To Good Wine No Publicity

“To good wine no publicity.”

This proverbial saying comes from a latin proverb written by Columelle: “Vino vendibili suspensa hedera non opus est”, which translates to: “To popular wine, hanging ivy is not necessary.” In older times, hanging ivy was used by wine suppliers and resellers to promote their wines. It is still used in Switzerland and parts of France. Ivy was once exclusively dedicated to Greek wine god Bacchus, though holly was also partially used, before getting stolen by, well you know… Santa Claus!

A similar saying from the 17th century advocates the same thought: “A bon vin, il ne faut pas de bouchon” (To good wine, there’s no cork necessary). In that case, the word cork designates a small stalk of straw or grass that was placed in front of the door of a cabaret, which signified they had wine. In some cases, they would proudly display a beautiful cast iron “sign” on their door step. They used to advertise by any possible means in order to maximize earnings; acts of simple and honest promotion, along with shouting in the streets the release of their new wine.

Good things don’t need to be promoted. Smart and educated people already know where good things are, and don’t need recommendations. Such is the shared opinion of two latin authors, who each wrote similar proverbs:

Plaute – “Proba merx facile emptorem reperit” (Good merchandise finds a buyer easily)
Horace – “Largius aequo, Laudat venales qui vult extrudere merces” (One that sells his merchandise promotes it more than necessary)
In Spain, they say: “El bon vino la venta trahe consigo” (Good wine sells itself)

These are more than just proverbs. They are axioms that reinforce the truth of an easier economic time, when dealings were more local and shallow, when all good things sold based on their true value, as opposed to an appraised monetary value, altered by various promotion and advertising methods. Good wine did not require to be pompously announced and there was no need to get the public’s attention with anything other than the wine itself.

These old sayings from various eras, people and cultures all share the same concept. But do they still apply? Modern times offer a multitude of advertising options, as well as endless social networking possibilities. Nowadays, could a winemaker succeed without advertising? Is word-of-mouth sufficient to promote and bring enough popularity to a wine? Is quality still strong enough to replace publicity?

That’s enough to leave me pondering…

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