Black Tower prepares to scale heights of 1970s

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Like other cornerstones of the Seventies' dinner party such as grilled grapefruit and duck à l'orange, Black Tower has long struggled to shrug off its close affinity with the decade that taste forgot.

Like other cornerstones of the Seventies' dinner party such as grilled grapefruit and duck à l'orange, Black Tower has long struggled to shrug off its close affinity with the decade that taste forgot.

The Teutonic white with its distinctive dimpled bottle has seen its one-time status as a sophisticated tipple founder beneath the highbrow sniggering of subsequent generations of chardonnay and merlot drinkers.

But now the German company behind the brand is hoping to return it to its former glory by persuading young people that drinking Black Tower will not damage their street cred.

The product is to be relaunched this summer, backed by a £1m advertising campaign, to recapture the high sales that followed its arrival in the G-plan and Formica era of Britain in 1968.

The original stone crock bottle, the recreation of a Roman wine vessel, has been ditched. The liebfraumilch blend has been dumped in favour of a single grape variety, rivaner. Drinkers will also be offered two new varieties, pinot noir and riesling, and the marketing campaign will be aimed at twentysomethings untainted by memories of prawn cocktail entrées.

Steve Holt, who is in charge of marketing Black Tower for its British importer, Grants of St James, said: "There will always be a generation who won't drink the brand because it's what their parents drank.

"But young drinkers don't carry that negative baggage. They are willing try a new wine without prejudice. We have a top quality product that will appeal to those who are beginning to enjoy wines."

Black Tower is the latest drink, after Blue Nun and Babycham, to undergo an expensive makeover. Blue Nun, the one-time liebfraumilch competitor of Black Tower, which sold six million bottles a year in its Seventies heyday, has recovered from a 1994 sales low of 960,000 bottles a year to 3.6 million after reducing its sugar content and relaunching with a £1.5m advertising campaign.

Babycham increased its sales by a third two years ago when it was relaunched.

Kendermann, the German owner of Black Tower, said the brand retained a loyal British following, with sales worth £10m a year, and remains Germany's top-selling exported white wine.

The relaunch coincides with an initiative by the state-backed German Wine Institute to persuade discerning British wine drinkers that the "cheap and sweet" label of the past has been replaced by modern, high-quality products.

The new Black Tower range, which goes on sale in June with an advertising campaign to follow in September, will also carry new labelling. The new grape varieties will also appear in a clear bottles alongside the opaque black of the "classic" rivaner.

Mr Holt said: "We are looking for people in their 20s or 30s who are no longer going out clubbing or to pubs so much but are staying at home or inviting friends around."

Whether it sparks a new wave of Seventies-style dinner parties remains to be seen.

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