Should the United States have a wine classification system along the lines of what you find in other countries like France, Italy or Germany? That is the question that came to mind as I drank this wine.
You see, this wine is very clearly aimed at the bottom of the market. After all, it’s a non-vintage “American” wine – meaning they can source the grapes from anywhere within the 50 states (and maybe even anywhere from within North or South America as that would still be a truthful claim) and they can blend grape juices from more than one harvest year to get a potable product. If this were sold in France, it’d be a Vin de Table which is their lowest rung of classification. While that classification doesn’t necessarily mean a vintner will charge less per bottle than a competitor in the Vin de Pays class, it does serve as a quick indicator to the consumer that they shouldn’t be paying top dollar.
Although the regular retail price of this wine is by no means top dollar, it is considerably higher than the wines which are of the same ilk and against which this wine appears meant to compete. For instance, the Charles Shaw wines can be had at the local Trader Joe’s for $3.29, and the Three Wishes line at Whole Foods is priced exactly the same. Why, then, does the local Safeway put a regular price of $6.99 on this bottle? Could it be to snag uneducated consumers unawares? After all, I bought this on sale for $3.49. So it looks to me like the store realizes that is about what this Chardonnay should be selling for – period.
Winemaker: Quail Oak (by The Wine Group for Safeway)
Price: $6.99 at Safeway
Notes: This Safeway private label Chardonnay was a bright lemon yellow. It’s body was on the lighter side of medium with good acidity while alcohol came in at 12.5%. On the palate I found pear, grapefruit, grass, and a touch of honey. At times during it’s trip across my tongue it was quite weak. Overall, though, it was pretty much OK.
Having recently tasted and posted about a Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw white, I thought I’d grab a bottle from the Three Wishes line of wines at Whole Foods – priced suspiciously toe-to-toe with the TJ wines. This is a Chardonnay and the Chuck was a Pinot Grigio. Not the same thing at all. So this can’t be considered a comparison.
Winemaker: Three Wishes (by Concannon for Whole Foods)
Price: $3.29 at Whole Foods
Notes: The color of this inexpensive Chardonnay was – big surprise – yellow. The hue did seem to have more “color value” than most Chardonnays I’ve seen. Well, on second thought, maybe I shouldn’t be throwing around terms like that. I’m certainly no graphic artist, but I’ve heard them talking about Pantone color, hue, color value, etc. at work. I can’t give you an exact PMS (Pantone Matching System) number for it. Let’s just say it was colorful and cheery to look at. On the nose I caught scents of citrus, honey, white pepper and hints of wildflowers. The body was in the medium range with a bit of a coat-the-tongue feel to it. I thought the acidity was a little low, and the alcohol was at 12.5%. I usually prefer Chardonnays a little drier. On the tongue, I tasted some citrus, oak, honey, white pepper, and green herbs with floral notes. Overall, this wasn’t a terrible cheap white. It wasn’t offensive. Even so, I think it could definitely use some tweaking to get the balance of flavors, acidity and sweetness in sync. But again, it’s $3.29 a bottle. While I wouldn’t personally serve this at a dinner party, you may like it well enough to use it as your house white.
Yet another new winemaker [new to me] on the shelves of my local Whole Foods! Sometimes it pays to get a birds-eye view. In this case, I’m talking about going upstairs to the little café Whole Foods has on an upper level that overlooks the store. I happened to run into a friend up there, and we chatted while standing against the railing. As we caught up, I explained to him that my mission on this visit was to rummage through the wine selections because I’m a wine blogger now which he seemed to thing was, um … interesting. lol Anyway, during the chat, I glanced across the huge expanse of the store, and my eye caught sight of a display of wine bottles NOT located in the wine section but very near the dairy section instead. (Don’t ask me why they were there! I guess that’s where they had the space available.) With a sign atop them that read $4.99, I couldn’t resist, could I? By the way, based on the winery’s locales I’m thinking that this is another label from The Wine Group. If anybody has the 411 on that, please leave a comment.
Winemaker: Harthill Farm Vineyards
Price: $4.99 at Whole Foods
Notes: In the glass, this Chardonnay was a vibrant yellow. On the nose I caught whiffs of pear, oak and lemon. The body was medium (for a white), acidity was good, and alcohol was at 12.5%. Flavors for me were pear, lemon and oak with hints of pineapple. On the finish there was a green herbal flavor – not quite grass, but along those lines. On the finale with the herbal note, the citrus played on the palate and lingered quite a long time. In addition, there was a chalkiness to this Harthill Farm white that, while initially adding interest, became a bit annoying by the last sip. Overall, I’d say this is a fairly decent Chardonnay for the price. I wouldn’t recommend this for just sipping due to the chalkiness, but I’m sure it would be fine with food. With it’s light sweetness and citrus flavor component, I’m guessing it might be good with fish tacos.
Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur. See “About” for the full disclaimer.