I am sure that for every sensible word written about wine, Public Relations teams issue out 100 silly ones. Luckily, conscientious writers shield the broader public from much of this hyperbolic guff. However, some of it does slip through on back labels, websites, and by unconscientious writers who are happy to copy and paste.
I recognize that wine is not the simplest of products, there is fierce competition, and the target market could do with a little more education about the product, but the solution to these problems is not five work-all phrases and hyperbole. I also realise that PR and marketing are not the same thing.
Let me give you an example from a recent press release. I called them out in a previous column, but this really is ridiculous.
In an era where the artisanal and the handmade are cherished, the unique red blend of Roodeberg celebrates the artistic spirit of the winemakers who are devoted to creating the perfect union of palate and aroma.
I am not taking this out of context, it simply does not make sense. In another part of the release they speak about Roodeberg as having “stylisitc relevance”. I honestly have no clue what this means either. What or who is it relevant to? What is this style? Does this mean modern? Traditional? Experimental?
Another classic PR release I received, and it is in my mind the worst I have ever seen, was from Two Ocean’s Quay Five low alcohol disaster.
The headline was “Vibrant new light range embodies health and style”. Well hold the fucking press. As soon as wines try to be sold in relation to health and style, you know you are in for some trouble. The wine was made for “for young and young-at-heart urbanites.” As I am young and live in the city, I guessed it was made for me. Boy was I wrong. The release went on lying about quality and authenticity, before this clanger:
Quay 5 will transform the market and provide a companion that fits an urban lifestyle. The unique positioning of this brand, which appeals to an audience who thrives on engagement, is further supported by alifestyle [sic] page on the Facebook platform.
If there have ever been more empty words written, please let me know.
As I said earlier, most of this nonsense never reaches the public’s eyes. Back labels, however, are breeding grounds for the most arbitrary wine writing on the planet.
This is a frustration to most people who can read. Each bottle of wine presents producers with guaranteed consumer eyeballs. What do you do when you pick up a bottle of wine? Look at the front, then turn it over in the palm of your hand and try to look knowledgeable as you read the back label, hoping against hope, that this time you might find something helpful written there. Why producers waste this chance with generic descriptions and promises defies reason.
My favourite rubbish on the back of wine labels is the food pairing suggestion. A ususal suspect is, “pairs well with pasta.” Really? Pasta on its own? Or do they mean any pasta dish? That would be a bloody adaptable wine, as pasta sauces can go from dainty mushrooms, through seafood, through meat, vegetable, actually any goddamn food in the world could find its way into a pasta dish. Is your average Chardonnay is going to pair well with all of them? Silly.
Fairview went one better recently on the back of the new 2010 Chakalaka saying they “are confident this fine wine will do well paired with your favourite dishes.” My favourite dish is scrambled eggs with lots of Tobasco and parsley. Good luck with that Chakalaka. What a complete waste of words.
When the a wine’s back label is read in a supermarket, what everybody is looking for really, is just a little hint, something, anything, to allow them to believe until they open the bottle, that the wine is not going to be kak.
It is the perfect place for a good sales pitch; instead we have to read generic descriptions. Honestly, the people who write jokes for Christmas crackers would do a better job than what’s currently on the back of our wines.
I write all of this in the hope that people who work in the PR industry and have clients in the wine industry might think again before issuing out another release that will be read by no one, and try to turn what is a simple product – fermented grape juice – into a world changing, industry redefining, lifestyle transforming, juggernaut of a wine with tired, tested and failed hyperbole. I also hope that producers might see this and think again before telling consumers that their wine goes with every food on the planet, and, instead, think of what they would like to read on the back of a wine label before writing off some useless bit of marketing puffery.
Maybe, just maybe, the producers of vinous marketing material should start reading their own copy, and ask if it is doing them any good before putting into print.
Have you read any ridiculous back labels on wine bottles? If you have please share them in the comments below.
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