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Category Archives: $10 wine

Wine of the week: Campo Viejo Brut Reserva NV

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Campo Viejo brut reservaThe Wine Curmudgeon is always ready to recommend sparkling wine, and even more ready to recommend it given the  United States’ 238th birthday this week. So why not mark July 4 with Campo Viejo Brut Reserva NV ($10, purchased, 11.5%), a Spanish cava that combines quality, value, and a history lesson?

That’s because Spain played an important role in the U.S. victory in the War of Independence, declaring war on Great Britain and providing money and supplies for George Washington’s army. Campo Viejo, meanwhile, is a well-known Spanish producer in Rioja, whose wines offer an introduction to Spanish tempranillo at a fair price. The cava, though not what the producer is best known for, is a solid offering somewhere between Cristalino and Segura Viudas.

That means the Camp Viejo has more sweetness than the Cristalino, but not so much as to be sweet. It’s not as polished as the Seguras, but still provides lots of apple fruit and maybe even some peach, as well as some very impressive bubbles. The best way to know this is a wine worth drinking? It will be gone before you know it, and you’ll have to open a second bottle when you watch the July Fourth fireworks.

Barefoot wine review 2014

barefoot art

barefoot wineThis year’s verdict for the best-selling wine brand in the U.S., with some 11 million cases? Much, much better than I expected, and perhaps the two best I’ve tasted since I started doing annual Barefoot wine reviews in 2009.

The Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee NV ($10, purchased, 11.5%) won a platinum medal at the Critics Challenge, and that’s a tough audience. I don’t know about platinum, which is one medal above gold, but this is a quality sparkling wine that tastes exactly like it is supposed to taste — crisp apple fruit and a little creaminess. It was wine, and not like something put together by the marketing department to appeal to consumers who assume sparkling wine should be sweet and gooey. The bubbles weren’t quite as tight and long-lasting as I like, but given that the wine is made using the charmat method (common for less expensive sparklers and which results in less impressive bubbles), they weren’t bad. I’d buy it again, and serve it blind to get a few giggles.

The only problem? Price, ironically, which may be the only time in wine writing history that price will be mentioned as a problem with a Barefoot product. Much cava, made with the more expensive methode champenoise, costs less than the Barefoot, and is at least the same quality. And other California bubblies, like Korbel, are methode champenoise and about the same price. But Barefoot, knowing its audience likely doesn’t know the difference between charmat and methode champenoise (or much care), probably isn’t overly concerned.

The Barefoot Zinfandel NV ($6, purchased, 13.5%), meanwhile, is exactly the kind of wine that helped make the brand such a success. It’s dry, but loaded with the kind of fake oak that lends a chocolately finish, giving it the flavor profile that Barefoot reds are famous for. Having said that, the oak isn’t offensive — just obvious. In fact, minus the oak, the wine reminded me of the inexpensive, brambly, dark berry, and low alcohol zinfandels I drank in the old days and hoped would become the next big thing in cheap wine but didn’t.

Is the zinfandel a value the way Aldi’s $5 Vina Decana tempranillo is? Probably not, but the Decana is a $10 Hall of Fame wine. But it’s certainly a value compared to most of the $10 red wines, with their cute labels and sweet fruit, that overwhelm grocery store shoppers. That’s not a bad thing for a $6 wine, is it?

More Barefoot wine reviews:
Barefoot wine reviews 2013
Barefoot wine review 2012
Barefoot wines (again): Value or just cheap?

Wine sales, price, and what doesn’t get enough attention

winerant

wine sales priceRegular visitors here know that cheap wine outsells expensive wine in the U.S., and that the Winestream Media spends most of its time genuflecting about wine that most of us don’t buy. And when I say most of us, I really, really mean most of us, thanks to these two charts totaling U.S. retail wine sales — expensive and overall — from wine industry trade magazine Wines & Vines. Here are the charts — overall and and expensive.

Several caveats: The charts don’t match on dates; expensive wine covers the 52 weeks ending June 2014, while the other chart is June 2012 to June 2013. This probably helps pricey wine, since its business picked up substantially over the last year. Also, since these are retail-only numbers, expensive wines that focus on restaurants are almost certainly under-counted. Finally, since the number of cases sold for the less expensive wines isn’t on the chart, I used third-party sources in the discussion below where necessary.

Still, the numbers are stunning:

 • The best-selling expensive wine (more than $20 a bottle) was Santa Margherita, with 147,925 cases and $36.5 million in sales. The best-selling wine overall was Barefoot, with $323 million and some 11 million cases. How big is that disparity? In grocery stores, it’s the difference between Kroger, a national chain, and Save Mart, a company only people in certain parts of California have heard of.

• The 15th- through 20th-ranked expensive producers all had $4 million or less in annual retail sales. It’s not so much that those totals are two-thirds of what Barefoot sells each week, but that I have a friend who owns a Dallas magazine company whose annual sales are $2 million. You’d think high-end, well-known pricey brands would be doing exponentially better than someone with a one-city media company.

• Menage a Trois, 16th on the overall list, doubled the dollar sales for Santa Margherita, and every producer on the overall list sold at least one-third more than Santa Margherita.

• Only two brands on the overall list, which tracks retail wine sales, cost more than $10 a bottle, and one of them, Kendall-Jackson, was at $12.

Hence anyone who doesn’t believe that only five percent of U.S. wine drinkers buy wine that costs $20 or more hasn’t been paying attention.

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