Tag Archives: Yellow Tail

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Winebits 312: Sales trends edition

? YellowTail growth resumes: Remember all those stories about how the strong Australian dollar and YellowTail’s financial problems were going to mean the end of an era for Aussie wine? Not true, apparently. The biggest imported brand in the U.S. expects 2 1/2 percent gorwth this year, reaching almost 9 million cases. Driving that growth are the brand’s two sweet red labels, including a sangria. That YellowTail has rebounded from its problems says much about its marketing skill, but also speaks about its clout with retailers. How many other brands could have slumped the way YellowTail did, but not lose shelf space and even added space for two more wines? In this respect, Big Wine is becoming more and more like other consumer goods, be they ketchup or detergent, with all the means — good and bad — for the consumer.

? Is craft beer headed for a bust? This matters to wine not only because craft beer competes for drinkers with wine, especially in the younger demographics, but because the growth in craft beer (“But even such a healthy rise in consumer demand won’t be enough to sustain the many new breweries jumping into the marketplace“) has similarities to what happened in California with “boutique” wineries heading into the recession and with the unprecedented growth in moscato and sweet red over the past couple of years. What’s interesting is that someone in craft beer has noticed what ?s going on, while almost everyone in wine was in denial before the recession and during the moscato and sweet red boom.

? If you can sell wine on-line. ..: You can sell a lot of it. That was the experience of the British supermarket chain Tesco, which doesn’t face the three-tier restrictions that U.S. retailers face in this country. The story, on the drinks business trade magazine site, says sales may have gone up as much as 51 percent over the same period last year, and offers all the reasons why that is so. Contrast this with Amazon’s wine marketplace, which after nine months still can’t sell wine in all 50 states.

winetrends

One billion bottles of Yellow Tail

yt.jpegOr more than 10 billion glasses, if you’d prefer.

Despite everything — the jeers from critics, the blame for sinking the Australian wine industry, its role as one of the first livestock wines — Yellow Tail has thrived. How about these numbers?

The company, despite its struggles with the pricey Aussie dollar, recorded its best year ever in fiscal 2013, with sales by quantity increasing 8 per cent. Meanwhile, some 11 1/2 million cases a year are sold in the U.S., making it the most popular foreign wine in the country. That’s impressive to begin with, and even more so for a brand that didn’t exist before the beginning of the 21st century.

In all of this, Yellow Tail helped change the way Americans drink wine, as important as Two-buck Chuck and the arrival of the multi-national wine companies. If nothing else, it was one of the first of the international style wines, fruity and easy to drink, and it was cheap.

Yellow Tail boss John Casella makes no apologies for this. I’ve met him twice, and each time I was part of a group made up of wine types much more highfalutin‘ than the Wine Curmudgeon. Casella just stared them down, politely, and his refrain was the same: “If consumers want a simple, fruity wine at a fair price, what’s wrong with giving it to them?”

Nothing, of course, which is why his company has produced 1 billion bottles. I’m not a Yellow Tail fan, and only one of the wines has been reviewed here in almost eight years. They are too fruity and too simple; I prefer wines that are more interesting, and there are many at the same price.

But lots of people don’t like those wines, or can’t find them, or even know they exist. And this has helped Casella build what may be the most successful wine company in Australia. That’s the thing to keep in mind when you read the other pieces about Yellow Tail’s milestone, articles that will almost certainly focus on the stuff in the second paragraph of this one. Yellow Tail’s success makes the company so easy to dislike that too many of us lose sight of why it is successful — and what that means for wine.

How wine commercials on TV have changed — or not

Yellow Tail, the Australian wine brand that consumers love and that wine critics love to hate, launched a new ad campaign this fall. The creator of the TV commercials for the campaign, featuring hip and with-it young people, says the ads reinforce the idea that Yellow Tail is for “people who are unpretentious and fun-loving.”

What struck the Wine Curmudgeon about the Yellow Tail ad is not its efficacy, but how wine advertising has stuck to the same theme for decades and decades and decades — that the best way to convince Americans to drink wine is to show hip and with-it young people drinking wine.

Don’t believe me? Then check out this Mateus Rose commercial from 1971 (courtesy of robatsea at YouTube). Save for the white pants and the 20th century production values, there isn’t much difference in approach. Whether that’s good or bad is for you to decide.

Wine review: Wakefield Promised Land 2008

Yellow Tail has skewed the public's perception of not just expensive Australian wine, but all Australian wine. The high-end producers lament that no one knows the Aussies make wine that doesn't cost $7 a bottle, while the popularly-priced producers (as they prefer to be called) must compete strictly on price. Against Yellow Tail, quality doesn't seem to matter as much.

Which is too bad, because there is an entire range of cheap Australian wines, mostly red blends, that are worth tasting. This is something that the Wine Curmudgeon keeps meaning to write about, but never seems to get around to. So consider this review a step in that direction.

Blending shiraz with cabernet sauvignon seems to make these kinds of wines more interesting than their single varietal counterparts. At least that's the case for the Promised Land ($12, sample). I was more than pleasantly surprised; this had lots of bright red fruit, a little zingy acid, and even some tannins (the last two of which are usually absent from a Yellow Tail-style wine). This is a food wine, and don't overlook it for a Father's Day cook-in — burgers, pizza, and barbecue.

Winebits 169: Fetzer sale, Yellow Tail lawsuit, women and wine lists

? Chilean winery buys Fetzer: Concha y Toro, a Chilean producer whose products range from grocery store wine to the the pricey stuff, will buy Fetzer Vineyards from Brown-Forman, best known for booze brands like Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort. Brown-Forman will get $238 million for Fetzer and a couple of other wine labels as it flees as quickly as it can from the wine business. The Louisville-based drinks giant is yet another multi-national that saw that wine was a little more difficult to manage than it thought, following Constellation and Diageo. At least Brown-Forman was moderately successful with Fetzer, where sales increased from 2 million to 3 million case in the 20 years that it owned the brand. And it apparently turned a profit on the sale, which is more than Constellation did when it sold its Australian brands.

? What's a kangaroo? Depends on who you ask. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company that owns Australian wine behemoth Yellow Tail is suing U.S. wine behemoth The Wine Group over the animal on the latter's Little Roo wines. Yellow Tail says the kangaroo on the Little Roo label looks too much like the wallaby on the Yellow Tail label, and is suing The Wine Group in federal court for trademark infringement. As noted elsewhere on the blog, does anyone really care about this stuff except the high pockets lawyers who are paying for their second homes with these lawsuits?

? Treat women better, please: This, from Lauren Shockey, a restaurant critic at the legendary Village Voice: "[S]everal recent dinners have irked me enough to rant about the way I'm treated when it comes to ordering wine. In short, sommeliers and waiters think that just because I'm a young woman, I'm incapable or don't possess enough knowledge to a) navigate a wine list b) order the wine and c) taste the wine. Which is downright insulting." And Shockey is absolutely correct. Too many waiters and sommeliers treat young women this way, which does seem kind of odd since women buy more wine than men. But, if it makes Shockey feel any better, too many of them treat the Wine Curmudgeon as if he is incapable of ordering wine, as well. I think this has as much to do with the general lack of wine skill that most restaurants expect from their employees.