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Teased To Distraction

The launch of The Tawny had the wine press chattering, initially for the wrong reasons, but Graham’s will probably have the last laugh, says Patrick Schmitt

There are a couple of simple techniques most people use to launch a new product into the wine trade. Either you send the press a sample or, if not that, at least some detailed information. Not Graham’s. It launched The Tawny with what Ben Campbell-Johnston, brand manager, John E Fells & Sons, describes as a “teaser”, but what was, in reality, a package devoid of liquid, or explanation – it was simply a small wooden barrel with a mock-up of the bottle in it, one made of white ceramic. The Tawny, later officially unveiled at the London Wine & Spirits Fair, came in a clear glass bottle.

Although this introduction did serve to baffle most in the industry, it did make the product memorable. Moreover, some of the trade press picked up on the unusual approach and wrote about it.

In hindsight, the launch did achieve its aim, which was to catch the attention of the influential in the wine trade, and despite some of the less than positive initial comments, well, you know what they say about publicity, bad or otherwise.

But why did Graham’s launch The Tawny in the first place? After all, there are already a range of Graham’s tawnies and The Symington family, the owner of Graham’s, as well as Warre’s, already has a successful tawny in a clear glass bottle from the latter Port house.

 “The idea was not to create a new product that had an appeal to the non- Port consumer or female,” explains Campbell-Johnston, highlighting the different aims of The Tawny and its distant, somewhat trendier, temptress of a cousin from Warre’s called Otima. “With The Tawny we are trying to appeal to the existing mainstream Port consumer, the person who might buy Graham’s LBV but never really considered a tawny Port.”

And how? Through unusual (for Port) and eye-catching packaging, with “many cues taken from the malt whisky sector”, according to Campbell-Johnston, “as well as elements in the design which relate to the Graham’s LBV label”. The result is “a stylish offering”, Campbell-Johnston continues, “with contemporary notes to it, but nothing wacky – the clear glass is simply to stress this is tawny”.

The product is also designed to stand out on back bars in on-trade outlets, although the main customers for the product will be the multiple off-trade. Already, since the Port’s official mid-May launch at the London Wine and Spirit Fair, over 1,000 9- litre cases of The Tawny have been sold.

Campbell-Johnston is confident of the product’s success, and feels tawny Port in general is a “largely untapped sector. Not enough consumers understand what it is; they think all Port is heavy, dark and mysterious. They don’t realise that Port can be accessible, and it can be drunk chilled.” He also hopes the product, at £15 retail for 75cl, with its innovative appearance, will raise the image of Port overall, especially in the light of continued and ever deeper discounting at the cheaper end of this category.

Presently, tawny – aged and standard – accounts for some 7% of Port sales in the UK, and growth is currently 5% by volume and 7% by value (ACNielsen MAT to September 9, 2005). The higher value growth may be explained by the increased number of aged tawnies sold in Britain, with shipments to the UK accounting for some 3.3% of Port imports in 2004, compared with 3% in 2003. As for The Tawny, there is the capacity to supply 3,000 cases to the UK market by the end of this year, and Campbell-Johnston believes Graham’s is on target.

The Port is in fact “about an eight yearold tawny”, according to Campbell- Johnston, and can be seen as “a stepping stone between a wood-aged younger Port and an aged tawny”.

Interestingly, the new product was named The Tawny because, “It was felt this is the quintessential tawny Port,” says Campbell-Johnston. Or perhaps he means quinta-ssential? Sorry, couldn’t resist.

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