What consumers actually drink: Part 1

kumala shirazI go through life truly believing myself not be elitist or a snob. In all walks I respect people’s views and their preferences, I might disagree, but what they like is what they like.

I am happy that you people enjoy all sorts of things that I fail to appreciate myself.

Live and let live is my motto.

I am so liberal and open minded; except……when it comes to wine. That is a real blind spot. I want to immediately convert people who drink very basic wine to something more interesting and exciting. I want them to see what I see in a wine.

The truth is that most consumers see wine quite differently from us trade and keen amateurs. We think about the complexity of wine, the artistry of it, the finesse of it, the elegance – much like classical music pundits really. We also think about what food a wine would partner. In truth I wonder how often we actually think whether it is yummy or not!

Most modern consumers though treat wine purely as just another drink. So the only question they ask themselves is, do they like it? There and then, not, would I like it with roast goose or a leg of lamb?

That sort of thing seems to only kicks in when someone catches the wine bug and starts to get interested.

So to most people the questions are; do I like it, can I afford it and what colour is it? This then must be why brands rule supreme. They simplify the selection process for consumers who are nervous about wine and do not understand all the words on most wine labels.

And many are nervous: Last week end I was pouring wine at a festival and many people that I offered a taste to were too nervous to just ask me what the wines were like. They were often more inclined to ask the people they were with – even though those people knew as little as them.

I personally cannot see what they were nervous about. I wasn’t going to judge them. Why should they know about wine. I bet I know nothing about what they do for a living, but don’t suppose they would judge me for that. It is as though they think everyone is going to laugh at them for not knowing about wine – and that feeling appears to run deep. Brands stop that and take all the difficulty out of buying wine – if all you want from a wine is for it to be an acceptable drink that is.

I have to admit that I rarely think about brands, I hardly ever even notice that they exist. So, there is a gap in my understanding and experience. I have decided to fill that gap. So every now and then, starting from today I am going to taste some of the big wine brands and report on them exactly like any of the other wines that I taste. That way I will get to understand what they are like, what sort of quality the wines are and the differences between the types of brands available. After all plenty of really good wines are brands in effect; Villa Maria for instance.

First up, for no other reason than I have never, ever tried any is Echo Falls from California, although they now make Chilean wine too. This brand is the 7th biggest seller in the UK off-trade, the 15th in the supermarkets and the 5th in multiple specialists.

I usually favour words over numbers, but for the purposes of this exercise I have decided to use the scoring process from the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, which is a series of numbers that amounts to a score out of 100.


Echo Falls California White NV

Very pale with a silvery lime hue – quite attractive.

The nose is clean and lime-like.

The palate is more bland than expected with low acid making it slightly too cloying. However it has a touch of zestiness that keeps it reasonably clean.

The finish is short and a little hot with a touch of sherbert confected character.

This received 79 points out of 100 and would not get a medal from me.


Echo Falls California Rosé NV

Quite an attractive pale strawberry juice colour.

The aromas are slightly syrupy – like the stuff Mr Whippy puts on ice cream! However, it is fresh and bright.

The palate is light and simple with confected cherry and raspberry notes and some sweetness on the slightly hot and unbalanced finish.

This received 80 points out of 100 and would not get a medal from me.

SV600003 2

Echo Falls California Red NV

A pale purple colour with sugar plum aromas.

The palate is very soft with almost no tannins and lots of jammy fruit.

Really very bland with almost no character at all.

This received 69 points out of 100 and would not get a medal from me.

In the run up to this tasting I had almost persuaded myself that I was missing something and harshly treating wines like these. Well on this evidence I was not, these were not good wines. I would much rather have a beer or even a glass of water than any of these.

All of these were £3.99, so they were cheap, but over the week end a friend of mine served me some Asda Marsanne 2008, Vin de Pays d’Oc (amongst other lovely things) which is a lovely, succulent dry white wine which sells for a mere £3.28!

So, my search continues. I will taste more of the really big brand names until I have experienced all of them and will be able to tell you which are worth trying.

3 thoughts on “What consumers actually drink: Part 1

  1. You, sir, are a brave man. I would be fascinated to see the breakdown of costs, yields etc that gives us sweet and palatable alcohol at this price, yet nothing of interest.

  2. Quentin. Indeed you are a brave man! But, to be frank, you and I know that the wines sold for 3 for £10 are all wines that have been manufactured for the deal!
    It’s all down to money and the grey suits. If the supplier cannot come up with a deal, the retailer goes elsewhere. It’s simple, and the sparkle and spice goes out of the equation.

    I will be interested in your progress on “brands” because eventually, “brands” will rule the wine retail market, and only special wines will be in the indies!

  3. Thanks for that Pete, that is what I am looking for in this exercise – ‘sparkle & spice”! I am sure that it must exist in the brands and will try them all – Kumala next I think, in September – watch this space.

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