‘Big brands are a big letdown’ consumer magazine says

  • Thursday 3 March 2005

Australian and American brands have been heavily criticised by consumer magazine Which?

The UK consumer magazine tasted a Chardonnay and a Merlot from the top 11 brands in the UK and came to the conclusion that ‘big brand names are a big bland letdown.’

The wines were successful in one respect: they were reliable – only one was faulty. But no wine scored more than 13 out of 20, well below the normal set of scores in a Which? tasting.

The panel was highly critical of the wines. One taster ‘rarely found’ character and balance, another found some ‘passable’ wines, but ‘in general this was a shocking experience,’ while another said most of the wines lacked ‘freshness and vibrancy.’

The reds were considered better than the whites. One panellist found some ‘good varietal fruit character and ripeness’ but added if consumers were prepared to be ‘adventurous’ they would find much better value.

Brands tasted included Lindemans, Rosemount, Hardys, Penfolds, Blossom Hill, Stowells, Jacob’s Creek, Banrock Station, Kumala, Gallo and Piat d’Or.

Only one ‘Best Buy’ (ie best value for money) was selected: Lindemans Cawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, which scored 13 out of 20. Rosemount Diamond Label Merlot 2002 came top overall, followed by its sister wine the Diamond Label Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 04.

Two Australian Chardonnays topped the whites: Lindemans Bin 65 2004 and Hardys Nottage Hill 03.

John McLaren, California Wine Institute United Kingdom director, said he found the exercise ‘patronising’, and that Which? was taking an ‘ivory tower’ approach.

‘I don’t know which experts were on the panel but I would think that experts are not the right people to do an exercise like this. They were looking for depth and complexity but that is not what people who buy the wine week in and week out look for.

‘They haven’t been conned into buying this wine. People buy it because they like the style.’

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