Why we need more luxury wines

Strange how I often hear about wineries, and people who work in the wine industry, saying they want to find opportunities to increase their turnover. Shorthand: they want to make more money. With financial gloom still casting its grey shadow over people’s wallets, wine margins are going down and how much people spend on wines has gone down too.

The problem is that they are looking at the wrong sector. It is undoubtedly true that the majority of people are feeling the pinch. But not all. Profits on Wall Street are higher than they were before the crash, China has umpteen millionaires and while the wives of rich American businessmen no longer have parties in swanky jewellers, they are inviting the jewellers to their homes and having the parties there (it’s less ostentatious, you see).

From what I hear, though, most wineries are trying to cut their margins, help distributors to drop prices and generally try court the middle-income earners. Complete mistake.

Surely the path to beat is that which leads to the high earners? Okay, the best way to start that is to own a classified Chateau in Bordeaux, but if your funds don’t stretch that far, your average winery owner can, at the very least, start producing more luxury cuvees; use more expensive oak and hand pick everything; use more expensive, heavy bottles; more hand destemming; more labour-intensive practises; more gimmicks like planting Cabernet Sauvignon on a ridiculous slope; more pushes to create ever-more esoteric and tiny appellations which no-one, bar no-one can recreate; more expensive yet useless websites (or no website at all); more hair gel and tailored suits for the General Manager; more cellar doors with admission by appointment only; more, more, more.

Then market these wines to all the hedge fund managers, CEOs, Wall Street gurus, Chinese millionaires and their spouses. Maybe chuck in a few dictators and despots while you’re there.

For my money, the wine world is being far too tame and unambitious at the moment. They’re targeting the wrong people…Come on, follow the cash, we need more Screagles, not less.

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