The red-headed stepchild of wine? Marketing muscadine wines in the Southern USA
Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Faculty of Business and Law
School of Marketing, Tourism and Leisure
Purpose - Muscadine (Villa Rotundifolia Michx.) is a native vine that grows wild and that is also cultivated in the Southern USA. Today, many wineries located in this region produce and sell wines made of muscadine grapes. While much of contemporary research focuses on the many health properties of muscadine grapes, very little is known of muscadine wines from an entrepreneurial or operational perspective, including muscadine wines' marketing potential. This paper aims to investigate these areas, examining some of the challenges that Southern winery operators face in successfully marketing muscadine wines. Design/methodology/approach - Using telephone interviews (29), coupled with two face-to-face interviews, data were collected among 31 winery owners located in different Southern states. Findings - More than one-third of respondents (11) considered dealing with consumer snobbery as the main challenge their wineries faced. Operators of this group argued that there appears to be a stigma attached to muscadine wines, particularly among many consumers who consider muscadine wines as inferior to Vitis Vinifera wines. In addition, eight participants mentioned consumers' lack of knowledge of muscadine wines as their main challenge. The prevalence of these two main challenges clearly suggests the need for consumer education if any images of inferiority in muscadine wines are to be dispelled. Research limitations/implications - The number of this study's participants (33) is limited and may not allow for making generalisations about muscadine winery operators. Practical implications - The study explores a distinctive sector, namely, that of grapes and wines native to the Southern region. With growing interest in local products that, as in the case of muscadine grapes, also have a close association to healthy components (e.g. resveratrol, nutraceutical products), the study's findings may have important implications for the future marketing of muscadine wines and grapes. Originality/value - To date muscadine wine entrepreneurship has received almost no attention from academic research, particularly as it relates to the areas of marketing, hospitality and tourism.