November is the time of year when limited release products are often unveiled. This is not a coincidence. This is when consumers buying expensive wine seems commonplace. Great hype often surrounds the trumpeted and rare opportunity to buy velvet lined boxes of something. One of the great scams/ marketing genius moves of all time was released just last week: The Prisoner.
*As a side note, I have many friends and colleagues that buy and sell this wine with great success, and I know many consumers that have enjoyed it over the years, this is simply a commentary not on the wine, but how powerful marketing can be.
The concept is simple: The wine is a Napa Blend primarily of Zinfandel, all purchased fruit. There is Cab and Charbono in the blend as well. The wine is released, a la Beaujolais Nouveau on a set date, November 1, to great pomp and circumstance. This seemingly limited wine is pre-sold like you just won't be able to get it. The label is quite attractive, and the entire package feels special. It gets a Napa Valley appellation and it's $35. Here's the thing: they make 70,000 cases of this one wine. What does that mean in relative terms? 70,000 cases makes them bigger than 95% of the bonded wineries in California, just from one wine. Strictly from a production standpoint, this is a very un-rare wine. So how does a winery that produces so many cases, maintain the aura of being special and rare? Marketing.
Rule #1: The label matters. This hand drawn label looks like it belongs in the ranks of the wines of Sine Qua Non.
Rule #2: Mystery. The proprietary name,along with idea of a mysterious blend is intriguing
Rule #3 Score. This wine has received some nice press by placing James Laube's palate right in their cross hairs. A little American Oak and Cab to spice up their Zin, and Laube all of a sudden likes this more than most Sonoma Zins (wonder why?). Oh, that would typically get you about 92 points
Rule #4 Price. $35 seems like a lot of money for a Zin based blend. Comparative pricing puts it about the sames as Ridge single vineyard bottlings. But this isn't a wine for serious Zin people. It's a wine for people that think that a blend is something to shop for. Therefore, this is expensive, but not too expensive. This is really the sweet spot for less serious wine drinkers trying to step up.
Rule #5-Perceived scarcity-Can I just one more time say 70,000 cases!!! They have told the people that want to buy their wine what they want them to believe, that this is a limited availability wine. This is Disney and their DVD vault all over again.
Rule #6-Place is important. As long as it says Napa.
The marketing minds behind this wine have done an incredible job of selling through this wine, much to the delight of many, many people. If you happen to produce an actual limited amount of wine and are having a tough time selling through your production, there is much to learn from this example. I would not recommend trying to replicate this model as it is built on a bit of hype over reality. That's always a tough strategy for long term growth, but an excellent way to entice some sucker into backing a truckload of money up your driveway.
Hansen Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel (6)
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