Spinning the BottleBy Harvey Posert and Paul Franson
20 pages, softcover $39.95
Few areas of endeavor depend on public relations as much as the American wine business.
Harvey Posert and Paul Franson have collaborated in the publication of this series of case studies in wine-related PR. There’s little about the wine industry these veterans don’t know. While each has written a chapter (Franson penned two), they’ve included case studies from 45 colleagues who are now—or have been in the past—responsible for some of the most professional and creative work in wine’s public relations arena.
In many ways California’s wine industry still suffers from acquiescing to the decision of its major trade organization to abandon collective public relations more than two decades ago. Lack of overall direction may have contributed to some amateurish PR efforts in the ensuing years, but it may also have opened the door for the considerable talents of the contributors to “Spinning the Bottle.”
Can the same principles be applied to promoting a bottle of wine that retails for $1.99 and one that goes for over $100? Maybe the question is irrelevant, but in this volume Harvey Posert devotes two-and-a-half pages to the success story of Bronco Wine Company and Charles Shaw, a.k.a. “Two-Buck Chuck,” while Roger Asleson of Opus One relates his winery’s efforts in securing a number of Maseratis for use in conjunction with the Napa Valley Wine Auction. Different targeted audiences? Of course, but these stories of disparate operations may illustrate the fragmentation of the industry.
It’s doubtful that there is an academic class where one could learn the lessons included in this book. In such a vacuum, “Spinning the Bottle” may be the most important non-textbook those in the wine business have. Chapters are organized alphabetically by author name and are largely anecdotal, presented in the case study method.
While some wine consumers may enjoy this look behind the scenes, the book is written for the trade. It’s easy and amusing reading for those of us in the wine business or allied fields. Not all tales relate raging success. In his chapter My Fraudulent Days as a Wine Expert, David Cawley tells of working with the late actor Vincent Price on behalf of the Wine Institute before losing a substantial cache of wine slated to be used in the promotions. In Done in by a Dachshund, Keith Love recalls a Ch. St. Michelle event he had worked on that was denied major television coverage when all the cameras were diverted to late-breaking news involving a small dog stuck somewhere in the air-conditioning ducting of a motel.
For all the insights the savvy reader could glean from the more anecdotal chapters, there are three sections that speak so lucidly and directly to their subjects that they should be required reading for any winery employee likely to even get close to the PR department. In Some Tips on Wine Public Relations and Tips for Dealing with the News Media, Paul Franson and Kimberly Flowers lay out everything a spokesperson need to know about dealing with the media. Craig Root, writing about Increasing the PR Value of your Tasting Room, outlines common sense values and procedures applicable to any winery tasting room. Were more wineries to adapt his suggestions, they’d create a better long-term impression and increase their tasting room sales, as well.
At $39.95 (plus shipping), “Spinning the Bottle” might be priced a bit steeply for most consumers, but it would be a foolish winery that didn’t invest in several copies for their employees who deal with the public.
--reviewed by Dan Clarke
Editor’s note: Spinning the Bottle is self-published and not available through regular channels. Further information can be had at www.spinningthebottle.com.