London Calling


Trade fairs, no matter the trade, are a Darwinian exercise in survival of the fittest; specifically survival of the flashiest. I am often reminded of Bourbon Street in New Orleans with its lineup of colorful hawkers trying to separate the unwary tourist from their vacation budget. Trade fairs for the wine industry are really no different but the intrepid traveler can find bits of wisdom strewn among the flash, after all you can find a good cocktail for a reasonable price on Bourbon Street, it just shouldn't be your first choice of locales if that is your goal.

The London International Wine Fair should be different, it isn't, but it should be. The English drinks trade prides itself on being sophisticated, erudite and staid and how this translates into two women in lingerie cradling a bottle of pink vodka and a whip I am not sure. However, having just returned from this annual festival of lights I thought I might share with you some of the more interesting items that I managed to pick up amongst the bright lights and shiny baubles.

The world drinks industry is somehow only now realizing that women purchase wine & spirits (how you get to be a multibillion dollar industry without noticing this is a discussion for another day) and have turned their mighty marketing energy to tap this significant portion of the population that currently purchases almost 60% of all wine and half of all spirits. Yeah, I know, I am confused too, seems they are already doing a good job of marketing to women and that it is men they need to be focused on. This discrepancy won't be a problem much longer if the trend in marketing to women that I saw in London is any indication. Beside the aforementioned lingerie models and pink vodka there was a host of other standard wine & spirits bottles that were either curvy, painted pink or as the vodka dyed pink directly all culminating in my favorite example - a pink-bottled (ala Pepto-Bismol) liqueur called Girl. Women of the world unite. Note to the drinks industry, unless you are willingly courting the 6-8 year-old girl crowd I would re-think your strategy.

There was one interesting wine product that I am not sure how I feel about yet. It could be a great way to introduce people to wine and understanding wine or a great opportunity to combine kitsch and embarrassment. I-wine is a bottle of blind wine with the actual grape variety hidden under the bottles main label and revealed by pulling this label off. To further aid you along in this journey you are provided with two scratch-n-sniff aroma strips. Yes, I said scratch-n-sniff. Take that Bordeaux classification of 1855 with your “no scratch-n-stiff” AOC regulations.

Overall the fair this year had few highlights; however, I did manage to speak to various different producers from Italy to get their opinion on the ongoing situation in Montalcino. The general consensus is that any commercial blowback will be limited to this section of the boot. Wishful thinking? Maybe but the producers made a good point that the Italian wine customer is very broad based and ticking off Brunello customers shouldn't affect other high end Italian wines and certainly not the bread and butter value wines that Italy is famous for. It may take years for Brunello to recover but the state of Italian wine is still fairly healthy. I hope they are right as I would hate to see this one hiccup disturb the great work that has been done in Italy over these last few years. Now I have to go and review this new vodka designed for men, it is dyed blue, called “Macho Beast” and the bottle is shaped like a…no, that can't be.

Robert Scibelli is a lecturer and administrator at New York's premier wine school, International Wine Center.

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  • Snooth User: Mark Angelillo
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    2 5,324

    Heh! Very funny to hear about such products on the market.

    Sounds to me like the designed-for-men vodka bottle would only need be photoshopped into the ad with the two women in lingerie and you've got your male advertising strategy at a fraction of the cost of doing any real work.

    May 28, 2008 at 2:54 AM

  • Snooth User: Chris Carpita
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    33093 5,546

    I'm thought the idea of lingerie models was to sell products to dorky men. Or maybe that's if they're carrying weapons.

    May 29, 2008 at 4:19 AM

  • Snooth User: oceank8
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    55708 2,030

    REALLY? I can't believe they think the way to get a woman to buy something is to color it pink and have a woman in lingerie hold it. I am also surprised to here that 60% of wine purchased is done by females, must be because they do the shopping in a lot of households.

    May 29, 2008 at 9:59 AM

  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,575

    I've always known that women controlled the purse strings. I cant remember the exact stats, but at the ultra ultra high end all wine is bought by men (women tend not to be foolish enough to spend $30,000 on a bottle of 100 year old wine, whereas men become obsessive collectors at the drop of a hat), however in the normal ranges, as Ocean says, women do a lot of the shopping for their household.

    I did some googling and found the offending vodka:

    I also found out that Hawaiian Tropic Zone has a series of promotions involving un-clad models and free P.I.N.K. Vodka (i wonder what the acronym stands for) for the laydeez between 10pm and midnight. The ads for this promotion are barely safe for work, so i linked one, but decided against showing it on the site:

    May 29, 2008 at 12:38 PM

  • razmaspaz

    Any bottle that is blue, named macho beast and is shaped like that, is marketed to women.

    May 30, 2008 at 10:13 AM

  • Snooth User: oceank8
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    55708 2,030

    Okay, I went to that link and that add definitely does NOT make me want to buy what they are selling. I can see why Philip thought twice about posting the pic! I don't mind these kinds of adds, but don't tell me they are supposed to make females want to purchase the item, I'll pass.

    May 30, 2008 at 11:29 AM

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