Friday, April 03, 2009

Do you need a winemaker for wines under $2? you?
Is it really all that important to shell out hard earned cash for a "Certified Master of Wine" [CMoW] to produce wines at the $1.99 price point?  TESCO is doing just this, though the winemaker will be in charge of wines in the range of  $2~$40/btl.
But really, I mean how many people would return a wine that was $1.99 if they found it a bit "off" or "different" from a previous bottle? How many cases of the stuff would you need to produce (and sell) to recoup the salary you're going to give that winemaker? Certified Masters of Wine don't just fall off the trees, now do they...

Fresh & Easy to Launch 25 New Wines (TESCO)

"Over the next three months, Tesco's small-format U.S. grocery chain, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, will introduce 25 new wines, 15 of which will be exclusive to Fresh & Easy, and crafted by a Certified Master of Wine, the company said.
The new local and imported wines range from $1.99 to $40 per bottle.... [t]he new wine selection includes a California Cabernet from Sonoma, a Malbec from Argentina, sparkling wines from Italy, and a Tempranillo-Shiraz and Ribera del Duero from Spain..."

I'm assuming the CMoW will be involved with each of the 25 wines to be carried...and I don't want to totally deflate the reasoning behind having the CMoW involved as there are more pricey wines in the range, but the MoW designation is vastly different than a MS or PhD in Enology or Viticulture [see here for a good description]. What this implies is that neither TESCO nor Fresh & Easy will be getting into the wine business by owning a winery...rather that they will be sending their CMoW to various existing wineries with the mission of having said businesses make custom wines for their exclusive retail. Think of the symbiotic relationship between Trader Joe's and Two Buck Chuck. One produces, the other sells exclusively.

This is a double-edged sword. While the winery might sell more of the low-end wine it produces with this scheme, it could also end up cutting the consumer base it normally relies on. If the wine is of decent enough quality, some of its' prior consumers may opt to "trade down" and purchase the cheaper wine with the idea the price is low due to lack of a national marketing program or need to support a brick-n-mortar winery facility.

Custom made wines have been in play for quite some time, from restaurant specific offerings, to airlines, cruise ship companies, tour groups, etc. I don't know of a winery which ever went out of business by participating in these deals before, so the threat of this sort of thing going badly for the winery seems very fact wineries would prefer to do this in a way because the retailer is contracting with them for the wine, and thus wineries see the cash for the transaction without having to figure out how to get it out the door.In the end, the wineries are happy, the retailers involved tend to be happy, and the consumer - who gets wine of a quality they like at perceived basement prices - also is happy.



Anonymous Arthur, said...

I think that if you want assure consistency and commercial success of a mega-large production, value wine you should not hire a MW. You should hire an experienced winemaker with a V&E degree from a reputable program which emphasizes proficiency in chemistry and microbiology.
That is A LOT of wine that could go wrong in the wrong hands and the ensuing losses would be devastating to a company.

April 03, 2009 1:19 PM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

Good point on the quality issue. But if they aren't going to have their own winery, it probably would do just fine. The task will likely be to just get together with the staff of both the company & the winery to see what wines they have available, and what sort of blends they could put together to meet the desires of the retail chain customer. The winery contracted for production would be responsible for the soundness of the wines....

And "Yes", if I were setting up this plan I'd have hired someone with a more academic background and practical production experience. The CMoW accreditation is great for what it is, and would be fine for working with staff at an established winery to make blends for your company, but wouldn't meet the needs for running a winery in itself, IMHO.

Which isn't to say they won't have a QC tech involved with the program, but obvious from their news release they want the "people on the street" to take home the idea that a CMoW will be the lead person responsible for the wines....


April 03, 2009 5:49 PM  
Anonymous East Coast winemaker said...

I was an assistant winemaker at a winery in the Central Valley of California that maakes wine for several European customers (including Tesco). This idea has been around for a while, it seems they're just branding it for marketing purposes. The wine is made by winemakers from wherever they source their wines from (CA Central Valley is a source of good, cheap wine). Often, the wine buyer requests samples of various lots of wine, in addition to some blends that the winery puts together for the customer.

Sometimes the customer likes the pre-made blends, other times they prefer to make their own blend from the various lots they were sampled on.

The idea that a MW "makes" the wine is nonsense, they merely blend pre-made wines from the producing winery. Nothing new, but now a "MW" is doing it. It's pure marketing, nothing else.

April 04, 2009 5:41 PM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

EC -

Exactly! The MoW essentially is there to verify the wines will be made in a style the contract outlet wants, while the winery production crew (and winemaker) do all the heavy lifting.


April 05, 2009 7:24 AM  

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