Why wine stories matter


View of Excelsior's 2013 Casillero del Diablo wine at The 8th Annual New York Culinary Experience Presented By New York Magazine And The International Culinary Center - Day 1 at New York Culinary Experience on April 16, 2016 in New York City.

by Nicol Pudel, Port2Port.wine

CAPE TOWN - The history of wine is over 6,000 years old. But what is wine, if it isn’t just a liquid beverage sold in a glass container? What sets one wine apart from thousands of others?

Story is what moves wine from being a static item to something people can get emotionally involved with. Emotions are a strong driver for both purchasing decisions and long-term brand loyalty.

Recent studies by behavioural economists have shown that products that evoke emotion have a distinct advantage because almost 90% of our purchasing decisions are made subconsciously, influenced by our emotions rather than through a rational, logical process.

READ: S.Africa winemakers on quest for quality and prestige

Research also increasingly indicates that consumers prefer to associate with brands that have an authentic story to tell – and they are willing to pay more for experiences that include brands that are authentic. Wine brands, each with their unique background, are well-positioned to tell stories that aren’t manufactured and which will greatly increase their engagement with the public.

This ‘telling of story’ is why Port2Port.wine recently launched our own Stories platform on our website, where we share stories written by a range of industry professionals and wine-lovers – as we believe ‘stories’ are the greatest influence in wine purchasing behaviour – a belief backed by our online shopping cart data.

The ‘macro story’ of wine, its representation in major religions, celebrations and events throughout history, is a story which has a group of the world’s population interested in the beverage. But it is the ‘micro story’ of wine which gets the specific consumers within this group to choose one brand over another.

A wine is about its brand story, as much as it is about the romantic belief of what the liquid went through: the natural forces that shaped it, the hands that picked it, the winemaker who treated it and the place it was stored in.

The world of wine is built on a foundation of stories, creating a famously romantic world filled with beautiful settings and rolling vineyard views. It is a world driven by passion where wine is not just a product, it is a fragile ecosystem that the winemaker and viticulturist had to manage very carefully to finally guide it into bottle.

To quote Johann Rupert: ‘When you design a product, like a watch, you know that if you do everything right, you will be left with something great. With wine, you can do everything properly, and then two weeks before you harvest a heatwave can destroy all your meticulous work. It is a product which keeps you very humble’. It is the context that transcends a wine’s fact sheet which keeps us coming back for more."

It all gets woven into a ‘story’ marketers take to consumers – but this formula seems to have better results for some wine brands than others, and it is because some brands are simply better story tellers than others.

READ: Cape wine farm shares cash spoils of carbon trade with workers

Take the Chilean wine brand Casillero del Diablo, one of the world’s most successful brands, which weaved the story of the devil guarding the proprietor’s best wines into a staggering marketing campaign that has helped sell more than 43 million bottles worldwide.

Moving millions of bottles of Casillero de Diablo in sales isn’t just luck: the success of this brand has every bit to do with a brand manager who knew how to package the  ‘perceived experience’ of descending into the haunted cellar vault and sell it through its communication channels – and this ‘bottled experience’ is something that every wine brand should be able to do.

From the meagre beginnings of the world’s first luxury brand, Chteau Haut Brion, to the tricks and deceptions used to protect wine during World Wars, there are volumes of books on wine and the world that exists around it – and for modern wineries of the new world, there is opportunity to create new stories and new legends.

The South African winelands are blessed with many great stories. The story of Vin de Constance, one of the noblest sweet wines ever made, that has its home in Constantia, is a well-known South African legend.

But there are also new stories being added to the local wine tapestry: the story of Samantha O’Keefe, who pioneered a new winemaking area in South Africa, by establishing Lismore Estate Vineyards in Greyton, is one example.

READ: SA wine makes it to top 10 of Spectators list

But perhaps one of the most important stories coming from the South African winelands right now, is the winelands’ collective story, or what Forbes calls “South Africa’s new chapter in a wine success story” – a chapter in which the international community takes note of the great quality wines produced at the southern tip of Africa. 

It is a story wine brands here would be wise to capitalise on, and one which has every possibility to have the same charm as the ‘Judgement of Paris’ where New World chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon from California dominated the best from Burgundy and Bordeaux in a tasting that forever changed views on wine from the United States.

Wine stories, if told correctly, and if repeated from one wine lover to the next, over several years, can change from a story, to a legend, and then a legacy – which is where you encounter the legendary wines of the great Chteaus and the world’s famous wine brands.

South African wines can tell their way up there too. 


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