Despite everything — the jeers from critics, the blame for sinking the Australian wine industry, its role as one of the first livestock wines — Yellow Tail has thrived. How about these numbers?
The company, despite its struggles with the pricey Aussie dollar, recorded its best year ever in fiscal 2013, with sales by quantity increasing 8 per cent. Meanwhile, some 11 1/2 million cases a year are sold in the U.S., making it the most popular foreign wine in the country. That’s impressive to begin with, and even more so for a brand that didn’t exist before the beginning of the 21st century.
In all of this, Yellow Tail helped change the way Americans drink wine, as important as Two-buck Chuck and the arrival of the multi-national wine companies. If nothing else, it was one of the first of the international style wines, fruity and easy to drink, and it was cheap.
Yellow Tail boss John Casella makes no apologies for this. I’ve met him twice, and each time I was part of a group made up of wine types much more highfalutin‘ than the Wine Curmudgeon. Casella just stared them down, politely, and his refrain was the same: “If consumers want a simple, fruity wine at a fair price, what’s wrong with giving it to them?”
Nothing, of course, which is why his company has produced 1 billion bottles. I’m not a Yellow Tail fan, and only one of the wines has been reviewed here in almost eight years. They are too fruity and too simple; I prefer wines that are more interesting, and there are many at the same price.
But lots of people don’t like those wines, or can’t find them, or even know they exist. And this has helped Casella build what may be the most successful wine company in Australia. That’s the thing to keep in mind when you read the other pieces about Yellow Tail’s milestone, articles that will almost certainly focus on the stuff in the second paragraph of this one. Yellow Tail’s success makes the company so easy to dislike that too many of us lose sight of why it is successful — and what that means for wine.