Tuesday, March 4, 2008

In Vino Veritas: Fresh & Easy Store Brand Wines Win Two Silvers and Lots of Bronze Medals; Trader Joe's 'Two-Buck Chuck' Chardonnay Wins a Double-Gold

Seven of Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's Fresh & Easy store brand wines recently have been awarded medals at the San Francisco Chronicle and California State Fair Wine Competitions.

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is the largest judging of U.S-produced wines in the nation. Entered wines are judged by a panel of wine experts from all sectors of the industry--wine writers, buyers, vintners and others--over a period of days according to international wine judging rules.

The California State Fair Wine Competition is arguably the most prestigious wine competition in the United States, and is recognized internationally among members of the global wine industry. It's held as part of the California State Fair in Sacramento each year. It's judges are among the most experienced and prestigious wine experts in the world.

The recently-concluded 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition judged 4,235 wines entered by 1,500 wineries from throughout the U.S.

Five Fresh & Easy brand wines won a bronze medal in the competition in their respective categories. Those wines are: Fresh & Easy Hilltown Cabernet Sauvignon ($6.99 bottle), Fresh & Easy Napa Family Vineyards Merlot ($10.99 bottle), Fresh & Easy Hilltown Merlot ($6.99 bottle), Fresh & Easy Hilltown Chardonnay ($6.99 bottle), and Fresh & Easy Hilltown Sauvignon Blanc ($6.99 bottle).

Additionally, a sixth store brand--Fresh & Easy Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.99 bottle) won a Silver medal in the San Francisco Chronicle competition.

Over at the California State Fair judging, where over 3,000 wines from 600 different wineries competed, Fresh & Easy store brands scored well with one of its wines. That wine, Fresh & Easy Northwood Cabernet Sauvignon earned a Silver Medal in the prestigious wine competition. Further, the wine received 92 points out of a possible 100. The Northwood Cab was one of six wines in the Silver award category to receive the highest score a Silver medal-winning wine can obtain in the judging.

The Fresh & Easy brand Northwood Cabernet Sauvignon sells for only $3.99 bottle in the grocer's Southern California stores, and $4.49 bottle in its Arizona and Nevada grocery markets.

The Fresh & Easy brand wine won in the 2007 California State Fair Wine Competition, which was held last summer. The event is held every year beginning in late July and ending on September 3. The 2008 competition runs from late July to September third this year.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market hired Philip Reeman, who is one of only 265 wine experts in the world to have earned the title Master of Wine, to create its Fresh & Easy store brand wines.

Fresh & Easy also has taken a page from Trader Joe's wine merchandising innovation (it's incredibly-selling Charles Shaw brand $1.99 bottle of wine called "Two-Buck Chuck") and is selling its own version called "The Big Kahuna (TBK)." TBK is from Australia and comes in two varieties: Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz. TBK sells for $1.99 in the Southern California Fresh & Easy stores and for $2.99 in the Arizona and Nevada grocery markets.

Trader Joe's "Two-Buck Chuck (TBC)" comes in seven varieties: Charles Shaw brand Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Valdiue (like a Beaujolais Nouveau) and in a limited addition Pinot Grigio.

Charles Shaw brand is a California wine though, produced exclusively for Trader Joe's by Ceres, California-based Bronco Winery, using wine grapes from California's Central Valley and Napa-Sonoma regions. The Charles Shaw "Two-Buck Chuck" brand is sold only at Trader Joe's grocery stores.

The Tesco Fresh & Easy wine folks will need to kick "The Big Kahuna" up a few notches though if they expect to compete with Trader Joe's "Two-Buck Chuck."

TJ's $1.99 bottle of wine surprised the wine world at this very same 2007 California State Fair Wine Competition by winning a prestigious "Double-Gold" medal for its "Two-Buck Chuck" Chardonnay, beating out wines which cost as much as twenty-times it's $1.99 retail price. The Double Gold Medal means the wine was judged to be the best Chardonnay out of all Chardonnay variety wines entered in the competition, regardless of price. [Read more about the "Two-Buck Chuck" win here at the very bottom of the linked page.]

Trader Joe's has set the bar high for Fresh & Easy's same-priced "The Big Kuhuna" wine. We suggest both Trader Joe's and Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market enter its respective $1.99 premium-value wines, "TBC" and "TBK," in this year's 2008 California State Fair Wine Competition, which is only about five months away.

The two small-format grocers--one owned by the United Kingdom's Tesco (F&E), the other by Germany's Aldi supermarkets (TJ's) can then have an old fashion 'smackdown' in the premium-quality/value priced wine segment. May the best wine...or grocery chain...win.

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