This review has been on the Wine Curmudgeon's to do list since Cupcake was named the country's hottest wine brand. And now that E&J Gallo's Barefoot, a similar sort of brand, has been anointed the country's top-seller, what better time to do the review? (And there will be a follow-up to the Barefoot post soon, which apparently created some controversy.)
The Cupcake wines are from Underdog Wine Merchants, which has established a very profitable niche by selling grocery-store wines with incredibly cute names — not just Cupcake, but brands like Fish Eye, Flip Flop, and Big House.
Cupcake always does well in blind tastings, and has earned some impressive medals at competitions. This wine got a big-deal gold medal at the California State Fair, and a silver at my pal Robert Whitley's Critics Challenge. So how would I feel about the wine when not tasting it blind, but with my critical, don't-judge-a-wine-by-its-label eye?
About the same way I feel about many grocery store wines. There was nothing really wrong with the Cupcake ($10, purchased) other than its price. It's a pleasant enough as $10 wine — not quite as interesting as the Bogle chardonnay, with some pear and green apple. It also had what seemed to be vanilla wood chips, which added a not subtle flavor that got in the way of the fruit (which may be a function of the wine not aging well, and the 2010 may not have that problem).
The catch, though, is that Cupcake is a $12 or 13 wine; this was on sale for $10, as near as I can tell, because it was a previous vintage. So that's the choice the consumer has to make. Do you pay an extra 20 percent or more for the name and label, or do you buy something like Bogle, which is often on sale for as little as $8 or $9? We all know the choice the Wine Curmudgeon would make.