QUAFFER’S CORNER

Wine marketing is a tricky game

I was asked for my opinion the other day about iPad wine-lists. For what it’s worth I’m not really in favour for a variety of more or less abstruse reasons. But I want to use it to expand on the larger issue of marketing led decisions, especially where they involve wine packaging and service.

Marketing people love a Unique Selling Point. There are a lot of wine offerings competing for your attention and it’s natural and understandable to want to stand out from the crowd but what’s best from a marketing point of view doesn’t always make sense in other respects.

A classic example is the giant bottles so beloved of winemakers in the New World. There’s no real advantage to the wine to being stored in a heavy bottle (maybe a strictly theoretical one of being more robust if dropped from a height) but the bottle looks expensive and can command a premium.

It’s not a decision without its costs: for the planet, when the bottle has to cross half the world, and for your arm when you have to lug it back from the shop. Vote with your wallet is my advice.

Another example is the number of exotic and expensive pieces of equipment for the preservation of wines by the glass.

It’s a complicated and resource hungry solution to a problem that can be solved with better matching of the selection by the glass (and the format of bottle) to the needs of the outlet. Let’s be clear – the umpty-thousand pound machine doesn’t magically preserve the wine for weeks on end.

In reality, while it can extend the life of the wine a little, it is a marketing tool to allow the restaurant to tell you a marketing story. Trust your nose: I have been served oxidised wines in places that employ gas preservation systems because their throughput of wine is simply insufficient.

It wouldn’t be a wine column without some kind of recommendation. But for this week, let’s embrace localism and drink something the British Isles produce at an exemplary level: dark beer. The ubiquity of Arthur Guinness’s dry stout can blind you to the range of options in the category, some of them carrying just a hint of sweetness – very agreeable in these damp and dreary days.

This week I have enjoyed old favourite Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout and Fuller’s London Porter both widely available with little marketing fuss to speak of.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @LutyensWine