Natural Wines, Something Different, and Group Categorization

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the ‘natural wines’ movement lately (highly recommended is Isabelle Legeron’s new book).

Not so much about how they taste or if they are good.

I’m more interested in the marketing of the wines and the creation of the category.

Those of you that have been in the business for twenty years or more remember what the ‘organic wine’ section of the wine shop used to be like. A few random brands (usually Frey and Bonterra from California), and a lot of dust. It was a section of the store that got very little traction but there was enough of an audience to have it exist. In the 1990’s and 2000’s this dusty little pile of so-so wine was the entire world of ‘organics.’

Then something shifted in the wine consumer culture. Suddenly brand recognition became a liability for some wineries. Nobody wanted what they had before. The rise of craft beer had the same energy, as well as the explosion of previously unknown whiskey from around the world.

Consumers simply wanted ‘new.’

At the same time more ‘natural wines’ came into the market with flavor profiles nobody had come across in modern times. The success of many ‘natural wines’ was not so much their organic farming with star charts and unicorn tears. The difference from the predictable was the driving force behind the new ‘natural wines’ success.

Consumers, I believe, were not trying out ‘natural wines’ because of the ‘naturalness,’ but rather they wanted a new category: Something Different.

So here’s an idea for both retailers and restaurants. Create a Something Different category. Lump your natural wines (the ones that taste unlike other wines) into the category. Add in all the charbono, domestic gamay, amphorae aged Solvenian wines, excessively aged and intentionally oxidized wines, anything from Scholium Project, and other out-of-the-norm selections. Everything goofy that is spread around on your list or in your store goes into Something Different.

Then, most importantly, tell people why they are different. This is where the hand written shelf talker is the most powerful.

The goal here is simple: can you take the total sales of all the dispersed wines and multiply the results by this grouping? By giving the consumer that is looking for Something Different a one stop shop, maybe they will buy four or five bottles instead of just one or two.


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