We live in a “brand is everything” world, and wines definitely are no exception.
What separates a $120 bottle of jammy, fruit-forward, strongly oaked, high-alcohol California cab from a $12 jammy, fruit-forward, strongly oaked, high-alcohol California cab? Sometimes it distills to one has a haughty high-dollar brand image associated with elite oenophiles and the other has a bland brand image associated with poor-boy pours from Wal-Mart.
The expensive bottle probably is better, but 10 times better?
If brand image allows you to charge 10-plus times as much for five glasses of fermented grape juice, then brand image really means something, especially to the winery and its bankers and bean counters.
The Champagne Bureau, USA, represents growers and houses of French Champagne, and you can bet your bottom booze dollar the French really, really care about their Champagne brand.
Bottle bubbly in Spain, Italy, New Mexico, New York State, and you can sell it for $7-$25. Bottle bubbly in the Champagne region of France, and you can sell it for $50-$150 or more, even much more.
Thus the Champagne Bureau, USA recently launched an ad campaign supporting French bubbly. “Maine Lobster from Kansas?” the ad asks, attempting to convince consumers a product’s origins are vitally important, while tangentially using Maine to insult Kansas.
Champagne sellers want to remind sparkling wine drinkers the unique role place plays in the creation of wine, at least in creating a brand.
Sparkling wine from the Champagne region of Burgundy in France is the authentic best brand—Champagne. Sparkling wine from anywhere else is just sparkling wine from somewhere else. If it says “American Champagne” it ain’t Champagne. Got that doltish Kansas lobstermen?
• Domaine Ste Michelle Brut Columbia Valley Sparkling Wine NV. Pear, lime, tangerine, citrus, toast, apple; simple, clean sparkling bargain; Washington State. $10
• La Marca Prosecco NV. Palate-cleansing clean; apple, peach, honeysuckle-lemon; light, balanced, full o’fruit, mucho bubbles, mucho value; Italy. $11
• ZK Prosecco Brut NV. Baked apple, pear; light mouth, fine bubbles, cleansing crispness; balanced, integrated, fine finish; sparkling value; Italy. $16
• Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne. Almond, honey, ginger; France. $60.
Last round: To waiter: “I’m going to order a broiled, skinless chicken breast and a glass of water, but I want you to bring me lasagna, buttered garlic bread, and a chilled bottle of Prosecco by mistake.”