Wine Talk

Snooth User: Anna Savino

Interesting list topic?

Posted by Anna Savino, Sep 29, 2012.

Hi guys,

I would like to make a list of best local supermarket wines, but living in Piemonte Italy I not sure that it would make sense because I don't know if you can find them in supermarkets in the US. Would this be interesting for you to see anyway? Would appreciate any feedback!

Cin Cin

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Reply by JonDerry, Sep 29, 2012.

Of course it would.. Not a bad topic at all.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 1, 2012.

It would be very cool to do a comparison of supermarket wines around the world! I like the topic and find it fascinating!  

Reply by EMark, Oct 1, 2012.

I agree that that this might be an interesting topic.  I will try to provide a survey for my locale.  I will also try to provide some context in the form of local demographics.  I really doubt that anything surprising will come out of this, but it does intrigue me.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 1, 2012.

I think this is a great idea.  I have always suspected that a few of the wines that we see in wine shops and at Trader Joe's in the US, which is a kind-of supermarket, are really grocery store brands.  While I was in Italy, Switzerland and France this last summer, I bought wine in wine shops but also at the Monoprix and Migros and even a corner store and, man, those bottles looked a lot like the ones I see at Trader Joe's.  But there were also many better wines.

One label that I have been curious about is Epicuro, a line of different Italian wines that Trade Joe's (owned by one of the brothers who started Aldi, BTW) carries.  They made a pretty decent Salice Salentino, Aglianico, and Nero D'Avola for very little money.  I always assumed it was some kind of Italian supermarket brand, but I didn't go the market in Italy except Stresa, so I couldn't be sure.  Is there such a wine brand there?

Reply by EMark, Oct 1, 2012.

In reading Foxall's comments, I have now come up with a question:  What is a "supermarket wine?"

I have always been under the impression that that any wine sold in a supermarket is a "supermarket wine."  Reading Foxall's comments, however, I am wondering if by "supermarket wine" you mean a label that is sold exclusively in a supermarket and I would be unlikely to find that wine in a wine specialty shop or on the wine list of a reasonably nice restaurant.

Clarification please.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 2, 2012.

To me, not all wines in a supermarket are supermarket wines.  At least, not in California.  Here we can get Stags Leap, Jordan, Groth and other serious wines in our supermarkets.  To me, a supermarket wine is a wine you generally wouldn't find in a better wine shop--lower priced, mass produced, and generally owned by a conglomerate that does more than wine.  However, I am interested in finding out what wines are carried in supermarkets in Europe and elsewhere because it's interesting to see how much deeper or better the selection is one place as opposed to another.  I called Epicuro a supermarket wine just because I think it's made for that market--lots of choice but all of them kind of in the middle.  Not bad at all, but I imagined they source whatever grapes they can to make enough--constrained more by the demand than by what a vineyard will yield.  The winery might even make a "wine store" wine but sell under another label to capture the middle market.

Emark, I also think (but this is the point of the discussion, IMO) that Safeway (to name one supermarket I have to shop occasionally) has an unusually large selection of wines that range from the end where low price is the most important thing (Franzia in a box, jug wines of Almaden and whatnot) up to the very good wines mentioned above.  But you find about one CdP (Clos de l'Oratoire), on Beaujolais from Dubouef, one Burgundy from Jadot, and a couple Chiantis on the foreign side.  And, of course, Yellowtail.  What quality there is comes from their California wines. 

So I'd be interested in knowing what's in supermarkets regardless of whether they fit any particular definition of "supermarket" wine.

Reply by JonDerry, Oct 2, 2012.

My beef with grocery stores is the high level production required to get in, it's so uninspired, with mostly fellow conglomerates getting in. What seems like a nice little line of wine, is one of hundreds of brands owned by a single company. In fact, I think it's some crazy number like 80-90% of grocery store wine purchases can be traced back to a few companies. Not a place I want to be doing my wine business, but I'll always look out of curiosity.

Jordan may be an exception (family owned), but it's no small operation and their wines aren't worth drinking (to me). Probably the best CA Cabs consistently found are Mondavi Reserve, Heitz (see them at CVS!), and sometimes I'll see Dominus. CSM, and Northstar represent washington, and Louis Jadot is out of control, I see that in the smallest of grocery stores, not only CVS, but in small time grocers with just a few locations (like Yummy, which I can walk to easily). Then there's Penfold's for Aus, and maybe some Dr. Loosen for Germany. Usually don't like to look at the cheap Italian brands found over here, but Trader Joe's definitely makes an effort to carry pretty much all top wine producing countries wines and their major regions.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 2, 2012.

