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12.17.2013  
 

Wines by the Book

New Jersey importer markets fine "Wines For Dummies"

 
by Jane Firstenfeld
 
 
flash wine
 
The Cabernet and Chardonnay from the Wine for Dummies label are sourced and bottled by Delicato Family Vineyards.
Secaucus, N.J.—The popular “For Dummies” series of reference books added a new title this year, and it’s meant for sipping, not for reading. Secaucus importer Vision Wine & Spirits LLC sealed an agreement with Wiley Publishing to develop and market nationally an exclusive line of “Wine for Dummies.”

The four wines in current release include a DOC Chianti and a Pinot Grigio from Italy, plus a California Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The latter two represent a stretch for Vision, launched in 2010 and described by its director of marketing Mark Tucker as “an innovative company.” It’s the first time the importer has featured wines from within the United States.

According to Vision, Wines For Dummies caters to the beginner and novice wine-drinker and was developed to make wine experiences easier. Each wine is meant to reflect its appellation, and the labels include phonetic spellings of the grape varietals and easy-to-understand descriptions.

Even those who have never resorted to one of the “Dummies” books will find the packaging familiar.

According to Tucker, the agreement is also a first for Wiley Publishing. Although Wiley has licensed electronic products to complement the reference books, “To my knowledge, this is the first ‘consumable’ product,” to bear the brand, Tucker said.

Smart idea
The first bottles of Wines for Dummies were rolled out in New Jersey on May 1, after a rousing introduction at the annual convention of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America. Since then, distribution has spread to some 30 states, Tucker reported. Between May and September, Wines for Dummies sold 25,000 cases.

“Our concept is that the wines themselves should be educational,” Tucker told Wines & Vines. “The varietals and appellations should be typical and correct.”

To find the first vintages, the Vision staff tasted more than 80 samples from suppliers around the globe. “The process took several weeks—gathering samples, tasting through them in-house,” Tucker said.

The goal: “When a consumer brings this bottle home, he should think: ‘This is what Cabernet is supposed to taste like.’ We want to educate them in a fun way.”

Target consumers include Millennials and other drinkers who are new to wine, he said. The national suggested retail price is $9.99 per 750ml bottle. “One thing we wanted to make sure is that we over-delivered at that price-point and bring buyers back by bringing them value,” Tucker said.

Asked whether people tend to buy these “educational” wines for themselves or as gifts, Tucker said that both can happen. “People buy to learn and buy for others.”

Who is a dummy?
But isn’t there a risk that someone might be offended by being targeted as a “dummy”? “You could find someone offended by everything,” Tucker conceded. “It’s tongue and cheek, and not meant to offend. We have tech sheets for wine on our website. The back labels have the ‘For Dummies’ familiar Tip logo, with simple food pairing suggestions.”

The Cabernet and Chardonnay are sourced and bottled by Delicato Family Vineyards and sealed with Stelvin screwcaps. Because Chianti does not allow screwcaps on its DOC wines, both Italian varieties, are bottled in Italy with natural cork finishes.

Vision pays Wiley a royalty on every case sold. To date, sales have been strictly through the retail channel, due to the interstate shipping labyrinth. If consumers request, “We can direct them to retailers who can ship to them. It’s still a complicated issue,” Tucker said.

At the moment, Vision is not planning any line extension, he said. “We did meet our roll-out goals. We’re watching consumer feedback, pushing distributors and looking for chain placements.” The first retailers were independent. Consumers in most states can purchase the wines online from superwinewarehouse.com.
 
“We are initially focused on the four wines, but we have it in mind to go into well-known appellations around the world: Maybe a Malbec from Argentina,” Tucker said. “The door is open for line expansion.”

“We like to try new things,” he said. “Even for those of us in the industry, there is always something new to learn.”

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