There’s an unnervingly high ratio when it comes to pretty labels, good marketing and poor wine. Those who buy wine by selecting the loveliest label nearly always buy themselves something which is at best mediocre.
In the UK, the story isn’t different. A great label that looks like it comes from a year-long study at art school plus commissioning a creative director to oversee a piece of paper that will be glued to a bottle usually hints that the stuff on the other side of the glass wasn’t prepared with such love and attention.
Marketing isn’t cheap either. Getting a design agency to create a label and paying an ad firm thousands to come up with ways of making your product sexy (presumably in between lines of cocaine in their Soho office) is very expensive.
Who’s paying for that in the end? Yeah, we are. Imagine you could spend that much money on a bottle of wine whereby such a large percentage of the production price wasn’t for marketing and the jumped-up arrogant sods in sharp silver suits (worn without a tie), brown lace-ups and horn-rimmed glasses. How I do love to play on stereotypes.
Well, if you buy wines like Blossom Hill, Jacob’s Creek, Blue Nun, Gallo or any of the like, you’re paying the ad-man. Think about the price you’re paying: none of those wines are expensive. Let’s take one wine for example, my least-favourite wine in the world and the one that shaped the generation I come from, particularly those of us that carry handbags.
Blossom Hill Crisp and Fruity Rose
Firstly lets talk about the wine: it’s poorly made, unrefined, far too unnaturally sweet and by not mentioning an AVA, vintage and/or grape varieties not even a quality wine (I’m using German wine law to decide this). It isn’t typical of Californian wine, Zinfandel (if it’s still made from that), nor is it particularly typical of Rosé.
Nevertheless, I have had worse-tasting wines before. So how can it be the worst wine in the world then? There is so much more to the badness of this wine than just the liquid inside the bottle.
The brand, the advertising, the logo, the price, the fact it is always on special offer, the fact it is marketed as good wine, the industrial (and unsustainable) way in which it is made, the overuse of chemicals and the lack of skilled winemaking are but are a few things that get to me.
It’s rubbish. Don’t buy it. Think about it, honestly. At the moment, 750ml of Blossom Hill Rosé is going to cost you £4.79 at Tesco.
Take off the VAT and you’re left with £3.99. Remove the excise duty on alcohol and you’re left with £2.09. I’m not done yet.
From £2.09, the supermarket wants a profit margin. Tesco is pretty well-known for its aggression when it comes to profit margin. I reckon they’ll be wanting up to 20% on a wine but, bearing in mind that this one is fairly well known and therefore brings in the punters, I’ll go for 10%. So, Tesco paid about £1.90 for that bottle.
Excellent, we’ve already seen have £1.90 can quickly turns into £4.79. But what is possible for £1.90? Please bear in mind that this wine is shipped from California at vast expense. Look at the raw costs of glass, paper and plastic for the packaging, look at the costs of maintaining a huge vineyard and don’t forget the ad-man, the marketing manager, the parent company, the wages that go to the pickers, producers and Blossom Hill’s people in the UK overseeing distribution. Land, tax for the producer, water, fuel and electricity all come into it as well.
It just isn’t possible to create a wine for that price and still spend so much on marketing and pretty labels.
Of course, you could argue that any wine from California that costs around a fiver is the same and you’d probably be right. Maybe it is possible to produce good wines in this way but not with an ad-man involved.
Cheap wine is just cheap, usually poorly made and when you consider all of the costs, how much is actually spent on development, spending more time with the vines, spending more on making sure the wine that comes out will taste nice? Is there any room in the budget for a good winemaker? Is there any money to adequately protect the plants without using industrial scale and environmentally harming insecticides and fertilisers? What about the pruning and picking? Can you do it for that price in a viable and sustainable way and still ensure a pleasant drink? No, of course not.
£5 mass-advertised wine is useless and not only because it tastes bad. It might seem a bit cruel to pick out this very wine but it is known the UK over and strangely marketed as a good product – something it definitely isn’t.