Branding - when a wine is not what you think it is

On reading the recent TWS marketing email on Once and Future it caused me to ask myself why Joel Peterson was making wine under this label. I remember years ago drinking his Ravenswood and enjoying it so dived into the internet rabbit hole. There I discovered he sold to Constellation in 2001 for a tidy $148 million but obviously kept on making the same wine as at one point was a Constellation Vice President. Then I discovered they sold the brand in 2019 but kept the vineyard and he went off to create Once and Future and by looking at his site buying lots of grapes from the same vineyards he used to make under the Ravenswood single vineyard labels.

So shock horror todays Ravenswood 2019 vintages and beyond bears no resemblance to the one I knew. One clue for the clued up is his was labelled Sonoma whereas the current label has Lodi on it. It may well be a good wine as I have not tried one recently but it certainly surprised me that in the last few years I nearly bought some based on my past experiences and discover now I would have been buying a ‘brand’ as opposed to a wine.

This certainly showed me why branding is such a big thing. Are there any other examples out there for the unsuspecting?

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I’ve got some Ravenswood wine - I used to rather like the ‘old’ Ravenswood, though I suspect my stuff is now the ‘newer’ brand.

Anyway, one to watch is Domaine Nicolas Potel, which is no longer owned by Nicolas Potel, and he no longer has anything to do with it, or control over the name. His wines are made under the Domaine du Bellene (negotiant side) or Maison Roche de Bellene (own grape side)


Torbreck would be a good example also

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Mouton Cadet.

Back in the 80’s Claret from supermarkets and indi-chains was universally awful (leastways, the stuff I could afford) yet M.C. stood out as being a significant cut above the rest. Full of blackcurrant and spice, the bottle of choice for an aspiring middle-class chap to take around to the potential in-laws.

Nowadays… basic Bordeaux has improved no end, whereas M.C seems to have declined, indeed it’s not easy to find on the shelves !

To some extent aren’t you buying the brand every time you buy a new vintage of a wine? Each vintage is different and I doubt whether many of us check in detail whether the exact same mix of grapes was used, grown in the exact same vineyards, made in exact same way, by the same wine maker. And ignoring such factors as weather, harvest date, etc.

Surely we are generally buying the brand, and trusting that a brand that produced good wine previously, will produce good wine again? Or otherwise is it the vineyard we are following, the wine maker, or something else? What is the critical point where the wine becomes something completely different?

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Yes, their Zinfandel was excellent - all raspberries, American oak and smoky tannin.

I’m curious on you mentioning Torbreck as this is one Freddy promotes via First Release. I checked it’s web page and cannot easily spot a wine whose grapes are now owned elsewhere but the bottle is made from different grapes.

I like to think I’m buying the ‘terroir’ :slight_smile:

I was referring to the Dave Powell Torbreck and post split

You make an interesting point. Penfolds Kalimna Bin 28 which was originally only from the Kalimna vineyard is now made from this and other regions grapes. That said it still has some of the original. The Ravenswood appears completely different as it’s Lodi now not Sanoma and I presume a different wine team, storage and bottling. As stated I have not tried it and it may be very good. What surprised me was how the wine could be completely different and I would have been none the wiser.

I find the same concept fascinating with things like Gucci. I guess in it’s day these were hand crafted clothes from Italian tailors as opposed to made in China perhaps even by equally skilled tailors. I remember years ago buying Charles Tyrwhitt shirts and finding them well made and a good fit for my long limbed frame. The quality then dropped of a cliff when the world cotton price spiked and I presume they changed sourcing/manufacturing sites. It was a long time before I went back. I think it’s good to know when things change but do take the point you need to be open minded to wether the new product still matches your expectations.

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Georges Duboeuf

Was once the king of Beaujolais with impeccable branding and beautiful labels. Fast forward to this evening 2019 Julienas. Oh dear… how do they manage to retain that bubblegum & banana notes so typical of Nouveau? Any Beaujolais Cru should be something special, but not this iteration of Duboeuf.

Compare the old label with the bottle I opened tonight - which would you rather drink?

A textbook example of how to ruin a brand.

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I don’t have any particular leaning towards either label, but referring to another recent post (sorry, can’t remember which thread), I’m guessing the newer version is much more eco-friendly. Screw-top, and much simpler label, with fewer colours.

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I totally agree regarding the screwcap, a positive improvement.

Fewer colours for printing: I’m not sure there are any fewer than the standard CYMK, but I hope the inks are more eco-friendly.

But the art !!! surely the artwork is worth something?

The Ravenswood example is just a winery changing hand. Even when it was Joel’s the wines changed as the brand got bigger. He sold it because it had got too big, and he determined that his new venture would never get greater than he could make all the wines for. Hence its name, Once & Future - once he had a small winery and in future that’s all he’d have.

For the early days of Ravenswood, Ridge etc I recommend Angels’ Visits: An Inquiry into the Mystery of Zinfandel by David Darlington. I got mine from the USA and will be a cheaper source than

The real iniquity of wine brands is the exclusive names you see in supermarkets, restaurants Majestic, well everywhere. The store decides that instead of promoting a brand they don’t own, they’ll own the brand and get whatever juice they can to put in the bottle. So the source can change from year to year.

The Graham Norton branded Sauvignon Blanc one year was sourced from South Africa rather than the usual New Zealand.