TV wine commercials and their legacy

TV wine commercials and their legacyKen Ross, at The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Mass., has a fine critical eye for TV wine commercials:

In commercial after commercial, for years and years, television ads created an elitist aura around wine that simply won’t go away. You need to live in a castle or wear a cravat to drink wine. You need to enunciate your words slowly and listen to Beethoven. You need to drive a Rolls Royce or have long, flowing blond hair that moves in slow motion.

Which is something that has been noted here several times. Wine ads on TV are decidedly unoriginal, especially when compared to commercials for beer and spirits. The orginal Miller Lite ads were groundbreaking, and even the recent Captain Morgan rum ads are interesting, if a tad silly.

But not wine. As Ross writes, “Watch a few wine commercials and you’ll start to notice a striking similarity from one bland ad to the next, especially during the ’70s and ’80s.” The reason? The wine business has spent the past 40 years using intimidation to market its product, bludgeoning us with Ross’ cravats. Wine isn’t fun like beer or rum, and you’d better not buy it for that reason. Or we’ll make fun of you.

Ross thinks the situation has improved, and links to 11 ads that he says demonstrate the change. One of them, for a brand that apparently isn’t made any more, is a nifty take-off on the old Grey Poupon mustard ad, and another, for an English wine retailer, captures exactly how terrified most consumers are when they browse a wine shop.

But that those two aren’t strictly wine commercials, and that four others on the list aren’t either, speaks to how pitiful most wine commercials remain. One reason for that, I think, is that the best wine marketers, companies like E&J Gallo and The Wine Group, which makes Cupcake, don’t do TV ads. If they did, they might reach Miller Lite heights (and a YouTube video for Gallo’s Barefoot line, promoting its non-profit Soles program, hints at that).

Or, with a little luck, they could scale the summit of the greatest wine commercial of all, Orson Welles for Paul Masson in the 1970s (courtesy of DarianGlover on YouTube):

7 thoughts on “TV wine commercials and their legacy

  • By Brian B -

    You can see him reading the cue cards in the commercial. Awful. But then, he was selling Paul Mason Wine. I used to buy cases of these to use for cooking, then we used the carafes for water on the dining room tables.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      It’s hard to believe that Orson Welles was reduced to that, no?

  • By Mitch Cosentino -

    Ah the 70’s. Lest us not forget the 60’s, where wine commercials were more fun.
    How about “the little old winemaker—Me” from Italian Swiss Colony Winery!
    Or how about the old comedian Jesse White (who later did the famous Maytag spots) for Napa-Sonoma-Mendocino Wines and the tongue twisters “Sonapanoma” and other mispronounced attempts.
    Plus there was the fun and festive Bali Hai fruit flavored party wine and its commercials.
    Interestingly all of these came from the same Wine Company that no longer exists.
    I would love to see these oldies again.

  • By Karen Leutz -

    It was Henry Gibson who said sonapanoma in the commercial.

  • By cleo48 -

    ~ 1957. The song theme was based on “The “Volga Boatmen.”

    “Temple Wine is fine,
    Serve it when you dine.
    For eating or greeting,
    order Temple Wine.”

  • By jon -

    When I was a teenager we used to make fun of the commercial and we would all do hilarious imitations of Orson Welles. Also there was one for Sotto Voce

  • By Dale Wallace Bronstein -

    Interesting facts.

    Orson Welles did a similar series of commercials in
    the UK–but for Pedro Domeq Sherries

    Twenty years before that, Petri Wines were using almost
    the same tag line on their radio commercials.

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