Grapevine & Wine 01/07/2013

How the storytelling can add value to wines

Te use of a vineyard's storytelling helps to better understand the position of each vintage in a niche and luxury market. There is a link between the price level of the wine and the style of the corporate storytelling

Wine producers tell many stories about wine: stories about their families, their wine estate, and their winemaking. Wine drinkers also evaluate different stories when deciding which wine to purchase. They consider their own histories, memories, beliefs about wine and winemaking, and previous experiences with wine so as to buy the “right” wine. Even wine experts, wine journalists, and wine bloggers are charged with telling their own stories to others as a justification of their skills or expertise. Wine tastings are often the starting point for many stories because of the sensorial and highly subjective esthetic experience.

Storytelling is defined as “sharing of knowledge and experiences through narrative and anecdotes in order to communicate lessons, complex ideas, concepts, and causal connections”.

every story requires a clearly understood central character with whom people can identify and create a long-lasting emotional bond. In the wine industry do the stories influence wine prices? With experience-oriented goods such as wine, the price can be totally disconnected from the production cost. Image and reputation are also involved in pricing decisions. Storytelling enables consumers to integrate the history of a wine brand or of a wine estate. Producers' primary aim is to differentiate their products from their competitors within a context of plethoric supply, and a semiotic approach shows how, because of common values, actors in the same competitive area can position themselves to strengthen their identities and create value.

some appellations are associated with some specific themes, enabling us to identify four main communication styles in the case of Bordeaux fine wines: terroir, tradition and modernity, technical process, and, less frequently, consumers and culture. Regarding wine prices, communication based on winemaking generates a price premium, whereas geography is a topic that, all things being equal, decreases the price. Taking into account a potential Parker's effect on prices does not modify these results.

The lexical analysis shows some limitations. If the word counts gives a tangible information, there is little provided about the significance of the combination of the words. So, talking about family, history, geography, and geology and then to gradually move to wine production and the wine's characteristics has often been the fabric of the stories. Read one after other, these texts seem relatively undifferentiated. However, in their consumption experience, buyers of fine wine or visitors to a wine estate do not rely on such contexts. They do not compare texts. Instead, buyers are faced with a unique story that takes another singular dimension. In this sense, we can say that the systematic comparison of texts out of the same guide that requires a minimum of standardization does not reflect the reality of the producer and presents a methodological bias.

This is the reason why, far from refuting the importance of storytelling to present a château in a corporate way, we emphasize the importance of the authenticity of the speech to identify a first type of storytelling: in this sense, history, geography, and geology of the place will be particularly welcome as a first approach to the public. Other criteria register more on emotions and describe a second type of storytelling: the list of owners names supposed to be places of psychological projection as well as some wine descriptors subtly playing on nuances, which are reserved for consumers looking for a dream and for identification, as illustrated by Chinese visitors who visit Bordeaux vineyards, for example. Finally, a third type of storytelling will be reserved for experts, opinion leaders, and wine journalists who, far from being seduced by evocations, wish to focus on the technical aspects and rational criteria: vineyards management, technical investments, and logistics aspects, for instance.

Thus, we see through our recommendation that this distinction may not be unique but adaptable to different audiences. Indeed, two types of motivations may exist for consumers: either they will adopt a rational approach to determine what they look for in the guidebooks or collective websites of these Grands Crus and storytelling will provide them an opportunity to get out of a too stereotypical shape, or the consumer will create a relationship with one Grand Cru in particular during a visit or a tasting. In this case, the storytelling will then remain classic. Three narrative styles can be offered to visitors: for the French (descriptive), foreign especially from Asia (immersive), and even for a wine expert (technical).

More specifically, another question remains when considering managerial implications: are these forms of communication specific to institutional Grands Crus (i.e., fine or even iconic wines) or are they usable in other contexts? One thinks especially of the Medoc Cru Bourgeois positioned in the wake of the Grands Crus and any premium wines whose prices range is between 10 and 30 euros for less elitist appellations such as Côtes de Bordeaux. We plan on studying these additional wine categories in order to confirm, on a much larger population, the differentiating power of communication while erasing the influence of prestigious appellations and the classifications applied in 1855. Specifically, it would be valuable to test a series of texts from various wine estates (Grands Crus, Crus Bourgeois, and more modest appellations) to measure a possible differentiating power of these texts, as is done with blind tastings.


Pierre Mora, Florine Livat, Does storytelling add value to fine Bordeaux wines?, Wine Economics and Policy, Available online 9 February 2013, ISSN 2212-9774,

di R. T.