Eight out of ten cats…

Guest blogger Phil Reedman MW on building the Marlborough brand

Phil Reedman: Marlborough's unique proposition is not necessarily what's inside a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.


At this year’s Romeo Bragato Conference in Blenheim, Phil Reedman and Brian Bicknell (Mahi) presented a thought-provoking workshop and tasting on South American wines, alerting attendees to the potential impact that exports from this region may soon have on overseas sales of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

In Phil’s words, producers from Argentina and Chile are “parking their tanks on Marlborough’s doorstep.” Not one to mince words, is our Phil. Back home, he summed up the reaction of workshop participants in this post, which he’s kindly made available to Vino Vitis. Do check out Phil’s blog – it’s always well worth reading.

Eight out of ten cats…

It is a truism of marketing that the route to profitability lies in locking in the consumer to your product. Allow them a plausible alternative product and profitability inevitably falls off; keep the consumer engaged and profits flow.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi are, on the face of it, plausibly interchangeable products, but each brand has locked in consumers who ignore the rational offer of a substitute. Instead, they faithfully stick to their brand of choice. One has only to see the fierce loyalty and rivalry in Australia between Ford and Holden to recognise the cash value that emotion, not function, can deliver.

So where does this take us with wine? Marlborough put New World Sauvignon Blanc on the world’s palate, introducing a generation of drinkers to the variety and its flavours as expressed in this seemingly unique terroir. New Zealand had a great run, and international businesses, attracted by the river of gold flowing down the Wairau Valley, moved in.

International competitors set forth to produce their own Sauvignon Blanc in the Marlborough style. Casablanca in Chile, Lenswood in the Adelaide Hills, even the Loire Valley in France got in on the act, but what they made wasn’t labelled Marlborough and that seemed to be their Achilles’ Heel (although one French producer cheekily named their wine “Kiwi Cuvee” to ensure that no one needed to guess at the style). As fast as Marlborough could plant it, UK drinkers would drink it. For many years, New Zealand’s drinkers had to make do with Australian Sauvignon Blanc shipped in to substitute for the local product – which had been exported. The market was Marlborough’s for the taking; Marlborough was convinced that it had a unique proposition. But what if it didn’t, what if they were wrong?

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Courage! I have shown it for years; think you I shall lose it at the moment when my sufferings are to end?


It has been many months since my last post – perhaps the most serious crime that can be committed by a blogger.

I have written s0 many times about the cardinal importance of frequency for websites that I have little to offer in my own defence. Let me just say that, unlike Marie Antoinette, I have not been eating cake or playing at being a shepherdess.

Rather, an all-consuming assignment took me far, far away from more pleasurable pastimes. Somewhere in January, I came face to face with my deadline and, since then – well, let’s just say that life has not been a Bal à Versailles.

Now that the project is wrapping up, I do see the error of my ways. No postings, at all. Rien. It will take some time to correct this sad state of affairs. For my silence, I d0 apologise.

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Time for London & Lord’s

Key destinations for a marketing recce while you’re in Old Blighty

Talking to Phil Reedman MW last week, and he reminded me that the annual London New Zealand Trade Tasting is just around the corner (Tuesday, 24 January, at Lord’s Cricket Ground, to be exact).

With more than 600 wines on 60 tables, the event promises a superlative tasting opportunity, with four themed self-pour tables plus master classes on the development of Kiwi Grüner Veltliner and regionality in our Pinot Noir.

So, for some of us, London beckons, and in addition to long hours manning the stands, it’s time to meet the media, your importer and your trade customers. But, as Phil point outs, there’s more to a London whistle-stop than that – it’s also time for a spot of retail therapy and marketing reconnaissance.

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Wine makes us happy

Happy New Year one and all!

Henri Cartier-Bresson's wonderful "Rue Mouffetard," taken in Paris, 1954.

The headline for today’s post may be “a truth universally acknowledged,” and yet, for those of us who work in the wine industry, one that is sometimes overlooked.

I thought I would kick off the New Year with a lovely photographic reminder of wine’s ability to cheer us up – a point we may need to revisit in the months ahead.

Although he is often cited as the father of photojournalism (he was one of the founders of Magnum Agency), Henri Cartier-Bresson is remembered just as often for photographs that appear to report nothing at all beyond a fleeting moment.

“The photograph itself doesn’t interest me,” he once said. “I want only to capture a minute part of reality.”

