Even puritain pilgrims wouldn't put up with this
So you fancy yourself a connoisseur when it comes to wine, beer or liquor.
Take your potent potable of choice.
You can recognize the subtleties of the aromatics as they rise from the glass. You sense a tinge of sweetness as the liquid passes across your taste buds. But most importantly, you know that what you’re drinking is cool!
Of course it is. The streamlined bottle, the hip font and the TV spots featuring bikini-clad women (or a rugged, fedora wearing-Latino man surrounded by bikini-clad women) tells you that it is.
“Not fair!” you say. “I would never fall prey to such blatant marketing tactics.”
Strolling the aisles of the Summerhill LCBO recently, I spotted a gin that I haven't seen in a while. Plymouth Gin has been around since 1793. It has a rather distinct taste, an easy drinkability – and when I was introduced to it a few years back – an extremely pleasant price point. Before it went MIA, it was my gin of choice.
But Plymouth has evolved. The bottle and label have been updated. And apparently, so has the price. The 750 millilitres of gin that used to carry a price tag of $24 now demands more than $44!
It didn’t take much research to find out what was behind the near doubling of the price. A press release by the new owners of Plymouth spells it out loud and clear.
The changes were made to “reflect the brand's super premium positioning.” Or, in other words, “We're making it high end by doubling the price.”
Any frequent traveller will tell you this is a common practice around the globe, where what is marketed as a “premium” product in one part of the world is relegated to the bottom shelf in another.
In Canada, Interbrew has sold Stella Artois as a high-end import brand. In France (where the company wants you to think the beer originated, instead of unsexy Belgium) Stella is hardly a fashionable accessory at the local bistro. Ironically, Kronenbourg, which is brewed in France, is considered a premium beer there, and is just as pricey as it is here (where it barely gets any marketing play).
And let's not forget the upsurge in the marketing of wine in this country. My general rule when it comes to wine now is that if it advertises on the side of a TTC bus shelter, I'm not drinking it.
And the names of some brands have gone from twee to downright ridiculous. I'll be more than happy if the next time I walk down a wine aisle I don’t see a label carrying a name such as Dog's Pee on the Pink Tail of a Bastard Kangaroo.
If you have to try so hard to get me to notice what's on the outside of the bottle, how much care and attention can you possibly be putting toward what's inside it?
So the lesson for the savvy drinker and the savvy shopper is: Shop for preference over image. And if you’re hanging around with people who actually judge you for the bottle you're pouring, it may be time to start looking for less “premium” friends.