Wine marketers should stop obsessing about provenance

01 June, 2007

The wine industry must focus on the consumer, not the provenance of wine, when developing brands, says Wine Intelligence chairman Mike Paul.

Speaking at Orbital Wines' debate on the relevance of terroir at last week's London wine fair, the former Western Wines boss said non-wine brands use provenance as one element of marketing instead of becoming "obsessed" with it.

"We're trapped in the past. We fall back on provenance because we haven't come up with anything based on where the consumer is . If you're obsessed with provenance, you forget there are plenty of other ways in which we should engage people," Paul said.

He suggested the wine industry take its cues from other sectors and be more imaginative in with marketing .

" People are quite happy to buy other goods because of the way the bottle looks ."

Paul said the complexity of the concept of terroir added value to regions such as Burgundy, but said: " Don't let's try to pretend that the ordinary consumer has the time to get their heads round it".

The New World "revolution" of the 1990s saw terroir diminish in importance, Paul added. "Australia has proved that the winemaker is the hero and terroir is just one ingredient in the mix."

Fellow panellist and Handford Wines' owner James Handford MW said his London-based business had not used the word "terroir" when describing wines to customers for years. "How many people actually use it any more? I'm surprised by the number of New World people who use the word," he said.

The panellists failed to agree on the importance of terroir. Terence Kenny, export director for Champagne Pannier, said: "Terroir is like money in the bank. If you have it you're comfortable speaking about it. If you don't, you have to make do without it."

Orbital Wines director Jason Korman said: "If people speak about terroir it's often because they've got nothing else to say."

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