Tag Archives: cheap wine

Big Wine is dumping cheap wine brands – first Ruinite and Constellation; is a Yellow Tail sale next?

yellow tail sale

Will the roo have to find a new job if there is a Yellow Tail sale?

What does a Yellow Tail sale say about the future of cheap wine in the U.S.?

This year’s unprecedented cheap wine sell-off might include an even bigger shocker — a Yellow Tail sale. The $7 Australian supermarket wine is the biggest imported wine in the U.S., but the company acknowledged last week that it had been approached by several prospective buyers. This came after an Aussie financial newspaper reported that the Casellas, the family that owns Yellow Tail, had hired an investment bank to help them sort through the offers.

The Yellow Tail sale news comes on the heels of Banfi ending its 52-year partnership in March with Riunite, the $5 Italian sweet red, plus the Constellation Brands fire sale in April. That’s when it sent most of its $10 wines to E&J Gallo.

Know that almost all of the wine brands in these deals are profitable, and some immensely so. In fact, Yellow Tail is the fifth best-selling brand in the U.S., while Banfi’s marketing agreement with Ruinite helped it sell 2 million cases a year. And Constellation was so eager to rid itself of its cheap wines that it sold them at a tremendous discount and included Black Box, the sixth best seller in the U.S.

Does any of this make any sense? Not really, if this was 1999. But it’s 2019, and the wine business is obsessed with premiumization, and that trumps all. There was an odd and meandering story on wine-searcher.com last week, which asked if popular wine brands could be successful. This seemed, at first glance, like asking if rain was wet. How could something like the 20-million case Barefoot not be successful?

Because, said the article, size doesn’t matter. And, given the perspective of premiumization, that makes perfect financial sense. Whether it’s good business is a post for another day.

Hence, it’s not enough to sell millions of cases of wine anymore, like Yellow Tail, Ruinite, and Black Box. In this, Yellow Tail seems to be a private equity takeover target, just like any other business with cash flow and a well-known brand. The new owners would buy the company with cheap borrowed company, cut costs, strip Yellow Tail of its least profitable assets, goose up the bottom line, and then re-sell it.

Banfi’s CEO admitted it was too difficult to sell cheap wine given premiumization, and that the company would focus on its “premium and luxury offerings.”  In other words, wine for the one percent. What a terrifying thought for those of us love wine and who are part of the 99 percent.

Wine of the week: La Fiera Montepulciano 2017

The La Fiera Montepulciano is Hall of Fame quality $10 wine from one of the world’s best quality and value importers

Premiumization continues its rampage through the wine business. It’s getting more difficult to find wine costing less than $15 that’s worth drinking; I’m writing a longer and more thorough post about the premiumization crisis that will run in the next week or so. Until then, be grateful for wines like the La Fiera Montepulciano, which still offer value and quality for $10.

I’ve tasted the La Fiera Montepulciano ($10, purchased, 13%) twice over the past four months, and it has gotten earthier and more interesting That’s an impressive achievement for any wine, especially for a $10 wine, and especially these days.

That it has done that is a testament to the importer, Winesellers Ltd. in suburban Chicago, whose wines show up a lot on the blog (and who I wrote about recently in a wine business trade magazine). The Sager family, which has owned Winesellers for 40 years, doesn’t follow trends. It searches for value, and would that more importers did that anymore.

The La Fiera is an Italian red made with the montepulciano grape in the Montepulciano d/Abruzzo region. As such, it comes from a less well known region and is made with a less respected grape, which usually means better pricing for consumers.

In this wine, it also means a little earthiness is starting to show, and the wine is a touch heavier and more serious than it was in February. Again, impressive for a $10 label. Look for zippy cherry fruit, balance, and tannins hiding in the background.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the $10 Hall of Fame. It’s a terrific food wine as well as a reminder what an importer can do who cares about the consumer and not focus groups.

Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Barefoot wine review 2019

Barefoot wine review 2019: Cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay

Barefoot wine review 2019Barefoot wine review 2019: The cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay have a dollop or three of residual sugar, but otherwise taste like they should

This is the 12th Barefoot wine review I’ve written, and one thing is as aggravating today, for Barefoot wine review 2019, as it was 12 years ago: No screwcap. Why E&J Gallo, Barefoot’s owner, still uses a cork closure on most of its labels is beyond me. The only time these wines are “aged” is after they’re opened, when they sit in the refrigerator for another day. A screwcap would make that kind of aging so much easier.

The Barefoot wine review 2019 features the non-vintage cabernet sauvignon ($5, purchased, 12.5%) and the non-vintage chardonnay ($5, purchased, 13%). Both, save for a dollop or three of residual sugar, are among the best Barefoot efforts in years. Yes, that’s damning with faint praise, given the quality of the wines in many of the previous reviews. And their sweetness left that dried out feeling in my mouth for 20 or 30 minutes after tasting. But that Barefoot varietal wines taste like their varietal is worth noting.  Put a couple of ice cubes in the glass, and the wines are certainly drinkable, if too simple and not very subtle.

The cabernet tastes of dark berry fruit (boysenberry?), and there are soft tannins, a certain acidity, and restrained fake oak. No chocolate cherry foolishness here, though the sweetness gets more noticeable with each sip and may annoy wine drinkers who expect cabernet to be dry.

The chardonnay, ironically, is less sweet than the cabernet. Take away the sugar, and it’s a pleasant California-style chardonnay — almost crisp green apple fruit, that chardonnay style of mouth feel, and just enough fake oak to round out the wine. There’s even a sort of finish, which was about the last thing I expected. Once again, though, the sweetness gets in the way —  would that Barefoot had the courage of its convictions to make a dry wine dry.

More about Barefoot wine:
Barefoot wine review 2018
Barefoot wine review 2017
Barefoot wine review 2016

Wine of the week: Naia Verdejo 2017

The Naia verdejo is $10 Spanish white wine that speaks to the great quality and value of Spanish white wine

A couple of years ago, not even wine geeks paid much attention to verdejo, a Spanish white grape. Today, though, verdejo is showing up more often; hence, prices are often way out of line with quality, while cute labels are all over the place to make up for the lack of quality. Through all of this, the Naia verdejo has been a beacon of consistency and value.

The Naia vedejo ($10, purchased, 13.5%) reminds us of the tremendous value in Spanish wine. It tastes of tart lemon, as it should, but there is also an undercurrent of tropical fruit (pineapple?) that you don’t usually get in a $10 verdejo. It’s not so much that it’s very well done, but that the producer understands the role of $10 wine – that it’s not supposed to cost $15 just because.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame. And yes, dad will enjoy this over the weekend, whether it’s porch sitting while his family celebrates Father’s Day or as something to sip while grilling chicken or shrimp.

Imported by Aviva Vino

 

Welcome back, Domaine Tariquet

domaine tariquetDomaine Tariquet’s 2018 vintages are top-notch and well-worth buying – once again, some of the world’s great cheap wines

The Wine Curmudgeon admits he was worried – would Domaine Tariquet, one of the all-time great cheap wines, still be terrific on its return from importer exile?

Of course. How could I have doubted? This is, after the all, the only cheap wine ever honored with a sonnet.

If anything, the four wines that were sold in the U.S. before the producer lost its importer in 2018 are even a little better than before. The white blend and the rose were always top notch, but the chardonnay and the sauvignon blanc – often inconsistent – are much improved.

Here’s a look at each of the wines, made in France’s Gascony region. There’s also a new one, a sweetish, riesling-style white. The wines are imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons; all are highly recommended:

• Domaine Tariquet Classic 2018 ($10, sample, 10.5%): Fresh, crisp, and low in alcohol – how often does that happen? This vintage’s fruit is a little more lemon-lime than white grapey, but that’s just the wine geek in me. Buy a couple of cases of this white blend, keep them chilled, and enjoy.

