Cupcake, perhaps more than any other producer, understands the mindset of the 21st century wine consumer. Whenever I talk to any wine marketing type, the company’s efforts are always described with admiration. Or, as one analyst recently told Wines & Vines magazine: ?Everything Cupcake is selling is on fire. They are growing faster than practically anything I ?ve ever seen. ?
Which, of course, has nothing to do with what the wines taste like. It ?s one thing to come up with a clever name, an almost corny approach to branding, and those over the top yet demographically correct back labels. It ?s something else to make wine that someone will want to buy a second and third time.
Which is why I ?m here. More, after the jump:
The most impressive thing about the two bottles I tasted — the 2011 chardonnay ($11, purchased) and the 2010 malbec ($11, purchased) ? was that they were varietally correct. They tasted more or less like they were supposed to taste, which is not necessarily the case with wines that focus so heavily on marketing. Yellow Tail, for instance, has never been too fussy about whether its cabernet sauvignon tastes like cabernet sauvignon; its reds are so fruity and so soft that the cabernet and merlot are almost indistinguishable.
That wasn ?t the case with the Cupcake. The chardonnay was made with grapes of a better quality than I expected, and had lots of apple and enough oak to be noticeable but not unpleasant. What wasn ?t as pleasant was its sweetness; this is not a dry wine. The residual sugar is .8 compared to about .5 for the 2010 vintage, and the difference is noticeable.
The malbec was dry, but not as well made. It smelled the way it should, of blueberries and cola, but whatever fruit was in the wine went away 10 or 15 minutes after I opened the bottle. The result was a wine that was surprisingly thin and bitter, and in no way resembled the dark chocolate flourless cupcake described on the back label. I assume that the grapes used to make it weren ?t of the same quality as the grapes in the chardonnay. This isn ?t surprising, given the perpetual shortage of quality malbec in Argentina, where the wine is from.
Having said all this, these are professional wines, and I can understand why the people who buy them do so. You can do a lot worse, and I have. What I have never understood is why so many wine drinkers are willing to pay a premium for them, given that Cupcake ?s suggested retail price is $14 and it usually sells for $11 or $12.
There are any number of $10 wines that deliver the same or better quality (and aren ?t even in the $10 Hall of Fame), and some of them even have cute labels. And, for more or less the same price as Cupcake, you can buy Randall Grahm ?s moscato, which delivers what Cupcake ?s back labels wax so foodie about.
Hopefully, a few Cupcake drinkers will take this into account the next time they buy wine. The way to enjoy wine is to drink what you like, but to try different wines to see if there is something else you might like.