, without any connection to the wine world?


Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Larry,
Do you know the makeup and demographics of those who participated in Cabernet Day? Are average consumers getting involved in significant numbers, or is this a Day that attracts existing wine lovers? If they are already wine lovers, then they are already excited about wine. So why not excite them about grapes new to them, rather than the same old ones?