Behind The Scenes Of Developing And Marketing An Iconic Holiday Gift During The COVID Era

Gift giving this year won’t be business as usual, either for corporate or personal relationships. But that doesn’t mean that the wheel had stopped turning for the development of ultra premium gift options, particularly not when those options (like truffles, olive oils and wine) are produced on an agricultural cycle uninfluenced by COVID.

Today I’d like to pull back the curtain a bit on the process of developing one such luxury gift, namely a wine named Clos Apalta (SRP $130), an icon wine from the Marnier Lapostolle family in Chile’s Apalta wine region of the Colchagua Valley. This year’s wine from the 2017 vintage will mark the twentieth anniversary of its release, which has been credited with helping to bring global recognition to the “grand cru” potential of Chilean wine.

Andrea Leon, Winemaker and Technical Director at Domaines Bournet-Lapostolle, offers her perspective on the timing the release, the impact of COVID on the marketing of the wine, the evolution of an iconic wine, and what foods she personally would choose to pair with the wine if it were on her holiday table at home.

Cathy Huyghe: Each year the Clos Apalta wines are available for purchase in the fall, but that isn’t only a commercial decision.

Andrea Leon: The timing of the release is based on the ageing process of the wines. Two years in barrels and one year in bottle before the launch. This is why the worldwide release of Clos Apalta is set to the first Tuesday of September every year.

CH: Has the marketing plan for Clos Apalta 2017 changed in any way because of COVID? If so, how? 

AL: Clos Apalta is an expression of its origin, the Apalta Valley. Our marketing is a long-term vision of educating wine amateurs and communicating about the terroir and the team behind the wine. So Covid didn’t really change our plans but we had to adapt to a certain extent.

Traveling and tastings were replaced by Zoom, social media and other digital platforms. Although we were a bit worried at the beginning, we realized this new way of communication actually got us closer to many consumers around the world. From the comfort of my own house in Apalta, I was able to meet many more people in a more dynamic format. It will be interesting to see how this will evolve once travel can resume, but it definitely opened up a new way to reach wine lovers and share Clos Apalta around the world.

CH: How long have you, personally, been involved with this particular wine? What have you noticed about the evolution of the wine over its twenty-year history? 

AL: I joined Domaines Bournet-Lapostolle in 2004 as Assistant Winemaker in Clos Apalta. It’s been 16 years now during which I have been involved in many aspects of the winery, including grape growing, winemaking, and packaging. The idea was for me to get a full understanding of all different aspects and subtleties of a Grand Vin made under a French philosophy before taking the responsibility to continue the legacy.

In 1997, Clos Apalta was born as the natural result of a unique and wonderful vineyard that finally received the care it deserved when the Bournet-Lapostolle family arrived in Apalta. One hundred-year-old pre-phylloxeric vines that produced such quality was bottled as a special Cuvee. Since then, after 20 years of exploring and improving our understanding of the terroir, the building of a dedicated gravity fed winery, the wine has reached an incredible level of precision and balance. Each vintage has its own personality, of course. The challenge resides in reading the differences that nature brings every vintage and making the most of it, respecting the personality of Clos Apalta.

CH: If Clos Apalta 2017 was on your own table at the holidays, what would you recommend pairing it with? Or, perhaps you would suggest a different scenario as the ideal situation in which to consume this wine? 

AL: Clos Apalta is very charming with unique silky tannins, even in its early years. You can push the boundaries of pairings beyond the usual [suggestions] of steak, lamb, and BBQ. The 2017 vintage shows in particular red fruit, red currant flavors, juicy long-lasting tannins… You can enjoy it alone, with lighter meats and/or vegetable dishes. The spiciness of the Carmenere will make it the perfect companion for cuisine with an Asian twist or, without going too far, Mexican flair.

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