Tag Archives: sauvignon blanc

Winebits 677: The year-end supermarket wine edition

supermarket wineThis week’s wine news: Supermarket wines could account for almost half of the wine sold in the U.S. Meanwhile, Kroger says sauvignon blanc was a 2020 hot trend and southern California retailer Gelson scores with its private label wine.

How important is supermarket wine? Pretty damned important, if this study from the American Association of Wine Economists is accurate. Its numbers show that the 30 biggest wine brands in the U.S. – all mostly supermarket labels costing $10 or less – accounted for 49.8 percent of the wine sold in the U.S. by volume in 2019. Think about that: There are more than 10,000 wineries in this country, and just 30 labels make up half of the wine sold. But that’s just part of the study. Barefoot and Franzia sell about one of every seven bottles, and their wineries, E&J Gallo and The Wine Group, control almost one of every three bottles sold. And people doubted consolidation matters? The other bit of news about this study? It’s not really news – just a slightly different take on the numbers than the annual Wine Business Monthly report, which will be released in a month or so.

Bring on the sauvignon blanc: Kroger, which ranks among the biggest wine retailers in the country, reports that sauvignon blanc – yes, that sauvignon blanc – was the fourth biggest food and drink trend in its 2,800-store national chain this year. That put the white wine between flavored potato chips and heavy whipping cream, and ahead of chocolate (No. 8) and coffee pods (No. 9). The pandemic and people drinking at home instead of restaurants no doubt accounted for the high ranking, but let’s not overlook relaxed rules on wine shipping and delivery. As noted last week, Kroger has the money and chops to flex its political muscle to keep many of the changes permanent when the pandemic ends.

Private label wine: Southern California grocer Gelson’s Markets expanded its private label wine collection in 2020, taking advantage of the wine glut to offer pricier wines than the stuff in the first item in this post. The chain added four reserve Napa wines, products that can cost as much as $100 with a winery name on them. Gelson’s is a high end retailer with a big wine commitment; about half of is 27 stores have wine bars.

Photo: “Barefoot Wine Display at Ralph’s” by JoeInSouthernCA is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Mini-reviews 139: Black Friday edition 2020

Black Friday 2020Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month: two reds, a white, and a rose for Black Friday 2020

La Vieille Ferme Rouge 2019 ($8, purchased, 13%): Long-time reader Rich Liebman always insisted I was too hard on this French red blend, which I’ve been drinking off and on for longer than I care to remember. And he was correct — it’s nowhere near as old-fashioned as it used to be. It’s less harsh, there’s more dark fruit, and there might even be something that could be oak. But I’m still not sure it should be part of my regular wine rotation. Imported by Vineyard Brands

CK Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($6, sample, 12.6%): This California white is notoriously inconsistent, so the good news is that this vintage tastes like $6 sauvignon blanc — more sauvignon blanc in character (some grass, some citrus fruit) and less cheap tasting.

Dixie & Bass Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($18, sample, 14.5%): There’s nothing very subtle about this Washington state red. It’s a standard big, fruity (black cherry?), over-the-top cabernet (though it tastes more Lodi than Washington state). If this is your style of wine, it’s a fair value.

Notre Vue GSM Rose 2019 ($29, sample, 12.7%): This California pink is a pretty, well-made, and enjoyable wine. Look for crisp berryish fruit, and a long, clean, mineral-driven finish. But is really three times better than a top-notch $10 rose?

Mini-reviews 138: German riesling, white Burgundy, godello, Rombauer

rieslingReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Riesling 2018 ($13, purchased, 10%): This Total Wine private label is a German white that is honeyed and lemony.  It’s simple but enjoyable, and the “medium dry” sweetness doesn’t get in the way. Imported by Saranty Imports

Sauzet Bourgogne Blanc 2016 ($32, purchased, 12.5%): The Big Guy brought this white Burgundy, from our favorite Burgundy producer, to WC world headquarters for pandemic, socially-distanced, porch sipping. Sadly, thanks to the tariff and premiumization, this is no longer the “affordable” wine it used to be. It’s fine for what it is,  with some green apple and well-constructed oak. But it lacks the Sauzet verve and dash, and especially at this price. Imported by Vineyard Brands

Virxe de Galir Pagos del Galir 2018 ($18, sample, 13.5%): This Spanish white is made with godello, which the wine geeks compare to chardonnay (same green apple fruit, same mouth feel, though a bit more spice). Hence the problem: You can buy a nice albarino or a Basque Txakolina  for more or less the same price. Imported by Aaron LLC

Rombauer Sauvignon Blance 2019 ($25, sample, 14.2%): This California white is a terrific example of this style of pricey wine — and it’s the style that Rombauer made famous. It’s a little hot, and features some grassy notes but surprisingly muted citrus fruit. Plus, it has a much fuller mouth feel than other sauvignon blancs. In other words, $10 New Zealand it ain’t.

Photo: “Sunny Afternoon on the Roof” by winestyr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Wine of the week: Biscaye Baie Sauvignon Blanc 2019

biscaye baieThe Biscaye Baie is a Gascon white wine that delivers more than $10 worth of value

The wine business has not been kind to France’s Gascon whites, one of the finest values in the world. There have been importer and distributor problems, the 25 percent Trump wine tariff, and the usual sort of availability foolishness. So imagine the Wine Curmudgeon’s euphoria when he found the Biscaye Baie.

Cheap wine gods be praised.

