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Wine Buzz: September 2014

Posted on  | September 3, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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REMINDER: Mark your calendar & put up signage: the Jewish High Holy Days begin this month on Wednesday, September 24th at sundown.

Sonoma-based Chateau St. Jean, long a leader in California Chardonnay, hit shelves in August with Bijou, a wine with a purposefully lighter touch of oak. After extensive research, says Barry Sheridan, VP of marketing for Treasury Wine Estates, “we discovered that there are two distinctly different taste profiles that consumers identify with: the crisp-fruity-floral segment, with lower oak, and the richer-rounder-buttery segment with a higher oak profile.” Finding the marketplace “highly underserved by the first segment,” TWE launched the lightly oaked Bijou (SRP $14) as counterpart to the successful Chateau St. Jean North Coast Chardonnay.


The humorous label that brought Domaines Paul Mas worldwide recognition is getting a makeover that better highlights the “vineyard story” behind the iconic frog. Brand visionary Jean-Claude Mas explains, “Now that our out-of-the-box approach has attracted attention, we want the Arrogant Frog packaging to better express where the wine comes from”—namely sustainably farmed vineyards throughout the Languedoc. The new label features a rendering of the winery and estate vineyards; a slightly smaller Frog; and Jean-Claude Mas’s signature. Line priced at $9.99.

When VSPT Wine Group, parent company of Viña San Pedro and the second largest wine company in Chile, set out to create the Epica brand three years ago, they took a novel approach. “Rather than have our winemaker craft a wine that we hoped people would like, we started with the consumer and made a wine based on the taste profile they told us they prefer,” explains Epica Brand Director Sebastian Reitze.

Many focus groups and consumer panels later, the company launched Epica with four wines—a Cabernet, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and a red blend, all priced at $10.99, the category’s fastest-growing segment. “A lot of Chilean wines have hard tannins and Millennials—the consumer group we are targeting—told us they prefer wines with a touch more smoothness,” Reitze says. The strategy paid off, and less than three years later, Epica is on track to be a 45,000-case brand this year in the U.S.—the market it was uniquely created for. “VSPT Wine Group produces 14 million cases in a year and exports half of it to over 90 different countries, but the U.S. is one of our top three most important markets,” notes Reitze.

Since listening to the marketplace worked the first time, the Epica team decided to heed the advice of their importer (Shaw-Ross International Importers) and many wholesaler partners who encouraged the company to create a Malbec. Luckily, two of VSPT’s 11 wineries are in Mendoza, Argentina, the grape’s homeland, so Epica winemaker Miguel Rencoret was able to fly over the Andes to create Epica Malbec in the Uco Valley, Mendoza.

“This is a $10.99 wine that easily could pass for a $20 bottle,” believes Nick Potter, National Marketing Manager for Shaw Ross. “For many companies creating a Malbec, it’s about going to some winery and having them turn on the tap—but Epica is made at a company-owned, bricks-and-mortar winery that is crafting exceptional wine.”
— Kristen Bieler


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