Thursday 6 February 2014

A whole new take on wine in a box – Jacob's Creek Reserve

In the past, we may have been scathing about wine in a box. But this is a whole new take on the idea. This is a bottle of wine in a box.

Why would you put a bottle of Jacob’s Creek wine on sale in a box? The only reason I can imagine is that they think it makes it look posher, more exclusive and expensive. In which case, their ambitions have been thwarted by the arcane rules of discounting, which made this Reserve in a box a pound cheaper than the bog-standard alternative beside it. 

Boxes are ideal for gifts. This is because it is very hard to gift-wrap a bottle without it immediately looking like a gift-wrapped bottle. 

A gift-wrapped box could contain anything, although the glugging sound it makes when you move it is a bit of a giveaway. (“It’s either a bottle…or an immense spirit level…”)

But frankly, who is going to give as a gift a bottle of Jacob’s Creek? This is not a wine aimed at connoisseurs, as indicated by the fact that the drinker has to be told how to open it

Are they worried that, if they didn’t print “twist to open” on it – twice – a buyer might attack the screwcap with a corkscrew? Or, perhaps, with a confusingly named “bottle-opener”? Although, as someone pointed out,  the instruction doesn’t tell drinkers which way to twist. That’ll get ‘em…

We’re talking about a sub-£8 bottle of wine. This is like making a gift of eight cans of tuna. Even in a fancy box, there’s going to be some disappointment when that gets opened. Although the last time I looked, if you wanted to flatter your recipient’s intelligence, there were no opening instructions on the tuna cans.

If this box is meant to be a gift, and it’s been left on the shelves since Christmas, that’s a pretty strong indication that the strategy hasn’t worked.

It also presents problems when you are not buying it as a gift. When you are buying it for yourself, but you return to your shopping trolley carrying a wine in a box, and your wife’s jaw drops as if you were trolleying a television set. 

Perhaps this is part of what Jacob’s Creek themelves call their strategy of “premiumisation”. They have presumably invented this hideous term to describe their efforts to sell their product as something classy. So, for instance, they call this wine Reserve, in order to, er. premiumise it. They don’t stop to think that to their typical customer, a Reserve is not something better, it’s a player who didn’t make the team.

They have borrowed the box idea from upmarket whiskies, which frequently come in boxes. Sometimes, they come in strong cardboard tubes with metal lids; these protect the bottle, and lure the recipient into thinking that there will be a good use for the tube when the whisky is finished, a delusion which can last for months of dust-gathering disuse until, as it should have been in the first place, the tube’s thrown away.

This whole concept certainly fooled the boy on the checkout, who suggested that we open the box to see if the bottle inside had a security tag attached. Of course it won’t, I felt like saying, as I had indeed said to Mrs K, it’s not a £30 Scotch. It costs £7.49!  But I went along with him, just to make us all think I was buying something special.

Which of course I was not. Jacob’s Creek Reserve has the brick colour and strawberry nose of a pinot noir, but it has no depth; it’s thin, with unresolved bitterness around the edges. And it has no finish at all, vanishing from the palate as soon as it passes. It’s perfectly drinkable, but it’s a commodity pinot noir, a Mother’s Pride in an era of artisan sourdough loaves.

You can’t make a silk purse out of Jacob’s Creek by calling it Reserve and putting it in a box. But you can make a pig’s ear out of “premiumisation”.



  1. I have some unresolved bitterness.

  2. ... but surely not around your edges.


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