Why We Break With Brands

Jul 26, 2006

Our brand loyalty has little to do with our desire to support a favored vintner.

Usually we’re driven away from our pet wines due to one of two factors (sometimes both), which have been bantered about in this space the past few days and weeks.

One is price.

The other is quality.

As a wine achieves greater recognition for its quality, its price typically goes up.

In a perfect world, for consumers, that escalation is incremental. One wine that comes to mind is Paloma Merlot. When its 2001 Napa Valley was named Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year in 2003, the price was $45, and the wine was better than most red wines made that year, in California or anywhere else.

The next year the owners raised the price of their 2002 Merlot (another great wine) to $51, and last time I checked, that’s where the price was. Production isn’t much, around 2,000 cases, and I’m sure that, if they wanted to, the owners could easily charge twice the current price and sell the wine without a problem. It’s that good and distinctive.

The other reason we abandon brands is that their quality drops. The wine we loved last year doesn’t taste as good this year. Sometimes you can blame that on a vintage.

But often, the reason a brand's quality declines is they can’t grow in volume and simultaneously maintain quality.

When people ask me what happened to the wines they used to cherish from winery X, Y or Z, I tell them to first look at the case production figures (which usually tell the story) or the vineyard sources.

Maintaining quality usually means keeping a cap on production and using the same grape sources that led to the initial success.

It doesn’t hurt, either, to have the same winemaker who was able to make that great wine, or value, in the first place.

Do you have any other reasons for dropping a brand?

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