Bulk Wine, Jug Wine, Mass Produced vs. Quality Wine…What?…Is the Market Thinking?

Maybe I was spoiled with my first experiences with wine… after I stopped doing keg stands with my fraternity brothers, I did acquire a taste for good wine. Since I was mentally scarred by my family’s constant use of soda in their wine, I tended to stay away from sweet wines and jug wines, and even soda, but I wasn’t spending a ton of money for a bottle of wine either. The difference was that I didn’t start out drinking the “bulk” mass produced wines you see everywhere, like Carlo Rossi, Gallo, Kendall Jackson, Beringer, Sutter Home, etc. Not that there is anything inherently bad about these producers in general, some of them actually produce some high quality wines as well, but they are bulk producers. What’s the problem with bulk production you might ask? Quality. They do not take the same kind of care in their production to insure top quality. The main concern with these wines is mass production at low costs. That’s what’s apparently important to the average consumer, or at least that’s what they want you to think you should drink…(hmmm…)

I tasted a “hearty burgundy” last night as a joke… I mean… as a comparison to different wine styles, against a much better quality Pauillac (Bordeaux), and the difference was very apparent. I can see why some people will choose the cheaper, mass produced bottle of wine. For one, it’s cheaper, way cheaper. The 1.5 L bottle of Gallo “Hearty Burgundy” was $10 compared to $45 for a regular sized bottle of the Chateau Haut-Bages Averous Pauillac…that’s 9X the price! Okay, but what if price isn’t the issue? The “hearty burgundy” had a simplicity to it that made it easy to drink, kind of like drinking grape juice that went a little bad. It was soft, light, and had very little tannins… but in no way did it resemble anything I recognize as “burgundy”… it may not even be made with pinot noir grapes… The Bordeaux was tannic, complex, “chewy”, and would have gone great with a steak, mmm… anyway, I digress…

For people who don’t know what goes into making wine, who don’t understand what it takes to make a quality wine or, people who aren’t interested in learning about different styles of wine… I think I just named about 95% of American wine drinkers, bulk wine can be more than satisfactory. It quenches their thirst and gives them a buzz. That’s the purpose isn’t it? Well, I know 5% of wine drinkers will disagree. The buzz is way better with quality wine! 😉

Pairing wine with food is one of the most exciting things about wine, and if you are stuck in the crowd of bulk wine drinking, you are missing out on a whole lot! I started this blog to educate people about inexpensive, but good quality wine. It’s unfortunate that you will never find a good quality wine at the prices you can pay for the cheap mass produced stuff… but it also makes sense… “You get what you pay for”… most of the time.

In wine I believe there is a threshold. I think that under $10 it’s really tough to find a good quality wine, but there are some out there…and I believe there are more now than there were 5-10 years ago. You just have to search for them. But between $10-$20 you start to find a world of wines that are interesting, exciting, and can be paired with all different types of food. The $20-$40 range seems to have the best wines, but I have found wines that are $20 that rival the quality of $40+ bottles of the same style/variety… Once you get into the higher ranges like $100+, with wines that have been aged or need to be aged, you can come across some outstanding bottles, but you can also be very disappointed. You’re expectations are always too high at that point, it’s tough to be astounded, at least for me.

So what’s the point of all this? Ultimately to lean more towards quality and less towards quantity. America is a country of consumption. I get that, but can’t we at least start consuming better quality things? Sure, I could write about how great a Gallo hearty burgundy goes with a double quarter pounder w/ cheese and fries, every day of the week, but I would much rather discuss how well a great Bordeaux can go with a NY Strip Steak every once in a while! There just is not comparison. If 95% of our country chooses to accept low quality products, I can’t change all their minds, but maybe you can help me bring it to 94%… Cheers… To Good Wine!

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