That strange relationship: Mainstream Media & Wine

So, the European Union and the United States are happy wine couple. At least that’s the impression one gets from reading the AMAZING NUMBER of stories that ran last week and continue to appear this week about the signing of a bilateral "wine accord".

In essence, the two parties have agreed to 1) the U.S will strict the use of certain names on wine bottles such as "Champagne", "Port" and "Sherry. 2) American wines made with winemaking practices outlawed in Europe (using oak chips and adding water to wine, for example) will be allowed to be sold in Europe. 3) "New U.S. winemaking practices will only be accepted in Europe if here is "no objection raised (….LOL…I"m sorry….OK…)

You know, this is funny. This agreement has been a foregone conclusion for about 3 or 4 months now. The news that ran EVERYWHERE last week was noting that the agreement we all knew would be signed…was signed.. It ran like news though. Lots of wire service stories being picked up all over the country.

I’ve had a couple people ask my take on this agreement and all the coverage it has gotten (In fact there was so much coverage it ranks as the "wine story of the year" to this point)

Here’s my theory and thoughts on the subject:

Wine is a very compelling story to lots of editors. They see it as glamorous, yet booze. They see it as a pointer toward "national cultures", yet very hoity toity. To editors Wine signifies wealth, yet it also leads ministers of governments in Europe to bash Americans with “McWine-type” statements.

This odd attraction by editors to general interest/economic wine stories leads me to believe that there is lots of room to get people talking about wine if the story is in some way "over the top" or representative of something else.

People like using wine as a metaphor and symbolism. In this case the story is only interesting to a wide variety of people because it carries a bit of an “anti-American” quality to it. I mean who in America really cares if we use the words “Port” or “Champagne”. However, tell us that Europeans are claiming we are stealing from them or some how debasing their culture by selling wine in Europe made with wood chips and suddenly editors want to run a story about a relatively obscure trade agreement.

It’s a weird dynamic. However, from a PR person’s perspective I see opportunity in the dynamic. Every winery likes the idea of getting positive coverage (any kind of coverage?) outside the relatively obscure "wine media". And there is good reason for this desire. It generally helps sales as long as the story isn’t about death, destruction and scandal.

The opportunity lies in making connections between your wine, winery or winery owners and the general culture at large…or better yet, with national and international cultural or political trends.

For example, I could almost guarantee coverage in "Time", "Newsweek" and the "New York Times Business Section" for a winery announcing they were going to export wine to Iraq. Better yet, what if a winery could announce that its wines were taken off the shelf in an obscure little wine store in France by a bunch of xenophobic wine terrorists and smashed in the street. More coverage.

It’s the nature of the Beast (read: mainstream media). To get significant coverage of your winemaking outside the wine media it needs to be a bit sensational.

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