A recent news story flagged up how wine brands are out of touch with their audience, says Oli Flower of Reprise: consumers want simplicity, yet the category fuels confusion.

Last month the Hawksmoor Manchester restaurant tweeted about a lucky customer who ordered a £260 Bordeaux but received a bottle “of the same vintage” which was 17 times the price.

Why did these diners not notice? Once you remove price as a signifier, can we really tell the difference between two bottles of wine, no matter how many hundreds of pounds separate them?

This miscommunication is a fitting analogy for the way in which most wine brands seem to be totally out of touch with their audience – particularly younger drinkers, who feel intimidated by the culture of pretence and tradition that lies at the heart of the category.

There’s a huge opportunity for wine brands to attract modern consumers by fighting category norms and differentiating themselves in a homogenised marketplace by communicating in a way that is relevant to their audiences.

Stand out on the shelf

Modern wine drinkers have a broad variety of choice. According to Nielsen, there were around 3,500 new wine products launched in US alone last year. This means that buying wine is a daunting experience, especially as most choose their bottle within a couple of minutes once in store. Therefore, it’s no surprise that consumers cite the label as one of the biggest influencers of their final decision.

It’s important to have an eye-catching label – bold logos, illustrations, unconventional layouts – anything to make your bottle stand out on the shelf. Consider digital innovation to offer new ways for consumers to interact with your bottle such as the AR-friendly bottles that 19 Crimes developed, allowing their consumers to engage and find out more about the brand.

Innovate in packaging

It won’t be news to read that modern audiences are more health conscious than ever, and that as a result, they’re drinking less.

Although this means that consumers are now willing to spend more per bottle, it also suggests that drinkers would often prefer to buy wine in more sensible quantities. To meet this need, Waitrose and Tesco have started stocking half-size bottles, and in the US, sales of canned wine have risen by around 40% over the last year.

This trend is also symptomatic of the general casualisation that consumers are looking for from the wine industry, with our research showing that, actually, people want convenience and simplicity when consuming and choosing wine. The increase in sales of boxed wine, no longer seen as a signifier of bad quality, also speaks to this trend.

Therefore, modern wine brands should appeal to consumer needs by considering new ways to package their product. Cans, bottles, boxes, and even single serve pouches could offer consumers convenient ways to consume wine.

Tell a new story

Wine brands have, for years, told the same, self-indulgent story: the awards they’ve won, their vineyards, their grapes. They bombard us with product-centric information to reinforce the quality of their wines, believing that more is more. However, it’s not just about the product, it’s about the story behind it.

It is no surprise that the top three wine brands in the UK have all reduced in value, whilst own-label alternatives have shot up: it’s because consumers generally favour unique, differentiated branded offerings instead of the homogenised majority. 19 Crimes in particular, the fastest growing wine brand in the US over the past three years, has built itself almost entirely off the back of a strong piece of storytelling, with its website talking not about the quality of the wine, but of the stories of the convicts that the wines represent.

Therefore, for a wine brand to cut through in 2019, it needs to have a unique story. What makes you different?

But keep it simple

The wine industry has deep foundations in pretence and over-complication, and nowhere is this more evident than in the much-derided tasting notes that producers use to describe their products. At Reprise, we analysed a dataset of 130k reviews and tasting notes, which include metadata for country, vineyard, rating, price, province and taster. These were then filtered to show only reviews that contained a specific word, for example “palate”, and parsed through a word-tree algorithm. This aggregates all the common words and shows the linguistic structure of the reviews. With popular terms including ‘cigar box’ and ‘tannic palate’, it’s clear how confusing tasting notes can be for the average person.

Modern wine brands have recognised the necessity of simplifying tasting notes to empower consumers to be able to make more confident purchase decisions and increase the likelihood of them choosing their wine.

Our insights team at Reprise built a review translator that, if you input a paragraph of tasting notes will summarise it and make it easy to understand: try it.

Conclusion: be more craft beer

Craft beer brands have shown us how to really adapt to an audience and shake up the category. For them, connection and openness lie at the very heart of their proposition whether that’s through brewery events, product and artist collaborations, or festival partnerships. Therefore, there’s a huge opportunity for wine brands to attract modern consumers by fighting category norms and communicating in a way that is relevant to their audiences.