Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Wine Gangs

Call them alliances, cooperations, partnerships or .... gangs, there seem to be more and more of them in the wine world.

The Rhone Gang
The most well known in Hong Kong and Macau is probably The Douro Boys, a syndicate of five independent family estates from the Douro. Created 10 years ago, it has successfully brought Douro wines to the table and raised the overall profile of the region's still wines.

Recently, I met another syndicate: the Rhône Gang from Southern Rhône. They are Louis from Chateau de Saint Cosme, Frederic from Chateau Pesquie, Rodolphe from Chateau de Montfaucon, and Arnaud, the guy in the shadows (aka marketing and PR man). Like the Douro Boys, they each represent independent boutique family estates, and they have now been working together for 13 years. They describe themselves as ‘serious in business but funny in life’. Sharing a belief in respecting the terroir and making the best wine from their land, their collaboration means they can offer a wide range of Rhône wines that complement but do not compete with each other. Having successfully established a bridgehead in Japan they are now marching on China. Try their wines from Sinolink.

The latest gang, or rather, more like a football team, is PIWOSA (Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa)—not a particularly imaginative name, perhaps, but the intention is good. As the name suggests, it is an association of some of South Africa's best wine producers. Unhappy with the under-representation of premium South African wine in international markets, 15 of the largely family owned producers from across the Western Cape formed this alliance last month (January 2013) with a clear objective of raising international perceptions of the top end of the South African wine spectrum. Like other gangs, they plan to tramp the globe spreading the word. I have tried most of the wines and there is no doubting their quality. Some, but not yet all, are available in Hong Kong.

With most well-known wine brands owned by big corporations with global marketing muscle, alliances like these among smaller players make sense. By collaborating they create a bigger noise, yet each member still retains his individuality and style. A well-chosen name (Douro Boys, The Rhône Gang) helps lend a human face. With today’s consumers increasingly seeing wine as a lifestyle product, this personal touch certainly brings life to wine, and helps us differentiate them in a crowded marketplace.

I would love to see more of these gangs from other countries. Pedro Parra, a terroir consultant from Chile, is considering something similar with like-minded winemakers there. Perhaps we could organise friendly inter-gang matches one day?

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