A wine sold exclusively at Tesco’s Fresh & Easy US retail venture has scooped 90 ‘Parker points’ in a recent tasting in The Wine Advocate.

This is a timely boost for the UK supermarket chain’s US venture, dubbed ‘a disaster’ by one analyst who suggested sales were as much as 70% below expectations four months after the first store opened.

The wine, Bodegas Palacio’s Reflexion Rioja Reserva 2003, sells at US$9.99 and is one of more than 60 wines in the private label range sold at Fresh & Easy. The store also stocks more than 100 branded wines.

The ranking came in the February 2008 issue of The Wine Advocate – part of a tasting of more than 1,000 wines.

‘To receive this accolade from The Wine Advocate is a tremendous endorsement for the wine,’ said Fresh & Easy wine buyer Karen Fletcher.

Fresh & Easy is Tesco’s first venture into the fiercely competitive US grocery market.

The company opened its first ‘neighbourhood market’ stores last autumn and is investing $2bn in the venture over the next five years.

To date, 59 stores have opened across southern California, Arizona and Nevada, with a total investment of some US$700m.

According to CNN, Tesco is aiming to open 200 Fresh & Easy outlets by February 2009, with projections suggesting that annual sales could hit US$4bn from 500 stores by 2011.

But Michael J Dennis, a senior research analyst with Minneapolis investment bank Piper Jaffray, described sales at the chain to date as ‘a disaster’.

Based on interviews with suppliers, he said sales were running at about US$60,000 a week – 70% down on targeted weekly revenues of US$200,000.

Tesco said it was happy with the venture’s progress to date, but would not release figures, saying it was ‘too soon’ to give a full assessment.

Written by Richard Woodard