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Gallo to launch French wine in America

California-based E&J Gallo is planning to launch a new French wine named Red Bicyclette, destined for the American market this summer.

A spokesperson for Gallo said that details were still under wraps, but Rich Cartiere, publisher of the Wine Market Report, said the wine will be produced in the Rhône and Languedoc, and will probably retail for US$9.99.

Decanter.com has also learned that the label will be in English, and will feature an affable Frenchman riding a red bicycle, with baguettes in the basket and a dog alongside.

The absence of – and great potential for – a user-friendly French brand for American consumers was the subject of a heated debate at the Skalli and Rein wine industry conference in February. Marian Kopp, president of branded drinks powerhouse Racke International, believes the prospect of Red Bicyclette should make the French sit up and take notice.

‘There were so many French producers [at the conference] – some of them with no clue about wine branding,’ said Kopp. ‘Yet they complain that business is slow and that there’s no progress [in France].’

Marc Engel, research manager for international marketing research firm BRS Group, says Gallo’s ability to demystify French wine will be critical.

‘The typical French wine bottle is intimidating. It’s in French, and regardless of what one thinks about our complacency with monolingualism, most Americans don’t understand French. On top of that, the average American wine consumer is not used to French designations since we distinguish most wines by grape varieties, not regions or chateaux.’

BRS Group has conducted a comprehensive study of Charles Shaw’s ‘super-value’ American wine, nicknamed ‘Two Buck Chuck’, which sold 10 million cases in 18 months – about 9,000 bottles an hour – in only 12 states and with no advertising.

‘A label in English, with a mirthful, tail-wagging pup are two ways to connect consumers with the brand,’ added Engel. ‘I think there’s a built-in expectation that French wine will be more expensive than most other wines. There might be some sort of oeno-exchange rate in people’s minds that equates a US$10 French wine with, say, a US$5 Australian wine. A US$9.99 approachable French wine from a trusted brand like Gallo might indeed prove successful, especially if they keep the brand simple, warm and welcoming.’

Gallo has already successfully launched two Italian brands, Bella Sera (around US$8) and Ecco Domani (around US$9.99) to which decanter.com understands they will soon add a higher priced Tuscan brand named Davinci.

Written by Maggie Rosen

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