This month we talked to Belinda Stone, Consultant Head of Marketing for the Old Vine Conference, about why she thinks that this is old vines’ marketing moment.

There’s a quote from Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit that “a brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” This really resonates in terms of how you seem to be planning to build the Old Vine collective into a viable, stand-alone category – via WOM, ambassadors, and other grass-roots marketing. Why do you think now is the right time for old vines to step into the spotlight?

Old vines pull together so many very topical threads: sustainability, organic, responsible farming and value for heritage varieties of common foods. Old vines are sustainable by nature: the lack of pesticides needed, the organic way that old vines need to be nurtured and are often as a default farmed, is all incredibly sustainable. They are treated individually and with respect. Talking about old vines also acknowledges the elephant in the room: that there are way too many vineyards in the world, and we don’t need to keep planting. Old vines, by the very virtue of being in the ground for so long, shout their suitability. They express that they’re in the right location, they’ve done well, continue to do well – they help tell the story of why a specific type of vine does well in a particular place. They’re doing well regardless of climate change, droughts, heavy rains, whatever. They are important resource sustaining the genetic information we can then gather to help identify old vines of the future.

Old vines have always been used in a small way in marketing. But now it really does feel like the right time fora cohesive, well-defined marketing messaging to be heard.

In terms of differentiating from a pure marketing standpoint, old vines are incredibly useful. There are so many vineyards, so many wineries, so many regions – old vines add weight to quality/ price point argument. They also give weight to green credentials wineries might otherwise be struggling to express. There is also a continued frustration around the world about the age of vineyards and not having a globally recognised standard for what is an ‘old vine’. Most people accept 35 years and above; but in some regions 35 isn’t considered an old vine – it’s a baby. People are keen to help consumers understand why an old vine wine would be different in so many ways to a non-old vine wine that they produce. And if they have a group of people, us, who are explaining it for them, it can help a lot of producers feel part of a bigger, global category which can help with their domestic and international presence.

We’ve referenced that Scott Cook quote above – other consumers are now the most influential tool in establishing a brand or product or, in this case, a product category. But we’re interested to know where the grass-roots style of your marketing approach.

Well, budget-wise it was a necessity. But with Old Vines and the messaging we’re trying to communicate, it somehow didn’t feel appropriate to create a big marketing campaign; to see pages of editorial in Decanter or online. It doesn’t fit the feel of the Old Vine message, so really there are ideological reasons as well as budgetary ones!

The Old Vine Conference’s mission is to ‘galvanise a global movement to nurture and value great old vines, and their wines’. It’s quite the aim – so it makes sense that there is no real yardstick for comparison. Rosé is the closest comparable ‘category’ we can think of, but they have no ‘generic’ body. How do you think this comparison holds?

Rosé is something similar as a category in that it can be part of anyone’s portfolio. But – there’s no generic office for rosé, [as we are trying to establish for Old Vines]. Really, we keep stumbling over this word ‘generic’. It’s a word – a concept – the trade immediately understands. But it sort of complicates our purpose because [the Old Vine Conference] is so much more than that. What we’re proposing is sort of the mother of generics – something that touches every generic body from Wines of Argentina to Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G.

I was talking to Anita Jackson of Wines of Chile [at the launch party on Monday] and saying that I thought that it was the first group of Old Vine wines gathered together to be tasted before and she pointed out that at Wines of Chile tastings they’d had a table showcasing Old Vine bottles before. But, and I think this is the essential point, the tasting on Monday was the first gathering of Old Vine wines which was purely about old vines. It made the statement that Old Vine wines – they are all things. They touch every category; every region; every type of wine. It’s as though Old Vine wines are the blood running through the body of the wine world – flowing to every point.