Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed a great bit of bubbly - whether Cava, Prosecco, Champagne, domestic sparkling or what have you - to ring in 2009. I have to admit, I'm a little sad the holidays are behind us. I did quite some damage enjoying bubbly from almost every wine-producing continent throughout December. And in so doing, I rejoiced in and fully celebrated just how great, food-friendly and versatile it is. My New Year's resolution might just include drinking at least one bottle each month of the year (not necessarily by myself or all at once, mind you). Ah, yes... I like this idea! What with all my bubbly enjoyment these last several weeks I couldn't help but muse the Marketing Giant that is the word, the region, and the renowned sparkler: Champagne. Just think of it! No other wine region in France, or really elsewhere, has the panache that Champagne does. No other wine seems to have inspired so many other styles of or takes on sparkling. No other wine says "sophistication" like Champagne. How does such a small-production entity (only 12% of sparkling wine worldwide) manage to capture the hearts/minds of so many people worldwide?
The short answer is History. Champagne got its real start via endorsements from royalty. In one example, Cristal was actually created for Czar Alexander II of Russia 1876 by Louis Roederer. Back then Russia was one of the highest export markets for the House. Of course, when the Czar found out he was drinking the same bubbly as his court he was a little peeved. Cristal became a special bottling, so named for the special lead crystal bottle it was distributed in. Meanwhile, an emerging middle class seeking a taste of how the other half lived, became more active consumers (albeit, not of Cristal, per se). And so it goes... Today, we simply seek out satisfying Champagnes to toast (and sip).
As someone who appreciates and enjoys many of the offerings coming from throughout France (and elsewhere), I can't help but wonder if any other region in the world will develop such a following. What will drive that new success? How about bizarre or clever tools now at play in the trade as a whole? Are they 'enough' to put a small producer or small producing region permanently on the map?
While I was contemplating this particular question, my stream-of-consciousness reminded me of a trade professional who tried to convince me of the marketability of aluminum last summer. I'm sorry to say, you may be able to drop the can of wine on the floor and merely dent it, but I don't think this will be the next great thing. I can even subscribe to the box wine phenomenon because of it's environmentally conscience and common sense-driven design. I'm largely a fan of screw caps. But aluminum? I'm sorry. No.
Over the holidays, my general musings about bubbly and marketing came full circle when I saw the biggest offender I've found on the market thus far: Francis Ford Coppola's Sophia Blanc de Blanc "mini"s. While this may be the wine of choice for sweet wine-interested consumers, could we please not sell it in a "convenient" can? Come on. A straw? For bubbly? This just hurts my feelings. It hurts history/tradition. For heaven's sake, there's no cork to pop! It only gets points for being offensively American. (If I were Madame Clicquot, I would actually turn in my grave.) Gnarly sweet and over-worked to boot, this wine gets my lowest rating: Humph!
Do you agree? What wine (marketing) faux pas did you encounter last year?