Beer is the start-up; wine is the corporation. While the beer market is agile, flexible, and reacts within a few months, the wine seems to have frozen in a past era. Lumbersexuals in printed t-shirts are getting ahead the sommeliers with white gloves.
The explosion of small and medium-sized cellars has not found an echo among consumers, especially those belonging to the younger generations. The modernization and growth of the wine and vineyard market in Romania coincided with the development of another competitive phenomenon, craft beer.
Compared to wine, beer has several economic and social advantages that propel it to a privileged position. The raw material can be purchased throughout the year. The production process is several times shorter, measured in weeks, not months. The necessary installations are less sophisticated, and often packing in individual units generates more consumption.
Furthermore, the perception of the consumption situations and the level of knowledge required to enjoy a quality product also tends to favor beer. Few people think it is necessary to be a connoisseur for enjoying a beer, but most feel intimidated by the wine menu.
In Romania, the wine consumption (20l /year/person) is four times lower than that of beer (82l /year/person). These figures mostly refer to wines and beers purchased from supermarkets and hypermarkets. Quality wines from small cellars and craft beer are under-represented in national statistics, as these are niches.
What could micro-breweries teach small wine cellars? What are the common points and what are the easily adaptable lessons? We will present five ideas from the world of craft beer with examples. We’ve talked with two craft beer manufacturers in Bucharest. From the Oriel Beer team, Laurenţiu Mandrila and Ioana Coca answered some questions, while Tudor Petrescu stood in the Amon-Ra corner.
Lesson 1- Innovation and anticipation
Small and medium-sized cellars cannot compete on a price or discounts with the industry’s giants. Their only chance is to create products that have both a story and the rarity attribute. Craft brewers have accustomed their target audience that almost every batch is unique. Breweries have transformed their consumers into experience collectors.
A great example of this technique is what Oriel manages to do with every new beer recipe they launch. With a production capacity of about 400 l per lot, the young brewers play. They promise fresh aromas and taste sensations to the public almost every month, by changing the malt, adding exotic ingredients or maturing the beer in various barrels (rum, whiskey, wine). The last product that is not released yet but is already expected on the market is Tuiple Up, a Belgian beer matured in tuica (fruit brandy) casks.
Even if a wine cellar does not have the luxury of creating ten new products annually, it can implement variations such as the barrels used to bring the product in the “Limited Edition” area, thus increasing its emotional value. Some wine cellars already apply this technique by numbering the bottles. However, what they lack is craft berries to create market anticipation, a curiously awaited state of expectation.
Lesson 2 – Make your consumer your brand ambassador
Most artisan breweries are on a shoestring marketing budget. Compared with industrial manufacturers, they cannot offer promotional materials, visibility, or substantial discounts to their business partners. Their only advertising channels are usually social media, sometimes TV appearances and especially consumer recommendations.
Craft beer consumers are a tribe where social status is provided by knowing the latest innovations in the field. As the distance between producers and consumers is at most an intermediary, manufacturers have the pleasure to offer consumers an authentic experience, often mingling amongst them to take the pulse of the market.
Cellars which can be visited have the advantage of being able to create a personal relationship with the consumer; they often become ambassadors in their circle.
The most influential action that the craft market has succeeded is to make the consumer ask for the product in locations where it is not available.
Lesson 3 – True Collaboration – All for One and One for All
Even though there are some formal collaborative entities such as APEV and Premium Wines of Romania, the wine world remains quite individualistic, and collaborations are rare. If they exist, many are just commercial and not known to consumers. For example, selling the surplus of grapes to another cellar does not mean collaboration, while creating a brand together could help all the partners involved. An example of this is the Valahorum project, but it is unique.
The Beer World celebrates collaboration and believes that any new consumer attracted is a win for the entire industry. This optics is healthier because it fits better with the consumption habits of customers who are not loyal to a brand, but they are faithful to the craft concept.
Moreover, Tudor told us that craft brewers already want to unite under patronage to give them the power to negotiate with the authorities and to create an information and pressure center. Small wineries could follow a similar approach.
Lesson 4 – Size does not matter, the community does
In the world of beer, the annual volume produced is not essential but the appreciation the product gets from consumers. Even though the quantity does not justify a distribution development beyond a very narrow geographical boundary, craft beer has another goal. The product must seduce. Brewers create, marketing tells the story, and the consumer listens, tastes and retells. Tudor, the owner of Amon-Ra craft brewery, produces about 5000 liters per year divided between 5 IPA recipes. Each of them has a story so seductive that passionate customers collect the labels
Lesson 5- Dress code: Smart-casual
The lesson that any wine cellar can learn is to give up on preconceived ideas and those which are no longer in line with the modern consumer’s rhythm of life. It is the producer’s role to adapt to the market, not vice versa.
Craft beer is consumed in urban areas that tell the story of the product, such as the Fabrica de Bere Buna while the spaces for premium wine consumption only show the finished product, broken from the context in which it was created. Moreover, craft beer always presents itself as an experiment, as an unpretentious product, ready to be further refined or even eliminated if it does not meet the expectations of the consumer.
Even the product’s presentation is more relaxed; it has more attractive labels, more playful messages. Starting from the Oriel Angel, one of the products is called “See the light?”. The wine’s discourse remained frozen in the narrative focusing on the sun, earth, tradition, although it targets urban segments.
In the wine world, beginners may be intimidated by the idea of varieties, sommeliers’ presentations or the idea of food pairing, according to rules that are hard to understand. The lesson that wine cellars have to learn is to present wine from a more subjective and emotional perspective than in the context of evaluation according to objective rules.
For now, craft beer has won the battle for the attention and the money of young consumers, but wine has not yet lost the war. Moreover, craft beer consumers and producers are very open and curious about the wine world. The handcrafted beer has managed to make topics such as fermentation, maturation, and flavors more accessible, practically preparing a public that wine has to win through the story.
Behind the keyboard...
Silvia Palasca- web dev by day, wine storyteller by night (or the other way around)
Hello, I'm Silvia, wine and travel enthusiast. Looking to turn my passions into a lifestyle. As I writer and web designer I thrive on great sips and epic scenery. WSET Level 2 graduate, I love writing, talking and analyzing wine. If you have a project in mind, let's talk!