Unless you’re a wine connoisseur, finding the right bottle can be tricky. It’s generally accepted that the more expensive a bottle of wine, the better it is.However, Ryan O’Connell fromNakedwines.com says belief is prompting winemakers to up their prices, sometimes unreasonably so.
Nakedwines.com is a customer-funded winery that helps independent winemakers set up a business.
O’Connel, a marketing manager-turned winemaker says that the day he entered the production side of wine, he began spotting patterns — ways that winemakers could potentially take advantage of consumers.
Here are three main indicators he gave us to tell whether or not you’re paying too much for a bottle of wine.
1. Award competitions
It doesn’t take much to convince the average wine buyer that a medal means high-quality.
“In the industry, we all know that medals and competitions of that sort, especially in the U.S., are pretty much luck-based. So many competitions award medals to 80 percent of the entrants, that it’s just kind of a money machine for the people running the competition,” O’Connell says. “Those medals are worth about as much as the blue ribbon on a PBR.”
He says that large production wines can pay a lot of fees to rack up awards in easy competitions. Good indicators of a trustworthy wine competition include locality, a diverse panel of judges and a low percentage of awards. Several good competitions O’Connell mentioned were the North Coast Wine Challenge and the International Wine Challenge.
2. Bottle packaging
Like most products, winemakers can get away with higher pricing just by spending more on the packaging. To tell if you’re paying for the packaging or the wine, O’Connell recommends feeling the weight of the bottle first. He says some companies use heavier bottles to make people subconsciously spend more.
Another embellishment winemakers add is the punt, or the indent on the bottom of the bottle. Luxury wine punts usually measure about 1.5 inches, which means more money spent on design. Although larger punts make for more stable shipping, O’Connell says it’s a pretty good indicator of how much effort was put into the packaging.
Even things opacity and color of the glass can cost extra. O’Connell says once you’ve noticed the differences once, it becomes easier to pick them out in the store.
“If you’re buying wine for $10-15 and it’s got expensive packaging, you’re probably putting more money into the packaging than the grapes. If you spend $100, then there’s a fair chance that the winemaker just spent a ton of money on the fruit, AND a ton of money on the packaging,” he says.
3. Regional acclaim
When buying wine from a famous region, you’re paying for the region’s brand just as you’re paying for the bottle.
“If a region is really world-famous, then it’s probably spent a lot of money achieving that world fame,” O’Connell says. “Then everything gets more expensive as a result of that marketing expense.”
Not that those regions don’t deserve their reputation. But O’Connell believes that it’s hard to extricate the costs of the marketing from the costs of actual wine production.
As a work around, O’Connell suggests finding a region nearby that makes a similar style of wine. You may end up paying a quarter of the price you’d find for a celebrity region.
For beginners, find some local wine stores. Talk one-on-one to winemakers who can open up some bottles and let you taste their wines. Once you familiarize yourself with the different regions and their tastes and prices, you’ll be able to better understand what you’re getting with your money.
When I asked Ryan to explain his choice of name for the new O’Vineyards wine OMG, he replied: “I’m an O’Connell. So it’s O’Vineyards, O’Syrah, O’MG, hahaha”
O’Vineyards recently began having visitors taste their new wine called OMG 2011, and your reactions have been promising. For those of you who missed that memo, OMG stands for Oh My God in online communication culture – though if you’re reading this blog, then you surely already knew that.
OMG 2011, new O'Vineyards wine
We have been fortunate to hear professional opinions too, including the Maitre Sommelier of Carcassonne’s Hôtel de la Cité, Georges Gracia. In Georges’s words, OMG has the following characteristics:
The New Arrival at O’Vineyards: OMG 2011
color: purple, black cherry
1st nose: red berries; slightly spicy; la garrigue (thyme, laurel, Mediterranean spices)
2nd nose: combination of fruits, prunes and kirsh; beautiful intensity; fairly complex
Freshness, spices, thyme, bay leaves, pepper; beautiful balance
This is a nice aromatic wine that can adapt to a variety of different dishes. It can be drunk at room temperature or slightly chilled, in any season.
