By Caroline Helper (@forgetburgundy)
Just last week I attended an exciting wine event – a tasting of “Top 100” wines that were chosen for their 90+ point ratings from all the top scoring publications. The high caliber of all the wines served combined with the venue, one of Puerto Rico’s top luxury resorts, made for a very luxurious evening.
One interesting aspect of the event was the presence of Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky. The brand was promoting two of its newer and higher-end offerings, including a yet-to-be-released (at least Stateside) 18-year-aged blend Platinum Label.
The competition between wines can be fierce – with regions and producers battling it out for recognition and breeding tension. It seems a little odd that wine and spirit brands can play nice. After all, both wine and spirits are, at the end of the day, vehicles for delivering alcohol. Why the camaraderie?
As I viewed the attractive women shimmying in gold-sequined dresses and impossibly high heels entreating consumers to taste Johnnie Walker’s offerings, I tried to imagine a wine brand employing the same tactics. And therein lies the key to wine and spirit brands along so swimmingly.
While both wines and spirits court the same publications, rely on the same measure of good scores and often employ the same poetics in their tasting notes, the context in which the two products are marketed are quite different.
Wine has become something that is sanctioned as a healthy part of an everyday routine – something equally appropriate to sip through dinner as on the couch with girlfriends. There are wines to drink on p
icnics, at the beach, on the couch and at the dinner table. Wine has assumed a casual place in the American home. However, I can’t think of a spirit that has succeeded in establishing itself as a sip-anywhere-anytime brand.
Spirits are something glitzier, sexier and perhaps even still a bit taboo. While a gin and tonic might pair just as well with a picnic as a glass of Pinot Grigio, there’s something about the idea of drinking spirits before a
certain hour that still raises eyebrows. Something a little too reminiscent of Don Draper.
When it comes to restaurants, though, there are some notable exceptions – The Cat Bird Seat in Nasville or
Alinea in Chicago – spirits and cocktails still cede their place to wine when it comes to drinking during a meal.
Spirits and cocktails are still associated with the glitz and glamour of parties and clubs. You take a shot of tequila when you want to let your hair down, not sip a Chardonnay. But if you’re serving a beautiful roast chicken, you’ll probably reach for a bottle of wine before you go for the Scotch. And the marketers of these products wouldn’t have it any other way.