Posted on March 12th, 2010
Last week, with spring in the air and a spring in my step, I headed along to the E&J Gallo tasting in Dublin’s Merrion Hotel.
Hosted by Peter Foley from Cassidy Wines and O’Leary PR, Cal Dennison, Director of Winemaking and Nicole Hitchcock, Senior Winemaker took us through some of the Gallo range, starting with the Barefoots, Gallo Family, Redwood Creek and Turning Leaf.
Watch the video below and/or continue to read about the wines on show.
If I had gone in with any romantic notions of artisanal winemaking, they were quickly dispelled with the term “chemometric sensorial grape maturity assay techniques”. This was closely followed by the term “largest boutique winery” which seems a slight oxymoron.
That said, it’s clear that there’s a whole lot of effort which goes into making their wines.
Above all, what came out strongly was strategy. Most of the wines on show last week were for a specific wine drinking demographic. It’s not a demographic I’m in but that’s okay.Rather, it’s the wine novice, those new to wine or those who don’t ask too much of what’s in their glass. It’s tasty, fruity and it’s the type of wine doesn’t demand attention. They’re not the deep, brooding complex wines we love to savour, though that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable.
Indeed, Steve Heimoff, a US wine writer I have a lot of respect for, wrote about this recently:
“Do we wine aficienadoes make too much of “savoring”? No. Great wine, like great cuisine, is an extraordinary experience. And that may be the ultimate definition of the difference between an 85 point wine and a 99 or 100 pointer: Can it be savored? Not just “is it good?” or “is it easy to like?” or even “does it go well with food?,” but “Can you sip it again and again, as it warms in the glass, and be astounded?”
Consistency over complexity is the key. This really is the key to the overall strategy: knowing your audience and serving them consistency consistently.
To the wines
We started with the Barefoots and moved through the Gallo Family Vineyards, Redwood Creek then the Turning Leaf. There seemed to be a bit of a pattern. In the earlier wines, ripe fruit and sweetness dominated.
In particular, the “White Zinfandels” (which are actually pink). Sweet strawberries and cream were the main flavours in the Barefoot while the Gallo Family White Zinfandel is more Jolly Rancher cherry. That sounds a little simplistic, but what’s not to enjoy about either?
The earlier wines were the Farrelly brothers, well made and very easy to enjoy. They may have lacked the depth of the Coen brothers, but they’re aimed at a different audience, though not necessarily a mutually exclusive one.
The Redwood Creek reds were more “sophisticated” wines, where they become more actor than extra in this production. The reds from Turning Leaf were similiarly sophisticated, yet very smooth. However, it was the Chardonnay which really stood out for me. A nose of stonefruits, and buttered toast. To taste, a honey and yeasty flavour with a soft creamy texture. Soft oak with none of the harshness which has given good auld Chardonnay a bad name. “Burgundian” wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
So, it’s quite clear as the tasting progressed the wines started growing out of adolescene into adulthood. To keep the Hollywood analogy going, they became less Pamela Anderson and more Helena Bonham Carter – darker, more brooding and intriguining.
This reflects the brand strategy, get ‘em in easy, and develop with them as their tastes become more sophisticated. Perhaps Farrelly brothers versus Coen brothers is too stark a metaphor. Maybe, looking across the range it’s more like a Pixar movie – something to enjoy at many different levels.
Regardless of the brand, analysis and research are key characters. Careful, detailed analysis of all stages of wine production, kaizen-like continuous improvement and the confidence of knowing exactly what’s in the customer’s glass matches what the customer wanted.