Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jackson-Triggs will roll out new labels next year

Take a long look at the labels above: all will disappear next year as part of a major overhaul of the labels at Jackson-Triggs Vintners.

The overhaul will provide more distinction between Jackson-Triggs tiers. It will also a solution to this summer’s contention over the lack of transparency on the Cellared in Canada wine labels.

As Jackson-Triggs brand manager Casey Howe put it in a recent interview, Jackson-Triggs was the lightning rod when the wine media, led by Britain’s Jancis Robinson, tore a huge strip off the Canadian wine industry.

But let’s get one thing straight. This label overhaul was not rolled out this week in a panic reaction to the recent Cellared in Canada controversy.

Go back and read my blog of June 25 in which I reported on a tasting in Vancouver led by Brooke Blair, the red wine maker at Jackson-Triggs Okanagan.

This is what the opening paragraphs said:

The many fans of Jackson-Triggs wines may finally see an end to the frustrating confusion among the winery's labels.

Over the past year, the winery has consulted numerous focus groups. The apparent feedback is that consumers have trouble sorting out the tiers. That is similar to what wine critics have been saying and even what the company's own winemakers have been suggesting. Finally, the marketing executives at Jackson-Triggs intend to sit down and do a major brand review.

That report was based on comments the winemaker made during the tasting. The Cellared in Canada controversy erupted later in the summer. The flashpoint was the Jackson-Triggs label for an Olympic wine brand called Esprit. The non-VQA Esprit wines (now withdrawn) had labels that mirrored the VQA Esprit. The only difference was the lack of a VQA identifier. The critics complained that Jackson-Triggs was passing off imported wine bottled in Canada as Canadian wine.

Vincor, the company that owns Jackson-Triggs, would probably admit now that it made a mistake. However, the overhaul of the Jackson-Triggs labels was running on an entirely separate path.

The Jackson-Triggs brand was launched in 1993 for both wines from Canadian grapes and non-VQA wines. As Howe corrected notes, VQA was then in its infancy - two years old in B.C., four years old in Ontario. Curiously, commercial wineries were not allowed into the VQA program for the first few years because smaller wineries feared there might be leakage of non-VQA product.

Since then, however, the VQA brand – wines made from grapes grown in Canada only – has won huge consumer loyalty, given the dramatic improvement in the quality of Canadian wine. And Jackson-Triggs has become one of the strongest VQA brands in Canada.

The new Jackson-Triggs labels clearly separate the VQA wines from the non-VQA wines. The new line-up has three tiers plus the non-VQA tier. The Jackson-Triggs name appears on all four tiers because the company, in its consumer research, found a great deal of consumer loyalty invested in the brand.

The non-VQA wines, now called Proprietors’ Selection, will be called Unity. That happens to be a brand Vincor previously used for a line of wines blended from Ontario and British Columbia fruit. That idea didn’t catch on. Vincor is recycling the brand, a reflection of how hard it is to come up brand names not already taken by someone else.

The Unity wines, which will sell for $10 a bottle or less, will have a nice big white labels. The name of the varietal is displayed in a coloured panel at the bottom. Right under the variety is a tag line that says the wine is a blend of “international and Canadian wine.” The back label reiterates this.

That should be clear enough for those consumers who care. It is debatable how important this is to consumers who only want an affordable everyday wine. But it is important to the purists, to the supporters of Canadian wines and to the integrity of VQA.

The Jackson-Triggs VQA wines are grouped in these tiers:

* The current Proprietors’ Reserve range is replaced by black label wines selling in the $10-$15 range.

* The new silver label wines, selling for $15-$20, will include wines repositioned from both the Proprietors’ Reserve and Grand Reserve lines. Part of this overhaul also involves reducing the number of products being offered. Jackson-Triggs Okanagan will slim down to 29 offerings from 44. Gone will be wines such as the Cabernet Franc Rosé and the Proprietors’ Reserve Riesling. There is more focus on core varietals like Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz.

* The new gold label ($20 and up) is the top tier. This will include Meritage blends and select single vineyard wines, such as SunRock in the Okanagan. And the SunRock designation will be trimmed to rich reds only because that is what the vineyard does best. The Chardonnay vines in that vineyard have been pulled out and are being replaced with appropriate reds.

In a clever innovation, Jackson-Triggs will add a little panel on the back label that looks a bit like an electronic circuit. This can be scanned by the average smart phone, drawing consumers into web-based information on the wine and on food pairing and whatever else the imagination comes up with.

“It’s about making the back label work a lot harder,” Howe says.

Look for a lot of other wineries to jump onto this device because of its obvious appeal to young and tech-savvy consumers.


At April 28, 2010 at 1:30 PM , Blogger Jolene said...

Have you heard whether or not they will be doing away with the totally misleading Proprietor's Reserve and Proprietor's Edition tiers? The former is only found in government stores and VQA shops, while the later goes to the private LRSs. I have been assured they are the same wines but my palate tells me otherwise.The Prop Edition wines are not at the same level at all especially in terms of barrel time.


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