Saturday, 2 June 2012

Holdvölgy, modern marketing thinking

Most wine lovers are probably unaware that Tokaji was the first wine region to be classified, way back in 1730, 26 years before port wine and 125 years before the Bordeaux 1855 classification. The vineyards were sorted into three classes based on the soil, sun exposure and potential to develop noble rot. Tokaji Aszú wine has long been enjoyed by royalty, writers and composers, but, like most Eastern European countries, Hungary fell victim to communism, and not until the Soviet Empire's collapse in the 1990s did its glory slowly begin to revive. In 2002, UNESCO recognised Tokaji as a World Heritage Site for its distinct vinicultural tradition.

Holdvölgy (Moon Valley in English) is situated in the heart of this legendary region in the Mád basin (equivalent to Grand Cru). Pascal Demko, the passionate owner, strives to produce high quality wine true to the Tokaji region from his 25 hectares, comprising 19 parcels on seven different sites. Being a lawyer with a rational mind, Pascal employs a team of professionals including the young and enthusiastic winemaker Stéphanie Berecz, who is responsible for making all the outstanding Holdvölogy wines across its two lines: the classic luxury Holdvölogy line, and the premium, fun Hold and Hollo line.

There is no doubting the quality of the wine. But what impresses me most is the marketing thinking behind the two lines: in tune with today’s consumers yet true to the origin and conscious of quality.

The Holdvölogy line ranges from dry Furmint to sweet Tokaji Aszú. Pascal has given each wine a ‘philosophical’ name that reflects its character. The English names certainly save non-Hungarian consumers the embarrassment of attempting the seemingly impossible-to-pronounce Hungarian grape names:

Meditation - Dry Tokaji Furmint: mineral touch and refreshing;
Expression - Dry Tokaji Hárslevelü: floral and vivid;
Signature - Sweet Tokaji Aszú style: Traditional Aszú wine with a contemporary twist;
Culture - Sweet Tokaji Aszú: Superior quality and traditional

The first vintage was 2006 for Culture and 2007 for the others. They were only released in 2011 and are now selling at Michelin star restaurants in London.

Coming from a background of marketing consumer goods when wine was still largely confined to the ‘connoisseur’ segment, I find the wine industry in general is, even today, still quite conservative when it comes to marketing. So I definitely give a thumbs up to Pascal’s second brand, Hold and Hollo. In my view, this should be a hit with young, fun loving consumers. Marketed under two labels: dry and sweet with sharp green and pink latex labels respectively, Hold and Hollo does not emphasise grape varieties or vintages, but focuses instead on innovation, creativity and originality. I can see the young 20+s sipping it in bars, and, if allowed, it could even be selling in the lifestyle sections of department stores like Lane Crawford, City Super and Selfridges.

Pascal has no representative in Hong Kong or Asia yet, but I am confident that a like-minded distributor would find representing Holdvölgy and Hold and Hollo rewarding.

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