Fruit, spices, with a silky tannic wine with Bordeaux-like charisma
OMG is available for purchase exclusively at O’Vineyards for now, but will be available elsewhere this coming fall. More details to come.
So, I’ve been pretty cagey about this but here’s the official announcement:
Ryan O’Connell is moving to California for part of 2012. The company I’m working with in California is looking for new wines and new business opportunities and they think I can help. I think I can help too. 🙂
I’m leaving tomorrow. I’ll be travelling back and forth from the US to Languedoc all year, so I’m not totally detached from the vineyard and the region I call home. And my very competent parents will continue their stewardsship of O’Vineyards in my absence.
I’ve started a new blog called kidnapa (because I’m being kidnapped to Napa) which will probably have a lot of articles comparing France and California or just talking about the west coast of the US.
Love That Languedoc will continue (largely as an aggregator site). I am also accepting guest posts so let me know if you’d like to contribute to that blog.
This blog will continue to have posts about O’Vineyards and all the random wine junk I think about that doesn’t fit on my other blogs.
Wish me luck.
La présentation de Ryan O’Connell a #levin20 m’ennuie tellement que j’ai scanné le code QR dans ses diapos.
The entire conference was themed around storytelling and we had lots of sessions about how to improve our storytelling. My session was devoted to actually telling some stories. I think it went really well and I’m hugely grateful to everybody who stood up to share a story as well as the hundreds of people who attended the session. And a big thanks to Brescia and Franciacorta who allowed us to share our stories in this marvelous venue, the Santa Giulia church, a place all-too-epic for a silly little blogger like me.
Summary of stories told
Name – title – time stamp in video
Ryan Opaz – Introduction – 0:01
Brief intro to the storytelling session
Ryan O’Connell – Judge a book by its cover – 2:00
I told a story about writing my book on the Cabardes wine region. And the help I got from my neighborhood winemakers. Or lack of help. Or in some cases ridiculous amounts of criticism they gave me. And the most hilarious criticisms. Spoiler: “Why is there an asian child on the cover of this book?!”
Brett Jones – Don’t let a prostate prostrate – 7:20
Brett shared a very moving story about how he handled the discovery of his prostate cancer. And his wine tasting on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square to promote awareness and early detection of prostate cancer.
Jason Kallsen – Feel the fear – 14:18
“The counterfeit innovator is wildly self confident. The real one is scared to death.” A good story about how Jason learned that Ryan Opaz was moving to Spain without any real plans. And how to create something beautiful we have to go out and embrace the scary world out there! The book he mentions is Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art”
Anders Aberg – I bought a vineyard! – 18:20
The story of how a successful Swedish film producer bought a little property in the south of France. And how he was a bit surprised by developments of his first vintage. And how much his friends will lie to him about the wine being great! 😀 Follow his adventures in Swedish on his blog Livet i Languedoc.
Louise Hurren – Story of a ball of string – 22:25
Louise talks about how her life has intertwined with wine and drops some twine around the room with every step.
Agnes Nemeth – Bordeaux Lock Out – 30:32
This Hungarian wine writer talks about an epic trip to Bordeaux where everything goes wrong and she ends up treading through the muddy clay vines in the pitch darkness of night until somebody found her in the morning.
Wink Lorch – A Shaggy Dog Story – 39:01
Wink tells a hilarious story full of beautiful and irrelevant details about an American winery that does EVERYTHING possible to make their wine the best on the market. It’s fun to recycle and retell stories and embellish them and all that jazz. Wink shows us how it’s done. Read more of Wink’s serious work at Wine Travel Guides.
Magnus Reuterdahl – Archaeology tells a story – 45:04
This Scandinavian talks about the history of wine in Sweden and how some very old symbols come and go over time and how archaeology tells a story just as interesting as any person can. Read more of Magnus’ wine blogging at Testimony of the Spade.
Oscar Quevedo – Don’t challenge me -49:09
This winemaker in the Duoro Valley talks about how they tread grapes in the lagares and how he almost drowned as a child. And now, people battle in the lagar and Oscar’s near death experience has given him the power to win every time. Follow Oscar on the Quevedo blog.
