Art and grapes collide with The People’s Wine

StopPress always feels a little bit sorry for Radio NZ journalists, partially because they’re poorly paid bureaucrats, but primarily because they’re not actually allowed to accept free stuff. We sold our journalistic integrity many years ago (on Trade Me) and are firm believers that getting free stuff is easily the best part of the journalist’s job. Still, sometimes we have to wonder why so much of this free stuff is sent to us by PR companies, as a large proportion of it is of little editorial interest. But occasionally something fairly interesting gets delivered, like The People’s Wine, which looks as good on the outside as it tastes on the inside. 

The People’s Wine is a joint venture between two fairly disparate parties: Constellation Wines, apparently the world’s largest wine company, and Hawkes Bay artist Martin Poppelwell. And brand manager Rai Banbury says they broke almost every rule in the branding business for its launch (which, rather bravely, is her first).

“We just got together and came up with The People’s Wine,” she says. “We didn’t talk about markets or demographics we just went for it and it took on a life of its own.”

Fittingly, Poppelwell had the idea for the artistic wine over a wine with a friend. But the concept languished until he had a chance meeting with an executive from Constellation.

“We got talking and they loved my idea,” he says. “There was none of the corporate stuff. In fact, quite the opposite. A great group of people who are prepared to take a risk in an industry that has been through a really tough time.”

Poppelwell spent hours on vineyards and a golden autumn grapevine leaf provided inspiration for the wine’s characteristics. And the icons on each of the labels (tractor, vine leaf, swan, truck and digger) were what he observed first hand.

The whole process was a fairly organic one, Banbury says, and the pair worked on the idea for months finessing the look, taste and feel. The artist was even involved in the complex tasting process to create the perfect wine.

“Our winemakers devote so much time and skill into creating a great wine it just seems like a natural partnership to bring the outside of the bottle to life through Martin’s artwork,” Banbury says.

And, given the way consumers seem to be attracted to purty colours and nice labels, it seems like a fairly smart and relatively common-sensical ploy to create a point of difference in what is a cluttered market. And not only that, it’s also quite refreshing to see marketers using their powers of intuition and having the cajones to go with their gut feelings.

Of course, the cynics will probably say that Poppelwell has sold out. But it seems like the perfect example of a mutually beneficial relationship (check out Dick Frizzell’s chat with Design Daily about using his art in commercial way here), because the art gets more exposure and it also helps this wine to rise above the rabble.

The People’s Wine – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Pinot Noir – is being launched nationally on August 30 and Banbury says there is already interest from offshore.

“We have shown our sister company in Canada what we are doing and they are really excited – they have never seen anything quite like it,” she says.

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