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October 17. 2012 12:26AM

Despite critics, wine to stay in NH state liquor stores


A clerk at the NH State Liquor Store Hooksett North holds a bottle of If You See Kay a new wine which is part of a different sort of marketing effort for wines for the Millenial generation. (Paula Tracy/Union Leader)

CONCORD — Two Executive Councilors Tuesday questioned the State Liquor Commission's judgment in prominently displaying a wine with a “shock label” at several state stores. But two others said they expected the state to use “good judgment” and one said that means weighing what “shock branding” may mean for the state.

Meanwhile, the wine with the four-letter vulgarity as its acronym will stay on display, the director of sales and marketing for the SLC told the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Rich Gerrish said there is no written policy on what if any labels would be unacceptable. Asked what might not pass muster with the state-controlled liquor business, Gerrish said, “I don't think we would stock one with a naked body on it.”

He said pricing, quality, and sales volume go into selecting labels. If they do not sell they do not stay. He said comical names have had sales success.

The provocative “Kay” label, when pronounced, spells out the four-letter vulgarity. The label features a tattooed biker woman and is among a number of such labels being marketed to young men.

After discussing the “Kay” product, as reported in Tuesday's Union Leader, Gerrish said the wine's descriptive note at the stores will be changed to be more about the wine and “less edgy.” But the wine will stay for sale.

That won't sit well with Executive Councilor David Wheeler of Milford. He said that isn't the “welcome mat” New Hampshire should be putting out to tourists.

“My gut is that that goes against community standards and crosses the line,” Wheeler said. “The Liquor Commission should deal with that forthwith.”

But Executive Councilor Chris Sununu of Newfields said that while he might not stock it at his family's Waterville Valley resort, it is up to the Liquor Commission to weigh the benefits and drawbacks for its business.

“I fully expect the Liquor Commission to use good judgment and weigh shock branding and the opportunity they may provide this state,” Sununu said.

The Executive Council exercised more control over Liquor Commission activities before a 2009 law. On Tuesday, a legislative special committee was continuing its own review of whether the law was a good idea.

Executive Councilor Raymond Wieczorek of Manchester said the idea of someone coming into New Hampshire for the first time, stopping at the rest stop and entering the state store to see If You See Kay is “kinda stupid.”

“That to me would not be 'Welcome to New Hampshire,'” Wieczorek said.

Executive Councilor Raymond Burton of Bath said: “I assume the Liquor Commission and their purchasing department uses good judgment.” He took no position on whether it was a good idea or not to market provocative labels.

The fifth councilor, Dan St. Hilaire of Concord, could not be reached for comment.

New Hampshire retail liquor sales for fiscal year 2013 are up almost 10 percent for fiscal year to date. That adds up to $9.8 million to the state. Wine sales have increased 9.3 percent with labels including Her Fault, Running with Scissors, Old Fart, Seven Deadly Zins and Fat Bastard.

Made by Jayson Woodbridge, “Kay” is part of the vintner's irreverent style, according to Laura Shear, a spokesman for the Vintage Point marketing firm.

On Tuesday, Shear clarified that while Woodbridge himself doesn't care what people think about his shock title, the Vintage Point marketing firm represents other labels, such as Layer Cake and Arnold Palmer, which do.

“He's as out there as he wants to be,” said Shear of Woodbridge. She noted she was hearing a bit of concern from other vintners in the group following the Union Leader's initial story.

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Paula Tracy may be reached at ptracy@unionleader.com.


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