Spinning off from the other threads and not run as a poll, because I’m sure I’d not be able to get a representative ‘elite’ in this category.
Who are the people who are so tireless/effective in marketing their wine brand, that it becomes a major factor, perhaps even the major factor in their business? The sort of people I’m thinking of (to start the ball rolling) are:
(In his day) Len Evans
You may not like / respect him, but he can do marketing, even if he’s not very good at the rest of his business!
** Maybe not an obvious choice, but by making a big effort in horizontal tastings, and subsequently packaging the wines in a bespoke case for a DIY horizontal, he’s been very effective in building the brand.
*** Both more active in the past than today I suspect
Enough of my thoughts, who are the marketing masters amongst wine producers/owners in your opinion.
Robert Mondavi in Napa has to be near the top of this list. Not only did he create the Mondavi brand, which spanned everything from jug wine to Napa reserve cabernets; he was instrumental in putting Napa and California wine on the international map. Personal charm was no small part of the reason.
Piero Antinori, for expanding his family’s product line and brand and creating Tignanello, one of the first Super Tuscans.
Marcel Guigal, not because he was a showman or a personal ambassador, but because he developed one of the best-known brands France and applied it to everything from Cotes du Rhone to the La Las.
Serge Hochar at Ch. Musar in Lebanon, who seems to have charmed everyone who crossed his path and took a wine from an offbeat place and made it world famous.
I’m less knowledgeable about Spanish wine, but perhaps Alvaro Palacios and Rene Barbier for restoring Priorat vineyards and putting Priorat on the map. Both seem to have had a marketing flair.
In a rather different (non-hoopla) vein, I’ve thought that Dave Phinney has done a great and unique job marketing his wines individually. It allowed him to sell The Prisoner (and Saldo) without selling Orin Swift as a business. Then he sold Orin Swift but was able to keep D66 and Locations as they were separate. Besides the underlying requirement of making really good wine, that branding/marketing strategy has always seemed pretty ingenious to me.
First person that came to my mind as well. Marketed the hell out of his wines/labels/etc, and sold both brands for a boatload of money. You can’t walk into a restaurant or grocery store at this point without seeing a bottle of the prisoner.
In a positive light, I think about some of the winemakers in the Willamette Valley who have built a brand entirely through personally poured tastings, online (cough) interest boards (cough, ahem), and through hand sales to retailers and restaurants. They’ve spent little if anything on websites or distributors, just built brands entirely through Sisyphean efforts. Chapeau to them.