JD's opinion tracks my thoughts pretty well. (I don't really get Jordan, but I only drank a little of it a long time ago, FWIW, and never sought it out again.)  That basic Heitz and the Clos du Val are pretty easy to find at Safeway and CVS (formerly Longs up here).  Mount Veeder also shows up pretty often.  Of course, a lot of "wine shop" wines are owned by conglomerates as well, especially the Bordeaux, thanks to consolidation over there.

I do get curious because Safeway runs these six bottle specials that knock prices down so low, but I can't seem to find six wines that I really want.

Reply by JonDerry, Oct 2, 2012.

Didn't mean to be too hard on Jordan, they have a really nice presentation if you were ever to visit, and their wines in years past have been served at presidential dinners I believe, plus they sell their own olive oil at the winery. If all you drink is Cali Cab, they're more than likely bound to find your cellars, but it's an easy pass for me.

Also meant to say Trader Joe's is a solid step up from most "Grocer Stores", and then I'd probably nudge Costco another step above TJ due to their broader and more focused selection.

Reply by GregT, Oct 2, 2012.

EMark hit it - what is a supermarket wine?

You guys out in CA have wines in supermarkets like those Jon and Fox mention.  That's a really local thing however. In NY, there is no such thing as a supermarket wine because it's illegal to sell wine in an supermarket.  New Yorkers are particularly sensitive and we feel that our lives would be destroyed if wine were sold in supermarkets.  So the big wine stores sell the bottom-shelf national brands that are found in supermarkets elsewhere, things like YellowTail, Layer Cake, Concha y Toro, Columbia Crest, Mirassou, etc.

More to the point, Jon hit on something that most of the consumers, and even most of the posters on this forum, won't know - the fact that most of the "little" brands are really made by the same wine company.

Gallo has/makes about 40 to 50 brands around the world, including Apothic, Barefoot Cellars, Clarendon Hills, Dancing Bull, Las Rocas, Louis Martini,  Las Rocas, Martin Codax, Don Miguel Gascon, Rancho Zabaco, William Hill, and the undrinkable Turning Leaf. 

Which are the "supermarket" brands?  All of them in a sense, but good luck finding Clarendon Hills.  Some of those are owned by Gallo, some are produced by Gallo, and some are "influenced" by Gallo.

Same with Chateau St Michelle, Beringer/Bass, etc. 

And then there are the big negociants like Dubouf, Jadot, and others.  And where to you put Marques de Riscal?

For a working definition, I'd start by suggesting that a supermarket wine is a large-production wine that is made from purchased grapes only, has no vineyard or estate designation, and is generally under $20 US. Of course, you'd have to define large-production, but let's assume it's at least 30,000 cases annually.

A friend considers Peju a supermarket wine because he can get it at his local place in CA, but it's made by a family, from their own fruit, and it's not widely available across the country, so I don't consider it a SW.

Finally, there are a lot of brands that are made for a specific retailer. All the big supermarkets have private labels.  It would be dumb not to. Stuff like Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck is not available anywhere else.  Is that a supermarket wine?  I would suggest that since it's one of the worst wines I've ever tasted, it's not a supermarket wine so much as wastewater, but how do you categorize a wine that is only available at one outlet?

Reply by outthere, Oct 2, 2012.

So let me get this right, we have a New Yorker who admits that they don't sell wine in NY supermarkets telling us what constitutes a supermarket wine.

No offense but, hahahahaha!

To us in CA a supermarket wine is anything from $2-$50 that isn't allocated through mailing lists or sold only from the winery and/or tasting room. It going to be weighted heavily on Gallo, KJ, Constellation, Foley brands and then be scattered with smaller labels that get put on the upper shelves.  Wine here is sold in every store that has a liquor license, from a Mom and Pop quickee mart to Safeway, Whole Paycheck, Luckys and even gas stations.

Reply by Bob Fyke, Oct 2, 2012.

My best supermarket wine memory is, finding up a bottle of '97 Tenuta La Fuga, Due Sorelle (Brunello), in a Florence grocery store. Alas, as a New Yorker, my state government has taken it upon themselves to protect me from such trauma.

So... can't help on the theme, but like it anyway.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 2, 2012.

Well, oddly, I like GregT's definition.  The problem with OT's is that there are foreign wines that don't fall into either category.  Very Cali centric.

No one mentioned Jackson Family (Jess Jackson's legacy to the world--a Gallo for his age) as a supermarket wine company, but surely they qualify, after purchasing a number of good wineries that had limited distribution.  They claim to be "hands off" with Murphy Goode, but who knows?  And they have some SVDs in the MG portfolio.  Foley has agglomerated enough labels that he gets distribution, but can you call his wines "supermarket?" Some of them are quite good, and he seems determined to operate mostly at the upper end.  Merus, anyone? In fact, some of his wineries still seem to sell only by mailing list or tasting room, but I'll have to check on that. 

