CIC Wines… And their place in our fabric

April 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

Let me start by saying that it is not my desire to tell anyone that their favourite wine is not good. However the fact is that CIC (Cellared in Canada) wines have enjoyed a level of success primarily because they were called Canadian.

Retailing is all about crafting a visual as well as a cerebral experience for the customer. The cerebral is about price and perceived practical application. The other is about creating legitimacy for a brand or product type.

I recall being a rep for E&J Gallo and visiting the main winery and distribution hub in Modesto. I had the opinion that the success of Gallo over the decades was about vertical integration which allowed for the best possible grapes to go into products that are offered at a better price than the competition. I tested my theory by asking one of the winemakers for Gallo branded wines, what the secret was? His answer; “just don’t make it offensive.”

North Americans invest heavily in consistency even in the face of health risks, critical acclaim or panning, and merchandising. Consider for a moment the power of Coca Cola, Tim Hortons, McDonalds, and Starbucks. All offer consistency no matter where you are. The quality level can be counted on and each one of these organizations have more revenues than the Canadian Wine Industry. So it should not be a surprise that Copper Moon, Naked Grape et al have a huge market share in the backyard of the BC Wine Industry. However making a wine that never changes for under $10 is not the whole picture.

Walk into 95% of retail outlets in the BC and you are greeted by a wall of CIC wines. That amount of linear feet and billboard merchandising legitimizes the proposition. One has to ask themselves why has CIC been shelved in its own category? It’s proposition is no different from other commodity wines from around the world so why should it not have to fight for their place in the sun like every other offering?

Answer is because no one has shown the business reason to make the change.

As a retailer we arrange our stores by what the offering is saying to customer. The wines that ask the customer to embrace the natural diversity of wine are shelved as such, those that are commodities are shelved as such. The result is that 1) our average ring has increased, 2) our profitability from wine has increased, 3) we can act with full force on our strength of telling the story of products with soul.

If you want to curtail or shrink the share of CIC then you must get retailers to make CIC compete with like products and give them the tools to showcase the beauty, profit and true value in diversity.

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§ One Response to CIC Wines… And their place in our fabric

  • R says:

    Oh, such a loaded topic, with so many things to comment on…
    The problem is that the commodity wines are offered to the retailer with incredible incentives, usually ones that smaller wineries/companies couldn’t even begin to offer. The retailer buys them, gives them a prominent position in the store and makes a great margin, all without having to do anything to earn the sale. The average person has no idea that these wines are the equivalent of Coca-cola or Doritos or large-scale macro-brewers, and depending on the product might even believe that they are supporting BC. The problem with this is that sometimes people who wouldn’t normally buy manipulated products are buying these ‘wines’, and then unfairly judging real wines on price/value, taste etc.
    Applying a category called International Value wines to these products implies that these ‘wines’ are good value, especially compared to other wines. They should actually be called jug wines or bulk wines- many are non-vintage, lots have plenty of sugar and mega-purple or other things added. It seems a little misleading that wines such as Royal Red would not be placed in the category Int’l Value, but Naked Grape or Barefoot would be, even though there is very little difference in how the wines are made. Beer that is made by large corporations in gigantic volumes doesn’t get its own separate section as “Value beer”, does it? Or maybe wines made by people in smaller volumes from actual places with a vintage should be placed in sections marked “Craft Wines”…
    I’m of the opinion that “value wines” are ones that are crafted from grapes in a particular year, were aged in oak (if appropriate), and taste different from year to year.These wines can still be sold at a reasonable price, and at least they will allow the consumer to experience real wines. An example of this is the Navarro Lopez ‘Pergolas’ old vine Tempranillo, made by a cooperative in Spain and sold in BC for $11.99. (The agency applied for a cheaper listed price but were turned down by the LCB).
    So how to reduce the sales and impact of CiC? Educate the staff so that they can answer questions regarding the bulk wines/CiC vs other wines. No, Naked Grape is not a BC wine. It likely contains zero BC grapes. It is made in the quantity of hundreds of thousands of bottles, in ginormous vats, following a recipe to ensure a consistent flavour. It does not have a vintage date or a place on it for a reason- it wasn’t really made by people, but by machines. Consumers should be upset that a product like that sells for $8.99, rather than upset that a BC wine (Gray Monk’s Latitude 50) sells for $11.99…
    Obviously commodity wines will always exist, but more ‘truth in advertising’ needs to be done so consumers are aware of thedistinction between ‘wine-like products’, and actual wine.
    Could rant on this forever, but will save it for #BCWineChat


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