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Creating something simple but outstanding

Tussock Jumper co-founder Gert-Jan van Arkel discusses the importance of innovative labelling when appealing to an international market

Gert-Jan van Arkel Tussock Jumper

So many of us have been there. You go into your local supermarket or wine shop, and are faced with a somewhat intimidating wall of wine bottles. Perhaps you know you want a Chilean red, or a Sauvignon Blanc, but even if you can narrow down your search you are still stood staring blankly, not always knowing where to start. Is this a good producer, or region, or vintage? The wine trade and its marketing has for too long baffled and confused the consumer, often using pretentious terminology or stuffy design. There may be some big recognisable players dominating the market, but if you always go for big brands you may be missing out on a whole world of stunning wine.

In creating the Tussock Jumper range, we wanted to change that and develop a striking and likeable brand, which consumers all around the world could instantly recognise and trust to deliver quality wine. We wanted to use our combined years of experience in the wine trade to source the greatest wine producers from around the world, to tell the story of the wine, and make buying great wine simple for consumers. Cut out the pomp and make people smile. Enter a whole bunch of animals, and that signature red jumper. Tussock currently comprises 16 wine varietals from 11 origins around the world. Each bottle features an animal to represent the country of origin, and in a red jumper.

Creating something simple but outstanding has always been central to how I have approached wine marketing. Back in 1998, I launched the ‘Drink & Eat’ range, a series of French varietal wines, which featured recommended food pairings on the bottle label. For example, ‘Sauvignon Blanc with Fish’, featured images of small fishes on the bottle. Similar to Tussock Jumper, we were using labeling and marketing to make things simpler for the consumer and enhance their enjoyment of wine.

Similarly between 2006-2009, I worked for Chamarre, the first multi-regional wine from France which sought to simplify French wine labeling by creating a new wine category in France; Vin de Vignobles de France, now known as Vin de France.

The concept of creating an international wine brand representing different varietals rather than individual winemakers is not entirely new, and the US market particularly has shifted towards this style. The most well known example in the US is Cupcake Vineyards. Owned by The Wine Group, the third largest wine producer in the world, Cupcake Vineyards has a range of 18 varietals of wine under the single unified brand.

However, Tussock Jumper differs from brands like Cupcake in two key ways. Firstly, working in smaller volumes Tussock Jumper is not production driven, but driven by a passion for sourcing the best wine from around the world. Secondly, all Tussock Jumper wines are bottled at source, which enhances wine aromas, as well as providing additional employment in the winemaking region. The majority of Cupcake Vineyards wine is shipped to the states for bottling.

The initial idea for using animals to tell the story of the wine came when my business partner John Oliveira asked me to source a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for his company in New York. I found an excellent wine maker (who coincidentally is still producing for Tussock Jumper), whose wine label featured a sketched image of a New Zealand sheep wearing a red jumper. For me, the design had instant appeal, and anyone I shared it with agreed. It was simple, yet striking with huge scope for extension.

We felt sure there was huge potential to broaden the design concept to represent other varietals and origins, and the brand grew organically from there. We wanted the range of animals to become something consumers wanted to collect, with the red jumper instantly grabbing their eye. Plus we knew we had the knowledge and contacts within the wine trade to source top quality producers and help them reach a wider market through innovative marketing and design.

The response to our initial plans was entirely positive and we knew we were onto something special: a simple way of delivering excellent wine to a wider market by using striking branding to appeal to and earn the trust of consumers.

The old mantel ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ rears its head. Why should it matter what the label looks like, its about what is inside that counts. But faced with a selection of wines, how do consumers decide? When selling wine to an international audience, you need something that draws the eye of the shopper to reach for your bottle the first time, but without quality wine contained within it, they will not buy it again. You must combine a quality product with likeable and striking branding to create a loyal and happy customer base.


21 April 2014