Isn’t it funny how some people see a multi-grape blend as inferior. Not that I’m absolutely sure it put anyone off our previous Argentine Malbec-Shiraz blend, not consciously anyway, but just last week our new-look red (pictured right) and white under the Tesoro de los Andes label landed into the shop with a great reception from ourselves and customers alike.
What will be interesting to see is how sales compare over the next twelve months for this line. We expect to increase our turnover this year, building on our growth from our first two full years in business, but taking this into account, it is possible to find a relative sales trend that I suspect might point towards two things:
1. Single varietal wines are more popular
2. Our buying decisions are massively influenced by labels
As soon as Mike and I cracked open the first case we said this is going to be a winner. A sub €10, excellent drinking 100% Malbec from Argentina is something people want and we regularly get asked for in so many ways. Our response in the past was “well, yes, but…”, pointing to the Shiraz component in the previous blends. I actually thought the Shiraz element brought a nice dimension to it, but when people go to Argentina for red, they want Malbec and Malbec only.
The second thing we were pleased about was the label. I’ll admit it’s not by a long shot the best label we have, but it’s an improvement over the old one and that can only help. Labels are so important in this business. More than you like to think, a significant part of your buying decision will be made by the packaging. And it can be totally subjective too. One label I love, another person might detest.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s something we have to seriously consider before we buy a container of the stuff. If the label is horrible, we might run the risk of it just sitting there, and we don’t want to be one of those wine merchants bin-ending a load of out-of-date stock in years to come. We wouldn’t put the trust our customers have in us at risk, and we wouldn’t be prepared to have so much cash tied up in stock that’s not going to shift.
There’s only so much hand selling you can do to show that despite the label the wine inside is actually rather good, so if it is an issue we give as much feedback to the producer as possible so they can give their brand the best possible chance against the multitude of other choices on offer. Someone must have listened to us as we grumbled about Tesoro de los Andes.
Briefly back to the blend issue, it is fair to say some grape varieties are more synonymous with certain countries than others. Malbec is synonymous with Argentina, and more specifically with Mendoza, so why mess with it? And some may have more of an appeal as part of a blend rather than solo, and indeed may work better in a blend, compensating for the partners lack of whatever.
A final change to note under the Tesoro brand is the sourcing of Torrontés and Chardonnay grapes for their white blend. The fruit for the ’09 came solely from Mendoza, whereas the new-look 2010 is sourced from the hotter, drier San Juan region. Tasting confirms the quality has not been affected. Still classy stuff.
Tesoro de los Andes red & white are both on offer (€7.50 per bottle) until the end of February.
Just speaking for myself … if a wine is blended that’s fine but if the two (or more) grapes are mentioned in big writing on the front there is an association in my mind between that and low quality, whether justified or not.
If I was going to buy, say, a shiraz-malbec, I think I’d feel more psychologically comfortable with it if the wine had a proprietary brand name on the front label, with the grape details on the back.
Doesn’t make much sense, I know!
I’m not much more logical when it comes to labels either. If a label is spectacularly ugly I almost certainly won’t buy the wine. Maybe it’s just a subconscious shortcut; if the producer can’t even manage a straightforward, reasonably appealing label, he might not be any better at the more complex task of making a tasty wine.
I think the reason you don’t buy wines with multiple varietals on the front label is this: the varietals are printed on the front label to appeal to those who buy based on varietal alone – and wines thusly marketed are usually (not always) manufactured rather then crafted, if you get my drift. Also, the best of blends don’t usually need to give such information loudly on the front label — look at Lafite – or even GAJA’s langhe rossi – Or Sassicaia, or Beaucastel, Cote-Roties, etc…
Take an example from Margaret River, Napa etc., many of the upper end Cabernets are labelled single varietal on front but that could be 75% of the wine, the rest being Merlot or whatever.
One thing I would say is that if you’re ordering a container of good wine with a bad label, design your own! David Whelehan did this with O’Brien’s with tremendous results.
Thanks for the comments, guys. I imagine we do have the option of designing our own labels, depending on the winery, should push come to shove.
Quite often we are also given the choice of two labels. This gives the winery the opportunity to push the same wine into the wholesale sector, without conflicting with retail. It also allows them to sell to two different merchants without anyone having to get the hand bags out.