Second wine or another wine, the challenge of the luxury wines

Can a luxury wine brand attract new consumers by a daring and edgy strategy without damaging its image?

For decades, Classified Growths and French luxury wines were accustomed to having a second wine. This “second wine” was made from lesser quality grapes considered not good enough for the “grand vin”. It was very often named “Le Petit…” (The Little one — like the second wine of château Guiraud, le Petit Guiraud).

Picture: Culinary Sojourns

Château Mouton Rothschild had the same strategy, calling its second wine “Le Petit Mouton” (The Little Sheep). Not to be confused with Mouton Cadet, their negociant wine.

When your wine is in the category of the classified growth or the “grand cru” how damaging is it to call one of your wines “petit” or “second”? Why not a more flattering or positive name? Especially when the purpose of those second wine is to attract consumers who cannot afford the “grand vin” (think of the outrageously high prices of some classified growths) or who would like to experience a great wine without paying too much. The “second wine” is a good way to have access to quality and prestige without paying the price.

At least this is what most of the French press will explain to the beginner. Unfortunately, the marketer has a different view. First of all, the consumers have changed. They are getting younger, while the baby boomers, traditional buyers of expensive wines, are spending less because they are drinking less. The millennials (aged 25 to 38) do not have the same disposable income as their older counterparts. Second of all, they do not have the same values and expectations as the baby boomers: they are sensitive to sustainability, to traceability, to taste more than terroir. They have a different wine culture based on grapes, not on place. Whether a Pinot Noir wine comes from Washington or from Burgundy does not matter as much to them as to their elders. They will enjoy the wine shared with peers over a pizza and during an after work. Forget the elaborate wine and food pairing, the long discussion about letting the wine breathe or carafing it. Let’s drink and enjoy ourselves!

Picture: Wine for Humanity

What would be the efficient way to promote a second wine and reach out to the younger crowd? An attractive and easy to remember name is a good start at branding the wine. It gives it some independence from the main brand and promotes it at the same time. Château Palmer understood it as early as 1998 when it launched Alter Ego de Palmer, the “other” Palmer. Château Haut-Brion rebranded the second wines of all its Classified Growths: Le Clarence is the second wine of Château Haut-Brion Red and La Clarté the one of Château Haut-Brion White.

Domaine Clarence Dillon went even further in its attempt of attracting younger consumers to great wines through the launch of Clarendelle “inspired by Haut-Brion” in the three colors in 2005. A few days ago, it just released an edgy video on Clarendelle available for now on its web site.

This is the proof that a heritage brand can attract new consumers by a daring and edgy strategy without damaging its image. Congratulations to those brands…