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The Five Day, $3 Wine Challenge: The results

$3 wineThe good news is that the five $3 wines that I drank with dinner last week were mostly OK, and the horror stories that I heard proved to be – for me, anyway – unfounded.

Which is also the bad news. Most wine, even $10 wine, is going to taste reasonably consistent from vintage to vintage. Yes, these wines were OK – and a couple were more than that – but that’s no guarantee they’ll taste that way again if I do this again next year. And, unfortunately, none of them made me jump in the air and fall back down with excitement, ready to re-do the $10 Hall of Fame. Dull is probably a better adjective.

More details on the challenge, as well as my analysis and a few suggestions for the retailers who sell these wines are after the jump:

Wine of the week: Leonce Bocquet Chablis 2012

leonce-bocquet-chablis-2010$15 Chablis. That is a value. That tastes like Chablis.

Let me repeat that, to demonstrate how practically giddy this wine made me: $15 Chablis. That is a value. That tastes like Chablis.

Because, frankly, it’s rare to see $15 Chablis, even more rare when it’s a value, and more rare again that it tastes like Chablis. Affordable Chablis – chardonnay from the Chablis region of Burgundy in France – doesn't get much better than this.

So what’s the catch? Because, as regular visitors here know, the Wine Curmudgeon always expects a catch. In this case, it’s that the Bocquet ($15, purchased, 12.5%) may not be as available as I would like. It’s not exactly a private label, but it’s close enough. Which means that if the wine is in your market, it’s likely to be at only one retailer.

If you can find it, buy some and expect steely acidity, a touch of lemon fruit, and more complexity than one expects in a $15 white Burgundy. It was a bit thin in the back, but, on the other hand, it wasn’t too fruity or too tart in an attempt to cover up that thinness. And did I mention that it only cost $15?

Private label wines, value, and quality

We’re in the middle of a tremendous price war in Dallas, where retailers are selling some wines more or less at cost. Segura Viudas, one of my favorite cavas, is $6 – about half of what it cost here a year ago (and about what it costs in Spain).

Yet the retailers don’t seem especially concerned that they’re giving away wine. Items like Segura Viudas are loss leaders to get customers into the store; once they’re in, they can switch them to brands with better margins – and, increasingly, these brands are private labels. In fact, private and store label wines, which are sold exclusively at one retailer, are perhaps the most important development on the retail side of the business over the past couple of years.

Some retailers, like Trader Joe’s and Total Wine and More, focus almost exclusively on private label, but national grocery stores and regional chains are doing them as well, tucked onto the shelf next to the Kendall-Jackson, Yellow Tail, and Barefoot.

The question, then, is whether these private labels offer value and quality, or if they’re just dodges to sell wine that consumers wouldn’t normally buy. The answer, sadly, after the Wine Curmudgeon’s recent private label experiment (unscientific, but worthwhile nonetheless) is that more and more, private labels are becoming the latter. More, after the jump:

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