Please Don’t Give Up On Hybrid Varietal Names
Recently, a major figure in American wine passed away. His name is David Taub and he is known primarily for introducing Pinot Grigio in the United States.
Taub, who died on November 8th at age 72, was owner of Palm Bay International, one of the largest wine importers in the United States.
In today’s edition, the New York Times said of Taub: “Mr. Taub expanded the American palate for Italian wine by introducing a simple white wine called Pinot Grigio.”
Pinot Grigio went on to become the top-selling Italian wine in the United States, but there was a time when it was every bit as obscure as Vignoles or Chambourcin.
Taub and his father had years of experience importing Italian wine when they first got the idea to sell Pinot Grigio in the U.S. The problem, as Taub told Wine Spectator in 2010, was, “how do you take a wine that no one has heard of and introduce it into the marketplace?”
The New York Times explained that one of Taub’s first marketing decisions was to persuade the Italian vineyard that produced the wine to simplify the name. So, during the 1970’s, a wine that had been known as “Cantini Viticoltori del Trentino” was shortened to “Cavit.”
Taub then contacted Dick Cavett, the popular talk show host of the era, and convinced him to be the spokesperson for the wine. The Cavit ads featured Dick Cavett saying, “I’m the Cavett from Nebraska, but you should get to know the Cavit from the Italian Alps. The classic Cavit Pinot Grigio is assertively dry….”
It took a couple of years for the ads and promotions to work, but Taub was soon importing 500,000 cases of Cavit Pinot Grigio.
There is a lesson Midwestern wineries can take from the success and persistence of David Taub: Wine consumers are always looking for new flavors. If marketed correctly, new varietals can gain acceptance.
Some Midwestern wineries have reported increased sales when a hybrid varietal name is replaced by a brand name like “Northern Tundra” or “Country Red.” Brand names are proven effective for increasing name recognition and brand awareness. However, for a wine to gain “share of mind” in the U.S., the name of the wine grape must register with consumers.
Taub introduced Pinot Grigio to the U.S. by shortening the name to Cavit while repeatedly emphasizing the origins of the wine and name of the grape. The Midwest wine industry would benefit from a similar approach. A coordinated, multi state effort marketing effort might be what it takes to lift cold climate hybrid varietals into the public consciousness. All it takes is one big idea like David Taub’s Pinot Grigio.