I was interested in this article in The Oz in which Foster’s Australasian wine boss was giving his thoughts on wine. It’s always fascinating to talk beer with business people. The average reader of these rantings – who I would affectionately call the beer purist – thinks that the only concern of the brewery should be to let the brewer make great beer. It would be a wonderful world, a better world, where that happened AND great breweries could stay in business, generate the capital they need to expand to keep up with demand etc etc etc.
Of course, in the real world, beer is business. Unit cost, innovation, distribution, porfolios, packaging, brands and brand values are often more important than what actually goes in the bottle. None of us really like it with our utopian ideas of beery nirvana, but that’s the world we live in (butu please don’t stop trying to change that world, one great beer at a time.)
So it was interesting to see David Dearie try to argue that wine wasn’t a commodity these days. Wine still carries with it a cachet, a snob value, that beer will never and should never have. But, in my view, this is also one of the reasons that wine is so successful. I think there is a huge section of people who really like the idea of drinking wine, but don’t really like the flavour – or know so little about it they just buy the label with the critter on it or the second cheapest on a wine list. The point is this class of wine drinker drinks it because they think that it makes them appear more sophisticated than drinking beer at a restaurant or elsewhere.
The theatre of wine, the need for the right glass (and Riedel has built an industry hyping that), the cork, the sniff and the pour all contribute to why people drink wine on certain occasions instead of beer. I’d love to see the pckaging innovations, and what it will do to the perception of wine, that will follow this comment…
“Dearie also wants to expand the number of occasions on which wine is drunk, with the traditional glass bottle excluding it from events where the hassle of carrying glasses and a corkscrew means drinkers tend to choose beer. The solution, he says is packaging innovation.”
To keep its leading premium beer at events that don’t permit glass, Foster’s developed the aluminium Crown bottle. A really clever innovation that didn’t change the experience in a major way (from taste tests we’ve done on the Beer Show, dedicated Crown drinkers say that they can taste a difference), but the shape of the bottle was the same and the experience – drinking from a Crown-shaped bottle – is largely the same. What can wine do? Plastic bottles will get the wine into events, but does “packaging innovation” and ridding the wine drinker of the “hassle of carrying glasses and a corkscrew” mean encouraging drinking wine from the bottle? Or will they develop plastic cups akin to the Berocca Twist ‘n Go? Or maybe a wine cask/hat combo like beer yobs have used for years.
With ‘innovation’ in the beer leading to the brave new worlds of chill-filtered beer, low-carb beer and chromazone labels (that change when your beer is cold enough that you can’t taste it), I can’t wait to see what is in store for wine…