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Untangled Vine

An attempt to sort through all things wine. Specifically of, and about, but not limited to: Food and Wine in Toledo, Ohio. Plus the day to day musings of a Wine Distributor...

The indefensible corporate wines

Jennifer Rosen has defended corporate wines with a tirade about how we need to make wine more inviting. I agree wholeheartedly, although, she oversimplifies the argument. I am afraid that the evil nameless, faceless lifestyle sellers have failed to ensure that the wine that they have produced will result in turning consumers onto wine. If the welcome gates of the wine world have Blackstone Merlot waiting for me, I’d probably go to the next house, where the bad cold beer goes pretty well with wings and mowing the lawn. I appreciate her idealism, but I feel as if the “corporate” wineries are selling out their own quality in favor of profit, not being inoffensive. As witnessed by a recent blind tasting of more than a dozen inexpensive California Cabernets, I was shocked at the median quality level of these wines. You could almost draw a perfect corollary between marketing dollars spent and size of the winery in direct contrast with quality. My complaint is not only the quality of the wine, but also they way they are marketed and sold. Everyone in this business, is well, in business, but these corporate producers have been undermined by p&l statements and marketing people (no offense marketing people). As a salesman, I know that these wines don’t compete favorably against their less famous rivals, but the corporate producers get the wine list placements and floor stacks, and the small, family-owned producers get the shaft in favor of recognition over quality. This of course, in endemic of the entire world of wine, where we get so burned out by consumer’s buying habits and tendency to recede into a safe place, that we cease to be educators, and we let the novice tell us what we will serve, and quality and expertise be damned. Until corporate wineries actually produce great cheap table wine, I will always consider them lifestyle brokers, and they will always be the Cosmopolitans in the World of Gin Martinis, they just share the same stemware. Oh and by the way, the wine Rosen lists as recommended do not fall in the category of Corporate Wines.

Thansk to Tam Wark for turning me on to this article, read his post and threads here.
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At 2:06 PM, Blogger St. Vini said...

Can you give some examples of the tasting (re: the line drawn between poor quality and high marketing spending)?

I'm curious to know what offerings from other wineries are being squeezed out in the "inexpensive California Cabernet". That's just not a place where family wineries play much....


At 2:25 PM, Blogger adam mahler said...

St Vini,

Here were the really bad wines (all 03's), and I mean offensivley bad, not just nondescript:
Mondavi Coastal
BV Coastal
Gallo of Sonoma

The best of the bunch:
J Lohr 7 Oaks

Good Point though, and perhaps inexpensive cabernets is not the domain of the family-oriented, but also, maybe we don't see too many of them because of the power of the big guys. There are dozens of high-quality inexpensive wines out there, but the biggest names are rarely them.    

At 2:52 PM, Blogger St. Vini said...

The sub $10-California category is dominated by "corporate" players. A few (McManis, Lohr, Bogle, Bonny Doon, etc) manage to make it, but they can't live forever on the trim margins. The niche for "family" wineries is $14 and up, that's why you have few offerings under $10 from them, there's just nothing in it for them.

Look at it another way - what domestic industry still gets 20% of its sales from small independents?


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