Tag Archives: grocery store wine

Ask the WC 16: Grocery store wine, Millennials, canned wine

grocery store wineThis edition of Ask the WC: Dependable grocery store wines, plus, Millennials and wine and canned wine

Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question .

Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
I buy most of my wine at the grocery store, and you don’t review a lot of grocery store wine. Are there a couple you can recommend?
Supermarket shopper

Dear Supermarket:
Of course – Bogle is always worthwhile, and Line 39 and Hess from California usually are, too. The Villa Maria (closer to $15) and Matua sauvignon blancs from New Zealand are typically well made. Many of the roses offer value, like the Charles & Charles and the Bieler Sabine. There is a catch, though, even with these wines — grocery store pricing. One day the wine will be $10, and the next day it will be $18, and there is no rhyme or reason why.

Hey Jeff:
Aren’t you wrong about the lack of interest in wine among younger generations? I thought I saw a study a couple of years ago that said Millennials were the biggest consumers of wine in the U.S.?
Curious

Dear Curious:
I think you’re referring to the infamous Wine Market Council study, which was shunted to one side and never spoken of again. I’ve been told there were problems with the methodology. Most studies since then, including this one, aren’t optimistic about Millennials taking up wine the way the Baby Boomers did.

Hi, WC:
What do you think about canned wine? Isn’t it kind of cool?
Tired of bottles

Dear Tired:
Canned wine is like the rest of wine. Some of it is terrific, some of it isn’t, and much of the excitement is marketing driven. The smart people I’ve talked to say canned wine has a future as an alternative like boxed wine, filling a niche in the market. My other problem, besides the middling quality/price ratio for too many of them, is that I don’t like to drink out of a can. I don’t drink beer that way, either.

More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
Ask the WC 15: Wine consumption, wine refrigerators, wine tastings
Ask the WC 14: The wine availability edition
Ask the WC 13: California chardonnay, grip, affordable wine

Barefoot wine review 2017

Barefoot wine review 2018: Rich Red Blend, Barefoot Bubbly

Barefoot wine review 2018Barefoot wine review 2018: Rich Red Blend shows Big Wine at its best, while Barefoot Bubbly does just the opposite

Nothing changed with the Barefoot wine review 2018 from the 2017 version. The brand remains maddeningly inconsistent — no guarantee that its products will taste the same from year to year. This is a huge problem, since Barefoot is non-vintage wine and there aren’t supposed to be vintage differences. But E&J Gallo makes so much of it (almost 20 million cases, more than the production of almost every winery in the U.S.) that quality control, apparently, is not what it should be.

The good news first: The Rich Red Blend ($5, purchased, 13%) is a quality sweet red wine that tastes exactly like the back label says it does. In fact, there’s a chart on the back label, modeled after the International Riesling Foundation effort, saying just how sweet the wine is. It’s a welcome development given how many sweet red wines are on the market that pretend not to be sweet.

The Rich Red blend is not as sweet as the Cupcake Red Velvet — closer to the Bogle Essential Red. Look for the cherry, chocolate, and vanilla flavors that are the hallmark of these wines, but also notice the tannins. Yes, tannins in a sweet wine, in an attempt at balance. And it mostly works. And yes, there is a tremendous amount of winemaking going on to get that not especially wine-like combination of flavors. But no one pretends Barefoot makes terroir-driven wines.

The less said about the Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee ($8, purchased, 10.5%), the better. When it’s right, it’s an enjoyable bottle of cheap sparking wine that’s easy to recommend. When it’s wrong, as it was this time, about the only thing you can do is pour it down the drain. My experience: It’s  50-50 whether the wine will be drinkable. This time, the Barefoot Bubbly was flat, and barely popped when I took the cork off. Was this a winemaking problem? Was this a supply chain problem —  stored in a hot distributor warehouse after sitting in a hot truck after sitting in a hot supplier warehouse? Either way, it was a waste of $8 that I could have spent on a Spanish cava.

More about Barefoot wine:
Barefoot wine review 2017
Barefoot wine review 2016
Barefoot wine review 2015

How much wine is sold in grocery stores?

grocery store wineGrocery store wine probably accounts for more than one-half of the U.S. total, but no one is quite sure – even though the number has long-term implications about how and where we buy wine

How much wine is sold in U.S. grocery stores? No one is quite sure.

