A drop in the ocean makes case for reinventing wine aging

Mira Winery became the first US winery to experiment with aging wine in the ocean.

Client: Mira Winery (Saint Helena, CA)
Agency
: JDA Frontline (Charleston, SC)
Campaign
: Mira Winery Aquaori Experiment
Duration
: February - July, 2013
Budget
: about $20,000

Independently owned, Napa Valley-based Mira Winery this year became the first US winery to experiment with aging wine in the ocean. Four cases of its 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon were sunk in Charleston Harbor for three months and compared to four cases of the same wine aged on land.

JDA Frontline, Mira's AOR, helped drive widespread awareness of Mira and its experiment.

“We were rethinking the way the industry might age wine,” explains Jim “Bear” Dyke, president of Mira Winery and a Charleston, SC, native. “The intent was to raise awareness about the experiment and how the conclusions could lead to changes in the way wine is aged in general.” 

Strategy
Dyke says Charleston Harbor was chosen because in February the water temperature is about 55 degrees -- the ideal temperature to store and age wine in a cellar.

Media relations, social media outreach and Mira's blog drove awareness of the sinking, recovery, and results. 

Tactics
A Charleston Harbor page launched February 5 on Mira's website and was promoted extensively on Facebook and Twitter. 

Ahead of the February 20 sinking event, wine, food, lifestyle, and general consumer reporters for Napa Valley outlets, Charleston outlets, and national outlets were briefed on the technical details of land and ocean aging, or “aquaoir,” a term Mira coined.

Reporters, wine industry experts, sommeliers, Mira's wine club members, and representatives from restaurants that sell Mira wine were invited to the February 20 event at the Charleston Maritime Center. Dyke and Mira winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez gave interviews.

The agency filmed the wine drop and produced a two-minute video that was used in media outreach and posted to Mira's website and social channels.

Wine club members, restaurant representatives, and media attended the May 21 recovery event. Again, Gonzalez and Dyke gave interviews and the agency filmed the event, distributed the video to media, and posted it to Mira's online properties.

A Charleston-based advanced sommelier, Gonzalez, and Dyke did a taste test comparison of the ocean-aged wine with land-aged wine during a call with Mira's wine club members that was open to media.

The ocean-aged wine then went to a Napa Valley lab for chemical testing. All results were posted on the Charleston Harbor web page.

Results
Twelve sets of wine (one ocean-aged bottle and one land-aged bottle) offered to Mira's wine club members on July 1 sold out in less than one hour.

Dyke says the winery got “hundreds” of requests to buy the wine, and that between February 20 and March 20 wine club enrollment increased 275% over the average monthly enrollment rate.

In the week following the February 20 event, Mira's website traffic jumped 378% over the previous week. Adam Temple, agency VP public affairs, says website traffic has since held at 378% above the average weekly traffic before the campaign.

More than 640 stories ran in outlets including Wine Enthusiast, ABC News, Los Angeles Times, Fox News, AP, NPR, Popular Mechanics, and The Washington Post.

The campaign also garnered more than 1,700 Twitter mentions.

Future
Aquaoir.com launched September 25. Dyke hopes other wineries will share ocean-aging stories and data there. 

Phase two of the experiment kicks off November 6, when Mira will sink eight cases of the same wine for six months. A seven-city tasting tour with wine from the first experiment will follow.

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