Saturday, November 25, 2006

Americans Prefer Cheap and Fun Wine

Few days ago, I came across an article from Chicago Tribune that talked about Americans' choice of wines. Pretty interesting.

Here it goes...

"Are American diners xenophobic and cheap? You've got to wonder, a little, looking at a recently released survey of the most-frequently ordered wines in U.S. restaurants in 2005.

The listing, issued by Restaurant Wine, a trade journal based in Napa, Calif., showed 52 of the top 60 wines ordered were American. Only two were French and six were Australian.

Four of those six Aussie wines are from the bargain Yellow Tail line and the other two on the list are pretty inexpensive too. (Not that the top 10 American wines were pricey either; think Kendall-Jackson vintner's reserve chardonnay, Beringer white zinfandel and Inglenook chablis.)

Yellow Tail's chardonnay ranked eighth, the shiraz ranked ninth, the merlot came in 20th and the cabernet placed 47th.

"It's astounding," said publisher Ronn Wiegand of Yellow Tail's rankings. His research was based on industry sources and from hundreds of interviews with restaurateurs, distributors, importers and wineries throughout the United States.

What it speaks to is the enormous popularity and brand recognition enjoyed in the U.S. by inexpensive Australian brands such as Yellow Tail.

Their success is easy to understand: The wines are fun, fruity, accessible and packaged with brio. And they're catching on.

Just ask Larry Kaplan of The Wine Cellar in Palatine, Ill. He usually doesn't sell wines available at supermarkets because supermarkets can buy more and sell it for less.

A customer came in and rattled off a "laundry list" of five inexpensive wines of which Kaplan had none.

"He said, 'You must carry Yellow Tail,' and I said, 'No sir, I don't.' And he said, 'You don't carry any good wine,'" Kaplan said with a chuckle.

Goodness is subjective, but there's no quarreling with the fact that cheap Aussie wines are generating lots and lots of money for Australian winemakers, who seem to have an inexhaustible supply of fun, boldly packaged wines to flood our shores.

The Aussies have "sort of stampeded the market" with bargain wines, Wiegand said. This has occurred even at the expense of pricier, higher-quality wines from Down Under.

What Wiegand expects, and Australian winemakers certainly hope, is that inexpensive wines such as Yellow Tail will be viewed as "starter" wines, meaning these brands will encourage American drinkers to eventually move up the ladder in terms of quality and price."

That's an interesting article to read, isn't it. Cheers...

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