CAMPAIGNS: US gets real taste of the Loire Valley

PR Team: Loire Valley Wine Bureau (France) and Teuwen One Image (New York) Campaign: Loire Valley Road Show Time Frame: March 2002 - ongoing Budget: $120,000 Chances are, most people looking to buy a bottle of wine in a store or restaurant have heard of Napa, Sonoma, or even Marlborough. But not the Loire Valley, despite the fact that it is the third-largest wine-producing region in France. In the US, Loire enjoys little name recognition, and a much smaller share of the market than Loire wineries feel they deserve. "You can go out and buy a bottle that says Burgundy or Bordeaux on it, but there's nothing that says Loire. Unless you know something about wine, you don't know that Muscadet is part of the same general region as Sancerre, which is produced several hundred miles upriver," says Ross Wasserman, account supervisor with Teuwen One Image. Both wines, he points out, are made in Loire, despite the sizable distance between their areas of production and flavors. "No one knows that they have this regional bond." Strategy Three major winemaking bodies in Loire - the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Nantes (CIVN), Interloire, and the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins du Centre (BIVC) - decided to combine their efforts to promote Loire wines in the US. "They don't work together in France because they don't need to," Wasserman explains. "But they decided they needed a common foreign policy." They therefore created the Loire Valley Wine Bureau, and hired Teuwen One Image to promote Loire wine in the US. Over the long haul, they hope to not only improve US sales (which are already up 20% per year during the period of 1996-2001, though with much room for improvement, says Wasserman), but open up the possibility for more Loire wines to be exported to the US. To that end, Teuwen One wanted to focus on the uniqueness of the Loire Valley and its wines. "They're food-friendly, no matter where they're made," Wasserman explains. "It's the only region in France that produces red, white, sweet, dry, and sparkling, all of top quality. We found three characteristics the wines have in common: variety (which is sort of an oxymoron, but the region does represent great variety), freshness, and finesse." Tactics That in mind, Teuwen One set up tastings in New York and Boston dubbed the Loire Valley Road Show, and invited journalists, wine consultants, importers, and distributors. "Tastings are not unusual, but we wanted to do a tasting that would create a connection in people's minds." says Wasserman. Each event was held in a room decorated to look like the Loire itself, with images of the lush valley and imposing chateaus dotting the hillsides. Furthermore, to demonstrate the wines' food-friendliness, the agency offered up local specialties to be enjoyed with the wine. "The region is known as the garden of France. It's known for its wonderful produce and goat cheeses. While we weren't able to do a Loire dinner, we were able to give people a little more than they experience at a typical tasting," says Wasserman. Results Since the tastings were not open to the public, they were covered almost exclusively by trade media, such as Massachusetts Beverage Business. It was also covered by Beverage Media, which is an important resource for buyers, as it lists what distributors have available, but also has valuable editorial space in the front of the book. More importantly, however, "there were 18 producers represented, of which six came without importers. Of those six, four are in negotiations with importers. That was really wonderful," says Wasserman. He adds that the Loire Valley Wine Bureau won't be able to track sales until the middle of next year. Nevertheless, Teuwen One and the Bureau are optimistic considering the success of the Road Show. Future As part of the arrangement with the Loire Valley Wine Bureau, Teuwen One is also promoting three specific Loire wines to the media this year, and three next year. So far, it has held an event for Sancerre wines at Manhattan's Blue Fin restaurant to showcase the white wines as refreshing summer drinks. Up next is an event to promote Loire wines that match with Thanksgiving dinner, followed by a cocktail event featuring sparkling wines for holiday parties. Teuwen One also hopes to expand the Loire Valley Road Show to other cities in the near future.

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