The New Shiny Dull Object is Right Wing Wine
Why does it seem it’s always the most uninteresting wine that provokes the most controversy in the wine industry?
Earlier in the year, a big old kerfuffle surrounded the introduction of the Avaline brand from actress Cameron Diaz and the description of the product as “clean wine”. The wine itself is decidedly average. The Kurfuffle over what the hell “clean” means was bigger than your average kerfuffle and still vexes those of us who think words describing wine ought to actually mean something.
Now seems to be the moment for”Partisan” wine. In particular, we see the wine media (as well as other media) focusing on We The People Wines. The brand sells uninteresting, average wine, but sells it with a decidedly conservative branding and marketing attached to it. We The People Wine is apparently for patriots. In fact, it’s not really average wine that is being sold at all, is it?
While interesting if you tilt your head this way and squint your eyes in that way, this particular controversy just isn’t important…in any way whatsoever.
Yes. We The People Wines exploded over the internet with a video that appears to link Ronald Reagan, motherhood, apple pie and the might of the U.S. military to its brand. Yes, it’s selling wine like they are asking for a contribution to a Donald Trump campaign. Yes, We The People Wines divides the consumer landscape into conservatives and communists. But it just doesn’t matter.
Still, we can’t help ourselves can we?
I’ve seen some link the We The People Wines to “racism” and “white supremacy”. This seems about as true and likely as trying to link wineries that posted their Black Lives Matter black square to radical rioters.
I’ve seen folks claim that this kind of partisan branding is likely to widen the cultural and partisan divide in America even further. This notion too is silly. If the cultural and partisan divide in America can actually be made larger by the existence of a few thousand cases of mediocre wine sold as Patriot Juice, then we have some bigger problems we never noticed that need attending. It’s just not the case.
The only thing of real interest here that ought to give a moment of pause to wine marketers is the question that is implicated by this controversy: Is it a good idea and is it profitable and is it sustainable for wine brands to actively and loudly engage in ideological or partisan branding?
In one of the articles that have attended to the issue of We The People Wines, Michael Kaiser, VP of Government Affairs for Wine America, answers that question in really the only way it can properly be answered:
“From my perspective as a lobbyist for the wine industry, I think it really behooves the industry to remain apolitical.”
Michael also adds this:
“It is bad business to do what this brand is doing.”
He’s partly right here and partly wrong. It’s bad business if you market your brand in this fashion but don’t go all-in on the branding the way We The People Wines has done. This isn’t the kind of “cause marketing” that a small, high-end wine brand might engage in so that they can raise money for this cause or that cause. This is really top-level, brand-defining marketing in which all other perspectives on the brand are swept aside. It’s a commitment to single-issue marketing. One doesn’t declare themselves the “Wine For Conservatives and Patriots” then attempt to message out, “Hey, by the way, look at our really great terroir.” You’ve pretty much blown whatever wad of marketing you possess by declaring your product the enemy of half the country. No one is going to listen to or consider anything else.
So, by all means, let’s momentarily and collectively and once again focus on the average wine over there.