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TFC Wines chief urges retailers and media to back quality lighter style wines

Published:  10 March, 2012

Tony Dann, president of California-based TFC Wines, has written an open letter to each of the UK's major supermarkets and the national media, urging them both to get behind supporting quality lighter style wines.


Tony Dann, president of California-based TFC Wines, has written an open letter to each of the UK's major supermarkets and the national media, urging them both to get behind supporting quality lighter style wines.

He fears the number of what he considers are inferior lighter wine products on the market is in danger of killing the category before it has even started.

The full letter reads:

Dear Sir,

Wine marketers, along with the rest of the alcoholic beverage industry, face an interesting test.

Government's fierce desire, reflected again in the blazing headlines of February 15, to reduce alcohol consumption and to encourage all drinkers to use alcohol judiciously should be applauded and assisted by all of us.

The first thing we can do (in lieu of some of the posturing lip service of which the industry has lately been guilty) is help devise an intelligent means of motivating an entire marketplace to think and act differently.

Conspicuously absent from the discourse so far is recognition that coercive behavioural engineering doesn't work in a free society. Prohibition proved that. And parallels with the (at least partially successful) anti-tobacco crusade are insidiously misleading.

Fiscal and regulatory sanctions did indeed play a part, but it was in fact well-informed, rational evaluation by smokers of the risk/reward factor that led to the decision by millions (including me) to quit.

The Orwellian notion that alcohol use of whatever kind should be regulated and/or priced out of reach ignores the immense civilising enhancement (which tobacco could never claim) that wine brings to our social existence and our enjoyment of food and good living. However, there's no avoiding the admission that wine (although not the liquid of choice for binge drinkers) DOES contribute hugely to the amount of excess alcohol consumed.

As we all know, alcohol levels in the average wine have increased to a staggering extent in the past quarter century, and the vast majority of average consumers are frequently "ambushed" by wines in the 14-15% alcohol range, without even knowing that. And, as many (including some of the doctors) would agree, the "unit awareness" campaign is as ineffectual as it is well-intentioned.

It simply doesn't correspond with the way most normal people think and act.

Missing from the consumer's relationship with wine, whether in the pub or the supermarket, is
any real opportunity for intelligently informed choice of alcohol content.

The food industry has thrived on a huge diversity of attractive and clearly merchandised lighter style options which inform and guide shoppers in their dietary decisions - without any need for draconian big brotherly sanctions. No such parallel exists in wine.

There's abundant evidence that, given really attractive alternative wine options which involve absolutely no sacrifice of aroma or flavour and which truly deserve to be called premium wine, most wine drinkers will prefer the lighter, more refreshing style over the prevalent blockbuster.

Obviously, Parker-obsessed 'connoisseurs' will be an exception, but the great majority (led, not surprisingly, by women) will be happy to consume millions of units less involuntary alcohol if given that choice of attractive options. Unfortunately, that choice does not presently exist on most retail shelves. But we hope and expect this will soon change.

The combination of advanced premium winemaking techniques and state of the art winemaking technology which my company has developed has created a wide range of lighter style alternatives that truly deserve to be called wine.

We have recently presented these to all of Britain's major retail chains. Some have responded more positively than others, and we still have to contend with the negative perception which millions of regular wine drinkers have of so-called "lighter" wines.

This is confirmed and aggravated by the dozens of cheap products masquerading as "wine" on many retail shelves. These include a slew of products made from cheap grape juice concentrate to which large quantities of water are added before fermentation.

Indeed, water is a significant component of quite a few products in this unfortunate new "wine" category, which are much more closely related to alcopops than they are to wine. Absent the identification of this "ingredient", the millions of regular wine drinkers who innocently try such products are misled into thinking that this is what "lighter" stands for in wine.

Other variants employ not water but alternative dubious shortcuts to the reduction of alcohol - with equally unenjoyable (too sweet or too acidic) results.

Human beings tend to do not what they're told is good for them but what they enjoy and are in some way rewarded by.

We invite both Government and the retail trade to take this "enjoyable alternative" path seriously. And we happily challenge the market to find out for itself just how a properly made "lighter style" wine checks out against "alcopop wines" and the regulation "alcohol bombs" at 14% and more abv.

Perhaps a national newspaper would like to consider setting up a panel of consumers and journalists to see for themselves how good lighter style wines really can be.


Anthony Dann,
President, TFC Wines