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The wallaby, the dinosaurs and the co-creator

July 4, 2009

An article in the business section of yesterday’s New York Times shows Australia suffering from a commoditization of its high-end wine exports, killed by “cheap and cheerful” wines such as Yellow Tail, made by Casella Wines.

This whiny representation of the losers side misses the point. Yellow Tail, with its ubiquitous wallaby label – yes, it is a wallaby, not a kangaroo – has revolutionized the wine business with its refusal to age the wine, its willingness to mix crops to create a consistent taste for the novice drinker, and its non-traditional emphasis on the fun of drinking the stuff. Most importantly, it is easy to drink and quite affordable (around US $5-6 per bottle in most countries).

As a result, Yellow Tail has elbowed out of the import shelves of wine stores in many countries the more complex productions of France, California, Argentina and apparently Australia, which demand years of palate education and access to a mental data base of good and bad years by vintage by region. The intensity with which the wine industry has vilified Yellow Tail illustrates why their strategy of opening up a large market of novice users to wine is the right one, while the prissy, “connoisseur strategy” is condemned to fail. Pardon me for passing on the offer to get my oenology PhD.

By the way, my prediction is that the wine market will ultimately be dominated by neither type of wine, but by wine makers who allow co-creation such as Crushpad in San Francisco.

Now that I have my own appellation, I’m becoming a bit of a wine snob myself.

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