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Wine brands with no back story will struggle warns Ste Michelle's Ted Baseler ahead of Wine Vision

Published:  05 November, 2013

New wine launches that offer no back story other than what varietal or blend they are are not going to connect with modern wine consumers, warns Ted Baseler, president and chief executive of US winery, Ste Michelle Wine Estates, speaking ahead of this month's Wine Vision conference in London.

Baseler, who has the iconic Stag's Leap wine brand as part of the Ste Michelle portfolio, will be speaking at the inaugural global wine conference, being organised in partnership with Harpers, on how wine companies and brands can build consumer loyalty through their wines.

In a wide ranging interview in the November issue of Harpers, Baseler said it was more important than ever that wine brands find a way to connect to customers through stories and language they can understand. He said: "It is really quite imoportant having a relevant story about the wine that people can understand and relate to - it could be how it's made, it could be geography, it could be be about the family behind the brand. There are a number of different ways to convey a story but wines that are simply about a varietal or blend don't seem to be enough for today's consumer."

Baseler will also be talking at Wine Vision, which will include talks and panel debates featuring over 80 leading wine figures from all over the world, in a session looking at the curren and future mergers and acquisition sector. He told "It's interesting because I've dealt with investment bankers for years and they have, for a long time, projected massive consolidation of the wine industry with poor-quality products. I think the opposite. Wine brands are perceived to be made locally from actual vineyards and people view wine much differently to spirits and also to beer to some extent, but particuarly spirits."

He added: "I really don't see there being a couple of commodity companies - there's too much opportunity for other producers."

Ted Baseler

He conceded that ultimately with investors it is all about making money. "It's like oxygen you need it to continue on," he stressed. But equally he argued "there is a way to do it to retain and even improve quality".

His solution to buidling successful brands is as follows: "I call our approach the 'string of pearls'. We keep each winery separate, with its own manager, its own name and winemaker. Then we have the string through the pearls which is all the back-of-house admin - like HR and finance. But the wineries themselves are distinctive."

Baseler will be part of the line up at the executive and director only event being held between November 18-20 at London's Film Museum. For full details on how to register go to the Wine Vision website here.