Wine Industry Expert Sources, At Your Service

At Benson Marketing Group, we represent leaders in their respective locales. These experts, in their fields, are excellent resources for writers and journalists who are researching topics related to wine. Here are just a few of the timely topics our clients can comment on in the press.

 

Wine Imports on the Rise: Imported wines are now a one-third of the market, a record high according to Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates. Languedoc AOP wines have certainly been the beneficiary of this trend. The 2016 import figures* for AOP wines from the Languedoc show +29% volume growth and +43% value growth, 2016 over 2015, outpacing every major French AOP category except Provence. In addition, the new VIN DE FRANCE category is really booming in the U.S., and represents an entrée into the French wine category based on varietal labeling, modest price points and broad distribution. In 2016, VIN DE FRANCE wines grew 16% in volume and 17% in value verses 2015.

Rise and success of the $15+ Red Blend: Client Rutherford Wine Company, a family-owned portfolio based in Napa Valley, has recently added two new red blends to their portfolio. This segment grew 23% over the last year according to Nielson, outpacing the category as a whole. Rutherford Wine Company says this segment is particularly healthy due to a desire from consumers for higher quality wines, but that are still within reach pricewise.

Chardonnay Style Evolution: Cabernet Sauvignon may feel like king, but Chardonnay is far and away the most popular wine in the U.S. California winemakers produce styles ranging from racy unoaked to bold and buttery versions. Clients Hahn Family Wines, Balletto Vineyards, Rutherford Wine Company and others in our portfolio can speak to the evolving tastes of American wine consumer as well as production considerations.

Love Affair with Rosé: A new generation of wine enthusiasts show no signs of cheating on their new found love–rose wines. What started as “Give me Domaine Ott” for summer has evolved and grown to include Rosé wines with a certain whisper pink hue anytime of year. Several clients are making rosés that are getting noticed including Balletto Vineyards from the Russian River Valley, and winemakers from the Languedoc like Famille Fabre and Gerard Bertrand, to name just a few.

 

Pinot Noir from North to South: Send your readers on a virtual Pinot Noir road trip from the North Coast of Sonoma through California. Clients up and down this fair state can comment on what are the hallmarks of Pinot Noir from their region. Benson Marketing Group is also prepared to help writers book their own actual Pinot Noir (or Chardonnay) road trip throughout California to get to know the various AVAs.

Legal Direct Wine Shipping: Did you know that Benson Marketing Group’s President Jeremy Benson is the executive director of Free The Grapes!, national grassroots coalition of wine lovers, wineries and retailers who seek to remove restrictions in states that still prohibit consumers from purchasing wines directly from wineries and retailers? Thirty years ago, only four states allowed for legal, regulated winery-to-consumer wine shipments. As of this writing, 44 states allow such shipments from out of state wineries, which cumulatively represent 94% of the total population. Find out what’s next for the cause.

Contact Sarah Jones Gillihan at jones@bensonmarketing.com or (707) 254-1114 to get connected with our experts.

 

*Source: Douanes françaises, UbiFrance/Département Agro-Alimentaire

What We Learned at Prowein 2017 (Or, putting in some miles at the U.N. of Wine)

Dusseldorf hosts the world’s largest wine party each year, with 6,500 producers pouring for 58k+ wine and spirits buyers. We attended the event again this year, and Jeremy Benson and our Lyon colleague, Mathilde Chevalier, shared a few observations.

  • “Millennial Industry.” Richard Halstead, COO of Wine Intelligence, used this term to describe the frequent misuse of data by companies (inside and outside the wine industry) to support self-serving hypotheses about its influence. His presentation managed to simultaneously burst bubbles and lend real insight, pointing out behaviors that are very common across generations.
  • Putting in the miles: It’s hard to capture the scale of this event. Here are two fun facts. Buyers represented 130 out of the world’s 193 nations. And over the main two days of the event, we logged 16 miles walking. (Thank you, Fitbit!)
  • Ok, but what was different this year? Well, not much, frankly. The format, timing, and even the booth designs and placements in the halls were largely the same, which struck us as odd. Industry events need to evolve and adapt.
  • The Japanese food in Dusseldorf is superb. From complex to simple, we had a terrific dinner at fancy Nagomi with our friends from CIVL, and then delicious noodle bowls at a counter the next night. Dusseldorf has the third largest Japanese community in Europe (Wikipedia)
  • Tweets not a plenty. For an event of this size, the low Twitter activity was surprising, but we managed to capture a good shot of Stacey Dolan Capitani educating the world about Napa Valley wines.
  • Blue Wine: not a thing.

Bring your comfortable shoes to Prowein 2018, March 18-20, again in Dusseldorf.

