At our Big Game party today (Cal won!!!), the host insisted that we not bring wine. When I got to his house, I saw that he had 12 bottles wrapped up for a blind tasting! Very interestingly, he put a lot of information on each bottle: the grape, the region, the year. Pretty much everything except for the brand. When we asked him why he did this, he said that he wanted us to focus on what we liked about each wine. As you can see from the title, after four hours of watching the game and tasting 9 wines, he did the great reveal. All the wines were Kirkland! Today we’re going to explore Costco’s Kirkland wines.
What We Tasted
We started with a French Champagne followed by a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. We then moved to reds and had two French Rhone blends (Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache), a Spanish Rioja (Tempranillo), an Italian Sangiovese, a Napa Cabernet, an Argentinian Malbec, a Russian River Pinot Noir and a Sonoma County Old Vine Zin. My favorite was one of the Rhone blends. I found it to be the most mature and complex of all the wines we tried. My second favorite was the Sangiovese. All the wines were good. Not necessarily anything to write home about, but definitely nothing to complain about.
What I Learned About What We Tasted
My friend told me that the most expensive wine in the bunch was $25. Most of the others were in the $10 to $15 range. My favorite, the one with the Côtes du Rhône label, cost a whopping $6.99! Can you say that I’m going to go buy a case? Yes, I am!
Great Information About Personalized Wine
SevenFiftyDaily had a fantastic article from Sept. 2017 about private-label wines, including Kirkland. They said that “When consumers hear the term private-label wines, they may envision Trader Joe’s Two-Buck Chuck or Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand, which includes Chiantis and Malbecs that retail for $6. But what they may not realize is that the private-label market has grown beyond the bottom shelf. Premium private-label wines are popping up at Costco and even Whole Foods…”
SevenFiftyDaily went on to say that, while there is still plenty of inexpensive private-label wine, everybody is getting into the game. In some cases, it’s even hard to tell that the wine is private label. So why the big move? Three key reasons:
- The owner of the private label can have a hand in the making of the wine, which some retailers really like.
- There is no competition. For example, nobody besides Costco is selling Kirkland.
- The retailer can price the wine lower. Truth be told, with no competition, they can price it wherever they want. But they can easily afford the lower pricing, because “according to some estimates, retailers’ margins on private-label wines are as much as double those of branded wines.”
History of Kirkland Wines
The information in this section also comes from the 2017 SevenFiftyDaily article. Costco launched its Kirkland Signature wine in 2003. Costco global wine sales totaled $1.8 billion for fiscal year 2016, with Kirkland wines accounting for 15 percent of their sales.
WX Brands, which was founded in 1999 as WineryExchange, made the original Kirkland wine for Costco. Today, WX has nine full-time winemakers on staff: six in California, two in Europe and one in New Zealand. The company has its own bottling facility in Sonoma County, but it also makes wine at wineries around the world.
Some very impressive winemakers are involved with making wine that goes under the Kirkland brand. But it’s not easy to find out who those winemakers are. Oren Lewin, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategy at WX Brands, explains that “retailers don’t want consumers to know they’re buying a private-label brand. ‘The shopper who buys wine, I think, really wants to believe that every wine on the shelf is still being made by hand, by a family who lives in a little house on a vineyard. If they think that these wines are simply made by some large corporation or by the retailer, they’re not going to value them as much.’”
Do you buy a lot of Kirkland wines? What are your favorites? I’d love to hear about your experiences with this private-label brand. Thanks!
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
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