Betty's Wine Musings

Is E. & J. Gallo Winery Cheap, Great or Both?

You’ve likely known the name E. & J. Gallo Winery for most of your life. If you’re like me, you grew up thinking they made cheap wine. You saw them everywhere. In college, you might have enjoyed Bartles & James, which is part of Gallo. You undoubtedly saw giant jugs of Gallo wine. You saw wines with names like Thunderbird, Ripple and Boone’s Farm. How could these wines be thought of as quality? But guess what. The Gallo brothers (Ernest and Julio) were amazing marketers long before the word marketing was much used. Today we’ll explore this company in detail. Thank you to Wine Spectator and the company itself for their help with this article.

E. & J. Gallo Acquires Denner Vineyards in Paso Robles

This month, E. & J. Gallo announced the acquisition of Denner Vineyards, an award-winning winery, and last year, they acquired 30 brands from Constellation Brands. Some of the labels they purchased are well known, including Ravenswood and Clos du Bois and Manischewitz. Referring to the Constellation Brands acquisitions, the CEO, Ernest J. Gallo, said “The closing of this transaction represents our company’s long-term commitment to the wine industry.”


Denner Vineyards
Denner Vineyards


Their purchases started very early on but have definitely increased during the last 20 years. Their first investment in fine wine was in 1971, when they purchased 50% of the Frei Brothers Ranch in Sonoma. In 1993, they introduced Gallo Estate Wines, which was their first offering in the super-premium category.

The Start of E. & J. Gallo

From their website: “Founded by brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo in 1933 in Modesto, California, E. & J. Gallo Winery is a family-owned winery with more than 7,000 global employees and is the acclaimed producer of award-winning wines and spirits featured in more than 110 countries around the globe.  A pioneer in the art of grape growing, winemaking, sustainable practices, marketing and worldwide distribution, Gallo crafts and imports wines and spirits to suit a diverse range of tastes and occasions, from everyday offerings to boutique, luxury bottlings.”

What Drove the Company

Knowing what consumers wanted was key. The brothers were always in sync with customers’ tastes. While many people talked about the company’s early wines like Thunderbird and Ripple as being subpar, the Gallo brothers knew what people were looking for. The company’s 1933 start coincided with the repeal of abolition. According to Wine Spectator, “At a time when Americans were just beginning to embrace wine and learn about it, the Gallos were providing them with training wheels.” This is why I mentioned marketing at the start of my article. Marketing is all about knowing your customers.


While the Gallos were busy selling their training-wheel wine, they were working to make more and better wine. They secured long-term deals to buy grapes from top-notch vineyards. They also made sure to focus on wine quality. Though E. & J. Gallo wines weren’t considered highbrow, in the 1950s and ’60s the company was buying some of the state’s best fruit, including 40 percent of Napa Valley’s crop. And Julio pushed growers in every part of the state to plant finer varieties, helping to improve quality across the board.

E. & J. Gallo Awards

The company has long been recognized as a great place to work. They also have won a number of awards, including:


  • “Winery of the Century” by the Los Angeles County Fair’s Wines of the Americas competition (1999)
  • “Best American Wine Producer” by the London-based International Wine and Spirits Competition (2000)
  • “Importer of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast (2007)


So here are my questions for you.


  • What do you think of E. & J. Gallo Winery?
  • Did your opinion of the company change based on any of the information I shared?


I’d love to hear your feedback.






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!

Cheers, Betty Kaufman
WineShop At Home

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