Friday, October 30, 2009

Wines of Chile: Can you say QPR?

I was invited to Santiago to address about 60 wineries on Social Media Marketing in the U.S. Wine industry in a seminar put on by Wines of Chile. WoC were kind enough to assign me a driver to visit seven wineries over the next two days, most of which hadn’t been able to attend the seminar.

Chile reminded me of Napa about 20 years ago…most everyone I met was younger than 35, the level of technical oenological knowledge was amazing, their search for and experimentation with new viticulture areas was nothing short of passionate and relentless…and there’s a lot of territory in which to search for terroir. Also many of the operators I met are family companies (Cousiño Macul is 7th generation), or else owned or backed by money folks from the major industries in Chile…mining, shipping, telecom etc.

We were doing a tasting at one of the smaller but cutting edge technology oriented wineries when my host Max Darraidou pointed to the old vines…which were planted in 1999. He and oenologist Ignacio Casali are doing some fabulous work identifying soils, varietal clones, hillside orientation and microclimate patterns in the Leyda Valley, home to the eponymously named winery.

The folks at Santa Carolina really demonstrated the warmth of the Chilean character with an American flag flying in concert with their national banner to welcome me at the winery entrance. The energy and enthusiasm in the room were palpable, and we all toasted Richie Scelfo, an old friend who represents them in the U.S. with Carolina Brands USA at a fabulous lunch of Chilean specialties…I had my first taste of Chirimoya, a native fruit there, but scant time to finish it because our focus was on talking…that’d be me doing the talking.

I also met with the Santa Rita winery whose business offices are in Santiago, and another family operation from down south named Viña Maquis which is doing some really interesting things with Rose’s and dessert wines along with their table wines. They hosted a dinner at a very innovative restaurant in an beautiful old part of town where the rich folks lived in the late 1800’s and is now being taken over by artists.

The next day was a whirlwind of tastings with a lunch at the organic and soon to be biodynamic Matetic where winemaker Paula Cardenas hosted me at the winery’s restaurant. I had my first taste of Loco…a local seafood delicacy that was explained to me as being “like Abalone” but was really just a VERY LARGE SEA SNAIL. They don’t call it loco for nothing…you have to be crazy to eat it. A visit to the hacienda of Viña Mar capped off the trip. It’s located between the coastal range and the Andes and the hacienda was a beautiful building in the center of vineyards…sort of like a South American version of Falcon Crest for those of you who are old enough to remember the old TV show. Another flight of spectacular wines with Melissa Hahn and winemaker Patricio Celadon and I was off to the airport and home.

Bottom line, I went down there with no real sense of what makes Chile, well Chile. And I came away with a newfound respect for a country that may be somewhat unknown, but is clearly on the cutting edge of responding to the changes we’re seeing in the American wine consumer. A nod to Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 for borrowing her QPR tag in the headline. It stands for “Quality Price Ratio” which I suppose doesn’t need any further definition. QPR is what American wine consumers are looking for, and I found a whole country that delivers it. How cool is that? Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Upcoming SMM presentations

I was invited to reprise my Social Media Marketing presentation from the USDC at two upcoming seminars being held by Nixon Peabody, the industry’s top law firm whose bev alc. practice is headed up by Vince O’Brien. The seminars are Nov. 17 in NY and Dec. 2 in San Francisco. They are invite-only event, but if anyone is interested in attending, please email me and I’ll forward it ono to the organizers. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wines of Chile: Social Media and Ecomm presentation in Santiago

No sooner did we leave our post conference meetings in NY, than I’m on an airplane again winging my way across the equator to Chile. I was invited by Lori Tieszen, Exec. Dir. of Wines of Chile USA to give a presentation on social media marketing to a bunch of producers. Those of you who read this blog know that SMM is particular passion of mine, and we have been doing some really interesting thing in the space for wines and spirits. Lori is an old friend from my Palace Brands days and has had a fabulous career with Domecq, Moet Hennessey and now WOC. was scheduled to present their wine plans and unfortunately bailed with two days notice. Lori asked if I’d fill in and do a presentation on ecommerce as well, which I of course said yes to. So I ended up spending Saturday polishing the SMM pres and scrambling to pull together one on E-comm. Not sure what Amazon’s rationale was, but they sure didn’t make many new friends by canceling at the last minute.

It’s spring in Santiago, but unfortunately a dreary day here and I can’t see the Andes. The speech is Monday and then I’m going to spend Tues and Wed visiting some of the wineries, so should get a better view of the country then.

Update: The presentations went extremely well, the sun came out setting the Andes ablaze, and it turned out one of the winery owners was a Cornellian too (both Lori and I went there)...small world. the common questions I get are how do I get started and won't this suck up my time. My recco on the former is to just set up a blog with Google's Blogspot and start writing. The key is to be authentic, write from the heart and your audience will find you. Regarding the time suck...only if you let it...fewer and more thoughtful posts are more valuable than poundage.

Clearly Chile is in a unique position of potential...great track record of QPR (Quality/Price Ratio) and the wines get better every year. They are running in the slipstream of Argentina and getting great press coverage (according to WoC, up 400% and bottle sales up significantly as well. Now the challenge is to realize the potential. l I believe they have the people in place who can make that happen. At lunch after the session I met their management and internet marketing teams and was really impressed with their knowledge, capabilities and passion.

I'll be visiting some wineries tomorrow and Wed, then a night flight back to NY for an Austrian event hosted by the one and only Willi Klinger of AWMB. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, October 18, 2009

U.S. Drinks Conference...Success!!

Wow! After months of planning and endless detail the U.S. Drinks Conference 2009 was a great success that exceeded even my optimistic hopes. We had SRO both days with some 151 attendees from 11 countries, 32 speakers on nine separate panel discussions. We’re still sorting through the eval forms and I’ll post pix next week, but the anecdotal feedback we got was “absolutely fantastic.”

Our goal was to focus the conference on practical information that attendees could put to use right away. Some folks came away with an improved understanding the complicated three-tier system from the mouths of the regulatory folks who write the rules, and some with new ideas on how to work with on and off premise operators. Wine folks got to hear some fascinating dialog and different perspectives from giant (Pernod Ricard…Jeanne Eliades), medium (Winebow…Leonardo LoCascio) and small/new (Darcy and Huber selections…Carlo Huber). The spirits panel provided an earful of great insights from two startups who are leveraging innovation and creativity to compete with big budget brands (St. Germain and Leblon). And the internet panel staffed by Paul Mabray, Derek Bromley and Peter Spande helped put perspecitive and flesh on the bones with practical examples of how social media marketing is being used in the industry.

We did of course start the morning off with some traditional presentations…John Beaudette on market entry options and economics, and Jeff Grindrod and Mike Ginley gave a data packed overview of the U.S. market structure for Wine, Beer and Spirits. And I gave a speech on budget allocations and Social Media Marketing that engendered a whole lot of interest, questions and follow up requests.

Interestingly, we also got requests from some country trade associations to see if we’re interested in reprising a shortened travel version of the conference to present to their producers…Madrid and Santiago look interesting.

We also had some meetings with prospective clients including a Turkish wine producer, a Dutch company interested in reintroducing a one time big volume brand, and a new-to-the-industry Peruvian Pisco producer introduced to us by my friend Johnny Schuler.

For those of you who attended…thanks, and for those on the fence, you definitely should plan on coming next year. Yes, we’re going to be holding it again in 2010, probably in NY, date TBD. Sphere: Related Content