jamie goode's wine blog

Friday, February 06, 2009

Systembolaget: Sweden's alcohol monopoly

This morning I made a presentation to the Systembolaget buying team on PET packaging for wine. Then Johan Bostrom, MD of Wine World, who is hosting me here took me to see a Systembolaget store.

Systembolaget is the Swedish alcohol monopoly - they sell all the wine sold in Sweden. You can read about them on their website, which has an English section: http://www.systembolaget.se/Applikationer/Knappar/InEnglish/

The store I visited here in Stockholm is one of their flagship outlets, and the range of wines on sold was impressive. Yes, there's a huge section devoted to bag-in-box, which accounts for 50-60% of all sales (the exact figure is quite seasonal; Tetrapak is another 8%). But there's also a fine wine section that would match the selection of any independent wine merchant in London. For example, the Portuguese selection included Poeira, Pintas, Crasto TN and Maria Therese, Vallado Touriga Nacional, Dona Maria Reserva and Vale Dona Maria CV - all on the shelf at prices similar to those in London.

Apparently, when rare wines come in there are queues outside the door. When DRC is released, people queue for two days, hiring students to line up in their place and such like.

One of the attractive features of the monopoly is that there is no price promotion.

As well as buying from the monopoly's own selection, consumers can also buy from a special list - there's a delay of about a week until the wines come in, and you have to go to the stores to pick the wine up physically: there are no internet or mail order sales here.

There are just shy of 70 accredited wine journalists here, and plenty of tastings are organized by the 400 different importers. The monopoly runs press tastings when they offer new releases. Journalists are important here in helping promote wine sales because of the lack of price promotion and strict rules about advertising. Even in specialist wine magazines, one-fifth of the space of alcohol adverts has to consist of a health warning, and you aren't allowed to associate your product with situations, such as outdoor living or dining with friends.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bizarre Mondavi campaign?

Snapped at Waterloo Station this morning: Mondavi Woodbridge have started a new poster campaign in the UK with what seems a rather bizarre message.

The two posters I have seen so far are the one above, where a hippy is playing guitar in a vineyard (a barred G chord to be precise), and another where a tour group in the winery is doing yoga. The message is 'California, but not that California", with the implication being that in the past California has been associated with hippies and alternative lifestyle, and that Mondavi has nothing to do with this.

It seems barmy to me. Who would you rather have make your wine? Hippies, surf dudes and creative types, or suits, bean counters and chemical engineers?

What is more appealing? Californian alternative culture as portrayed in these adverts (albeit here as a bad thing), or the California of materialistic conspicuous consumers ambitious to climb the social ladder and make loads of money, but little else? Am I the only one who thinks Mondavi Woodbridge are making a mistake with this campaign message?

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