Tricks of the trade
With a new €1tax on every bottle of wine, you can save by spotting some of the packaging and extras that add cost but not value to wine, writes JOHN WILSON
Most of us probably take less than five minutes to decide which wine to buy for tonight’s supper. As we cannot actually taste the wine, producers rely on visual impact to sell their wares. According to the marketing companies, the size, shape and colour of the bottle, as well as the label, play a significant role in determining consumer choice.
Everyday brands such as Mateus Rosé, Black Tower, JP Chenet, and Bend in the River are instantly recognizable by the bottle shape, designed to stand out from the crowd. It is not just the cheaper wines though, in the Celtic Tiger days some were able to spy the distinctive bottle shape of Dom Perignon or the clear glass bottle of Roederer Cristal from a distance.
Spain, and Rioja in particular, traditionally encased its finest wines in a mesh of gold chicken wire. Apparently this was to prevent unscrupulous merchants sticking the labels of a quality wine onto an inferior wine, and became a symbol of quality. These days it is purely a marketing device, but I am told it still works very well.
The papal crest embossed on a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape certainly helped sales in this country for many years. The more perceptive amongst you may have noticed that some now sport an alternative crest, the result of a recent falling out among producers.
The size and weight of a bottle can vary amazingly, and heavier bottles look and feel more expensive. Many producers (in Spain and Argentina in particular, for some reason) favour big, heavy bottles for their best wines – up to 1.8 kilos. A lightweight plastic bottle may not look as good but is greener, weighing less than half of that.
Wine drinkers are not alone; apparently most of us subconsciously associate all sorts of heavier items with quality. In addition, women tend to prefer tall slim bottles, men big heavy ones. Wine capsules (the foil covering the cork) offer the producer another marketing opportunity through the colour, logo or kind of capsule used. Wax seals are traditional but are both expensive and difficult to open. Plastic capsules on the other hand are seen as cheap.
Labels are seen as the most effective way to persuade a customer to buy a wine. Larger companies spend very big sums of money creating labels that convey a subliminal message, be it traditional, with images of castles and intricate script, or cool and minimalist, appealing to the aesthete. The key is to reassure the customer that they are drinking from the right bottle.