The trade publication, The Drinks Business, recently drew up a list of the world's top 10 most powerful wine brands, calculating factors such as share of the market, company growth, brand awareness, and heritage. It was an interesting endeavour given that the delicate world of wine doesn't usually go in for such lists. Still, it is interesting to note the winners. The California wine giant Gallo came in at number one, followed by Concha y Toro, Hardy's, Robert Mondavi, Yellow Tail, Sutter Home, Lindemans, Beringer, Jacob's Creek and Blossom Hill.
The list tells quite a depressing tale. Why? Because, by and large, the more powerful the brand, the lower the general standard of the wine. But what about Hardy's Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, Lindemans' Limestone Ridge Shiraz-Cab or Concha y Toro's Don Melchor Cabernet, I hear you ask? These are all excellent wines, but they represent the very apex of the brand pyramid, and as often as not are there to satisfy the company shareholders. It's a shame about Hardy's and Lindemans in particular, because these once were true Australian icons.
This was all brought home to me after an uninspiring tasting of eight of Australia's top brands at Australia House in London recently. One of the highlights was, as expected, the sublimely rich, peachy 2012 Hardy's Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, £25, Asda online, Majestic. And also Jacob's Creek performed creditably, its 2012 Reserve Riesling, £10.29, Asda, Tesco, showing lots of mouth-watering citrus fruit. Mostly, however, the tasting only served to reinforce my perception of the relationship between volume of sales and general standards.
So, while having a brand – as opposed to being connected to an estate – isn't, per se, a bad thing, the lesser-known names are usually the best options. McGuigan's The Shortlist brand, for instance, comprises an excellent range of wines at reasonable prices. The floral-scented McGuigan The Shortlist Riesling, £15, Tesco, is great. Equally, the McGuigan The Shortlist Cabernet sauvignon, £15, Tesco, is fragrantly leafy.
I'm also an admirer of Bellingham's Bernard Series brand, from South Africa, for delivering good value with its blends and varietal. Take, for instance, the 2010 Bellingham The Bernard Series Barrel-Fermented MMM, £14.99, Tesco, sawinesonline.co.uk, it is a stonking value blend of merlot, malbec and mourvèdre, whose complex aromatics are underpinned by plummy sweet fruit. And to be fair to Concha y Toro, its Marques de Casa Concha range is one of Chile's best value brands, the 2011 Marques de Casa Concha Syrah, Rapel Valley, £11.99, Tesco by the case, winedirect.co.uk, is particularly seductive. So, the brand is dead, long live the brand!Reuse content