Hard to believe, what with this being the 21st century and data science and the cloud and all of that. In fact, one analyst told me there is even disagreement about how much total wine is sold every year in the U.S., let alone what kind of store it’s sold in.

Yes, Kroger knows how much wine it sells, as does Walmart and Trader Joe’s and the rest of the biggest chains. But no one, for a variety of reasons, can put all those individual numbers together to come up with a total.

As another analyst put it: “There are data issues and confounding factors. While there is quality hard data on grocery, drug, and mass market wine sales, it is weaker for big box liquor, very weak for fine wine stores, and still evolving for restaurants. And no data for some major players like Trader Joe’s and Costco and Grocery Outlet.”

I stumbled across this amazing bit of news while doing interviews and reporting for a free-lance story about grocery store wine. It’s mind boggling, actually, to think that no one knows quite how to parse a $60 billion business – and one that is tightly regulated as well. But we are talking about wine, where transparency applies only to plastic wrap.

Why does it matter how much wine is sold in grocery stores? Because, as near as the people who follow this can tell, grocery store wine (which includes retailers like Costco) probably accounts for more than half of the wine sold in the U.S. today. This is a fundamental change; when I started doing this in the early 1990s, wine was still mostly sold by retailers in more or less local shops, and most of the local shops weren’t that big.

So that kind of change will eventually change the way wine is made, marketed, and sold in this country. Which it’s sort of doing already. Will grocery stores do for wine what Amazon did for book stores? Or will the local wine shop find a way to survive, as local pet stores have done despite competition from Amazon, big boxes, and the grocery stores?

Winebits 532: Rose is still hot, Coke’s new booze, and grocery store wine

roseThis week’s wine news: Rose growth continues, plus Coke is launching alcopop in Japan and on-line grocery store wine sales

Bring on the pink: Rose shows no signs of slowing down, despite what some curmudgeonly wine writers might think. This post in a trade publication calls it a “category killer,” which means its sales are growing much, much faster than other wines. According to Nielsen, rose is outpacing overall U.S. wine growth and still growing at double digits – “a rate unheard of in other categories.” I’m convinced (and ignoring the hip factor, which has played a role) that’s because rose represents one of the last values in wine – a quality product at a fair price that tastes like it should.

One more time: Coke, whose failure in the wine business 30 years ago was almost as big a debacle as New Coke, is launching an alcoholic beverage in Japan – call it alcopop. The BBC reports that Coke wants to take advantage of “the country’s growing taste for Chu-Hi — canned sparkling flavored drinks given a kick with a local spirit called shochu.” The products, sweet and fizzy, have about as much alcohol as beer, three to eight percent. Chu-Hi is especially popular with younger women.

Directly to your door: A European consultancy says U.S. supermarkets will boost wine sales via on-line and home delivery – shocking news for those of us who have watched the three-tier system have the opposite effect. But a Rabobank report says its “relative irrelevance will not last long. We firmly believe it will develop into the most important driver of on-line alcohol sales.” The reason, says the report, is that alcohol delivery will benefit from projected growth in increased grocery store delivery, piggybacking on its increase. It also cites a huge boost in Google searches for “alcohol delivery.” Which is all well and good, but there’s a long way from a Google search to actual on-line delivery.

Winebits 522: Cheap wine 2018 edition

cheap wine 2018This week’s wine news: We survey cheap wine 2018 wine developments

The best cheap wine? My pal Dave McIntyre, showing his heart is as big as his talent, reviewed 29 grocery store wines in the Washington Post. Is it any wonder we’re friends? Dave’s conclusion? The best were the Woodbridge and Robert Mondavi chardonnays and the Santa Rita, Cousino-Macul, and Los Vascos cabernet sauvignons. What struck me, other than Dave’s endurance, was that he thought that many of the 29 wines were as poorly made as I do. Would that the wine business did, too.

Cheap sparkling wine: Eva Moore, at the Free-Times weekly, does another great service: ranking nine sparkling wines that cost $10 or less. Her conclusions are about the same as mine, too; what does that man, wine business? Her top-rated bubbly is German, and not easy to find, but an old favorite is also highly-ranked, the legendary Cristalino.

Bad wine is bad wine: Eric Asimov, writing in the New York Times,also understands what the wine business doesn’t: “Few things have been as damaging to the American wine industry as its homogenization.” And this, too: “Anyone who is in the business of examining wine critically needs to actually be critical, not simply validate consumer choices, and looking at wine critically means understanding the chasm between mass-produced wine products and wines that are an expression of a place, a people and an aesthetic.” Is it any wonder I consider Asimov to be the best wine writer in the country?

