Monday, June 8, 2009

Laughing Stock teases its consumers

A New Zealand wine executive once chastised me for ripping the capsule from a wine bottle.

"We spend thousands of dollars on packaging," he said. Capsules are meant to give bottles a finished look. The proper way to get at the cork, he said (showing me), is to slice a neat ring around the top of the capsule. After the cork is extracted, the capsule remains in place to maintain the look of the bottle.

What would he make of the two new Blind Trust wines from Laughing Stock Vineyards? As the image shows, you must rip open the capsule to discover the components of the blend. If you don't figure this out, you will be drinking blind, so to speak.

Laughing Stock is the Naramata Bench winery operated by David and Cynthia Enns, a couple unusually blessed with clever marketing ideas to match their excellent wines.

Blind Trust is a label that they introduced a few vintages ago for a red wine. Now they have added a white partner.

Blind Trust is a finance industry term (David and Cynthia come from the business) describing a situation where an individual, typically a politician, parks his assets with a manager. To avoid conflicts between his assets and the decisions he has to make, the politician does not ask the manager about subsequent investment decisions as long as the assets are in that trust. Hence, it is called a blind trust.

In the instance of Laughing Stock's wine, David has given himself the liberty of making a different blend each year. Consumers need to have "blind trust" that he always blends the best-tasting wine possible. "You's just have to trust us," David and Cynthia say.

The minimally labelled bottles have a string of of text winding around the bottles. The text includes the required legal information and a note that "wine blends change every year. Past performance is not an indicator of future returns."

That's confidence - telling your consumers that they just have to take their chances. However, Laughing Stock patrons have learned the chances of getting a good wine are always high.

To decode what each blend contains, you need to spot the clue. Just under the capsule there is a circle of text around the neck of the bottle. "Assets of The Blind Trust are kept under wrap and seal." Only by unwrapping the capsule can you find out what the blend is in each wine.

I wonder how many people catch the clue. I did not pick up on it right away. When I did, I discovered I had guessed entirely wrong on the components of the white. But it is all good fun to see how good (or not) we are at deconstructing wines. It adds a new element of interest.

Blind Trust Red 2007 ($29.00) is pretty obviously a Bordeaux blend, with aromas and flavours of red berries, with a hint of chocolate on the finish. There is a touch of vanilla and cedar, reflecting the 17 months the wine spent in French oak barrels. The tannins are firm but ripe, suggesting this wine will age well. It is not released until next month. If you must drink it now, be sure to decant it an hour before dinner so that the rich texture can emerge. The blend? 50% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Cabernet Franc. The winery made 1,150 cases. My score: 88-90 points.

Blind Trust White 2008 ($25.00) had me guessing that it was built around Chardonnay. Wrong. It is a blend of 65% Pinot Gris, 18% Viognier, 13% Pinot Blanc and 4% Sauvignon Blanc. The winery made 450 cases. Light bronze in colour (that should have tipped me it was Pinot Gris), this wine begins with aromas of tangerines and butter, with a toasty hint of oak. On the palate, there are flavours of citrus as well as stone fruit - a tropical fruit bowl. The Viognier clearly accounts for the somewhat exotic personality of this wine. The finish, reflecting the refreshing acidity of 2008, is tangy. 88 points.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

That is genius marketing! Rodney was just reading an article on how many blogs fall by the wayside so I had to prove to him that you were updating yours and read this piece. Very, very clever way to package the wine indeed.