Category winner:
Château Margaux: Launching the Third Wine

Share this page:
This case won the Marketing category at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2019.
 
The case

Corrine MentzelopoulosWho – the protagonist

Corrine Mentzelopoulos, owner of the Château Margaux estate.

What?

Château Margaux has been producing well respected wine since the 16th century, but Andre Mentzelopoulos, a Greek businessman, revitalised the estate’s fortunes after buying it for $16 million in 1977.

Andre died suddenly in 1980 and his daughter Corrine inherited the estate, ushering in innovative practices 10 years before the rest of the industry did.

Since an explosive rise in demand in the early 80s, the Château Margaux estate hasn’t looked back. So popular is their wine, Bono has been one of their many famous visitors.

wineWhy?

The estate’s 80 hectares would produce a first and second batch each year of the highest quality, but the ‘leftover’ wine would simply be sold in bulk to local merchants who mixed it with other bulk wine from the Margaux region.

However, the 2009 vintage ‘leftover’ or ‘third’ wine tasted so good that Corrine decided to retain it all and sell it as a Château Margaux wine when deemed pleasurable to drink.

When?

By early 2013, the 2009 vintage was ready for sale that year. But Corrine and her management team heavily debated how best to market the third wine.

MedocWhere?

The estate was located on the left bank of the Gironde estuary, in the heart of the wine-making Medoc region.

Key quote

“When I tasted it (the third wine), I was pleasantly surprised. It was so good that in some past mediocre years, it could have easily qualified as our second wine. It seemed a shame to sell it as bulk, so we decided to keep it and see in a year if it was worth bottling.” – Corrine Mentzelopoulos.

What next?

The marketing of the third wine could play a key role in the estate’s future.

Corinne considered who to target: the loyal customers who had been ‘priced out’ by the first and second wines or tap into the next generation of wine enthusiasts.

Price, channels, promotion, brand position, to name just a few aspects, had to be thought through carefully.

 
Interested in finding out more?
Download

Download the case and teaching note

Educators can login to view a free educator preview copy of this case and its teaching note.

Château Margaux: Launching the Third Wine
Ref 9-513-107
Teaching note

Ref 5-515-022

The authors

authorsElie Ofek and Eric E Vogt

Elie talks about wine being an excellent case topic and stepping into the unknown with a new case.

Keeping up with the latest trends

Elie said: “The marketing group at Harvard Business School prides itself on keeping abreast of the most critical issues facing marketing managers today.

“Moreover, there is often an attempt to examine how marketing issues relate to broader business phenomenon (such as strategy, entrepreneurship, leadership or ethics).

“The combination results in rich cases that serve as excellent pedagogical vehicles that instructors and students greatly appreciate.”

Case recognition

“Being among the top 40 bestselling authors two years in a row has been a great honour. It suggests that several of my cases are popular. Notwithstanding, the recognition this year that a particular piece of work has been especially well-received by the academic educator community is very rewarding. To know that one of my cases has had such a strong impact allows me to better gauge what type of materials are most effective. I hope to be able to keep working on cases that the community finds valuable.”

Picking a fascinating topic.Picking a fascinating topic

“Wine is a topic that fascinates many people, and this is particularly true for business students (MBAs and executives) who often consume wine in various settings. It is very easy to relate to the product category as you can imagine.

“That said, it was not wine per se (though I am never one to refuse a glass of Château Margaux…) it was more the dilemmas facing the business, and the breadth of strategic issues involved, that drew me to work on this case.

“Furthermore, I had met the owner and other senior managers and was thoroughly impressed, and felt they brought a unique and insightful perspective to the issues at hand.

Different perspectivesDifferent perspectives

“Almost every person has a different perspective on wine – as a consumer and as an observer of others consuming in social settings. Given that experiences with and attitudes towards wine are affected by local norms, people from different countries and of different age groups infuse diverse points into the discussion. Indeed, I have taught the case in many settings and every time there are comments and ideas that I had not heard or even thought about before.”

Stepping into the unknown

“There is always an element of ‘mystery’ or ‘the unknown’ when starting to work on a new case. You are often not entirely sure what the key issues to focus on are that will excite other academics and students, how best to present them to enable meaningful analysis and discussion, and ultimately whether the case will serve as a go-to vehicle to teach a particular concept or theme.

“You learn a lot in the process of interviewing key company figures (if it is a field-researched case) or gathering information from the public domain. It is part of the enjoyment in writing a case to iterate and see how various sections take shape in a manner you did not necessarily anticipate going in.”

About the authors

Elie Ofek is the T.J. Dermot Dunphy Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.
e eofek@hbs.edu

Eric E Vogt was a Research Associate at Harvard Business School when the case was written. He is now CEO of eProvenance.
e eric.vogt@eprovenance.com

 

View all the 2019 winners