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This monthly summary highlights the most interesting product launches in April, with a focus on the direction the alcoholic drinks industry is taking in terms of innovative developments.
The battle to win wallets, minds and palates in wine is increasingly fought in the realm of communication rather than through intellectual battles over grape varietals or the relative minerality of eponymous vineyards. Robert Parker’s once sanctified scores and reviews are taking a back seat to the collective voice of social media at the same time that the boomer generation passes the baton to gen X and millennial drinkers irreverently reassessing rituals, positioning, occasions and oenological semantics.
According to Euromonitor International’s latest dataset, still light grape wine retained its relatively healthy trajectory in the key US market, witnessing 1% total volume growth in 2014.But behind such a complacency-inducing figure, there are conflicting forces at play. Craft brews and micro-distillers are not merely cannibalising drinking occasions – they are actively and aggressively pushing wine out of the shelves.The US wine market’s inevitable deceleration should hence not be analysed within the usual binary scale of mature versus emerging market potential. It will, instead, increasingly become a fierce competition over language, design cues and ultimately, new ways of accessing and utilising information that has historically been esoteric, obscure or even downright confusing.
The process has already begun. British retailing behemoth Tesco has only recently announced plans to host a wine tasting with the aim of creating more ‘customer friendly and cutting edge wine descriptors’. Guests will be asked to contribute ‘wine words’ which will be amalgamated to create a word cloud for each of the 100 wines on sale.
From streamlining and adopting a minimalist approach to revisit once obscure labelling to expanding consumption beyond formal occasions – Los Angeles based Wine Rave is trying to introduce wine into high energy environments- fresh approaches are as imperative as they are urgent.
The latest attempt to break the mould comes from Treasury Wine Estates. If flavour profiles are lacking popular semantic references or descriptors, ‘taste strips’ might well provide one of the most straightforward solutions to the problem.
Beringer Vineyards in California is pioneering a try before you buy scheme where consumers can sample three of its wines in supermarkets via “taste strips”. Containing the flavours found in Beringer Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and White Zinfandel, the strips will be available at shelf-mounted self-service “taste stations” at Kroger grocery stores across 20 states. The sealed packets contain a plastic strip coated with non-alcoholic flavouring matching that of each of the three wines.