• Domaine Tariquet Chardonnay 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): This was probably the best of the three whites, which is saying something since it was usually boring and could even be a little off. But this vintage was crisp and aromatic, with almost green apple and a little tropical fruit. If anything, it sort of tasted like chardonnay from France’s Macon, which is always a touchstone of inexpensive quality.

• Domaine Tariquet Sauvignon 2018 ($10, sample, 11.5%): Much better than past vintages, which tended to taste like New Zealand kockoffs. This time, though, the wine had a bit of a grassy aroma, not too much citrus, and a certain Gascon fruitiness.

• Domaine Tariquet Rose 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): This pink wine is dry but not Provencal in style. Look for darker fruit, less zippiness on the finish, and a little heft in the mouth. But it’s not heavy so that it’s a rose for red wine drinkers, and so sits somewhere between the Bieler Provencal rose and the Charles & Charles from Washington state.

• Domaine Tariquet Les Premières Grives 2018 ($17, sample, 11.5%): Professionally sweet, with an almost honeyed finish and mostly balanced. It’s a different and interesting wine, in the style of a German just-sweet riesling like a kabinett. The only question: Is it worth $17?

More about Domaine Tariquet:
Domaine Tariquet returns to the U.S.
Domaine Tariquet loses U.S. importer
Wine to drink when the air conditoner is replaced

Wine of the week: Alain Brumont Tannat-Merlot 2015

Brumont tannat-merlotThe Brumont tannat-merlot shows the tannat grape to its best advantage in a delicious $10 wine

During a recent Skype tasting for the American Wine Society, someone asked me about tannat. It’s a red grape, very geeky, best known in South America. When it’s made as a varietal wine, the result is often hard, tannic, and not all that enjoyable. But when it’s blended, like the Brumont tannat-merlot from Gascony in France, it can be a wine of the week.

I’ve tasted three bottles of this vintage of the Brumont Tannat-Merlot ($10, purchased, 13.5%) over the past three years, and each one has been different. Who knew there would be such a variation in bottle age for a $10 wine?

But that’s the tannat at work, and it’s also worth noting that the 2015 is the vintage in most stores. As such, the third  tasting was a delight – some of the tannat’s heartiness was still there, but the rough edges were gone, softened by the merlot. But this is not a soft wine – there’s not any hint of sweetness or too ripe black fruit (blackberry?), and the tannins and acidity remain part of the wine’s still complete structure. Hence, a food wine, and ideal for summer barbecue, burgers, and especially bratwurst.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Kindred Vines

Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Blanc 2016

chateau bonnet blancThe Chateau Bonnet Blanc reminds us of the greatness inherent in cheap when the producer truly cares

The greatest testament to Chateau Bonnet’s wines and founder Andre Lurton’s vision is that this bottle of  Chateau Bonnet Blanc was three years old, but still tasted fresh — and may even more interesting than it was when it was released. How often does that happen with $10 wine?

There is a 2018 version, apparently, though it and the 2017 have not made it to Dallas yet. In fact, I’ve resisted buying this vintage for just that reason. How could any $10 wine, even one as well made as the Chateau Bonnet Blanc ($10, purchased, 12.5%) hold up this long?

Oh Wine Curmudgeon of little faith.

Know that this wine is structured, impeccably made, and will pair with anything from greasy takeout to one of those perfectly roasted chickens that the French pride themselves on. Look for some stone fruit backed with a not so tart kind of lemon, and the richness that adding semillon to the blend (55 percent sauvignon blanc) provides.

Highly recommended, and I’m sure – even without tasting them – that the 2017 and 2108 are just as delicious. And toast Andre Lurton, who died this month at the age of 94, for advancing the cause of well-made wine that anyone can afford to buy.