April 8, 2014
Ten Foot Tall And Bullet Proof: The Dream Behind Loveblock Wine
Cathy Huyghe | Forbes
There’s no reason, at all, why Erica and Kim Crawford had to do Loveblock.
The eponymous Kim Crawford label – with its range of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay – is doing just fine. The production model hums along on well-oiled rails, from sourcing grapes and making the wine, all the way to branding and route to market. Building on the strength of Kim’s winemaking experience and Erica’s operations and marketing skills, the Crawfords are well-established as an iconic family of the New Zealand wine industry.
Then along came Loveblock.
It would be a new wine and a fresh reboot.
It would be the chance to expand their portfolio of grapes. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris, they’d also make Moscato, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling.
It would be a new opportunity, which is appealing to anyone with a successful past and even a small itch of entrepreneurialism for the future.
What Loveblock would not be is Kim Crawford Two. The differentiation has to do partly with the philosophy behind the brand, and partly with the odds of geography stacked high against it.
Those odds, even with the enthusiasm of a new venture, are daunting.
Daunting, as in vineyards at elevations in New Zealand that are so high that no one has grown grapes there before.
As in, arctic winds blowing in from the South Pole.
As in, a plague of bronze beetles that descend on the vineyards, fly toward the sun, and eat literally everything in its path.
It’s a forbidding climate that the Crawfords have nonetheless coaxed into yielding enough wine and enough hope to keep going.
“All the elements were against us,” Erica Crawford said. “But it was the dream. You need one of those things. You need to think you’re ten foot tall and bullet proof. You need to think nothing can go wrong.”
It’s a great turn of phrase – this “ten foot tall and bullet proof” – but it doesn’t necessarily translate into a sustainable or profitable business.
I ask Crawford whether Loveblock is making money. “No,” she says.
I ask her whether Loveblock will make money. “Yes,” she says, “but the break even is further away,” the way that planting vineyards at the top of a hill is further away: distance, yield and profitability are all longer in coming.
That gives them time to consider the value of the endeavor. “We know a lot more exactly where we want to go,” Crawford said. “When you live through the practicalities of the thing, and you bleed money, we think through what we really want for this.”
Passion can be a common pitfall for every winemaker: it’s the driver for so much of the wine industry, but there has to be commercial sensibility to a project also.
Crawford believes that the flavors coming from the Loveblock vineyards are phenomenal, partly because the toolbox they’re working with is so small. For some winemakers and viticulturalists the harsh environment would be limiting; others see the benefit of a focus that concentrates both efforts and senses.
“It’s like giving one chef four ingredients and another chef a full kitchen, and saying make the same dish,” she said. “We’re striving for a constrained palate, with elegance and mouthfeel.”
That focus also influences possibilities for other aspects of the Crawford’s business. It’s a simple equation in principle – to do more with less – that is also the time when innovation emerges.
For example, Crawford envisions an integrated farm surrounding the vineyards, where beef and eggs are produced under the Loveblock label. A pop-up “cellar door” (what New Zealanders call a wine tasting room) is another idea, giving consumers easy access and riding the coattails of the pop-up restaurant trend at the same time.
Ideas like these serve to differentiate the brand, especially given that the route to market is the most difficult obstacle for Loveblock to overcome: the proliferation of wineries and industry-wide consolidation of the supply chain allow new, smaller labels little room to maneuver.
Crawford describes these ideas as “very difficult things I’ve never done before,” and making them happen will test her powers of strategy and resilience.
That’s when being ten foot tall and bullet proof comes in handy.
* Erica Crawford will be coming to Canada in May to share her Loveblock wines at the Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto 'New Zealand in a Glass' Festivals!
March 31, 2014Fresh-thinking young winemakers could be the shot in the arm that Alsace needs, as they focus more than ever on the terroir-driven, dry styles that today’s wine lovers want.
It’s a region close to the heart of many wine lovers and yet Alsace continues to suffer image problems.
Alsace terroirs have always existed, but they were not as well appreciated or understood as they are today, said Jérôme Mader, 32, of Domaine Mader in Hunawihr. ‘Before 1983,’ he said, ‘my father labelled his wine simply “Riesling” or “Riesling-Théophile” after my grandfather, without indicating the Rosacker grand cru.’
The 26ha of vines in Rosacker famously include a tiny 1.67ha vineyard that makes arguably the greatest Riesling in Alsace: Domaine Trimbach’s Clos-Ste-Hune. Rosacker was not recognised officially as a grand cru until 1983. For that reason, Trimbach and some other domaines with strong brands, such as Hugel, saw little point in adopting any grand cru monikers on their labels.
But even Domaine Trimbach might soon show grand cru designations on its labels. Anne Trimbach, 29, daughter of winemaker Pierre (pictured above), said this may not apply to established brands, such as Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling, but to a more recent acquisition.
‘Our wines had a name for themselves long before the grand cru system,’ she said. But when the family negotiated with the Ribeauvillé Convent to harvest 2.6ha of its vines, ‘the nuns wanted us to write on the label “Grand Cru Geisberg from the Convent of Ribeauvillé’”; it is their wish and their vineyards,’ said Anne. The grapes were initially used in Cuvée Frédéric Emile, but starting in 2009, the Trimbachsbegan a separate bottling; there is no label yet. As with other Trimbach wines, the bottles are kept in the cellar for a few years before release. ‘The entireyounger generation is open to the idea of puttingthe grand cru on the label,’ she added. ‘The nuns are asking for it, so why not? Why would we refuse?’
Read the full article here.
Trimbach wines featured in Top 10 'new generation' dry wines:
Trimbach, Clos-Ste-Hune Riesling 2007
1.7 grams/litre of residual sugar (RS) and 7.2g/l acidity. Precise fruit and complex expression of limestone freshness. Old vines (45–50 years old) facing south and southeast bring concentration to this wine, which finishes on a subtle note of white pepper.
Trimbach, Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling 2007
0.7g/l RS, 7.9g/l acidity. From grapes grown on Geisberg and Osterberg grands crus. Still young and shy but with some aeration you get lemon and green apple aromas, and stony hints. Very pure and mineral-driven palate with subtle concentration and excellent potential.
March 28, 2014