Aldi wine: This isn’t the way to win friends and influence sales

aldi wineWhy can’t Aldi wine in the U.S. be as cheap and as interesting as it is in Europe?

Aldi, the discount grocery store chain that has wowed Europeans with its quality cheap wine, seemed ready to do the same thing in the U.S. this year. It was facing increased competition in wine from Walmart, Target, and Kroger, as well as the arrival of its European arch-rival Lidl to the U.S.

But the result so far? What a disappointment.

That’s if my weekly ad is any indication (pictured at right), which I think it is. It’s the first time I’ve seen Aldi devote one-quarter of its four-page circular to wine. But there is little there anyone would be interested in buying:

• Just one European wine, an Italian white that looks to be a knockoff of Costco’s private label pinot grigio.

• An 85-point California pinot noir for $13. Someone needs to tell the Aldi marketing types, first, that 85 points is about a special as a new shoelace, and second, that I can buy a dozen $10 grocery store pinot noirs that get more than 85 points. And we all know how I feel about scores.

• A $10 New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Why do I need to buy a $10 New Zealand sauvignon blanc at Aldi? I can do that at Kroger.

The point of this is that Aldi delivers so much more in Europe. I had high hopes we would see that here when Aldi arrived, and I have bought great cheap wine at Aldi – the short-lived, but incredible Vina Decana and its replacement, the always dependable $5 Vina Fuerte. But the rest? Just more private label versions of the same old supermarket plonk that I don’t buy at the supermarket. And Winking Owl. Lots and lots and lots of Winking Owl.

Why is the chain settling for so little here? Has it bought into the grocery store mindset that U.S. consumers will drink whatever is put in front of them as long as it has a score and a pretty label? Is it because it doesn’t see wine as important to sales in the U.S. as wine is in Europe? Or is it just not doing a good job?

Regardless, I want more. I want the same $6, $8, and $10 wines their European customers get. Is that asking too much from what is supposed to be one of the world’s great discount grocers?

Barefoot wine review 2017

Barefoot wine review 2017Barefoot wine review 2017: The sweet red shows Big Wine at its best, while the sauvignon blanc reminds us why Barefoot is so inconsistent

The Barefoot wine review 2017 shows why Barefoot will soon be the best-selling wine brand in the U.S., as well as why so many of its wines are so inconsistently irritating – and difficult for me to write nice things about.

This year, I tasted the Barefoot sweet red ($6, purchased, 10.5%) and sauvignon blanc ($6, purchased, 13%), and the difference between the two illustrates my point. The first is Big Wine at its best – a well-made sweet red that isn’t too sweet, too fruity, or too dirty, and a wine I would buy for someone who likes sweet red. The sauvignon blanc, on the other hand, was thin and almost reedy – a sign of poor quality grapes chosen because they were cheap and not because they added anything to the wine.

The Barefoot sweet red smells like cherry grape juice, but there isn’t much cherry left when you taste it. What fruit there is resembles grape Nehi, but not in a bad way. In this, there’s less acidity than grape juice, and no tannins, either, even though the wine would be better if it had more of the first and some of the latter. That would give it more balance and a brightness that the best sweet reds have. The irony? The the sweet red approaches balance anyway, and even the Big Guy (who tasted the wines with me) was impressed with its quality. The sweet red is California appellation and non-vintage.

The Big Guy was especially annoyed with the sauvignon blanc ($6, purchased, 13%), given that it takes a lot to ruin sauvignon blanc. But that happened here – this was thin and annoying and unripe, and nowhere near Bogle or McManis. It smelled almost grassy, as California sauvignon blanc should, but that was it. In this, I have rarely tasted a well-made Barefoot sauvignon blanc. The wine was non-vintage.

Finally, a word about the stickers most Barefoot wines carry boasting of medals. Ignore them. Most Barefoot wines are non-vintage, so when the sticker says the wine won a medal in 2012 (sweet red) and 2014 (sauvignon blanc), the wines with the sticker almost certainly weren’t the wines entered in the competition.

More about Barefoot wine:
Barefoot wine review 2016
Barefoot wine review 2015
Barefoot wine: Why it’s so popular