Monday, February 23, 2009

Designer Wine

One can imagine how disgusted I was to walk into a wine retailer in Gramercy to see three bottles of Ed Hardy wine lined up on his desk - a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Chardonnay and a rosé. I looked at him, he looked at me, we both sighed in disgust.  He said he bought it as a favor to one of the wine reps that services his shop, and after the guy walked out the door, he immediately regretted it.  They don the ubiquitous Ed Hardy signature and each features the now iconic tattoo-esque graphics that this designer has made popular on T-Shirts and trucker hats.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the tattoes, but on cheap wine?  Is this really a help to the brand? 

Well, I suppose in a way it is, because the bottles are just one more place for the logo and images to find exposure, and the wine is, as I said, very value priced, so more of it will find its way into the market than Diesel's Italian line of wines, released about four years ago.  These debuted in the portfolio tasting of a chic wine importer that was held at a Vespa showroom in SoHo.  Unlike the Ed Hardy wines, and much like their jeans, the Diesel bottlings were not for priced the people, with wholesale prices upwards of $500.00 for a six pack case of Chardonnay (packaged in an obviously 
expensive bottle and shipped in wood, both brandished with the Diesel logo we all know and love).  You might find them somewhere for a whopping $85.00 or more per bottle.  Serious retailers who buy at this level would think thrice before locking up that much cash in inventory that might sell to an unabashed fashionista or a loveless brand collector, but would more likely die a lonely death on the shelves.  The Ed Hardy wines look wholly unappetizing at first glance, but are likely to sell at under $20.00 a bottle on the strength of brand recognition.  
Diesel Wine in LondonWine from Diesel Farm

Wine and fashion have been wanting to get into bed for ages, but it hasn't been as easy a task as it would seem.  There are rules to fashion and rules to wine, and although those rules can often be flouted, great designers and great winemakers usually feel a natural compulsion to stay true to their respective crafts.  Partnerships have been tried - Ecco Domani, the makers of a not-that-fabulous Pinot Grigio sponsored the shows in Milan 3 years ago.  This was great exposure for the brand, which hit the shelves in New York at around $12.00 a bottle and moved brisquely through the market for the next year thereafter.  Last Spring, Vibrant Rioja, the marketing group for the northern Spanish wine region, was the official sponsor at the tents in Bryant Park.  At the time, my friend Lisa was the Program Coordinator, and she created a great campaign that splashed the Vibrant Rioja logo all over the park and the city, complete with promotions and tastings throughout the month of February.  This Spring?  I can't identify the wine sponsor.  Maybe there was none.  

Do models drink wine?  If many of them are under 21, and a handful drinking age but still under 25, then maybe not - the wine industry does a poor job of targetting young drinkers, who choose ready-to-drink products like Bacardi Mojito and beer, as well as vodka and cocktails over wine for the most part.  Do designers drink wine?  This is a lot more likely, but how large a consumer group is this?  Designers who show at events like Fashion Week can likely afford to indulge in wine at whatever level they like, but this is a small group compared to the many starving artist level designers who probably can't enjoy the best just yet.  Waiting for the breakthrough! 

What about the fashion consumer?  Now here's a group to target.  People who can buy couture, or at least designer label garments and accessories can surely afford to enjoy fine wine, can't they?  Unfortunately, the fact is, these people tend to be very label concious and, outside of the Champagne market, wine is not a label-centric item.  Two sensibilites at loggerheads.  What do you serve at your next fabulous event?  What will impress the judges?  I look for what suits the menu and theme and tastes great, but you may not recognize the names of what I'm pouring.  On the other hand, I'll probably be wearing some very fashion forward frock that I saw in latest BCBG Maxazria lookbook, and be carrying a designer handbag rented from Avelle (the new Bag Borrow or Steal).  The wine and the hostess will both be ultra fabulous! 

My wine glass poll is still open.  Go to the original blog post, or just scroll down and vote now!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Broke and Job Free? Go to a wine tasting!

If you still have your job, or you were bold enough at some point to follow your inspiration and own your own viable business, chances are you know someone who's out of work - its that bad right now.  And I know that money is tight, and many of you find it frivilous to spend money on anything other than food, rent and your next mani/pedi (gotta look good for interviews!).  Nonetheless, I say, when times are tough, go to a wine tasting. 

A wine tasting can take on various forms.  It can be an elaborate dinner of three or more courses with a winemaker flown in from Bordeaux/Napa/Barossa to talk about the most recent vintages of their latest, greatest, impossible-to-afford cult classic that you never heard of before you spent $150.00 for your ticket to this event.  You can go to a class, sit down in front of a paper placemat where six glasses sit atop six labeled circles and the guy next to you whispers sweet tasting notes in your ear the whole time (whether you want him to or not) because he knows it all.  Or you can go to your local wine retailer on a Friday or Saturday evening between 4:00 and 8:00 pm and see who's standing there with plastic cups and open bottles - these latter incarnations of the wine tasting are free.  

