Selecting a wine from a supermarket shelf can be a daunting task — especially if the wine department is fairly large. One way to make things easier is to find a brand you like and then stick with it.
The first thing you need to know about wines sold in supermarkets is that they are, by definition, mass produced. Rare is the market that stocks limited production, ultra-premium wines, mainly because there aren’t enough bottles for all of the markets around the country. Those releases typically are reserved for high-end grocers and wine shops.
The Charles Shaw brand — a.k.a. “Two-Buck Chuck” — is perhaps the best known example of a mass-produced wine today. But there are many others, and the companies producing them need to find ways to make them stand out — to differentiate them from the crowd. This is where branding and marketing come in.
We recently had the opportunity to taste through the full line of Middle Sister wines, each of which is accompanied by a “nickname” and a “story.” These aren’t about vintages or appellations; they’re about fun. Each carries a suggested retail price of $12, and here’s what we thought of them…
• “Surfer Chick” Sauvignon Blanc — This is a juicy wine with aromas of sweet peas and white flowers, leading to a sweet fruit flavor and finish. Wine Lines rating: 83.
• “Rebel Red” Winemakers Blend — Bordeaux varietals make up the majority of the cuvee, yet the 10 percent Zinfandel component seems to dominate the aroma and flavor spectrum, which includes chocolate, sweet red fruits, volcanic ash and pepper. Medium bodied and easy drinking. Wine Lines rating: 84.
• “Drama Queen” Pinot Grigio — There’s a 15 percent Moscato component in this wine, and it defines the nose, which will remind you of honeysuckle and sweet lychee. In the mouth, a ruby red grapefruit flavor emerges. A real crowd pleaser during the warmer months, so drink it while it’s hot! Wine Lines rating: 85.
• “Mischief Maker” Cabernet Sauvignon — Translucent light crimson in hue, this wine has a spicy nose with ample red fruits that carry through on the palate, and dusty tannins in the finish. Wine Lines rating: 85.
• “Sweet and Sassy” Moscato — The nose shows honeysuckle, lychee, rose geranium and fruit cocktail, and the juice is sweet and pleasant in the mouth. Serve it with ambrosia salad or a slice of pound cake. Wine Lines rating: 85.
• “Wild One” Malbec — Sweet, almost candied, red fruit flavors are joined by a touch of dark chocolate and sweet red cherries, all leading to a smooth finish. Wine Lines rating: 86.
• “Sweetie Pie” Red Wine — The most enjoyable of the Middle Sister wines we sampled, this blend reminded us of a Rhone red melded with California Zinfandel. Perfect for accompanying summertime fare — from burgers to barbecue — it offers notes of cinnamon, clove, candied plum and red berries. The sugar is nicely balanced with the fruit, and the ample acid helps make it all work. We suggest serving this wine slightly chilled. Wine Lines rating: 87.