Director for Spain and South America, Juan Park, discusses the development of underwater wine in Bilbao, and the importance and struggles of being ultra-different
Marketing, at its best, is associated with bringing innovative products to market by showcasing advantages to consumers. More typically, marketing is the art of growing a brand, through the use of engaging and creative strategies to gain the attention of new and potential consumers. At worst, marketing can also be associated with deception and false promises.
In the world of wine, a recurring problem for wine producers is the lack of differentiation between wine within our category. With multiple wine-producing countries, independent regions and range of varietals, any given wine brand has both internal and external competition at the same price points.
With this in mind, how can producers stand out in a crowded market? Without too many differences in the products themselves, competition comes in the form of storytelling – such as ‘We are the first in the region’ ‘We are the most authentic’ or ‘We have distinctive branding’.
However, what happens when a wine becomes ‘ultra-different’, positioning itself way beyond the norm? This is a challenge currently facing ‘underwater wines’ – or wines aged literally underwater. In December 2019, I was invited to speak at the first Underwater Wine Congress in Bilbao, where discussions were not along the lines of the usual ‘how do we differentiate’, but about how to gain loyalty and trust from consumers in a principally unknown ‘category’.
The organisers of the event, Crusoe Treasure, have an interesting story. Their wine bottles are unique as they emerge from the underwater ageing adorned with natural ‘accessories’ – as seen in the image. Their service offers boat rides within the bay close to Bilbao where the wines are matured. As I presented at the conference, our research confirmed their instinct – that consumers in Spain are more inspired by a natural setting, rather than production facilities, with for example, rows of steel tanks.
Studies by D. Antonio Palacios of Excell Iberica already show promise for this new type of wine. Underwater wines mature faster as the currents ‘jiggle’ the bottle, oxygenation seems to be increased and wine tasters perceive significant differences when drinking underwater wine compared with the same wine matured on land. As a result, Mr Palacios – an initial sceptic – was won over after seeing the results of his own research.
The development of underwater wines in Bilbao is just one of the many ways wine producers are trying to be different in today’s busy marketplace. Although more research focusing on underwater wine is needed, I am sure that we will begin to see more of these types of wines, in a bid to win over the more adventurous consumer with novel storytelling.
“It’s not easy bein’ green / It seems you blend in / With so many other ordinary things”
Kermit the frog