An Interesting Venture In Wine Marketing

By Robert K. Stephen (CSW)

(WINDSOR, ON) – Take care when you are marketing a wine! If you focus on a specific market you risk alienating the market you are not pitching to. And if your product gets into the wrong hands who knows if your marketing spin holds fast. If you are familiar with Colio Estates “Girl’s Night Out” or “Happy Bitch” out of the Hudson Valley in New York you know what I mean. Many bottles focused on “girl consumption” mean a potentially narrow market. From a marketing perspective I suppose the men may possibly get involved buying for their “girls” so in the end the men are drawn into purchasing “girl focused” wines as well. I think Colio Estates has a bit of competition albeit a bit less overt than specifically pitching to girls as in the STLTO wines we have no mention of “girls” just a big beautifully crafted stiletto heel on the front label. Graphically catchy and perhaps even appealing for the boys as it is just a very cool label without terribly offending or alienating the boy purchaser. So far no obvious landmines in the STLTO marketing. Appealing to boys and girls but tilting towards the girls or perhaps to those that love fashion and wine which as we know are Italy’s area of expertise.

STLTO stands for: 1. SOPHISTICATED 2. TIMELESS 3. LAVISH 4. TRENDY 5. OUTSTANDING. These representations can and should be investigated however let’s get to the wine as in the end what is in the glass matters more than the marketing message. It may be that a stroll down the aisle of a liquor store might pay off for a distributor with an intriguing label that catches you in its web and isn’t wine a bit of art? Sarah Liberatore is STLTO’s founder who while studying commerce at Ryerson attended a trade show sparking her interest in wine and eventually took her idea of creating wine with a label featuring a shoe to Italy. I gather she was met with disbelief in Italy. Good for her. It is amazing the power of passion in business. A note of caution though and that is what is trendy is short lived and after the buzz of the trend you may face LCBO delisting.

The STLTO 2010 Malbec /Merlot has a black cherry colour and shouts out black cherry, black gumballs, licorice, red plums, salami and chocolate. All indicative of a rustic red wine. Dusky and smoky with smoked meat and black cherry on the palate. Not sophisticated nor elegant but rather a serious country gentleman lacking in urban refinery but solid nonetheless. A short finish but a solid and smoky one. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this wine. No faults but it lacks most of the 5 marketing monikers attributed to it. Let’s be frank. These monikers can only be pinned on a few wines and when was it you and I really had an outstanding wine? But please no offense intended. This wine is definitely enjoyable and drinkable but let’s leave it at that. I am not swept away by the marketing here but I would say you will not be disappointed if you quaff this. The glittery cap leaves me a bit puzzled although it perhaps can be said to be “trendy” in a garish  Studio 54 sort of way. Would suit beef or rich vegetarian dishes featuring Portobello mushrooms. I note in particular can a wine be sophisticated that lacks any geographic designation or quality control designation such as DOCG, DOC or IGT. Here on the label we have “Product of Italy” indicative of the bottom rung of Italian designations? However wine appellation laws can be stifling and if I recall the IGT designation in Italy was a refuge for Super Tuscans that garnered world recognition but did not fit into the then existing Italian wine designations.   ( STLTO 2010 Malbec-Merlot, Bottled By ICQRF 15816, Atessa, Italia, 750 mL, 13%, $ 11.95, LCBO # 232272, Windsor Square Rating 88/100).

The STLTO Chardonnay has a light golden colour. In terms of aromas it lacks the crisp citrus and apple nuances you’d get with an unoaked Chardonnay neither does it have the buttery, toasty and custardy notes you might expect from an oaked Chardonnay. Nothing wrong with not falling into defined categories! On the nose we have a certain thinness lacking conviction.  Shards of pineapple aromatics with some quince and apple. A bit sleepy on the palate too with ambiguous flavours. It is definitely wine but has it sparkled like its glitter screw cap? Short finish. It fails to meet any of the STLTO characteristics except perhaps for being a wee bit trendy favouring a lean as opposed to opulent and oaky Chardonnay. No designation of Italian quality standards or specific geographic designation on the label. This is not bad wine. It is not flawed. It is simply bit thin. Tried two bottles. This wine is a tremendous match with grilled sardines.  ( STLTO 2009 Chardonnay, Bottled by ICQRF 15816, Atessa, Italia, 750 mL, 13%, $11.95, LCBO #232322, Windsor Square Rating 78/100).

Let us give a cheer for the eco friendly aspects of STLTO wines as they are produced in ultra-light bottles which reduces energy used in transporting them. The grapes are hand harvested to avoid fuel consumption of mechanized harvesting. Storage vats are placed underground to avoid energy costs required by refrigeration. Unused storage tanks are used as rain catchers.

 Let’s conclude with Argentina’s darling grape aka Malbec brought into Ontario by the same wine agency that brought in STLTO wines to Ontario, Vinaio Wines. So often of late it is lush, plush, boozey and lacking much except high alcohol. It’s black cherry cola in colour and on the nose it has the lush, plush and high alcohol notes but my goodness there are some nice high beams of red currant, smoked meat, black licorice and smoke. Not sophisticated but comforting and rustic. On the palate more red currant and licorice with smoked almonds. A plush short and simplistic finish. Not brilliant but a reliable Saturday afternoon type of wine. Drink now. ( Conquista 2010 Malbec, I.P. Mendoza, Argentinia, Vinas de Altura S.A., San Rafael, Mendoza, Agentina, 750 mL, 13%, LCBO # 164772,$11.95, Windsor Square Rating 85/100). 88% Malbec, 6% Bonarda, 3% Syrah and 3% Merlot.

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