In this corner....some of the biggest name brand wines in their respected varietal categories found everywhere from coast to coast. Now you see them now you don't. BAMM!!! When tasting these wines blind, how well do you recognize some of your favorite wines? This blind tasting exercise wasn't an opportunity to shit on these wines, but it was to showcase how big corporations design wines for mass appeal while some smaller unknown vineyard/wine brands should be given some consideration, but are often overlooked because they don't have the marketing machine behind them or they get lost in the big distributor's portfolio of name brand wines. It's nice to have these smaller brands in there because it shows that the distributor "cares" about the small biz, but guess who pays the bills to keep the trucks running? No guess? Usually it's whoever paid to get the brand name embellished on the side of the delivery truck. A sales person that finds a nice balance between keeping the lights on for his/her company and cares about the small biz wine peeps is essential for a balanced wine list/menu at a restaurant or wine selection in a store.
1.) New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc:
Much like Santa Margarita is to PG and Kendall Jackson is to Chard, Kim Crawford is the quintessential under $20 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but by no means should it be the standard of what New Zealand can accomplish with this varietal. Yes Sauvy B reigns supreme in New Zealand, but how the winemaker handles the grape from start to finish is key to the what you taste in the glass. Blindly, Kim tasted like textbook Sauv Blanc from NZ hitting all the bullet points on what a NZ SB tasting profile should be. It's reliable and predictable like a can of Budweiser. I first sipped the Mount Nelson 10+ years ago and remember that sensation of lemon spreading and coating my entire palate with tremendous balance between bitter and bright acidity and Tropicana Grapefruit juice. Ten years later it still brought back memories to that first sip. The nose on the Mount Nelson did have a sulfur component that was very unappealing, but did not taint the palate at all. That was the biggest downfall of the wine that would not have that mass appeal for a world wide audience. In that case Mount Nelson would've scored low.
2.) Provence Rose
When you think of French Rose it's either the Branjolina Rose or the Whispering Angel. We went with the Angel. Going up against the Angel was a small brand called MiMi. Similar varietal blend, same region, dry, yet Whispering Angel feels softer on the palate. I'm impartial to either. Both have fans in our store and I'm happy to offer both. Cost wise, if I'm being frugal, goes to the MiMi. With the Rose market becoming more and more flooded each year especially from Provence, there are other regions and styles that I appreciate as well. So much wine, so little time in a day. Put a pin in this category and we'll come back.
3.) California Cabs
Josh...what can I say? In the under $20 Cali Cab category it's either Josh or Joel Gott that garner a shit ton of attention. Here's my plea to you....these wines are good and they sell a ton of them for a reason, but PLEASE please try other producers from a recognized appellation just so you can taste the difference. That's all I'm asking.
Again as with the Kim Crawford, Josh is a textbook tasting profile of what Cali Cabs can taste like. It's solid Cab for the money and that's a good thing. When looking through an extensive wine menu or overwhelmed in a gigantic liquor store surrounded by labels upon labels, Josh is a familiar friend that will safely get you home if you've had too many. Cosentino's The Cab hails from Lodi, California. Tasting them blind I was convinced I knew Josh from The Cab. Embarrassing that I screwed up the order in front of me when I unveiled them. Lodi has that distinct jammy fruit nose, soft oak. Consentino knows how to wrangle that fruit component back and give it structure and purpose instead of being a jelly jar wine.
Let's go back to Provence and our Rose category. We can neither promote or confirm this, BUT it was "discovered" by an unknown source that the 90Plus Cellars Lot 132 Provence Rose is in fact Whispering Angel juice. A conspiracy known the less and with the Myth Busters crew filming their show we took it upon ourselves to uncover this mystery blindly of course. With a re-pour underway, the question was do these wines taste similar Or how similar do they taste? 90 Plus Cellars does buy "excess" juice from well known vineyards/wine brands that have great reputations and high ratings. They will never disclose where the wine actually came from to protect the brand name's reputation and overall pricingn structure. If XYZ vineyard produces 100,000 cases of award winning wine per year and then sells off 30,000 cases to 90 Plus at a discount, XYZ only has to worry about 70,000 cases. Win win on both sides. It's a lot more complicated than that, but you get the picture. Protect the source and you'll get a deal.
We will never say that the 90 Plus is the one and only "Whispering Angel", but we will tell you that it taste identical to the Angel. Blindly there was no difference. We kept going back and forth with no differences in the end result. It's a hard one to prove wrong.
Bottom line is that if you like Whispering Angel and want something a little more cost effective then the 90 Plus Lot 132 Rose is the best avenue to go down.
Whatever the source they found in Provence has nailed down the flavor profile and offered it back to the consumer for under $15. Way to go 90 Plus!!
Final results, big brands are trust worthy and offer mass appeal for a broad audience. You can't knock them or the team behind the scenes that made them. But keep in mind the small producers. Give them a chance. Ask questions about the wine and don't feel intimidated about asking. So many times consumers buy what they know just because it's a comfort zone. These brands do provide that comfort zone. Our mission is to help you to be able to break out of your comfort zone and venture into other appellations to see what they have to offer. Much like our other class where we taste the same varietal from around the world, California Cabs are vastly different from other California AVA's. Sauv Blancs are different from the north and south islands of New Zealand. Rose...still not intended to be sweet, but that's another class topic. Taste everything...in moderation of course,