Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The sincerest (if perhaps underhand) form of flattery ...

... is to confuse buyers into supposing that your product comes from a nation that has proved very successful in producing a very satisfactory product you once thought yourselves uniquely qualified to manufacture. Or, how a French wine sought, subliminally, to pass itself of as a New Zealand produced wine. Sound far-fetched?

Well, click here to read about how Loire Valley-based firm Lacheteau labelled one of its wines as something called "Kiwi Cuvee", mainly destined for export to wine consumers in the UK who, in recent years, have becoome very partial to New World wines, largely because of their consistency and relatively modest cost, when compared with the traditionally superior, but somewhat 'mercurial', wines from France at whatever price level, apart perhaps from those at the very top of the price-tree. Problems arose when the French firm tried to register its product in Australia, outside of the political control of the European Union, and the New Zealand Winemakers Association objected to the registration.

A little bit of internet searching turned up this pretty conclusive 'evidence' from French website Vitisphere.com:


(26/11/2001)
André Lacheteau, négociant en Val de Loire
SURTITRE
André Lacheteau, négoce Lacheteau SA à Doué-La-Fontaine (49), est Président de l'AFED (Association française des négociants-éleveurs embouteilleurs distributeurs).

Interview de André Lacheteau


Comment analysez-vous les difficultés actuelles des vins français sur le marché export ?
Tout d’abord, il n’y a pas un marché, mais des marchés du vin. Je crois surtout que le système des Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées manque de crédibilité pour le cœur de gamme. Normalement, ce devrait être des vins de terroir difficilement reproductibles ailleurs. Or, depuis trente ans, il s’est produit une déviation sur les génériques. Les Bordeaux et Côtes du Rhône proviennent d’assemblages de différents terroirs et n’ont pas, au final, les caractéristiques d’un produit inimitable. Il faut donc trouver un statut à ces vins de cœur de marché, afin qu’ils aient des règles de production comme les vins de pays et les vins de cépages. Il est nécessaire d’assouplir la réglementation et les pratiques œnologiques, pour pouvoir lutter à armes égales avec nos compétiteurs étrangers. Sur le plan des copeaux par exemple, je suis favorable à ce qu’ils soient autorisés pour les vins autres qu’AOC. Une réglementation sur l’étiquetage devrait bientôt voir le jour… Pourquoi ne pas en profiter pour libéraliser la réglementation sur les vins de pays et de cépages ?

Vous parlez d’une offre française atomisée et de restructurer les entreprises commerciales…
En effet. Le regroupement des moyens de commercialisation est indispensable. Il faut des aides pour améliorer le marketing et rassembler les multiples petites structures qui "polluent" le marché export. Pourquoi ne pas les réunir au sein d’une grande entreprise ? Cela permettrait d’éclaircir l’offre.

Comment, en Val de Loire, envisagez-vous de surmonter cette crise ?
En Val de Loire, on ne ressent pas trop la crise viticole. Hormis sur le gamay, qui souffre du même mal que les vins de table français… Mais correspond-il au goût d’aujourd’hui ? Ne faudrait-il pas planter du cabernet sauvignon ? Les vins blancs et rosés marchent mieux que les rouges, en ce moment. Nous venons de créer une "Kiwi Cuvée" à destination de la Grande-Bretagne. Ce VDP du Jardin de la France, sauvignon, est un complet succès, alors que le marché du sauvignon est assez tendu. L’idée marketing y est pour beaucoup. Son nom a d’ailleurs provoqué un article polémique dans le Financial Times… Mais est ce qu’une certaine viticulture est aujourd’hui capable de faire ces produits destinés à l’export ? En fait, il y a beaucoup d’apporteurs de raisins au négoce. Il faut donc favoriser les contrats et la sécurisation des approvisionnements pour les négociants. Si les viticulteurs vendaient du moût plutôt qu’un produit fini, cela règlerait aussi le problème de la qualité. Car un des drames actuels de la viticulture française est que les producteurs élaborent des vins dont personne ne veut !

- It is of course a very logical and sensible strategy to try to match the product with the tastes of today's consumer. And the strategy of using a name such as 'Kiwi' in the UK market is perhaps understandable, given this country's close emotional and historic ties with New Zealand.

The big irony for me in this whole affair is the focus on the word 'Kiwi' which is, of course, in the minds of many, synonymous with New Zealand. Hitstorically the name referred to the Kiwi, the smallest living ratite and a national symbol of New Zealand, being native to that country. In addition, which British child, and indeed those in many other countries throughout the world, hasn't grown up knowing the name Kiwi shoe polish a product originally developed in Australia (not New Zealand), but given this name by its Australian 'inventor' to honour the home country of his wife. The even bigger irony is that the ubiquitous 'Kiwi fruit', probably the product which most of today's younger people are most familiar with which uses that name and which is commonly-supposed to have some connection with New Zealand, in fact has absolutely no historic connnection with that country except that it was brought there from China by an evangelist preacher. For marketing purposes in the 1950s the original names 'macaque peach', 'melonette' or worse still 'Chinese gooseberry' were not considered suitable, so the completely fictitious name of 'kiwifruit' was coined and is now used worldwide. So the largely-unknown to most people Kiwi bird, genuinely of New Zealland origin, and the much more widely-known 'kiwifruit', which has absolutely no more to do with New Zealand than I do, is being used to to justify a court-ruling in a case brought in Australia by New Zealand interests, with Australia being the home of another false-usage of the name 'Kiwi'. It's about as logical as the case in Scotland many years ago when a cafe-owner by the name of 'McDonald' was taken to court, and lost, in a case brought by the ubiquitous American fast-food firm 'McDonalds', originally started by two US-based brothers called McDonalds, but who sold the firm to a marketing genius called Ray Kroc in 1955; try as I might I have been unable to find out much about the antecedents of Mr Kroc, but I think it safe to say it is unlikely they were Scottish - lol.

The point of all this? What it boils down to is the commercial importance of names in marketing and the perceived need to protect certain names used to sell products, irrespective of the underlying qualities of the products being peddled. In this case the name 'Kiwi' has been found unexceptional in France's back yard, the rest of the EU, but has been black-balled in another spehere of influence on the other side of the planet. Who has 'right' on their side in this case is entirely a metter of perspective; for myself I have no real opinion to offer. I'm sure the wine itself is pleasant enough to drink, but that seems to have been completely side-lined in this particular dispute.

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