POSTED ON 19/04/2014

Do you know your top 10 wine brands? Do you care? Not even wine is immune from the tyranny of the list, the beloved trivial pursuit of popular culture. Calculating factors such as share of the market, growth, brand awareness, relevance and heritage, The Drinks Business, a trade publication, recently turned up a list of the world’s top 10 most powerful wine brands. And the winner is? The California wine giant Gallo, followed, in descending order, by Concha y Toro, Hardy’s, Robert Mondavi, Yellow Tail, Sutter Home, Lindemans, Beringer, Jacob’s Creek and Blossom Hill.

It’s a depressing tale, not least because by and large the more powerful the brand, the lower the common denominator 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 tiny window-dressed apex of the brand pyramid pushing plonk in volume, as often as not to satisfy the company shareholder. It’s a shame about Hardy’s and Lindemans in particular because these once were true Australian icons.

This was 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 indeed the sublimely rich, peachy 2012 Hardy’s Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, £25, Asda online, Majestic. And Jacob’s Creek performed creditably, its 2012 Reserve Riesling, £10.29, Asda, Tesco, showing lots of mouthwateringly dry zesty lime citrus fruit. Mostly however, the tasting served to reinforce that truism about the relationship between volume and lowest common denominator.

And yet, and yet…it also showed the brand per se is not necessarily a bad thing, and that the lesser-known brand is usually the better option. McGuigan’s The Shortlist brand, for instance, comprises an excellent range of wines at reasonable prices. The floral-scented, spritz-fresh, bone dry, exotically citrusy, fine textured 2012 McGuigan The Shortlist Riesling, £15,, was one of the highlights. Equally the McGuigan The Shortlist Cabernet sauvignon, £15,, is a fragrantly leafy, richly blackcurranty drop of super succulence and precision.

From South Africa, I’m an admirer of Bellingham’s Bernard Series brand for overdelivering value with its varietals and blends. Take for instance the 2010 Bellingham The Bernard Series Barrel-Fermented MMM, £14.99, Tesco, sawinesonline: a stonking value blend of merlot, malbec and mourvèdre whose complex aromatics are underpinned by gorgeously rich 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,, in particular, showing seductively, sweetly spice black pepper enveloping blackberry fruit power and vanilla-spliced oak. The brand is dead, long live the brand!

Something for The WeekendSomething for The Weekend

Night In

2013 Bonarda, Nieto y Senetiner

Broodingly deep in colour with floral and dark cherry aromas, this bright new vintage red made from bonarda specialists Nieto packs a punch of peppery, spicy dark brambly cherryish fruit sweetness tempered by a damson-fresh finish. £8.99, Marks & Spencer

Dinner Party

2010 Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir

Redolent of a bowl of fresh raspberries, this super-fragrant Kiwi pinot noir is opulently full-bodied in sweetly ripe mulberry-filled fruitiness and framed by a delicate dusting of oak spiciness and lively succulence of texture. £11.33, reduced from £17.99, Tesco.

Splash Out

2012 Fortnum and Mason Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon, Cullen.

Sweet aromas of berries and mint underpinned by liquorice spicy oak lead into a rich cassis and blackberryish glassful of fruit with smooth chocolatey edge and vivacious, balancing freshness. £20.82, down from £24.50, Fortnum & Mason.


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