Sunday, October 5, 2008

Buyer Beware: Grape Trickery at Beringer, BV, Redwood Creek, Mark West

We used to claim that some of the best affordable Pinot Noirs came from big producers such as Beringer. But the Beringer Pinot we loved was from California. Then Beringer began sourcing grapes from France, and later from Italy. We liked those wines less (France) and a lot less (Italy). So we sorta gave up on Beringer Pinot.

Last night, we opened a Redwood Creek Pinot we were familiar with and it was completely different from our previous bottles. What happened, again, is that the winery stopped sourcing grapes from France and it’s now Italian. A similar experience happened with a BV Pinot a few months ago.

BV is now owned by Diageo; Beringer by Beringer Blass; Redwood Creek by Gallo; and Mark West by Constellation. (At least they were the last time we looked. Huge beverage companies trade wineries like commodities nowadays.) All are just little parts of big wine conglomerates, and the factory wines they are producing more-and-more taste like it.

In our opinion, if a winery is going to completely change the source of its grapes, it needs to produce a completely different label highlighting that fact. As it is, maybe the less-knowledgeable (or rushed) consumer will be fooled and just buy a bottle of cheap Pinot and be satisfied enough to buy it again. But our guess is that the quality and flavor fluctuations will turn off many customers – like it has for us.

We don’t want to scrutinize every label, especially of a wine we’ve had before and enjoyed. So guess what, Beringer, BV, Redwood Creek? We’re just gonna buy someone else’s wine next time. Guess this just gives us a chance to try other new and potentially interesting wines.