April 24, 2006

Whining About Wallaby Wine

An article that ran in yesterday's business section of the NY Times trumpets the success of cheap Australian Yellow Tail brand wine (You know, those wines with the label that features a leaping wallaby, which many mistake for a kangaroo). Yellow Tail gets yet more ink in a separate Times magazine article, too, which discusses the trend toward using cute animals (so-called "critter labels") to pimp more wine. While the wallaby label might be eye-grabbing and the use of its likeness savvy marketing on the maker's part, the Yellow Tail shiraz, in my humble opinion, has more in common with Dr. Pepper than it does with a good, solid bottle of red wine. Yeah, it's $6 a bottle and for that price you can buy it by the case at Costco and load up the ole Suburban. Its fans (This wine has many; Its shiraz is the best-selling red in the country and the company made $77 million off its largely U.S.-based sales last fiscal year) say it tastes better than most $8 or even $10 bottles of American wines. Um, I beg to differ. If we are talking bigger producers, give me a bottle of J. Lohr or Ravenswood (I whine about this wine, too, but it IS better) any day and dump the Wallaby off the Golden Gate!
Americans are drinking more wine than ever, which we are annoyingly reminded of in every article about wine these days. I question whether this has anything to do with the enjoyment of wine. Maybe it's all the talk about the wine/heart health connection and the whole French paradox. (Drink red wine. Eat steak with butter. Sit on your ass. Get skinny) My inkling is that it might have everything to do with the sugar fix increasingly required by our increasingly diabetic nation. Beer, of course, gets you hammered. But it isn't sweet. And it gives you gas. In the Times article, Jon Fredrikson, a California wine industry consultant, is on to something when he calls Yellow Tail "the perfect wine for a public grown up on soft drinks." In other words: sugar junkies.
But Dr. Pepper, at under $1 for a 12-ounce can, doesn't come with quite the kick of a glass of Yellow Tail. But the kick shouldn't be the only thing that matters, as New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik eloquently argues here. Wine is about more than the buzz. It's about the ritual, the wine's story, its label, the lore.
That said, I found this article, which describes how so-called wine experts couldn't taste the difference between white wine dabbled with food coloring and red wine both hysterical (and humbling even though I'd never consider myself an expert). Maybe at our next blind wine tasting party I will hide a bottle of Yellow Tail among a bunch of other wines and see if I can tell the difference. Not sure I could.

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Posted by Blogpire Productions at April 24, 2006 9:43 AM
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