A few weeks ago a wine commercial in Italy got under the spotlight: the advertisement, made by Caviro to promote the (in)famous Tavernello wine, depicts a blind tasting where four “aspiring sommeliers” are served four wines blind, under the severe eyes of three (locally) famous wine celebrities. One wine, they are told, is a Tavernello, a wine whose name in Italy has become synonym with low level plonk, the other three are expensive bottles. Can they guess which is which?

They can’t, because – surprise! – all the wines are Tavernello! The advert ends with a “moral” message: don’t have prejudices against wines only for their labels.

The commercial has sparked controversy, all the major Italian wine magazines and blogs have commented it, mostly criticizing it. Personally it gave me a good laugh (“Che ridi?” would probably say Pipero).

First, no one in his right mind is going to believe in a video blind tasting, if unsupported by further evidence. Let’s say that tomorrow I am uploading a video on Youtube where I blind taste 12 wines, perfectly guessing their origin, producers, vintage and alcoholic level. What you are going to think? You are going to think that I already knew the wines and that I am faking.

Second, “aspiring sommeliers” doesn’t mean anything. We don’t know if they are following a course and what that is; we don’t know if they work in the industry or else; we don’t even know if they really like wine. I say that they are just actors, paid to follow a script and that the blind tasting was staged and it was not blind at all. Who can prove otherwise? The producer who paid the promotion? The people who received money to play the aspiring sommelier part? Or those who were paid to be the judges?

On the other hand I understand the video: it is eager to prove that a wine should not be judged only by the label, which is true (although in my opinion drinking by reputation is not necessarily evil). So you know what? I decided to take a look at some international blind tasting competitions to see how Tavernello fared in the last three years. Well apparently it did better than I thought.

The Decanter Wine Awards commends Tavernello Syrah Terre Siciliane (in 2017 and 2018), Tavernello Grillo Terre Siciliane (in 2017), Tavernello Organico Trebbiano-Chardonnay (in 2018), Tavernello Organico Sangiovese (in 2018) and even gave a bronze medal to Tavernello Sangiovese Rubicone IGT (in 2018). Less luck in 2019 when just the Tavernello Famoso Pinot Bianco got commended.
The International Wine Challenge in 2019 commended Tavernello Organico Sangiovese Rubicone Biologico and Tavernello Sangiovese Cabernet Rubicone. 2018 had been even more successful with a bronze for the Organic Sangiovese and commendations for Organic Syrah, Organic Trebbiano Chardonnay and Sangiovese Rubicone. In 2017 only one award, a commendation for a Vino da Tavola Syrah-Cabernet.
Finally, in the Japan Wine Challenge 2018 cough cough where the author also acted as judge cough cough Tavernello Sangiovese Cabernet Rubicone IGT got a gold medal. I don’t know if I tasted it and I remember being underwhelmed by Italian entries, but who knows? Maybe I gave it a gold.
The aforementioned wines are probably not those sold in brik, the format this wine is (in)famous for, but they are still Tavernello, the brand clearly printed on the label. The commercial does not specify which Tavernello we are talking about.

Considering all of the above, we either trust our wine judging skill, and in this case we must recognize that Tavernello fared pretty well for its fame, or we dismiss these events as irrelevant, mining the faith people may give to us sommeliers, journalists and educators. (1)
I choose the former.

So why has the commercial been met with such criticism? Why is it so irritating?
That is because the producers, instead of stating “We make good wine and here is why”, get confrontational. They don’t just declare the quality of their product, they also imply that “So called wine experts don’t like our wine because they judge by the label (i.e. they are a fraud and mere charlatans).” Instead of embracing wine professionals, who after all are giving respectable marks to Tavernello in true blind tastings, they insult them in a made up event. Wine expertise is parodied by the goofiness of the “aspiring sommeliers”. No wonder that people feel under attack.

This is a bizarre strategy from a wine producer: annoying those you should work with. I don’t know if it is a good idea, especially for the three judges. Anyway the internet is talking about this so I guess that the marketers reached their goal.

(1) Sure blind tasting wine competitions are not perfect, the groups possibly leaning toward the taste of its leader or the most charismatic member. There is a degree of compromise even. However expertise is real, educators, journalist, MWs, experienced sommeliers are there to give their best judgement, as objectively as possible. The awarded wines, at least for the JWC, have also to be retasted blind by a final commission to confirm the result.