Tag Archives: wine trends

Is $15 wine the new $8 wine?


“Why does this $15 wine taste a lot like that $8 pinot grigio I bought last week?”

Is $10 wine the new $100 wine?” was one of the best-read posts on the blog at the beginning of the recession, explaining why cash-strapped consumers were trading down — and that they were shocked to find that wine quality at $10 was much better than they had been led to believe. Today, as we deal with a glut of overpriced and poorly-made wine, often by reputable producers, it’s my sad duty to ask: Is $15 wine is the new $8 wine?

Over the past 18 months, I’ve tasted so much junk at $15 that even I’m surprised, and I’m the one who included a section in the cheap wine book that said that the $12 to $18 range — “the province of ‘Big Wine’ marketing — offered the least value. But what I’ve tasted since the end of 2014 has been even worse than that, $8 of value dressed up in a $15 bottle.

How has this happened?

• A determined effort by producers, mostly big but also smaller, and in regions like Lodi and the less well known parts of France, to separate what they make from the so-called “cheap wine” that we’re not supposed to be drinking. They’ve done this by creating new products with flashy labels that are made the same way as their old wines and at more or less the same cost, but retail for more money. This way, they’re creating the impression that the new wine is worth the extra money, when it’s mostly the emperor’s new clothes. Or, as a boss at Treasury Wine Estates calls it, “masstige.”

• Wretched grapes. Those of us of a certain age remember when wine was made with unripe and poor quality grapes. Unripe grapes gave the wines a green, almost crab apple quality, and poor quality grapes left the wines thin and bitter. Those grapes, which seemed to be long gone, are back and particularly in whites. I’ve tasted $15 chardonnays and pinot gris that were practically gaggable, the sort of wine you spit out and wonder what the producer was thinking.

• The increase in grocery store wine sales. This means we’re buying more wine on our own, without help from knowledgeable retailers. And that means we have to depend on the front and back labels more than is good for us. And if the front label is cute and the back says smooth and chocolate, we’re sunk, and end up paying more for the wine than it’s worth.

There is a cynicism at work here that’s more depressing than anything else, and something that wine — even when it did these sorts of things — never really enjoyed doing. But those days seem to be over.

Bogle wins 2015 cheap wine poll

cheap wine poll 2015

Bogle wins the cheap wine poll for the second time in three years.

And it wasn’t even close, with Bogle more than doubling second place Falesco Vitiano to win the 2015 cheap wine poll. This is Bogle’s second consecutive victory, and its second in the poll’s three-year history.

That Bogle did so well again speaks to not only the company’s commitment to quality, but to its availability. Bogle combines value with a huge retail presence — as one commenter wrote, “it may be the best wine one can buy in gas stations in Mineola, Texas, as well as Princeton, Maine.” Most cheap wines do only one or the other, and some don’t even do that.

Which, apparently, is the case with Two-buck Chuck. The Trader Joe’s brand has finished last every year, but I guess that it has sold more 600 million cases over the past decade is some consolation to the retailer.

The biggest surprise? That Barefoot did so poorly, finishing seventh after coming in second last year. In addition, given how many people Google sends to the blog to read about Barefoot, that the brand didn’t pick up any of those votes this year makes its performance even more shocking. Barefoot overload, perhaps?

Not surprising? That Yellow Tail and Cupcake finished eighth and ninth. I added them this year not because I thought they would do well, but to include more well-known brands. That they did so poorly speaks to why they sell — the former is cheap, and the latter is cute. Quality doesn’t have much to do with it.

This year’s results are below, and you can find the 2014 and 2013 polls here and here. The 2016 poll will return next year at this time, and I’ll include a couple of suggestions from the comments. And is it time to retire Bogle and let someone else win?
Business Lists on Ranker

What does the Gallo wine survey mean?


gallo wine surveyWhat does the Gallo wine survey mean? That even the world’s biggest wine company can’t untangle the confusion that is the post-modern wine business.

The survey, which E&J Gallo released last week, asked 1,000 frequent U.S. wine drinkers, ages 21 to 64, about their wine drinking attitudes and behaviors. The biggest contradiction in their answers stands out like a red wine stain on a white table cloth.

Our “wine fears” are minimal, Gallo says of the results, because only-one third of us feel awkward when we order wine at a restaurant and two-thirds of us aren’t worried that others will make fun of the wine we drink. And why not? The survey asked respondents to identify the wines they buy from 40 well-known brands, Gallo and otherwise, across a range of price levels. We picked an average of three, which pretty much explains the fear answer. How can we be scared of what we drink when we drink the same wine every time?

Or that 35 percent of survey respondents identified themselves as “wine adventurers,” who want to “explore options and to have new experiences with wine.” Which doesn’t exactly jibe with the three out of 40 brands answer, does it?

Or that 37 percent of survey respondents said box wine is a convenient option and about half said they would consider keeping a box in the refrigerator to have wine on hand. So why does box wine account for only three percent of U.S. sales?

Also complicating the picture — Gallo defines a frequent wine drinker as someone who drinks wine on more than one occasion per month and has at least one glass of wine per week. That means its frequent wine drinker is more or less the average U.S. wine drinker, who has one bottle of wine a month (and where four glasses equal a bottle). In other words, not very frequent at all. The typical French wine drinker has four times as much wine as that.

This is not to say that American’s aren’t drinking more wine, that we don’t appreciate wine more than ever, or that Gallo jiggered the results. Rather, it speaks to how difficult it is to get quality information about wine drinking in the U.S., which is something I have lamented for years. Wine is so terrifying that consumer surveys like this run into a fudge factor — the answers to the questions may not always be accurate (to be polite) and those being surveyed too often say what they think they should say rather than what they really think.

Because, after all, this is wine.

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