Posted on | May 31, 2012
Written by | W.R. Tish
Brands aren’t created overnight—even if they spring from sudden inspiration. The genesis of WineWave’s House Jam line came back in 2007, out of owner Jack Cacciato’s desire to be bold and unique. “I felt we needed a concept that was very innovative,” he recalls. “No company at the time was really targeting new wine drinkers, who were coming of age.”
To come up with that innovative edge, Cacciato first reached back in time. “I thought back to my youth, and what we were drinking…Lambrusco, sangrias, Boone’s Farm. The common factor in this list was sweetness. Looking at trends in beverages today, most Americans from childhood up are accustomed to drinking soft drinks and sweet drinks.”
To bring the concept into the current day, he borrowed a phrase found close to home. Very close to home, in fact: the name House Jam came from hearing his teenage daughters and friends say to one another, “Where’s the jam tonight?” As in, “Where’s the party?” The word jam also held two other important connotations: musical, as in bands jamming, and ultra-fruity, as when describing wine.
From there, Cacciato, explains, House Jam was a matter of carefully sourcing a wine that fit a clear profile—sweet, cold and sparkling—but with a solid wine pedigree. “WineWave was a pretty traditional company,” he notes. “This was a leap for us. It was important to have quality in the bottle.”
Now We’re Jammin’
The first two House Jams—a red and a white, based, respectively, on Bonarda from Emilia-Romagna and Malvasia from Northwest Italy—were both made frizzante (slightly bubbly) via the Charmat method that captures CO2 from the second fermentation, rather than via carbonation. The end result: two tongue-tickling, lipsmacking, sweet yet refreshing wines. The Sweet Smooth Red delivers plummy fruit, with soft tannins and a sweet, juicy character. The Sweet Chillin’ White showcases Malvasia’s natural robust sweetness, with the gentle fizz enhancing pear and peach notes.
Most important of all, the label had to express fun, just like the sweet, fizzy wines. “It’s a jam,” Cacciato says with a grin. “It’s about having fun! We were the first to be very specific, very intentional about putting together the right formula—the name, the taste and the look.” The labels needed to echo the idea of a party: “House Jam. The name says fun, easy…a wine you can hang out with.” The colorful package design evokes—but actually preceded—the iPod campaign’s dancing silhouettes.
Pump Up the Volume
Within six months of launch in early 2008, Stew Leonard’s Wines (in only two locations) sold 1,000 cases of House Jam. Cacciato recalls telling Jerry Martarello, the wine director, “Let me send over 25 cases. Try stacking them.” Martarello called back on Monday and said, “I’m down to three; send 50 more.” The key, according to Cacciato, is sampling: the wines generate an 80% purchase rate. “People taste it and love it,” he says. “The red is a great pizza wine, and Sweet Chillin’ White is light and fresh, not just sweet.”
Growing at double- and triple-digit rates in every market where it was available, House Jam reached 35,000 cases as of 2010, in just ten states. This led WineWave to set sights on expanding. On the product front, they added a second red—100% Lambrusco—and a white, 100% Moscato (both also frizzante). Coinciding with the new releases, last September WineWave appointed Shaw-Ross International as the official U.S. importer. The two companies now work hand in hand developing the brand, utilizing Shaw-Ross’s well-established national reach.
To keep up House Jam’s momentum, WineWave recently introduced a new tag line, “Pick Your Jam,” which essentially amps up both the music analogy and party imagery of the brand, line-priced at $7.99. POS materials align Sweet Smooth Red with jazz and blues, Sweet Chillin’ White with Latin beats, Lambrusco with classic rock, and Moscato with hip-hop and dance music. And a new on-premise push includes food-pairing suggestions and even drink recipes—a bold idea that helps separate the fun, casual identity of House Jam from more “serious” wines.
In a fitting full-circle development, Jack Cacciato’s daughters—the original “jammers”—are now both working at WineWave, helping to keep the party going.