Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Knocking on Cellar Door

Published:  23 July, 2008

The demise and eventual sale of Robert Mondavi has been the wine trade equivalent of a soap opera, with its apparent family feuds, in-fighting, sabbaticals and press briefings.

Akin to a Tony Blair/Alastair Campbell Campbell spin campaign, the script could have been put together by the writers of Dynasty or The OC, or indeed, ER.

On 22 December 2004 the deal was done and on 1 March this year Constellation's fiscal year began. That was the time-frame for winding down Mondavi's European operations based in Germany under Lenz Moser and integrating the business.

Although there have been reservations about the Woodbridge brand, not least of which from Robert Mondavi himself, it was decided that Woodbridge is the brand to tackle to raise the company's profile and gain distribution.

Cellar Door vice-president Marina Gayan MW was given the task of coming up with a new-look Woodbridge in time for the London International Wine & Spirits Fair (LIWSF). Decision one was to tweak the name from Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi' to Robert Mondavi Woodbridge'.

Mondavi has brand,' says Gayan, even if it isn't one of the most recognised premium New World wines. Robert Mondavi is the umbrella brand and we are putting Woodbridge in line with that.'

But the change is not just about labels. Gayan has changed the wine and has aimed for more defined fruit, with structure and complexity, to strike a better balance for UK and European palates. Initially there will be a Chardonnay and a Shiraz, with a Cabernet Sauvignon close behind.

Gayan says more fruit for the Chardonnay has been sourced from cooler-climate regions, making it more citrussy, and it then gets 75% French oak and 25% US oak.

The Woodbridge operation is based in Lodi, and the Shiraz from around that area is regarded as a good expression of Shiraz, hence that varietal coming before Cabernet, which Gayan assures will be lighter on oak treatment with a good mid-palate.

The quality improvement comes at a price. Robert Mondavi Woodbridge will go from 5.99 (currently at Waitrose) to 6.49 (although there will be the inevitable promotions), but Gayan and her team have benchmarked the wine and claim that it will be the best-value Californian at that price point.

Marketing and sales development manager Amelia Nolan says: We have had a lot of feedback from the trade. We realised that this was one chance to really make an impact with these wines. We wanted to get it right, and it has been an intensive process working with Tod Zieman, the Woodbridge director of winemaking, and his team.'

The on-trade equivalent, Woodbridge Twin Oaks, available through Matthew Clark at 6.20, will become Robert Mondavi Twin Oaks. Once Robert Mondavi Woodbridge is on its way, the Private Selection range, which retails for approximately 9.99, will be next. Once at the 10+ threshold, Gayan is hoping to rekindle the old man's original vision of educating consumers and matching food with wine - the whole Napa Valley experience, lock, stock and barrel.

Maybe a soap opera about a winemaker family along the lines of Dallas isn't such a bad idea after all. Remember the viewing figures for Who shot JR?'