Each year my clients and I sit down and discuss the merits of entering wine competitions in general, and then go through the list of shows on offer before making a decision on which to enter. If any.
Things are becoming more selective in this regard. First, entries fees could see a fairly range-heavy producer forking out R30 000 on four local competitions. What for? Well, for pride and honour, that is one. And then for the marketing punt that serious competitions give wines.
As my mate Thys Louw from Diemersdal Estate likes to remind me when I talk to him about the new trends in wine marketing: “Nothing sells wine like a double gold sticker on the bottle. Period.”
This undeniable commercial interest embedded in wine competitions makes me wonder why many shows are so slack in following through. For most competitions, you enter and you pay. And if you are lucky at the judging you are invited to an awards ceremony – for which on most occasions you have to pay to attend. And then, you win a gong, and then you pay for the honour of being able to buy a few thousands stickers to decorate your bottles.
So besides the bling on the bottle and a bit of hype from your marketing division – if you have one – what’s in it for the producer, except bragging rights?
It has been interesting to note recent developments in the Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards. They follow most of the usual rigmarole outlined above, but since last year have shown an almost obsessive eagerness to tie-up the competition with retailers and other outlets so as to “add value”.
First, to add further impetus for entrants by getting wine sellers to stock the Michelangelo winners, the producers of whom would take an increase in sales above the nice warm feeling that comes with winning a medal.
And secondly, by aligning the competition with accessible outlets, the consumer is now able to easily access ranges of awarded wines that generally remain in some lofty realm of unapproachability.
A few weeks back Checkers, the retail giant that knows what booze means to its bottom-line, announced that it is sourcing Michelangelo’s winning wines and spirits for stocking in its ubiquitous stores. And at the week-end SAA came on board, saying it is using the Michelangelo selection to choose wines for on-flight lists as well as in its lounges.
From the periphery this development is going to shake-up South African wine competitions, most who have rested on their laurels assuming wine producers deem the honour of recognition enough reason for entering a show.
Not any more it ain’t. Take it from us on the wine marketing side, the bang is going to have to bet bigger to get wineries spending the bucks on entries, parties and stickers.
New time for showtime, it is.