Wines of Bourgogne (BIVB) Retains Benson

Benson is expanding its roster of clients with the addition of the BIVB – Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne – and will represent Bourgogne wines across a full spectrum of activities including trade promotion, digital media and public relations.

“The United States is the number one export market for Bourgogne”, says Jeremy Benson, president of Benson Marketing Group. “But we see even more potential for telling the rich story of the homeland of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay through the individual stories of the producers and growers in the region. The regional and lesser known village wines, in particular, hold promise for segments of the retail and restaurant trade.” The full program of US market activities will look to focus on this message, in particular, across audiences.

A Toast to 2016

Like the vineyards in winter, we take a rest, closing the U.S. offices between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It’s a great time to take stock of the previous year, and recharge the batteries for the next one.

In early December we started assembling some stats on 2016 activities for our holiday card. The process itself was inspiring; documenting success should be on everyone’s list of motivators! Here’s what we came up with:

  • 29 digital campaigns
  • 841 news articles, 198 million impressions
  • 6 regional tours for press and trade
  • 92 trade seminars for 1,800+ professionals
  • 6 private sommelier events (pictured above)
  • 796 in-store tastings for 35,000 consumers
  • 185 new retail placements for one client, in one promotion

In 2016 we starting working with exciting new clients like Accolade Wines, Rutherford Wine Company, Frank Family Vineyards, Chimney Rock Winery, Sanford Winery, Famille Fabre, and Anvin, to name a few. We also welcomed new teammates Kamyn Asher, Erica Wong, Alisa Langer and Megan Helphand to our offices in Napa and New York.

What conclusions can we draw? 2016 was a fabulous year: energized teammates, successful promotions, new client challenges. And, some creative thinking: a week-long, California Pinot Noir road trip for an influential journalist; tasting events for New York editors at lifestyle magazines like Cosmo; an online promotion that went global; promotions that helped retailers and restaurateurs.

Our network and creativity brought clients and influencers together in new and bold ways. I’ll toast to that!

Benson Adds Staff and Clients: Geyser Peak, Rutherford Wine Co., Nomacorc

November 15, 2016, Napa, CA – Benson Marketing Group, a leading wine and spirits marketing agency, is expanding its U.S. and French team, and roster of clients.

In the U.S., Benson is now consulting with Accolade Wines North America. Activities include brand messaging, trade promotion, digital media and PR support for Geyser Peak Winery, among other wineries (www.accoladewinesna.com) Additionally, Benson was retained by Rutherford Wine Company, which produces and markets Rutherford Ranch, Scott Family Estates, Predator Old Vine Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, Rhiannon Red Wine, Lander-Jenkins, and Round Hill California wines (www.rutherfordwine.com)

In France, Benson has begun working with Nomacorc on a special event focusing on the latest innovations in wine packaging.

Staff News
In Benson’s Napa Valley office, Kamyn Asher joined the agency in July to contribute to digital marketing, social media and public relations campaigns. Previously, she worked with the Far Niente family of wineries. Kamyn’s background is in film/cinematography, and she holds a B.A. from Scripps College. Ben Palos has been promoted to senior account executive. Finally, Jeremy Benson, president, is now on the Board of Executives of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC Davis. http://robertmondaviinstitute.ucdavis.edu/

In Benson’s Lyon office, Mathilde Chevalier joined Benson full-time this month as attachée de presse; previously she was an intern. Marine Baron, stagiere, has been brought in last month to assist with client projects.

Behind the Scenes at Benson

Our homepage underscores an important point: our clients, and their stories, come first. But we thought it time to pull back the curtain and share what we do in our off hours.

prowein 2016

What we learned at Prowein 2016

French Directrice Jeanne Peron and President Jeremy Benson recently attended Prowein 2016 in Dusseldorf. They share a few observations from the largest wine trade fair below.

  1. Bigger than Texas. Prowein is now the world’s largest wine-focused trade fair with 55,000 attendees and 6,200 exhibitors (99% of which are wineries).
  2. Wineries Bring Their “A” Game: The larger wine companies had immense booths with tastings, offices, couches and lots of espresso for guests; the marketing investment is substantial. But the sheer number of booths by small and medium-sized wineries was also impressive. This isn’t just for the ‘big guys.’
  3. Virtual Reality Comes to Wine: Castel had a VR bike route through Paris; we’re not sure if it was effective branding, but it was fun.
  4. A 59 Nation Army (couldn’t hold us back): Fifty-nine nations were represented, and just one of the many buildings was home to upcoming wine regions in Slovenia, Turkey, Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries. There was wine from China, England, New York, South America…you name it.
  5. Culturally Appropriate: The regional associations did an excellent job designing their spaces to reflect their culture and personalities. Champagne’s section was luxuriously carpeted in all white, Vinho Verde had a fresh and youthful feel, while California’s wooden frame booths and faux fireplace were inviting and contemporary.
  6. Mood: Like at other conferences, you see old friends and make new ones at Prowein, but the mood is all business at the same time. Event organizers did an excellent job of providing the tools to facilitate both, including a useful app with maps, summaries and a meeting scheduler (all grounded with sturdy Wi-Fi).
  7. Prepare NOW for 2017: Next year’s Prowein takes place March 19-21, 2017. Get your comfortable shoes ready and reserve your hotel rooms eight months in advance (and close to the 78 or 79 metro lines, which connect downtown Dusseldorf to the Messe Exhibition Center). We’ll see you there!

