Trying CostCo’s Kirkland house brand wine
As someone who is against the large-scale corporate take over of anything, in particular wine, I find myself on thin ice. I have been to CostCo three times. The first two were part business – I wanted to see what they charged for wine, and part personal – I wanted to save money on my food bill. I didn’t notice their house brand wine on my first visit, and I intentionally overlooked it on my second trip.
On my third visit, however, I decided to give one a try. The placard beside the wine said that the Wine Enthusiast Magazine had scored the wine a 90. I normally have reservations about the reliability of most mass-produced wine review services and mass-produced wines, but curiosity was guiding my hand.
I know that lots of people have strong feelings house labels for retail giants like Wal-Mart and CostCo. CostCo is already the largest distributor of Dom Perignon in the world, so they are a player in the retail wine market. Given the way large retailers operate, I understand the danger they pose for small winemakers.
Winemaking is a difficult business, and some small producers may give up making their own wine to sell their grapes for a profit to some business like CostCo. I suspect that this risk is very real, but I am not sure how to best deal with it. I could boycott their wines, which I had been doing (unknowingly) for my entire wine drinking life, but I was curious about what I was boycotting.
For my first CostCo wine experiment I chose their Kirkland Ti Point Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. I picked it because it was under $10, and I did not want to spend much – you know, just in case.
I tried the wine on a Sunday night with some friends. Right out of the bottle, the liquid actually smelled like wine. In fact, it smelled like a classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: grapefruit, citrus, spice and mowed grass. I’m not sure what I expected, but I was surprised. The wine was light in the mouth, with flavors of grapefruit and citrus. The percent alcohol was 13%, which was slightly noticeable. The wine had enough acid to go with food, however, it could have used a little more for my taste. All in all, it is a “B” wine.
So my first try at their Kirkland house brand left me a little under-whelmed. The wine was well-priced for the current market, but it was not really to my taste. If this is the quality/price ratio that the house brands are looking to produce, I don’t think that wine drinkers have to worry about CostCo taking over the fine wine world. However, if CostCo were to tweak their wines or their packaging a little, they could cut into the market currently dominated by Gallo.
American “table wine” has languished for a long time without much effort being devoted to improving its quality. There were some improvements made when foreign producers, particularly from Australia, began selling wines for $7-$10 that were really good. If CostCo can start another round of quality improvements or price reductions in the table wine market, I am all for it. After all, a bottle of wine should not always cost more than the meal it is paired with. Perhaps a new round of competition between large producers and large retailers will benefit wine drinkers.
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