Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In Vino Veritas: Fresh & Easy Announces 63 Wine Awards to Date; Will Face Off Again Against Wine Award Winning 'Big Kahuna' Trader Joe's at State Fair

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market announced today its specialty-blended wines have won 63 awards in various wine competitions over the last six months.

Simon Uwins, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market USA marketing director, said over half of the retailer's 65 varieties of proprietary blended wines have won awards in the competitions the grocer has entered its wines in.

"Most award winning wines are priced under $10, including two which retail for only $1.99 in California and $2.99 in Arizona and Nevada." Uwins said.

You can read a selected list of the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market proprietary blended wines that have won wine competition awards in this press release issued by the grocery chain today.

Using wines to help build the Fresh & Easy retail brand

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is entering its special-blend wines in as many wine competitions as it can as a way to create an image of offering quality wines at reasonable prices for its small-format, combination basic grocery and fresh foods grocery markets. The idea is to create fame and a consumer following around the proprietary-blended, value-priced wines as one element of the many, as a way to draw customers into the stores and keep them there.

This is very much the model Trader Joe's has used to build its reputation as a grocer which offers quality wines at reasonable prices.

For example, as we reported in this March 4 piece, "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," both Trader Joe's and Tesco's Fresh & Easy entered a number of their respective proprietary-blended wines in the last California State Fair Wine Competition, considered by most to be the most prestigious wine judging competition in the U.S., and one of the top such events in the international world of wine.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market won two Silver Medals and numerous Bronze Medals for a number of its specially-blended wines at the judging, which was a strong showing, particularly since it was the retailer's first time participating in the competition with its wines.

However, Trader Joe's took first place, winning a Double-Gold Medal, in the Chardonnay varietal category, with its $1.99 per-bottle Charles Shaw Chardonnay, more commonly called "Two Buck Chuck."

Winning doesn't get any bigger in a California State Fair Wine Competition category than getting a Double-Gold Medal, which means in this case Trader Joe's "Two Buck Chuck" Chardonnay beat out other Chardonnay brands costing as much as 20-times more than the grocery chain's discount priced Charles Shaw proprietary wine.

F&E, TJ's will face off in California State Fair wine competition

This year's version of the prestigious California State Fair Wine Competition begins later this month. The tastings and judging last until early September. The winners are then announced sometime after that.

Both Trader Joe's and Fresh & Easy are entering wines in the State Fair competition this year. It should be interesting to see how both retailers do in the competition. Both did well last year, despite going up against some very premium wineries, along with some very expensive bottles of wine in various categories.

"Fresh & Easy works directly with a Master of Wine to develop most of the company's 65 specially selected wines. Masters of Wine are highly regarded throughout the industry as extensively trained wine experts, and there are only 251 in the world," according to Mr. Uwins.

You can learn more about the Master of Wine designation here.

Tesco knows wine

United Kingdom-based Tesco PLC, parent company of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market USA, is one of the top global wine retailers, known for its innovation and its creation of proprietary store brand wines using various brand names.

Tesco was one of the first retailers to popularize Australian wines, for example, including the now popular Shiraz varietal from that country. In fact, Tesco Fresh & Easy's "The Big Kuhuna" value wine (it's $1.99 a bottle in California and $2.99 in Nevada and Arizona) is Australian wine. By contrast, Trader Joe's same-priced Charles Shaw value wines are California wines.

A wine even Robert Parker likes

Perhaps Fresh & Easy's most critically acclaimed proprietary-blended wine to date is its Reflexion Reserva Rioja (often just called Rioja), from Spain. It's a 2003 vintage from the Bodegas Palacio region. Fresh & Easy grocery stores sell the wine for $9.99 a bottle.

The wine received 10 "Parker Points" from wine guru Robert Parker on his Parker scale. A perfect "Parker Point" score is 100. Parker, who's arguably the most influential wine judge and writer in the world, doesn't give out 90's easily. That the $10 bottle of Fresh & Easy's Spanish Rioja received a 90 from the parsimonious Parker is an achievement.

End Game: Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market and Wine: Recent Stories From Fresh & Easy Buzz:

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