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Brand Confusion – When is enough, enough?

I grew up on a small family owned vineyard that grew into a small family owned wine company and brand over 20 years or so. Our family sold the vineyard and winery to others who had the ability to grow it to the next level. By global standards, it was extremely small, producing only around 5000 cases a year.

Even though the the brand was relatively successful, looking back, one of the mistakes that was made in the early days, was the decision to produce too many different varieties and labels in the portfolio. Yes, winemakers need to make a living, and have to adjust to current fads and fashions, however there is a cost.

My opinion is that too many wine companies, especially small producers, try too hard to be all things to all people, bringing out new labels and brands, trying not to miss out on the next big thing. It’s not uncommon to see producers who might only produce 2000 or 3000 cases per vintage, but have 12 different wines of all sorts of varieties and styles.   What this does is confuse not only the trade, but also the consumers, who struggle to grasp what the winery is about, and does best.

Some larger companies do have these problems to some extent, but they are diluted by the fact that generally they have access to different grape growing regions, expertise, and not least, a strong marketing and distribution team.

Old world producers such as France and Italy have many problems of their own, and it has been debated relentlessly the pros and cons of the appellation system. But the power in the system is that everybody knows what you’re getting if it comes from a certain region.  Obvious examples are Champagne for well, Champagne, and Burgundy for Pinot and Chardonnay. Why are they so well known for these wines, and why are producers only allowed to produce these wines from these regions?? Because these areas produce the best wines when made from certain varieties and certain styles.

It’s not uncommon here in Australia for a producer to try and make a fantastic Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Sparkling, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Botrytis sticky all from the same vineyard. It could be argued that much of Australian viticulture (in many areas) is still in the pioneering stage and trial an error is the best way to see what works, and what doesn’t.  All producers have access to studies, research, and knowledge these days that the best variety for a certain area or region can generally be accurately predicted before the first sod is even turned. I’m all for trial and error and research, but for just that, not to throw an inferior product onto the market in the hope that it works, before further diluting the message of a brand, if it has one at all.

So it’s always refreshing to discover new wineries and brands that I haven’t seen before, that have a simple message, generally 1, 2, or 3 wines, all working in synergy.  For me it’s sustainable, focused, and most of all, common sense.

About Jono Farrington

Jono Farrington
Jono Farrington holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Oenology) from the University of Adelaide (formely the Roseworthy Agricultural College). He also holds a Post Graduate Degree in Business Management from Monash University. He worked in the wine industry for nearly a decade, completing vintages in Australia and Bordeaux, before setting up an equestrian training centre.

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  1. I could not agree more. ‘Less is better’ must be the catch cry for Aussie wine producers in future if they want to be successful and sustainable.

  2. Hi Jono, I agree & I don’t – can’t sit on the fence more than that! Marketing-wise, Yes, Viticulture-wise No. I’m one of these small players & I’d love to be in the possie where I’ve tried the varieties/clones I want to & come up with what works best. Only prob is that you have to make wine for at least a few years from the more promising varieties/clones to fiddle with style, picking parameters, pruning, exposure, oak/no-oak etc.to know if you’ve got something. I’m in the New England which had a significant wine industry, tks to George Wyndham, from 1860 to 1920/30 but it all disappeared (inc. most info on varieties) until the late 70s when the first of the current crop started planting again. Gewurz & Nebbiolo are doing best for me so far & it’s awfully hard to get a tasting in Sydney – but much easier & more pleasant in Brisbane!

  3. Spot on….Thats why the Barossa focuses on Shiraz as a variety and shows off its various site effects, all with that variety as the principal

  4. Jono you make a very good point, it would be brilliant to focus in that ways you write about. One challenge is that most producers big and small operate a Cellar Door and being able to offer a reasonable number of products to appeal to the range of people who visit also has to be considered.

    Jane Moss

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