Looking ahead for Thanksgiving wine choices

October 22, 2022

My effort to attract interest in cellaring did not pique the expected curiosity. So, I’m moving to more dark-ruby pastures. For those who contacted me, I recommend following this link to a very well-written, broad-based article titled Popular Investment Wines, It has a plethora of fine recommendations, links and information on available, accessible possibilities for your exploration. Longtimers are aware I think a subscription to Winesearcher is as necessary as a cork extraction device for serious wine bibbers.

Moving on, W. Blake Gray just dropped a great article on the tortuous evolution of Constellation brands, which has now decided, “Cheap wine is bad business.” The gist is, after buying a variety of cheapo and high-end winemakers, Constellation had become the world’s largest wine company, selling 104 million cases by 2009. As of February 2022, following a skein of losses from trying to divest many of their ill-fated ventures, they are selling 15 million cases, having dropped by two-thirds the past three years. Constellation is moving into cannabis and whiskey.

Their rationales in 2009 said, “We see the heart of the wine business being wines sold between $5 and $15 at retail, so that is the heart of our strength – it’s where we lead and where we see expanding our leadership position." In 2021 they posted, "Constellation divested the majority of its popular and mainstream wine and spirits portfolio in 2021 and is focused on competing predominantly in premium and fine wine and craft spirits segments." They did not mention buying Ballast Point craft beer for $1 billion and selling it for $100 million four years later, or their cannabis losses of $1.06 billion so far this year. It appears that Constellation has no mojo, until you reach the real bottom line. Blake’s article contends that where Constellation has shined is getting more money for the same grapes. He cites the example of using Mondavi grapes in Schrader. He also contends, “Americans like sweet wines that pretend that they're dry, and Constellation has figured out how to get consumers to spend $50 instead of $5 for them. Its Kim Crawford brand is big because New Zealand wines are still big.” Whether you are a fan of these machinations or not, the stock price has risen from $35 in October 2012 to $250 this September and $229 today. BTW, this is not stock market advice, just to illustrate that it is possible Constellation is doing something right. They are definitely banking on Mary Jane legalization and tricking the public. Some names Constellation has retained: Meiomi, The Prisoner, Kim Crawford, Mondavi and Schrader, plus Modelo and Corona beers. According to Gray, Constellation, which bought Schrader in 2017, still hasn’t listed the brand on its website. He contends they don’t wish to lose the “Parker era 100-point sheen.” 

Look for these Italian wines from Zenato. Valpolicella Superiore 2019, 91 McD under $20. Ruby red, cherry, raspberry, almonds and barrel spice aromas. On the dry palate, balanced tannin/acidity/alcohol with cherry, vanilla and some dark chocolate. Finishes cleanly with some earth notes. Those who enjoy Ripasso can look for Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2018. These are made by placing the Valpolicella juice on the lees from the Amarone production, which causes a secondary fermentation, increases alcohol and darkens its color while adding complexity. Dark ruby, redolent of black currant, blackberry aromas underlined by barrel spice, pepper and leather hints. These are smooth with nice balance and a 14% alcohol kick; 88 McD under $23. If the 2016 is languishing on the shelf, it is a better option. Similar profile with some rose aromas added; 91 McD around $25. Fans of well-made Amarone Riserva recognize they can be pricy. 2016 Sergio Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva DOCG is worth the candle, 96 McD. I bought some for $129 plus shipping. Dark ruby, mixed bouquet of cherry, plum, raisin, anise, vanilla, toasted nut and barrel spices, smooth tannins, juicy mouthfeel with balsamic back flavors, concentrated, ripe but with sufficient acidity to carry the package. Was withheld five years before release. Ready 2024 but will improve for years. These gain great value after 10 or so years. Think Thanksgiving!


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