Benson Adds Six New Clients, New Staff, in Q116

March 30, 2016, Napa, CA  –   Benson Marketing Group, a leading wine and spirits marketing agency with offices in Napa Valley, New York and Lyon, has added to its U.S. team and roster of clients in both the U.S. and France.  “We are seeing a strong uptick in marketing investment that reflects the global competitiveness of our industry,” said Jeremy Benson, president. “More clients want a sharply defined brand story, and consumer campaigns that drive both DTC and 3-tier sales.”

In the U.S., Benson is now working with Terlato Wines. Activities include brand messaging and PR support for two wineries: Chimney Rock Winery (www.chimneyrock.com), one of the elite Cabernet Sauvignon specialists in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley; and Sanford Winery (www.sanfordwinery.com), home to one of California’s most iconic vineyards, Sanford & Benedict, in the Santa Rita Hills AVA.

Last month, Benson began managing social media for the Napa Valley gem, Frank Family Vineyards, which just won its 7th consecutive annual “Bay Area A-List’s Best Napa Winery” award. www.frankfamilyvineyards.com  Also last month, Benson created a launch campaign for Barton & Guestier’s Passeport Bordeaux by Laurent Prada, an elegant and affordable classic Bordeaux ($12) from this venerable French wine house. www.bartonguestier.com  (Two additional new U.S. clients remain confidential.)

Additionally, Benson’s French office has begun working with Famille Fabre, a family-owned wine company dating back to 1605 which now includes four chateaux in Languedoc. Today, the new generation is proud to continue the story with a complete range of organic wines from AOP Corbières, AOP Corbières-Boutenac and IGP Pays. (www.famillefabre.com)

Finally, Benson added two new staff members in March: Megan Helphand and Alisa Langer in the agency’s Napa and New York offices, respectively.  Megan brings public relations and trade events experience from Francis Ford Coppola Winery.  Formerly with Ruder Finn PR in New York, Alisa’s experience includes L’Oreal Paris, McDonalds and Novartis.

What U.S. importers look for in a supplier partner

We’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of U.S. importers over the years, and we often ask them, “What makes a great winery client?” In summarizing the responses from various importers, key points start to gel around some practical suggestions for international wineries looking to export to the U.S. Here is the condensed version:

  1. Job #1: Sell the importer. Know how your brand will complement their portfolio. Show how your wines fit trends, will make them money, have a compelling story, are priced right, and have great volumetric potential.
  2. Do your homework. Wine-searcher.com is your new best friend. Go online and research competitor product lines, pricing, and positioning so that your offer is competitive and realistic. Know the sales channels where you are most likely to succeed.
  3. The real work begins after the first shipment. We’ve heard that importers in other countries provide more sales support than U.S. importers, so don’t expect U.S. importers to do all the selling. Present them with a comprehensive marketing and sales plan including media plans, market visits, PR and scoring plans, etc.
  4. Start by focusing on a few states. By demonstrating success in 2-3 states, you can entice importers in other states.
  5. Provide a professional presentation. Include items like a winery fact sheet, tech sheets, winemaker bio, accolades from third parties that are recognizable to the U.S. trade (e.g., Decanter), etc.
  6. Consider secondary markets. There are a number of great wine markets outside of the usual suspects of the New York tri-state area, California, Texas, Florida, Massachusetts and Illinois. Do some research to uncover those secondary markets.
  7. Bring a global mindset: A French winery, for example, is not just competing with other French wineries, but also with Australia, Italy, Washington state, and Chile.
  8. Know the difference between your “brand” and your product: Your product is what you make; your brand is what you stand for, your story. These are often confused.

These are some practical suggestions. But you should also Google, “How to do business in America” so that you understand its business culture. A few quick suggestions:

  • Get to the point. For example, summarize what you want and why in the first sentence of an email, not at the end.
  • Be on time. Arriving late to a meeting, or being unprepared, is considered disrespectful.
  • Know cultural values. Americans, in general, place a lesser value than Europeans do on tradition and history, organizational hierarchy, and youth versus experience.
  • Follow up. Follow-up a meeting with an email within 24 hours that summarizes who will do what and when.

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