Joao Roseira – En Memoire de Joe Dressner – 52:09
This portugese fellow decided to talk in French (which was hilarious and awesome) in a tribute to Joe Dressner the wine importer and unconventional blogger who recently passed away. I think Dressner would have loved the spirit of rebellion to Joao’s story and choice of language. He blogs in Portugese on gotaepinga
Thomas Lippert – Recovering from cardiac arrest – 54:50
Thomas suffered a major cardiac arrest and discovered the first EWBC online while he was in hopsital. His incredibly speedy recovery was partially fueled by a desire to attend that first conference and share with other people who love wine. A really touching story. More of Thomas’ blogging on winzerblog.de
We were very proud to se that the Magazine l’Express released a special wine issue with a full page feature of O’Vineyards and several references to our websites (the issue had an extensive spread on wine blogging and wine websites).
The video went up of my talk at O’Reilly’s London Ignite 4. I announced earlier that I would be presenting on Pretending to be an Expert. And while it went very well, I get the sense that some people were hoping for a how to. Which will surely come soon. I’ll do a tutorial on how to sound like a total wine snob. But for now, here is the video dramatization of my personal journey through wine expertise and wine ignorance.
For those who don’t know, this is a terrifying format in which you only have five minutes and your slides automatically advance every 15 seconds (so you gotta be fast, planned and effective).
I should mention here that there are lots of experts who actually are talented and knowledgable and so on. But most of them are confident enough in their own expertise not to be troubled by a silly ignite talk by little old Ryan anyway.
After talking to my parents, I realized I should also explain what the hell a lolcat is. Lulcatz are an Internet meme (trend) that involve photoshopping awful spelling and grammar onto adorable pictures of kittens. If that doesn’t make sense to you immediately, then don’t bother trying to understand. You never will. It’s just silly and the most base sense of Internet humor. In a way, the symbolic opposite of expertise.
PS – I’m sort of bummed that you can’t hear people laughing. Trust me, they were enjoying themselves. It’s the kind of crowd that really digs lolcats!
My UK importer Naked Wines just celebrated its second birthday. And like all good business relationships, I feel like any cause for them to celebrate is a cause for me to celebrate as well. They’ve come very far in 2 years, and it seems like they have a lot farther to go. The Naked Wines team announces that they’ll be able to invest £10million in 2011 – a 50% increase on 2010’s investment fund. The rate at which the business has grown is really outstanding and I’m really happy to have gotten on board when I did.
For those who don’t know, Naked has subscribed customers that basically agree to buy a certain amount of wine each year. This gives naked a big investment pot that it uses to support indie winemakers like me. We turn around and offer preferential pricing to Naked and they pass that on to their customers and it’s a big happy family. The site has a lot of other features including the ability to finance a cuvee of wine… and the site also has an indepth social network where customers rate wines and get feedback about what wines they might like or dislike… It’s a pretty sweet set up.
And I just found out at Le Vin 2.0 that I was included in a nice write-up about Naked. Evelyne Resnick (who was mentioned on this blog recently) interviewed me about my experience with Naked. I was pleasantly surprised that she included so much of my testimony in her article. I guess this is why I’m so happy for Naked on its second birthday. I’m hitched to that rising star!!
I get to sell my wine to people I like, I get to know the folks drinking the wine in the UK, I get paid in a timely manner (something that wine importers are not generally famous for), and I get free press just for standing by their side. 😀 Not a bad deal.
“Même son de cloche du coté des producteurs. Ryan O’Connell est un jeune Américain qui s’est installé en Languedoc en 2004 pour faire ‘des vins déliceux, délicieux’ confie-t-il avec un grand sourire. Ryan est le parfait produit d’une double culture : une grande ouverture d’esprit liée à ses origines américaines, et un profond attachement à ce terroir languedocien dont il veut exprimer la quintessence dans ses vins.”
The article goes on to describe my relationship with Naked and how it’s a perfect fit. And I have to agree!! 🙂
How to find us
Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387
Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing
North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910
Best by GPS.
Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.