I was reading in the Wine Industry Advisor last week that the TTB has established 11 new viticultural areas within the Central Coast region of California. The Paso Robles AVA was established in 1983 and is very large, about 42 miles from east to west and 32 miles north to south. Definitely a big area.
While having these distinctive areas is a great help to vineyards and the wineries focusing of different climates and which grapes grow best where, along with a myriad of small differences that affect grapes and wine, all these viticultural areas can be very confusing to consumers. Many times they are not sure which valley or AVA they are in, and get confused about the differences.
It is not unlikely that, as the wine industry and these individual AVAs keep growing, in years to come each separate area will have its own association, its own events, its own literature and marketing plans. This means even more information for consumers to absorb and remember in a world that is already throwing way too much information at them.
I remember talking to a gentleman on a plane bound for San Francisco and mentioning that I was in the wine industry. He told me that last time he had come out to California on business his wife had accompanied him and they had spent the weekend in “the wine country.” When I asked him which area he had visited he said that he and his wife headed north from San Francisco to visit (and this is a direct quote), “The one on the left.” Assuming he was going up Hwy 101, Sonoma County is on the left side and Napa is off to the right, so I presumed that he went to the wineries in Sonoma County. He didn’t know.
We are in the habit of dividing up our wine areas into even smaller areas (and they are becoming much, much smaller) without doing the work needed to really cement the distinctive and differentiating quality of the AVAs in the minds of consumers. As the key to good marketing is differentiating your product (in this case a new viticultural area) all the AVAs need to continue to work on differentiation, especially as the industry continues to grow. Here is the hard part, differentiation is showing differences that are important to the majority of your customers, not just to those of us in the business.
Congratulations to the Central Coast on their new AVAs! They have worked hard to get them and now the hard work of differentiation really starts.