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!

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