So many wine brands are launched every year that many of them will never find any space on the shelves of our supermarkets or offlicences. Is so much innovation in the wine market really necessary or viable? We talked to the owners of the well-established Rioja brand Marqués de Cáceres, father and daughter team Enrique and Cristine Forner, about the secrets behind their success
The Drinks Business: What was your original vision for the winery and the brand Marqués de Cáceres?
Christine Forner: The original vision for the winery came out of a wager. My father’s mission was to return to Spain and create a great wine from Rioja. A wine that would represent the region’s best characteristics.
Enrique Forner: This meant that I had to return to my native country after many years living in France, where I was exiled during the Franco period. In France I acquired indepth knowledge and experience in the cultivation of vines and in the vinification of wines. The idea behind this wager was twofold; to combine the necessary passion and effort to make this venture successful and to reflect the essence of the finest vineyards in our area, plus the professionalism of my team. What started out as a small bodega has grown gradually over the past 35 years as our wines have gained exposure worldwide.
DB: To what do you attribute the success of your brand?
EF: High standards and consistency in quality. We have always controlled our sales volumes by establishing annual reservations for every client. This allows us to plan ahead on a long-term basis and to age our wines adequately in barrel and especially in bottle; we have four to five years of our annual sales in stock at the bodega. Service is also key along with clear presentation and labelling which reflects the quality of the wine and helps the consumer to know what to expect.
CF: Appropriate pricing in line with the quality of the wine is also very important, by maintaining our prices as far as possible on a certain level and avoiding any strong fluctuations. And this is coupled with a long-term sales policy. We work very hard to really know our distribution channels in each market and this is key to maintaining the brand’s image and credibility. We also have to make sure that our wines are positioned well in the market in comparison to our competitors and consistently communicate what makes our wines different from our competitors.
DB: What do you feel are the challenges facing your brands in the future? EF: Overproduction is one of the greatest challenges we face. The market is already very competitive but this factor will create even greater competition given that wine consumption is not increasing globally. The worrying thing is that the competition is based on price wars, which in the long-term could damage the wine industry as a whole and create confusion in the mind of the consumer.
CF: Anti-alcohol campaigns are also a worrying threat to the industry. This kind of philosophy gives wine the image of being a “dangerous” product, not one that is an important and natural part of our culture and human nature when consumed in moderation. That’s why we need to educate. We need to teach young people to appreciate wine and its culture, to become lovers of fine wines while acquiring respect for quality alcoholic drinks and a responsible attitude towards their consumption.
DB: Do you think it is necessary to be continually innovating and re-branding the portfolio?
CF: The market is constantly evolving which means that we have to continually update our vinification and ageing techniques to meet with new tastes and trends. However, we feel that we should never lose the identity and personality of our wines, as these play an important role in differentiating our brand from the rest. We do this via innovation, launching new products such as Gaudium and MC, re-branding where necessary, as with the presentation of Antea barrelfermented white or the adaptation of our Crianza Red and Reserva and Gran Reserva labels and bottles to a more modern style. Having said all of this we are very keen to retain our identity, the core identity of the brand. We have to ensure that the consumer continues to recognise the brand.
DB: Is there much value in being perceived as a “traditional” brand?
CF: We interpret as “traditional” the fact that the wines offer high quality, consistency and stability in relation to prices. This is a core brand value that we have worked hard to establish. The marketing and sales policies behind the brand, however, should be dynamic, creative and convey a clear message, giving the consumer a better understanding of our company philosophy, and continue to perpetuate the prestige image of our products.