Do commercial wines create wine lovers?

Do big brand wines bring people to the wine category? Or should people be encouraged to bypass them altogether? Felicity Carter asks those in the know.

Stephanie Gallo, chief marketing officer, E&J Gallo
Stephanie Gallo, chief marketing officer, E&J Gallo

When New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov suggested his readers try three mass-market wines, he got a reaction he didn’t expect: nearly 800 comments expressing anger, dismay and outrage. In a subsequent column, he explained why he had suggested his readers try Apothic, Meiomi and The Prisoner.

“Trying these popular bottles, I thought, would etch in stark relief the yawning chasm between mass-produced industrial bottles,” and “wines that are agricultural products”, he wrote. He added: “It may well be that a small group of consumers is able to enjoy both types of wines, but I would say these consumers are more the exception than the rule.”

Asimov is not alone in that belief. Whenever Meininger’s Robert Joseph goes online to praise popular, mass market brands for their ability to engage consumers, he immediately gets a barrage of opposition from people who think these types of beverages don’t deserve to be called wine. 

Not only that, but his detractors argue there is no proof that consumers who drink branded products will ever switch to premium wine and so they do not offer a pathway into the world of wine.

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