The nitty-gritty end of wine retailing

Nitty-gritty wine retailing

There are plenty of wines retailing at less than $20 it’s the nitty-gritty end of retailing and the most important. Enter any Dan’s or First Choice store, and the selection is huge. Add Aldi and stores such as The Bottle-O and Cellarbrations, and there is no suburb or even country town in Australia where cheap wine cannot be obtained.

Not that marketing people like the word “cheap”. They prefer to use such terms as “value for money product” or other such nonsense (meaning cheap).

Wine producers whinge about the lack of profit in these wines, blaming retailers for forcing them to cut prices to uneconomical levels. But they continue to make the wines for the dictated price, play the game and lay off the blame.

Wine consumers are an interesting bunch, made more interesting by producers, retailers, and marketing schools trying to categorise them. TKR tends to oversimplify the wine consumer: they are not loyal, unpredictable and mostly price driven.

Consumers who are into wine, even in a small way, want a $20 (pure wine value) bottle of wine for $10. When it comes to those not so interested, producers and retailers (in cohorts with marketers) want to make them believe they are buying a $20 bottle of wine for only $10.

For the wines listed below the price aspect is extremely important, perhaps at times more so than the quality. At this end of the retail price scale the increases of each of the five dollars between $15 and $20 is important, and can have a direct effect on sales. Interestingly, the consumer perceives the gap between $15 and $16 – more likely to be $14.99 and $15.99 – to be huge, but the gap becomes less important closer to $20. That is, $17.99 and $18.99 are considered much the same.

It’s not reviewed here, but the Jacob’s Creek classic range is often to be found around the $10 mark, yet in comparison to some of the below should really be around $15. But that is based on wine quality; the cost of production (COP) is another factor. Based on COP, Jacob’s Creek should be cheaper. The question being: $5 cheaper or $3 cheaper?

Yellow Tail is another brand that is stuck in a price sector (below $10) and, like Jacob’s Creek, is a huge production wine. Is it, like Jacob’s Creek, wine wise, worth $15? For me, the answer is no. I will pick Jacob’s Creek to drink over Yellow Tail any day. But it is what it is, and globally has a huge following. Which raises the question: who is right, Tony Keys or the millions of consumers around the world who enjoy Yellow Tail?

The answer is obvious. I am but one voice, and the power of the people must be right.

Wine writers rarely comment on the value of wine; it’s a delicate subject. If wine is sent to me to review then I should review the wine, not the price, according to many producers. This is fine, but belongs to the airy-bloody-fairy, wanky aspect of wine. Price, quality and value are so entwined they cannot be separated.

Windowrie ‘The Mill’ Cowra Chardonnay 2016: Simple chardonnay, from nose through the palate to the finish. 90 points. It faces a lot of competition at $20, and for me it needs to have more complexity to carry this price tag.

Hesketh ‘Lost Weekend’ South Australia Chardonnay 2016: Light but clean, defined chardonnay nose. Easy across the palate and easy on the pocket. 90 points. For the price of three bottles of the Windowrie, four bottles of Hesketh can be bought, which makes it at $14 a very good buy.

MadFish Western Australia Chardonnay 2016: Light but fresh and defined chardonnay nose. Again light on the palate, but good, classic chardonnay flavours come into play. Easy all the way and good on the finish. 93 points. It’s higher up the quality scale, hence higher points. It’s also $4 more than the Hesketh but $2 cheaper than the Windowrie, so in my opinion good value at $18.

Berton Vineyards ‘Metal Label’ Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2016: Light on the nose but pleasant. Easy across the palate, with enough chardonnay character to know what it is. In short, a pleasant glass of wine. 91 points. In the tasting it warranted a point more than the Hesketh and Windowrie because at that time the chardonnay character was more forward. The price at just $12 is unbeatable, which raises the question: if Berton added a couple of dollars would it sell any less?

Hesketh ‘Bright Young Things’ South Australia Sauvignon Blanc 2016: A sound glass of dry white wine. 90 points. Personally, I would sooner buy the chardonnay for the same price, but there are millions of sauvignon blanc lovers, so $14 is a fair price.

Berton Vineyards High Eden Sauvignon Blanc 2016: Lovely nose: a mix of flowers, herbs and clean springtime air. Fresh in the mouth as well. It flows in a crisp, enchanting way across the palate, flavours weaving in and out of each other. 94 points. This has the points plus a complimentary description so the conclusion has to be that it’s very good value at $20.

The Alchemists Western Australia Sauvignon Semillon 2016: Zippy, lively wine, enjoyable to sip or drink in large drafts. 93 points. This ($19) and the following MadFish wines both get the same points and are much the same in price. Both come in under $20, and as explained in the intro, there is not a great difference in the consumer’s mind between $18 and $19. Both give a gold coin in the change.

MadFish Western Australia Sauvignon Semillon 2016: The sauvignon lifts the semillon, the nose making it very attractive. Lemon note on the palate and very enjoyable. 93 points ($18).

Thorn-Clarke ‘Sandpiper’ Eden Valley Pinot Gris 2016: Can’t knock this, but it’s hard to get excited about it. 89 points. As can be gathered from my remarks on the other white wines, $20 is by my reckoning far too much.

Head Over Heels South Eastern Australia Shiraz 2016: Clean nose, soft fruit on the palate, causes no offence. 89 points. If a busload of friends and family are turning up for fun frolics and a big barbecue, it’s hard to beat the price at $8.

The next four wines all rated 93 points on tasting yet range from $12 to $20 in price. One factor is regional pedigree: the Berton wine could originate from any mix of regions in South East Australia, and the Hesketh from any mix of regions in South Australia, but the Shingleback and Gemtree are single region. What dollar factor can be put on a region? Is Margaret River worth the same as Mornington Peninsula? Are both worth more than Langhorne Creek or Rutherglen?

Berton ‘Metal Label’ South Eastern Australia Shiraz 2016: Fresh, lively, blueberry nose. Also lively across the palate, with good blackberry and blueberry flavours. 93 points. This, as the notes say, was delightful, and so is the price, at just $12.

Hesketh ‘Midday Somewhere’ South Australia Shiraz 2016: Good deep colour, fresh on the nose and across the palate. Very easy drinking. Not a wine to ponder, but if given a glass at a function I wouldn’t complain, as it has all its parts in the right place. 93 points. It’s well worth the $14 asked but is that extra $2 over the Berton wine due to it being pure South Australian?

Shingleback ‘Red Knot Classified’ McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015: An exclusive to Dan Murphy’s, this has some bite and lots of grip, with oak and tannin aplenty. That said, it’s sound wine, good at the table with roast dinners. 93 points. Being exclusive to Dan’s is a benefit to both parties, in that the price can be set to be an advantage to both. It’s part of a range that fits in the $13-$19 sector. Perhaps if this weren’t a Dan’s exclusive it might be a couple of dollars cheaper, but it’s an OK price at $19.

Gemtree ‘Bloodstone’ McLaren Vale Shiraz 2016: Good, rich, damp earth nose. Wide spectrum of flavour, from earthy to ripe fruit. It’s a top wine. 93 points. It’s fair value at $20, which any consumer should be satisfied with. But often they aren’t.

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