Wise Owl has eye for new markets

WARREN BARTON
Last updated 11:13 11/07/2014
Southland Times photo
WISE OWL: In swooping, parliament, hooting and ruffled incarnations.

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I'm no marketing expert but I have been around for long enough to figure that the biggest factor in selling wine today is the cost.

In other words, the cheaper the better.

Which is all very well for the customer who often does not know one wine from another and cares less, but not for the people who make the stuff.

Winemakers' margins have been squeezed to where they are virtually giving their cheaper wines away to supermarkets and liquor chains, who then discount them further in an effort to attract more shoppers and to sell more of them.

Obviously this affects the profitability of winemaking, but it also can have the effect of devaluing established labels and brands.

What I mean is that everyone does not say, when they see a wine that normally retails for $23-$24 selling for $12.99-$14.99: "Gee, that's a good buy," which it probably is.

There are also those who will wonder: "What the hell's wrong with that".

For wineries that take pride in their reputation, the answer is simple. Either produce a cheaper version of these wines or create another, more attractively packaged version aimed squarely at the market which demands it.

Speaking of which . . .

Villa Maria has done what I suspect is just that, though you will be hard pressed to find any reference to New Zealand's biggest privately owned winemaker on the colourful , eyecatching labels on the new Wise Owl range.

However, it is no big secret. Villa is pretty proud of the work done by its young marketing team, led by Emily Camblin, who says the wine industry is a bit stick-in-the-mud when it comes to marketing, which in this case exhibits a bit more exuberance.

The inspiration for the brand apparently came out of the use of owls in vineyards to protect the grapes during the ripening season.

The aim (officially) is: "To capture the attention of Kiwis who love to drink wine and are willing to experiment when it comes to their wine choice."

But the surest way of doing that will in the end, I think, have more to do with the price - recommended retail $12.99; special launch price $9.99, which represents only a fraction of the hit being taken by Villa's extensive good-value Private Bin range.

There are four wines in the new range - a sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, merlot and a blended white, which could earn you $5000 if you can accurately identify the components (think sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and up to three other varieties).

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It has been made on the premise, say White Owl's promoters, that white wine blends such as this are set to become the next big thing across the Tasman with sales, in dollar terms, rising by 50 percent in the February quarter.

The wines:

Wise Owl 2014 Parliament Pinot Gris
The luscious and fruity pears-and-peaches wine that won the pinot gris class (no gold medals were awarded) at the recent Gisborne Regional Wine Awards. Off-dry.

Wise Owl 2013 Hooting White
The mystery wine that hints of tropical and white-fleshed fruit, of citrus blossom, spice and other things nice. Refreshingly fruity. Dryish. Interesting, too.

Wise Owl 2013 Swooping Sauvignon Blanc
A simple and fruity expression of Marlborough sauvignon blanc, complete with capsicums, grass and a crisp and refreshing finish. Dry.

Wise Owl 2013 Ruffled Merlot
A popular red that is meatier than many in this price bracket. Bold, rich black fruit and fruitcake flavours, and enough grip to suggest it will go well with a good roast meal.

- The Southland Times

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