Now, you know I would not be your favorite wine snob if I didn't plug my own wine group, Women for WineSense, and mention the fact that they hold tastings all year long in 15 chapters nationwide (including NYC) and that most of these events cost less than $50.00 a ticket.  (The New York City chapter is charging less than $40.00 for all of its 2009 events - the next one is February 24th at Moore Brothers Wine Company)  But here's my point: for $40 you can either buy yourself 3-5 bottles of deliciously inexpensive vino to enjoy in the privacy of your own home while you wait for responses to the 50 resumes you sent out to Craigslist postings this month, or you can take that $40, and GO TO A TASTING EVENT NEAR YOU!  

Because we all know it aint what you know, its who you know, and who you know right now is not helping you find whatever opportunity you are looking for, so it might behoove you to go meet some new people.  Tastings at this price tend to be more informal events, where you mingle and chat while you sample various wines.  The other great thing about these tastings is that you will probably either 
a. taste more wine than you could have bought with the money you spent on your ticket or 
b. taste more expensive wine than you could have bought with the money you spent for your ticket 
OR (this thought makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside) BOTH!

Plus, you can spend time chatting and mingling, talking about what makes you so great and what you're looking for out of life this year, and who knows?  You might meet your next employer/investor/friend/date.  Imagine that?  Meeting someone through networking!  Who'd uh thunk it??

OK.  Let's review: 
Wine dinners are great, but probably too expensive for many.  
Classroom style tastings can vary in price, but are not generally conducive to mingling and networking. 
In store tastings are good if you happen to be in the store at the time by chance, but I wouldn't mark these on my calendar. 
Informal tastings - especially Women for WineSense ones - are just what the doctor ordered in these here times.  

Tip of the week: 
When buying inexpensive wines, I like to employ a few tactics to make sure I get the most for my dollar, because even a small amount of money spent on bad wine is wasted!
1. White wines under $20 a bottle, especially those under $10, should be from a vintage within the last two or so years - steer clear of anything in this price range that is older than 2007.  They tend to lose their acidity and fruit, and are probably that cheap because the distributor and retailer want to get rid of them to make way for a more recent (possibly more expensive) vintage.  
2. My best experiences with reds under $10 have been with wines from Southern France - (AOC Languedoc and Vins de Pays), California Cabernets and Australian and South African Shiraz.  You can find surprisingly pleasing wines under $10 in these categories, but understand that they are likely to be straightforward, possibly slightly unbalanced wines, because you are getting what you are paying for.  Still, they aren't bad in most cases. 
3. Leave that Beaujolais Nouveau alone!  At this time of year (February) it aint Nouveau anymore!  
4. Pinot Noir below $20 is average at best.  Don't do it to yourself!  

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What if wine is allowed into New York Supermarkets?

A fellow Women for WineSense member recently updated her Facebook status to "is glad she does not own a liquor store in New York State."  She directed you to to sign a petition to oppose the legalization of wine in grocery stores.   

Last Store on Main Street, a group of liquor and wine retailers, argue that jobs will be lost because liquor stores will be forced to close and that teenagers will have more access to alcohol.  

New York's industry is made up of two types of alcohol retailer - the liquor store and the wine shop (though they are all classified as liquor stores by the SLA).  A lot of these used the strategy of opening up near a supermarket, so as to create a symbiotic business relationship.  At this point, they can 
a. canibalize themselves - the supermarket can pick up wine to compete with the liquor store 
b. continue the symbiosis - The two stores can balance their product offerings to compliment eachother.   

Alternatively, there are wine shops, who carry wines from smaller producers that don't get representation in large supermarkets because they do not produce enough to supply the Costcos and Trader Joe's sized markets.  These, and the ones that are not near supermarkets, but instead have a small grocer close by.  The inherent symbiosis is that large supermarkets don't want to deal with small production wines, just as smaller grocers won't choose to tie up more money in inventory and overcoming a learning curve.  

OK, I admit it,  I relish the thought of  wine shops selling food!  The kinds of people who own wine shops can put the same attention into fine cheeses, charcurerie, chocolates preserves as we do into selecting fine wines from small producers.  That means more business for small, local cheese makers, farmers and artisan chefs and small wine companies.  We'll probably leave the produce, milk and eggs in the grocery's hands - why would we want to get into that? 

My local grocer, Charmar Superette, boasts an impressive selection of beers, fresh bread every day and a pretty decent deli case.  It's great having a market like that in the neighborhood complimented by a wine shop that has possibly a few more expensive artisan cheeses and boutique chocolates.  

And as for teenagers having more access to wine through supermarkets, thereby increasing the posibility of teen drunk driving?  Like Murray asked Bret "What's your reasoning?"  The law is clear: we card anyone who looks younger than 21.  

All I'm saying is, this could actually be a good thing for all retailers, distributors large and small, and most importantly, customers and neighborhoods.  

Where do you stand? Take my poll!  I will share this post and the results of the poll with selected elected officials.  They should know what the people think.