Some say that it is time for the wine industry to take the initiative to change perceptions through a generic promotion program. The “Got Milk?” campaign made people think about milk a bit differently. Maybe a similar initiative could shift the needle on wine?
One concern, as I wrote last week, is that as memorable as “Got Milk?” was, it didn’t prevent milk’s ultimate marketplace decline. Maybe “Got Wine?” isn’t the answer. But what would a better approach look like?
Wine in Moderation
I think there are lessons to be learned by studying the Wine in Moderation movement that began in Europe a decade ago and has now spread to many corners of the wine world.
Wine in Moderation was founded in 2008 at a time when the European wine industry faced a growing threat. It wasn’t just that wine demand was falling — that had been going on for a couple of decades. And it wasn’t just the global financial crisis, either, although that didn’t help. It was rising anti-alcohol sentiments and policies that threatened wine both as an economic activity and also as an integral part of European culture.
I asked George Sandeman, President of the Wine in Moderation Association, to explain WiM’s objectives and the lessons they have learned.
Although a message of “moderation” seemed to be well aligned with the way wines are presented on a day to day basis, focusing quality rather than quantity, we encountered difficulty in waking up the wine sector to the cold wind blowing from Geneva.
Initially there was no recognition of the social responsibility attributed to the “wine sector” (“leave it to beer and spirits!”). At best it was a reluctance to accept the fact that wine needed to be part of the social responsibility which the category required, and at worst we were sleepwalking into the same treatment as tobacco.
The traditional culture of wine was frequently overridden by need to compete in new market environments … Add to this a powerful health lobby working to demonize wine …
So the first two lessons are that the wine industry needs to wake up to sector-wide issues. And the positive story of wine doesn’t tell itself. Someone has to do it.
What wine needed, the group’s founders proposed, was an organization that would help its members tell the counter-story of wine’s benefits when consumed in moderation, and would lean against the wind of damaging anti-alcohol regulations. This was no easy task, Sandeman notes. “The concept of ‘moderation’ is not a simple concept to communicate, varies with different cultures and viewpoints, and is difficult to translate for non-English speaking countries …”
Strength in Numbers
Wine in Moderation has evolved in the 10+ years since it was founded (you can read about its progress here). As its efforts have gained traction, it has moved from a tight European policy focus to an approach that is broader in both geography and strategy. The map of Wine in Moderation activities is now global and its focus is shifting to education of professionals. Although there are Wine in Moderation activities in the U.S. I suspect that the impact is somewhat limited by the lack of a national coordinating organization, a role played, for example, by Vinos de Chile, Unioni Italiani Vini, ACIBEV, and FEV in Chile, Italy, Portugal, and Spain respectively.
Seventeen national organization plus several global wine companies (Pernod Ricard, Möet Hennesy, Sogrape), and a host of other groups including WSET and the Institute of the Masters of Wine now support and implement Wine in Moderation programs around the world.
So the third lesson is that there is strength in numbers. It is important to work together on several levels to address important issues.
I first learned about Wine in Moderation from George Sandeman and Susana Garcia Dolla when I was speaking at ACIBEV meetings in Porto a few years ago. Since then I have noted the group’s participation at national and international meetings, always presenting a message of wine in a cultural context.
Wine in Moderation announced a major rebranding in November 2019 with the theme of Choose – Share – Care, which the leaders hope will carry the organization forward into even more ambitious professional and consumer programs in its next decade.
- CHOOSE to make informed choices; choose the best wine for you to enjoy, choose whether or not to drink.
- SHARE wine with friends & family, pair with good food and water. Drink slowly and take the time to fully appreciate.
- CARE about the wine you serve, care about yourself and about others. Avoid excess and enjoy your wine in moderation!
Increased focus on wine tourism is another element of future work. Wine in Moderation’s association with the United Nations World Tourism Organization is one step along the path to providing wineries and regional groups with more tools to shape perceptions and develop the wine tourism experience.
Strike the Right Chord
Two things about Wine in Moderation are especially relevant to the current U.S. concerns. First, while I will admit that Choose-Share-Care does not have that “Got Milk?” punch, the message is one that I think might strike a chord with some of the groups that wine is currently failing to engage. Health, community, and culture is a strong positive message and one that resonates with young the old alike.
And the way of getting the message out is relevant too. One thing that impresses me about Wine in Moderation (another lesson?) is its multi-layer approach. Here’s how it works:
- The international coordination is provided by a not-for-profit international association, the WiM Association.
- In each country, there are one or more WiM national coordinators that support the planning, coordination, implementation and accountability of the programme in their respective countries.
- WiM supporters join the programme at national level. They actively support a wine culture that inspires well-being and healthy lifestyles and contributes in the prevention and reduction of alcohol related harm.
- Leading wine companies further support the efforts made at international and national level setting the example with their leadership in social responsibility and high contributions. These leading companies are the Wine in Moderation Ambassadors.
Wine in Moderation movement members are given the tools they need to spread the word, which is a model that could work here in the U.S. Leadership is needed, of course, but it seems to me that our many regional wine associations and wine companies, too, would benefit from bringing a coordinated message into their diverse communications programs.
I can imagine a program with a general message agreed at a high level, but implemented with creative local twists and turns by the dozens of regional wine associations around the U.S. Such a plan would share the creative energy (and cost) while leveraging wine’s broad and diverse base.
Work together? Is that realistic? Well, what’s the alternative? In Europe, as George Sandeman said, the alternative was being regulated like tobacco. The alternative here in the U.S might be a gradual (and then sudden) wine market bust.
This Changes Everything?
Everyone would like to find a silver bullet that would change everything for wine — in a positive way. But silver bullets are hard to come by and they show up in unexpected places. Do you remember the impact of the 60 Minutes “French Paradox” broadcast? Or the Sideways boost for Pinot Noir? (BTW Miles’ “dump bucket” scene from Sideways is definitely not an example of moderate wine consumption!)
Wine in Moderation has moved the needle in its target regions according to its most recent report. Worth further study, don’t think?