* On the photo above :
Croci Pigéage – a type of pitchforks used during fermentation, when cap of the grape (skin, stem, seeds) starts to appear on top of the vat. The cap needs to be punched, pressed and pushed back into the wine several times to ensure proper extraction of color, flavor and tannin.
Building a Wine Brand: Podere il Carnasciale
This is the second part of the conversation with Moritz Rogosky of Podere il Carnasciale where we talk about different wine markets and their consumers, distribution and wine pricing, as well as new projects and plans for the winery.
If you haven’t read the first part of the interview, and would like to learn the unique story of Podere il Carnasciale and it’s phenomenal wines, please read it here.
Effective marketing requires clear understanding of the consumer’s needs and values. Who is your average consumer? What motivates them to drink your wine?
Moritz: The consumer demographics and behavior changes from country to country.
Italians have been always passionate about wine, with all their traditions and rituals around it. We often do public tastings there, so it’s easy to meet our consumers. There are a lot of young aficionados who enter into the world of wine together with their friends and get truly excited when discovering something new and extraordinary. They want to experience wine, to meet a winemaker and to learn the story behind the wine. They often pull together to buy a magnum of Il Caberlot to share the joy of discovery and cherish the moment of drinking something truly unique.
The Asian market is very diverse. Every country has its own distinctive wine culture with its trends, limitations, and opportunities. Chinese consumers tend to be young; they are interested in exploring different tastes and their preferences are yet to be developed. In contrast, consumers in Hong Kong are very sophisticated and are drawn to expensive wines. Hong Kong is one of the word’s wealthiest cities and a leading place for fine wine auctions. As a result, restaurant wine lists have became very impressive, as have the collections of private individuals. Japan is a very mature market. Wine consumers there have a strong interest in wine and are very knowledgeable. They favor prestige and tradition of the old world, but embrace the idea of organic and natural wine too.
We sell our wine through selected importers and distributors, who hardly ever share information about their buyers. Even though, all bottles are hand-numbered, which makes it easier to track them down across the globe, we are not always aware of where they actually finish their journey.
It is easier to get in touch with the final consumer by selling direct. Mailing lists and various wine club programs enable consumers to buy wine directly and allow us to connect and learn more about our customers. Still, I believe our wines continue to intrigue and provoke in terms of both taste and intellect, engaging people’s minds, not just their palates.
Speaking about distribution, what’s your distribution strategy and how do you choose your business partners?
Moritz: Our wines are currently sold in about 25 countries across the globe. Every market has different working rules, legal regulations, levels of bureaucracy, and economic conditions. It ‘s not easy to keep up with all our importers and distributers all over the world. Therefore, we choose our partners very carefully, and I have to admit that trust and “gut feeling” if you will are the important criteria here.
I’m always happy when people find a way to meet me in person during tastings or other wine events. We still don’t have a web site, so getting in touch with us can be tricky sometimes. We want to be sure our partners understand our values and are genuinely passionate about our product. Partnership based merely on finances is not enough. Therefore, I always insist that our future partners visit the winery to see our land, experience the wine and get an idea of our realities. For the importers who work with small producers it is often the only way to get few available bottles.
The importer’s portfolio and size, his good industry knowledge and connections are other elements we pay attention to. Our New York partner is a boutique wine import and distribution company, focused on terroir-driven, high quality wines. There are only a few Italian wines in their portfolio, so no one competes with each other. Their solid connections in retail and hospitality have positive consequences for the position and visibility of our brand. I find smaller companies to be more motivated for success, willing to put in the work and get our wine in the right hands and cellars.
What’s the reasoning behind your price? Is it more a reflection of your brand image or real costs?
Moritz: Our price is principally determined by the production costs.
Everything in the vineyards is done by hand, from pruning and leaf-cutting to harvesting and fruit-selection. The barrels we source in Burgundy are expensive, so using more of those adds to the costs. Holding wines for years before release takes up space and costs money. We keep Il Caberlot in wood for a period of 22 months. It’s then manually bottled in magnums where it is kept for 16 more months prior to the release.
The yields are low and do not exceed 25-30 hectoliter per hectare, which is Burgundy Grand Cru level. The wine business is very capital-intensive – you plant a vineyard, you wait patiently, you vinify, wait three or more years, buy tanks and barrels, then come sales and marketing, building maintenance, staff and administration – all of these contribute to the final cost. After all, my family and the team have to live from what we make.
The established retail price for a magnum of Il Caberlot in the United States is about $250-270, depending on the vintage. It is about the same in Europe – 250 Euro, and this is quite a stable price. What happens in restaurants is a completely different story. The mark up sometimes exceeds 300% over the retail value. In Italy, the restaurant price for our wine is much more reasonable, their markup is about 50-60%.
Certainly, it is more profitable for us to sell direct to consumers. It saves money on both sides and it helps to develop deeper connections with our customers.
What’s the next thing for the winery? What is it that you are excited about?
Moritz: There are a lot of things that happened in 2016. For the first time in our history we harvested Sangiovese grapes. We planted a vineyard of Caberlot on rented land about 15 years ago, and we recently bought it due to the financial difficulties of the proprietor, and a hectare of Sangiovese happened to be there as well. So, there will be another wine at some point. The idea is to make very authentic, honest, and sincere expression of Sangiovese from our particular area, the Valdarno di Sopra. It will be wine with character, a wine that will represent our territory in the most elegant way possible.
With Sangiovese wine we are going to join the Valdarno di Sopra DOC. It’s one of the latest DOC among Denominations of Controlled Origin, yet the production of high quality wines is deeply rooted in this territory. As far back as 1716 the Grand Duke Cosimo III of Tuscany identified the growing zones used today for Chianti Classico, Pomino/Chianti Rufina, Carmignano and Val d’Arno di Sopra, as particularly suitable for cultivation and production of fine wines.
Moritz: Another important project for us is a new cellar. The new vineyards but even more so, our uncompromising quest for quality call for a new space. We need more room to keep the wine before it is released to the market and to properly arrange logistics processes. The bigger cellar will allow us to welcome more guests for tastings and events in the heart of the beautiful Valdarno.
The project is designed by Valerio Olgiati, an internationally acclaimed Swiss architect, famous for the uncompromising purity of his constructions.
Made entirely of a dark concrete, the building looks solid and monumental. However, behind the apparent simplicity of form and design, there is a multilevel and multifunctional space, which will bring order and dynamics to the complexity of our winemaking craft.
To support the construction of the Cantina we created a club “Amici del Ca’berlot,” which is an exclusive circle of friends passionate about our wine. In return, we are launching a special edition of 9 liter Salmanazar of Il Caberlot, which will be granted to every member over a period of 25 years, along with the precious feeling of being closely associated with the Carnasciale winery, its unique story, and the family that strives to produce the best wine possible.
Wine notes and How to Find your rare bottle of Caberlot
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