The Biscaye Baie ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is pretty much everything it should be. If it’s not quite up to the quality of the legendary Domaine Tariquet, it tastes like Gascon wine – fresh, white grapey, maybe a little tart, and, as the producer’s tasting note says, “a wine to be enjoyed at all times. …” Or, as my tasting note says, “Not quite Hall of Fame, but still worth buying in quantity.”

The Biscaye Baie isn’t a blend, like so many other Gascon whites – just sauvignon blanc. Hence, it tastes a little more sauvignon blanc-ish than those blended with colombard, since the latter grape tends to take the edge of the sauvignon blanc’s citrusness. But don’t confuse this with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc; it’s not a grapefruit-style wine, but has a sort of vague lemony something or other.

Practically highly recommended, if I did that sort of thing. But I have bought it in quantity, and keep three or four bottles chilled. We’ve reached the 100-degree season in Dallas, and that’s just one more reason to reach for this wine.

Imported by Aquitane Wine Company

Mini-reviews 135: Bonny Doon, Bota Box, Wente, Cameron Hughes

Bonny DoonReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month; four California wines for July.

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2019 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Something is missing in this rose, released after Randall Grahm sold his legendary company in January. It’s not bad – some watermelon fruit, some minerality – but it’s not the top-notch rose of vintages past.

Bota Box Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18/3-liter box, sample, 12.5%): Decent California white that works out to less than $5 a bottle, though it’s nothing more than that. Not sweet but not especially tart, either, with a bit of green herb and citrus. There’s an odd grapiness in the back that makes me think it was blended with something like French colombard to stretch the sauvingon blanc.

Wente Cabernet Sauvignon Southern Hills 2018 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): Ordinary (if well-made) supermarket-style California red from a quality producer. Not much in the way of tannins or acidity — just lots of very ripe black fruit, lots of oak, and that sort of smooth finish that focus groups prefer.

Cameron Hughes Lot 676 2016 ($14, sample, 14.3%): Heavy, rich, hot, and full California white blend, made in the classic “Trying to get 94 points” style. There’s some fruit (stone, lime?), and a surprising amount of oak. Given its age, the style, and that Hughes buys what other producers can’t move, this may well be a pricey bottle that was sitting in a tank somewhere, unloved and unsold.

Photo: “Summer Hols Day 3 – Rain and Wine” by Ian Livesey is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

Geyser Peak gets a new owner – can that save the brand?

geyser peak
“Seriously — someone put riesling in this?”

Geyser Peak, once a great cheap wine brand, has seen sales fall by one-half and quality sink perhaps even more

Dear Robert Pepi Jr.:

I see you are the consultant for the new owners of Geyser Peak, once one of California’s great cheap wine brands. This is welcome news, given your family’s long tradition with sauvignon blanc, the varietal that made Geyser Peak one of California’s great cheap brands. Is it possible that you can convince the wine’s new owners to restore its $10 sauvignon blanc to greatness?

I ask this because American wine drinkers are eager for a $10 California label that offers consistency, quality, and value. Because, as we have too often noted on the blog, that’s almost impossible to find anymore. Geyser Peak was once once of those wines and a member of the $10 Hall of during the blog’s early days. In fact, the Big Guy used to joke that he knew it was summer in Texas when he started drinking Geyser sauvignon blanc.

But that hasn’t been the case for a long time. Your new bosses are at least the brand’s fifth owners since 2007, and the last owner drove sales from around 300,000 cases a year to half that. And no wonder. The last couple of times I tasted the wine it was, to be polite, crummy. Who mixes riesling with sauvignon blanc unless there is an ulterior motive?

Plus, the quotes I read from the new bosses didn’t fill me with confidence: “500,000 cases. … growth potential. … expanded sales force. … honing our focus.” Shudder – nothing about making quality wine in any of that, is there?

Earlier this year, a leading wine industry analyst said California desperately needs “sexy brands at $7 or $8 per bottle. …” Which you and the new owner have the chance to do with Gesyer Peak (and a $10 price would be fine, too). Grape prices have declined, so it will be possible to buy better quality grapes to put in the wine. The brand has a long history of quality – how more reassuring than marketing it as, “Great Geyser Peak wine is back, baby!”? And maybe you can even convince the new owner that this would be the perfect way to bring younger consumers to wine – cheap, fruit forward, and a product that tastes like wine.

As always, I am ready to help in any way I can.

Yours in quality cheap wine,

The Wine Curmudgeon

Photo: Librestock, using a Creative Commons license

Wine of the week: Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2019

matua sauvignon blancThe Matua sauvignon blanc is Big Wine at its best — varietally correct, cheap, and delicious

A blog reader told me that his Costco was selling the Matua sauvingon blanc for $7 a bottle. I told him to buy cases and cases.

That’s because the Matua sauvingon blanc ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is Big Wine at its best — a combination of best practices in mass market winemaking, economies of scale, and supply chain efficiencies. The result, from Treasury Wine Estates, is a wine that is simple but not stupid and tastes like it is supposed to — and which may be the best Big Wine product on the market.

The 2019 vintage, which seems to be current, is even a little more well done than past efforts — and those made the $10 Hall of Fame. Look for not too much New Zealand grapefruit, a noticeable if slight tropical middle, and a long, clean finish.

Highly recommended and a wine destined for the 2021 Hall of Fame, as well as the short list for the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Imported by TWE Wine Estates