Mirrasou, so sad that they have become the laughing stock that they are.  They were one of the first Cali wine companies that kind of spread their rep across the country.  Now? Pfft.

Interesting that the Monoprix had pretty decent wine in Paris, but when they were closed, I went to a corner convenience store and got a wine that I could swear they sell at Trader Joe's.  It was drinkable, but at the same time, the worst wine I had in France.  At Monoprix, I scored a really good cab franc from the Loire, which is, to me, a K and L or WineMine thing here.

Reply by outthere, Oct 3, 2012.

No one mentioned Jackson Family (Jess Jackson's legacy to the world--a Gallo for his age) as a supermarket wine company

but... I did. KJ = Kendall Jackon which I equate with Jacson wines. But I won't hold it against you ;-)

Foley also = Sebastiani, Chalk Hill... Both widely available 

Reply by Lucha Vino, Oct 3, 2012.

We get the occasional smaller production Washington wines in my local Trader Joe's here in Seattle.  One really good example is Rulo.  A Walla Walla winery with pretty decent size production, but not gigantic.  My TJs has the Syrca for $13.49 which is less than purchasing direct from the winery.

We also get some excellent Washington wines showing up at Costco.  OS is one example.  I consistently see their Red Wine at my local Costco at the $13 price point.

Of course, we have all the various high production run of the mill stuff that is mentioned above too.

Reply by GregT, Oct 3, 2012.

"So let me get this right, we have a New Yorker who admits that they don't sell wine in NY supermarkets telling us what constitutes a supermarket wine."

Outthere - that's pretty good!

So a disclaimer - I've only lived here 20 something years.  Also lived in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, where I still visit many times a year because I have family and an ailing mother and I always scour the supermarkets for wine since there aren't that many wine stores.  I make it a point to go to the stores tho, because the supermarkets are really deficient.  Half the time I bring wine with me from NY.

Also frequently visit Nevada - wife's home state and she has family and a job there, and it's the same - we make special trips to the wine stores because the supermarkets are deficient.  So are the wine stores for the most part, but that's a different issue.

So it's not as if I don't know what's in supermarkets. But I'll give you the point.  It made me laugh.  Well done!


Reply by outthere, Oct 3, 2012.

Glad you took it in the light in which it was offered!

Reply by JonDerry, Oct 3, 2012.

See what you've done here, Anna?!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 3, 2012.

D'oh, I glossed right over "KJ."  The corporate entity is now so much more than just "Vintner's Reserve," or whatever that stuff was called, but OT gets first on that.

Okay, here's a decent thing or two you can find at Safeway:  Ravenswood Vintner's Reserve Zinfandel, a pretty nice Zin made from three AVAs, so it has to be labeled "California."  And, when they don't run out of it, Joel Gott Sauv Blanc, which is about ten bucks, a couple more than K and L sells it for when they have it.  Same deal:  Three AVAs, labeled California, and lip smackingly good.

GregT, I think even in California it's worth seeking out the wine store on a visit because it's just more interesting.  I think Safeway and the like out here really raised the soulless supermarket idea to its zenith.  It astounds me how little of what they sell--even in the baking supplies department--is ingredients for real cooking.  The vast majority of what they sell contains a lot of stuff that our grandparents never ingested in any form. How can you expect thoughtful wine selections in a place that sells "TGIF Frozen Chicken Tenders?"

Reply by Huaino, Oct 4, 2012.

The border area of San Diego-Tijuana offers a unique opp to shop for vino on both sides. At south of the border major supermarkets, there are great value deals ($7- 20 USD range) to be found among a wide variety of Chilenos, Argentinos, Españoles, even Uruguay's Tannat  and, to some surprising degree, very few Mexican wines.

Sure, present among them are the expected 2-3 major labels from Baja (L.A. Cetto, Santo Tomas, Domecq) but most of the high quality vinos from the Valle de Guadalupe (only a 1 hour drive south of SD border) are made in small, controlled productions. The makers opt for specialized distribution channels, such as boutique stores, vendimia season events exposure, on-line and estate marketing.

On the SD side, can't go wrong at TJoe's. Just found this amazing-for-6-bucks Carmenere, simply called Car Men Air. Also, Concannon's P.S. is always on the list.

There is room in SD for a Spec's, that would make BevMo lower their 5 cent sale to 3.

All in all, supermarket wine shopping is always a cool place to exchange brief friendly dialogue with fellow bottle buyers and a good networking excuse to bring up my business, furniture made with retired oak barrels. 

Salud y saludos!   




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