Twelve unsettling wine commercials

You don’t see many TV ads for wine these days, and these examples may partly explain why.

Premier Estates Taste the Bush (2015)
An ad so bad it got banned. Whether that was deserved more for its feeble humour or the general inappropriateness is a moot point. We detect the paw-prints here of a couple of male 20-year-old interns whose brains short-circuited when they made the bush/pubic hair connection. Chortle!

Orson Welles likes Paul Masson California Champagne (Outtake)
Never work with children, animals or ageing film icons. It appears that a lubricated Orson Welles has been unwittingly parachuted onto the set of Abigail’s Party. He emits a fabulous Shakespearian wail, Brian Blessed-style, before scratching his nose and falling asleep. Cut. Take 21.

Bolla Valpolicella (1978)
Straight from the Mills & Boon school of wine commercials. When a lone “soft” woman is drinking wine made for “people who are in love” and catches the eye of a “full-bodied” moustachioed man who is also drinking wine made for “people who are in love”, it’s obvious: they fall in love. Who needs Tinder?

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Now everybody’s a gin distiller

Adnams plans to give more of its customers the chance to make their own gin in-store as it embarks on a retail expansion programme.

The service is already available at its branch in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, which is fitted with seven mini stills. Customers pay £95 to distil their own spirit and add a choice of botanicals in a process that takes two and a half hours and results in a bespoke bottle of gin.

Retail chief Neil Griffin says people are given gin and tonics to enjoy while they wait. He adds: “We’re quite keen on this customisation and personalisation trend that’s coming through.The Wine Merchant issue 63

“We give people a selection of botanicals and talk them through what each one of them potentially does. They put four or five of them into the pot still and distil it down, and you get the liquid at the end. We label it up with the name of your choice.

“It’s going really well. Customers are enjoying the experience and it’s climbing the Trip Advisor rankings in East Anglia.”

The concept is likely to be rolled out to future Adnams Cellar & Kitchen branches that are currently being scouted, though not in the pop-up that has just opened in the centre of Cambridge and will trade until the New Year.

Adnams spokesman Josh Wicks says Cambridge is a city that the company is “obviously keen to get into”. He adds: “The pop-up gives us flexibility and a bit of a foothold, and then we’ll look for something more permanent.

“It’s a busy and competitive place, but you don’t want to shy away from those places – you want to be in there.”

This article appears in the October edition of The Wine Merchant.

The late, late show

Late payments and bad debts are the bane of any business person’s life. They are the reasons why many independent retailers are reluctant to wholesale. But some suppliers say they are having exactly these problems with independent wine merchants.

The Wine Merchant issue 62

Why should that be the case? There are various theories. One is that indies are feeling the pinch in an uncertain economic climate. Another is that, as merchants tie up increasing amounts of cash in direct imports, they are finding it harder to pay their UK suppliers on time.

It’s a thorny issue and one we look at in depth in the September edition of The Wine Merchant.

Not just selling drinks but making them too

The Wine Merchant issue 61
There’s a lot of chatter these days about independents importing direct (yes, we’re responsible for some of that). But what’s less reported is the decision of a small but growing number of indies to sell their own exclusive brands.

The August edition of The Wine Merchant focuses on three merchants who have gone this route, in their own way.

There’s Aimee Davies, of Aimee’s Wine House in Bristol, who has installed a microbrewery in one of her two shops. Sounds expensive and fiddly, but the kit is paying for itself and Aimee reports that brewing beer is nothing like as complicated as she’d been led to believe.

We also talk to Toby Peirce of Quaff, with stores in Brighton and Hove. He’s just launched an exclusive beer brand called Lost Pier, which creates a nice point of difference in store and may also boost his local wholesale business.

Finally, we hear from Archie McDiarmid at Luvians in St Andrews, whose team have been working with local distillers on bespoke whisky and gin projects. Beer is the next project on the horizon.

He describes the activity as “a natural next step” for the business. There will be plenty of independents who feel the same.

Crowd funding could unlock independents’ potential

Crowd funding is a useful way for small businesses to raise a bit of extra cash. In the wine trade the money might be channeled into a new sampling device, or perhaps a second branch. Those who make donations get a nice thank-you and an invitation to the launch party, but often not much more.

Taurus Wines in Surrey has gone a step further, raising £275,000 via Crowdcube to finance a move to larger premises and to open a second branch. The benefactors in this case have become shareholders in the business, with a combined stake of 10%. In time they will probably receive an annual dividend of 6% and even be able to trade their shares.

It’s an interesting business model and one that could work for dozens of independents who are looking at expansion plans. Read all about the Taurus experience in the July edition of The Wine Merchant.