Will More Politicians Politick for Their State’s Wines?

Recently New York Senator Charles Schumer demonstrated exactly how a representative of the people stands up for his constituents and for his state's industries. Senator Shumer publicly ask the Obama administration, through a letter to Julianna Smoot, White House Social Secretary, to serve New York wines at the upcoming state dinner for Chinese president Hu Jintao. I don't ever recall seeing a congressperson make this kind of public statement on behalf of their state's wine industries. Three cheers for Schumer.

"I write today to respectfully urge you to consider serving wines
produced exclusively by American wineries at future state dinners.
Specifically, I’d like to recommend that you feature New York State
wines at these events."

The call to use New York wines at the upcoming state dinner came during remarks the Senator made while standing with members of the New York wine industry on the shores of Lake Seneca in New York

No word yet whether the Chinese president and the contingent of Chinese representatives will be treated to New York Rieslings or Cabernet Francs. The more interesting question is whether the service of a state's wines at the White House really result in the golden promotional opportunity that Senator Schumer believes it offers:

“Over and over again New York’s wine producers have proven themselves
to be among the best in the country and getting a chance to showcase
their products at a state dinner would only add to that reputation and
serve to open up new markets for their products. Wine
production is part of the economic engine that moves New York forward –
every year wine is a $3.7 billion shot in the arm for our economy that
provides 17,000 jobs – it’s essential we support it.”

No doubt the White House service of wine offers at the very least a symbolic opportunity for both the brand owner as well as the region from which the brand originates. I've certainly written a few press releases over the past 20 years announcing that a client's wines were chosen for service at a White House function. In addition to the opportunity for one's PR rep to get the word out about the White House endorsement, there also results a printed menu on White House stationary that lists the courses and the wines served with each that tends to be framed and displayed at wineries' tasting rooms. But does it sell more wine?

Certainly it does.

Symbolism is a big part of wine marketing and promotion. More often than not, when promoting a wine, we are promoting an idea, a feeling or a lifestyle: "Buy this wine and feel closer to the land". "Drink this wine and commune with the idea of artistry." Or, in the case of a wine served at the White House: "Drink this wine and know that you share a common link with VIPs who shared in under the room of the White House."

All this may sound silly and a little manipulative, but consider the approach to marketing and the messaging of marketers where nearly any luxury good is concerned. What we know is that many folks willingly pay a premium to obtain (or consume) a produce that affiliates them with a lifestyle they desire or with a people they desire to affiliate with.

Schumer knows this. Members of the New York wine industry know this.

But the good Senator's boostering of his state's wine isn't quite enough to do the trick, even if it works. What has to come next is a segment on NBC Nightly News, Fox & Friends, The Rachel Maddow Show or an article in the Wall Street Journal that uses the successful lobbying effort of Senator Schumer to move into a discussion or profile of the New York wine industry. This in turn leads to wine publications to note the incident. Bloggers then note the surge in promotion for New York wines and start discussing the better New York wines they recommend. And all this, taken together, is likely to get the attention of consumers, retailers, restaurants and maybe even Chinese importers.

But what I'm wondering now is if Congressional representatives from Texas, Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Washington, and other wine-producing states will let New York have the political spotlight without speaking up themselves for their own states' wine industries. I certainly hope they step up. A little rhetorical grandstanding on behalf of the many states' wine industries (maybe even a little competitive grandstanding) is just what the doctor ordered.

6 Responses

  1. fredfric koeppel - July 12, 2010

    After the Obama inaugural banquet and the first state dinner, i wrote a couple of posts on http://www.biggerthanyourhead.net about what a terrific opportunity existed for the White House to really showcase the diversity of American wines at all sorts of events. I put myself forward to be considered White House wine steward, but so far I’ve had no reply.

  2. Bill McIver - July 13, 2010

    Having your winery’s wines served at the White House is a big deal, the menu listing is much coveted and the PR impact is immediate. Without mentioning names, there’s at least one winery whose reputation is primarily based on being served at state dinners. Hint: they make Champagne, ‘er sparkling wine.

  3. JohnLopresti - July 13, 2010

    I was reading that as recently as 2010 NY state itself was in discussions internally whether to license grocers to sell wine. http://www.mpnnow.com/business/x531839224/Stakes-rise-in-debate-over-wine-in-groceries

  4. Thomas Pellechia - July 13, 2010

    That issue once again looks to have died in the relatively useless and corrupt NY legislature, which has eliminated the proposal from their ever-late and every year later budget.
    NY lawmakers are a general disgrace to humanity…

  5. Lab Officer of Protocol - July 14, 2010

    The White House has served only American wines at State dinners since the Johnson Administration.

  6. Brent - July 17, 2010

    Virginia’s Governor Robert McDonnell is encouraging the serving of Virginia wines at the Executive Mansion and other business venues. Here is the official news release: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=268

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