I noticed a customer whose body language screamed, “I’m looking for something.” so after a respectable pause, I offered to help. The response was what I expected, the usual unwillingness to open a dialogue, but reluctantly they let slip; “Robert Mondavi Cabernet”. I then pointed out the Woodbridge label by Robert Mondavi, which was disdainfully rejected; “That’s not it.”.
At this point I mentioned that there was a next tier wine, called Robert Mondavi Private Select, that would retail for about $11. which we didn’t stock. In an effort to provide insight I explained that Mr. Mondavi had been dead for years and his name has been sold to a gigantic conglomerate that now uses it on wines he never would have made. We do however, represent some fantastic wines in the same price range. Again the response was predictable. It had to be Robert Mondavi, even though the person had no idea who he was or why his name was famous, and so they walked out.
This is the same story in California wine again and again. Don Sebastiani sold Sebastiani Wines and now is prohibited from marketing wine under his own name, so he uses Simple Life among others. DeLoach, Joel Peterson’s Ravenswood, and RH Philips are a few more that under corporate ownership have been bastardized and run into the ground because of a complete disregard for the original vision and quality that established those names.
How about the sale of the brand “Meiomi” for $315 million which included no vinyards, no inventory or equipment, just the name! Hey, ask George Clooney why he’s smiling after his Tequila brand sold for a reported billion dollars.
What is it we are getting from these names? Corporate accountants, lawyers, and executives are pumping these over inflated labels into every corner of the market and the consumer is left holding the bottle. That person working in the shop may be more than just some flunkie trying to unload marginal goods. Give them a chance and hear what they have to say, it just might be the inside track to the best buy.
For a tip on a name that still is connected to something, check out the New World Wine tab under products, and get to know Washington State’s Barnard Griffin.