The last two years were hardly vintage years for wine-makers. Strapped consumers have not stopped drinking wine, but they've sopped up more of the cheap stuff, so it has been tough going for pricey wine brands.
That's why Constellation Brands, the largest producer of wine in the world, is trying some breakthrough techniques to promote such wine brands as Estancia, Ravenswood and Robert Mondavi. Not surprisingly, those techniques include a considerable investment in digital media and interactivity.
One initiative, targeting under-35 consumers, is a first for wine brands.
Constellation is testing a mobile application, available for the iPhone and BlackBerry, that allows consumers to scan bar codes on bottles of wine. In return, they'll receive additional details about the wines, some of which will be delivered as video, such as tips on wine/food pairings.
Then there's the You Got Boxed video contest running on behalf of the company's Black Box Wines brand. (Wine in a box, by the way, just got Vanity Fair's seal of approval.)
In a nod to social media-savvy wine-lovers, Black Box fans are encouraged to "share our award-winning wines with your friends and capture their reaction on video." Then friends can vote on the video. Winning entries get cash prizes.
In another unique digital undertaking, Constellation partnered with American Express for Pairings, a series of exclusive private events for AmEx cardmembers in Napa Valley, California and New York.
At a November event held at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa, New Orleans chef John Besh created a gourmet meal, winemaker Genevieve Janssens paired the food with appropriate wines, and performer Dave Matthews played acoustically.
On the Pairings website, excerpts from the evening, as well as additional video commentary by all three celebrities, are available for all to view.
Constellation, which spent about $80 million on advertising last year, is expected to increase that amount in 2010 with more dollars dedicated to digital media.
Meanwhile, Twitter guru (and Crush It! author) Gary Vaynerchuk's Wine Library TV was just named the virtual sommelier for Virgin Airlines.
Vaynerchuk, who you can watch below paying tribute to wine legend Mondavi, will produce videos of suggested pairings to go with Virgin's menu and host a first-of-its-kind in-flight wine tasting on Virgin America this summer.
More wine brands online and in the air? Well, we'll drink to that.