Wine is a commodity. Sorry to pop your dreamy image, but it’s true. We try to sell the romance to convince the consumer of something more; but in the end, wine is a product, with a market and pricing pressures. Currently, Spain and Portugal are all to familiar with these ever demanding pressures. Many wineries who wanted image, prestige and greatness are accepting the hard truth that they have a product to sell if they want to keep the lights on. Markets are tight, prices have dropped and the sector is hurting. So what do you do when this happens?

If you have a commodity with a demand, you need to sell, sell, sell! Or, you need to assess the market to determine what they’re demanding in hopes of opening new markets or reinvigorating old ones. Opportunity is everywhere, as seen by the myriad of people drinking wine, but we wine folk tend to take ourselves a bit too seriously or often times hold tight to old ways, instead of looking to new opportunities. Here’s a free tip for wineries: nothing in the history of the world has ever stayed the same, barring the laws of physics. Markets shift, trends and fashion change, and your consumer is an ever moving target, much like a bulls-eye floating on the ocean swell. Hence, you need to continually reassess how to connect with them.

Today many of you are selling history, a refrain from so many wine makers and marketers mouths, “We are nothing without our stories”. I think they’re right, but unfortunately many wineries marketing plans stop at that. So many wineries act as if the story ended 50 years ago, and their sole objective is to maintain this same image well into the future, carefully living off the past for fear of disrupting the income generating force. Not 200 years ago, wine was often considered undrinkable, if it wasn’t sweet. Today, most wine is well made. And although taste has changed over the years, you still find many wineries promoting their wines with awards from over a century ago! Hence, their story has ended, without any vision towards the future. Smart brands have stories that will never end. They continue to evolve, grow and stretch well into future generations.

Today, there are old-school wineries who are reinvigorating their images to keep up with changing times, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Port Wine sector. There are wineries who are breathing life back into old stories, invigorating the consumer’s image of themselves. Two years ago, Croft first launched their pink port, a novelty at the time, but a beverage that is currently gaining traction, not to mention spawning copy-cat products. A few weeks ago, Roy Hersh of For the Love of Port reviewed a new wine from the historic, Quinta de Noval, called Noval Black, which caught my attention as a result of its innovation, creativity and forward thought.

Christian Seely of Quinta do Noval explains: “I have always wanted to make a Port wine that would be a clear expression of the Noval style, easily accessible as a wine that could be poured by the glass, no aging and no decanting necessary. No complications, just a great glass of Port.

Having tasted Noval Black, I have to agree with Christian, it’s a great everyday Port – the kind of drink you want to sip upon when reflecting on the day’s happenings. Great fruit, a bit of structure and a round finish. Bravo, not only to the wine, but to the bottle design. A wine like this is sold by its packaging, and with black being the “new black”, or so I hear, this bottle is elegant and eye fetching in a way that says, “I want this on my counter”. It’s a bottle that is stylish to have around as you slowly finish the contents over the course of several nights. Not to mention it’s being marketed from what I can tell as a premium Ruby port, which if stocked on the same shelf space will in the end stand out from the crowd.

Now back to my earlier point. This is a great example of how a historic institution in the wine world is using marketing and innovation to open new markets. In no way are they degrading or hurting their reputation as the king of Port wine, but they are offering a chance to new consumers to come forward and explore new wines. Croft, our client Quevedo, and others like Poças, are offering pink ports in a similar way. While I have yet to find one that I personally want to sip, I do see their appeal, and I believe that they offer a unique opportunity to bridge the divide that often separates wine from beer and spirits.

This divide is a “fun divide”, I like to say. While beer and spirits marketers have “fun” and are willing to offer up their drinks as opportunities to celebrate, wine still holds tight to the proper glassware paradigm. They convey the message, “you cannot enjoy our beverages without proper education, appropriate glassware and a dour face”, a statement that many wines seem to embrace!

Wine is fun, and I’ve enjoyed many fine wines from a plastic cup on a train with friends. While Noval Black is not in this class, it is looking at making the experience more full by considering not only the image, but by breaking a bit from the stodgy port imagery. It’s strikes a similar tone as the premium vodka market, where packaging is everything. Noval Black is a wine you want to drink, both with your palate and with your eyes. No matter what people say, we all drink with our eyes. Noval Black and pink ports both provide eye candy, while associating a name with what are quality beverages, all branding a historic product in a new way. I think both are presenting the Port wine world a great opportunity to be seen as an enjoyable product that has depth to explore, and could both potentially open markets that are often neglected.

Now I’m off to see if that bottle of Noval Black has a bottom to it. Kudos to the marketer who discovers how to get rid of that! 🙂


Ryan Opaz

Noval Black is currently available in the USA for around $19.

Ryan Opaz

Ryan Opaz

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