BUSINESS: Emphasizing peace – not war – the key to selling 1812 Bicentennial wine to Americans


Terry Gibson, vice-president of marketing and sales at Palatine Hills Estate Winery, pours a glass of 1812 Series Chardonnay. Photo special to Bullet News by Jeff Johnston.


JEFF JOHNSTON/Special to Bullet News

How do you sell a commemorative War of 1812 Canadian wine to Americans when they lost the war? You celebrate the 200 years of harmony the two nations have enjoyed once the war ended.

That was the dilemma for Terry Gibson, director of sales for Palatine Hills Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. After finding a few old musket balls in the Palatine Hills grape fields while cultivating, Gibson discovered a battle during the War of 1812 was fought on their land, 200 years ago.

I’ve always been a history buff, so I said I know exactly what to do,” says Gibson.

The vineyard launched their 1812 series to commemorate their heritage,  but it posed a problem for their American customers who would be less interested if it was based on Canada’s victory. Gibson said to his superiors, give me the night and I’ll figure something out.

“Then I woke up at two in the morning and it hit me,” says Gibson. “It’s all about harmony.”

Gibson wrote out the passage, “about the time we resolve our little dispute with our neighbor to the south, our forefathers turned their interests and energies to winemaking. For 200 years, we’ve been using our land for something that produces harmony. The harmony in this bottle is our celebratory salute to resolving differences and a promise of things to come.”

This passage appears on every bottle of the 1812 series.

However, not all of Gibson’s customers from the south agree about who won the War of 1812.

“We get a lot of Americans touring our winery,” he says. “Some of them say, ‘You know, we won that war,’ ”

And just as they take a sip of the wine, Gibson sharply replies, “Yep, that’s why you’re in Canada right now.”

The 1812 series wines come in Chardonnay for white and Cabernet Merlot for red.  The Cabernet Merlot won the Cuvee 2012 Merlot award and was the red wine of the year. Cuvee is considered the Oscars of wine in Ontario.

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