Wine critic Huon Hooke in The Age 3/5 suggests that Penfolds Grange may be regarded as Australia’s greatest wine by some, and that the 2008 vintage is one of the best, alongside 2006, 1996 and 1990. In wine terms he says impressive things about Grange – its ability to build great complexity of flavour over many years of cellaring. The top vintages age well for 50 years, and the ’08 will be one of those. According to Huon the full payoff is the wonderful aroma and flavour nuances that build over time, and the 2008 needs 15 to 20 years, minimum. Personally I do not have the time, but this is not about me.
It’s about a vintage record that stretches back in an unbroken line to 1951, which no other Australian wine can boast. And according to Hooke it’s better than ever – the quality of the tannins finer and the oak barrels of better quality, resulting in more subtle oak flavours. The sort of wine language people who have deep pockets need to hear.
But he and others are asking is it worth $785 a bottle, a 25 per cent premium on the the previous vintage? However, forget the dilemma as to whether you will personally buy a bottle or a case, lets reflect on the branding lessons playing out. Penfolds are the masters at understanding the power of an iconic sub-brand delivering a positive halo over the full brand range. Every year when the new vintage is released it becomes a media event of significant proportions. The Penfolds brand name receives a level of media coverage that is not only large, but in a manner that provides real cut through. It is opinion leaders broadcasting the merits or otherwise of the latest vintage. In short, others pick up the Penfolds storytelling and they communicate the story of quality better than any brilliantly conceived advertisement that Penfolds as a brand owner could muster.
The second thing that Penfolds does particularly well is work to a brand architecture that is dominated by the name Penfolds. The Bin numbering system that they work to along side the Penfolds brand allows different quality versions to co-exist in a synergistic manner. Essentially every time you see the label on one of their products, you are greeted with the red Penfolds signature. It means the whole portfolio gets to share in some of the glory of each new vintage of Grange.
Incredibly simple, yes? The question is why do not more brand owners leverage such a strategy?