Perhaps not surprisingly (given the man’s quintessentially French nature), wine features in many of the images for which he is best remembered – especially those conjuring moments of ephemeral happiness.

I suspect such moments are behind each and every one of our decisions to enter the world of wine. And I, for one, have made a New Year’s resolution to aim for happiness whenever possible – in the midst of good company, enjoying the beautiful wines of New Zealand.

"Sunday on the banks of the River Marne, 1938."

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Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Happy holidays!

Like many freelancers, I find the week before Christmas to be one of the busiest of the year – the silly season finds me silly with commitments! That’s partly why I’m signing off now for the holidays, but I did want to leave you, my faithful readers, with a little treat – along with my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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Creating wine legends

The Slim Dusty school of marketing

Cracking an export market has never been easy, as guest blogger Phil Reedman MW eloquently pointed out in last week’s post. It involves shoe leather, flesh pressing and (at least) an annual sales trip.

But Australia – and New Zealand in turn – achieved incredible success in their early forays into the United Kingdom’s ginormous wine market. Their collective stroke of genius, as Phil put it, “was in creating consumer demand by providing countless opportunities for wine drinkers to taste the wines.”

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Export – it ain’t easy

Guest blogger Phil Reedman MW presents a call to arms

Phil Reedman MW: Australia’s stroke of genius was in creating consumer demand by providing countless opportunities for wine drinkers to taste the wines.

Please welcome Phil Reedman MW as my inaugural guest blogger at Vino Vitis. Phil has spent more than 25 years working in the wine industry, including nine years as Senior Wine Product Development Manager for UK retailer Tesco, covering Australia, New Zealand, the United States and South America (although I’ve never understood how that could possibly be considered one territory).

His career has covered just about every facet of wine from vine to glass: today, from his home base in Adelaide, Phil provides a wide range of services to wineries and retailers, with an emphasis on long-term sustainable business solutions. You’ll want to bookmark his entertaining and informative blog – taking special note of his recent post regarding the Chilean wine industry.

Not long ago, Phil was invited to present the keynote speech at this year’s awards luncheon convened by the Adelaide Wine Press Club. What follows is a transcript of his remarks, to which Phil has added a postscript focusing on New Zealand wine. We’re looking forward to a lively exchange in the “Comments” section.

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Homegrown, at Neudorf

The power of narrative: part four

In the digital arena, it’s not that easy to find stories chronicling the genesis of small New Zealand wineries – or at least, to find stories that engage and delight the reader while providing an authentic point of difference for the brand. Too often, the content on an “About Us” page appears to have been generated from a template – different names can be slotted in but the descriptions remain more or less the same.

I’ve already profiled two wineries that have recognised the power of a good foundation story and made theirs a focal point in online marketing and communications: Mirabeau Wine (in Provence) and Clonakilla (north of Canberra). But what about New Zealand?

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Clonakilla counts its blessings

The power of narrative: part three

I’m continuing an exploration of the “founder’s story” and its role in wine marketing, so if you’re landing here for the first time, you may want to visit previous posts on the topic – here and here.

One of the most inspiring winery foundation stories I’ve ever heard is told by Tim Kirk, the winemaker and CEO at Clonakilla Vineyard in Murrumbateman (north of Canberra). If you’ve heard Tim speak, you will have heard this tale, which details a moment when his life dramatically changed course – a moment for which those of us lucky enough to have enjoyed Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier give thanks.

Fortunately, the company’s website presents a lovely summary of this tale in the history section entitled “Story” (usually, the very first place I click on a new website).

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Sacré bleu, it’s Mirabeau!

The power of narrative: part two

In my last post, I promised to unearth a few compelling stories that successfully chronicle the genesis of a winery. Sadly, they’re not that easy to find – especially on winery websites, which is where they should be, front and centre.

Instead, most sites offer an “About Us” page that – if you’re lucky – provides a few names, along with the sort of dusty biographical detail one might find in a “Who’s Who” entry. It’s worth remembering that visitors to your website are there because they want to discover much, much more about you and your wines – more info, more stories, more photos. And one of the first things someone who’s interested in your wines will want to know is how it all began.

I should probably preface this post by noting that good wines are a prerequisite – the marketing is there in a supporting role. But New Zealand has many great artisanal wine producers whose websites do them an injustice by presenting the sort of generic story that might apply to almost any winery anywhere.

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