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LWF: Can wine be 'cool'? Selling Wines Craft Credentials

Published:  03 May, 2016

Harpers took to the stage at the LWF to ask a panel of experts what is the definition of 'craft' - and can it help to boost excitement in the wine industry?

Harpers took to the stage at the LWF to ask a panel of experts what is the definition of 'craft' - and can it help to boost excitement in the wine industry?

Dwindling sales in the wine sector have led many to wonder why wine was left behind in the craft boom which took beer and spirits to new heights - and how wine can catch up.

During Selling Wine's Craft Credentials, Harpers editor Andrew Catchpole asked a panel of experts this question.

One of the main issues affecting the UK, panellists said, was that the UK doesn't have a strong domestic market, thus missing out on the opportunity to tell a "local" story.

Guy Woodward, ex-Editor Decanter, said that Australia is an example of a domestic market that has built up a strong local connection.

He said: "In Australia, wine is cool. Producers talk about them in an informal and irreverent way. It's something to drink with friends. Marketing and failure to tell the story is a big hurdle that winemakers in other countries need to overcome."

Geography and domestic markets aside, most panellists agreed that being able to tell a story is key to building a connection with customers.

Andrew Shaw, of Bibendum-PLB, said: "One recent survey asked people if wine could be cool. Most people said 'no'. One person said 'it doesn't belong under the arches in Hackney', which says a lot. Gin has a story and personality, whereas wine relies too heavily on what's on the label."

However, Frazer Thompson of Chapel Down Wines, said he thinks creating a buzz around wine doesn't have anything to do with marketing.

He said: "We need to start making products that make consumers go 'wow'. Wine conforms to too many norms and producers are too nervous about changing it. We need more zest and passion that says 'we want to change the world'."

Thompson compared this to innovations in the natural wine sector, where wine is made without chemicals and minimum technological intervention in growing grapes and making them into wine.

During the briefing's Q&A session, a member of the audience highlighted the gap between successful beer and spirit marketing campaigns compared to those in the wine trade.

He said: "There's a lot of talk in wine about the terrior but consumers couldn't care less about that. Then you have Stella Artois, which is a swilling larger but has somehow managed to market itself into the biggest selling beer in the UK. The crazy thing is that wine has more emotion than any other drink but the industry just doesn't use it."

Discussion centred around making the sense of place come across through the wine and marketing - but without focusing on confusing details.

Ruth Spivey, of the Wine Car Boot, said: "It should be about what's in the bottle and not what's on the label that counts, but a lot of what people see when they pick up a bottle of wine is baffling."

Guy Woodward added: "It's all about making the place and the message come across and you can do that without ever mentioning terrior and trellises."