What’s Wrong With “Craft Wine”
What’s the best label to use to describe a small, hands-on, privately owned, high-quality oriented winery?
It’s interesting, what with the explosion in interest in “craft beer” over the past two decades, that the wine industry has not explored using the “craft” prefix. “Craft Wine!” That sounds good to me.
Is it possible, given that it’s beer, spirit and cider producers that most often use the term “craft”, that wine producers see the term as too downscale? In fact, I’m certain this is an important reason why wineries have chosen not to adopt the term “craft”. Still, I can’t stop wondering if the embrace of the term “craft” being such a positive for beer producers and beer drinkers, that wine shouldn’t rethink it’s position on adopting the term. There are reasons for wineries to consider use of the term:
1. “Craft” is associated with “small”, “Handmade” and “artisan” and that’s all good
2. “Craft” is associated with higher quality whether its beer, spirits or cider and that’s all good3. There is a direct correlation between the word “craft” and higher price points in the beer, spirits and cider worlds.
That said, the wine world does already have something of a synonym for the “craft” moniker. We have both “boutique wines” as well as “garagiste wines”. Like “craft beer” or “craft spirits”, both “garagiste wine” and “boutique wine” suggests small, handmade, limited and the like. Furthermore, I they are also terms that suggest quality.
Also, while those adopting the “craft” label have used it to push up their prices, what’s important to understand about wine is that there is no need to push up prices and work to get the wine drinking public to accept higher price points. Lord knows, wine long ago broke through any psychological barriers that might have prevented wine drinkers from paying higher prices for fermented grape juice. So, there is no need for adopting any new term to help push prices up in the wine world.
Labels are important. They help communicate often complex ideas in very few words. The question is, do America’s small, “craft-oriented” wineries need a new word to distinguish them? Should they adopt craft? Are there other words that might work better for wine?
IMO “Craft” implies something done by a crafts-person. Wine makers, again IMO, think of themselves more as artisans.
Our minds must be aligned…I’ve been musing on a blog post about this very topic. I personally have worked w/ a national retailer on making (the part I did) and marketing wines with a “craft” bent- they thought, hey, it works for our beer and booze sales, so why not promote wines the same way? A handful of brands participated in this promotional effort. Funny thing: beer and spirits sales got a great boost and wine sales did not move a needle. My take- beer and spirits have historically had to fight the image in the public’s mind of being big corporations churning out liters of consistent but perhaps uninteresting product (think Coors, Johnny Walker, etc) so for them “Craft” is a new story and movement. I can see why drinking a “craft” gin made from locally-grown ingredients by a bearded be-spectacled dude working out of a barn on his grandparent’s ranch might be compelling to the consumer. It’s a new story to hear and something new to talk about. Unfortunately, wine just can’t benefit in the same magnitude because it’s the same story we’ve been telling for years.