Can you answer this question? Before you open a bottle and smell and taste a rosé, let’s see the number of possible answers that might cause you to think the wine is NOT a rosé:
- The wine is not pale pink to light/medium/dark red in color.
- The wine is not made from red grapes.
- The wine does not state the type of grapes that are in the wine.
- The wine does not come from an area that makes rosé.
So let’s assume you see a bottle of wine and it fits all the above criteria:
- It is pale salmon pink in color.
- It is made from red grapes.
- The grapes are 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache and this is disclosed on the label.
- It is made in the Bouches du Rhone area of France. This is an area that is well known for making rosé. This is also on the label.
Now let’s say it is a 2011 vintage and the price is $12.99. Would you think it was a rosé? Below is a picture of the bottle:
Well, I thought this wine was a rosé. And, I was wrong. At least I think I was wrong because when I opened the bottle, smelled the wine, and tasted it, it was nothing like any rosé I have ever tasted. And, since my experience with drinking rosés is in the thousands of bottles, I would suggest that I know a few things about rosés. So what was this wine? I have no idea. But, what I know is that I did not like it. It looked like a duck, but it did not have any other resemblance to a duck. So as far as I am concerned it is not a duck.
I bought the wine at Costco. It looked like a rosé. But, it wasn’t. And not only did it not smell or taste like a rosé, it was grassy, herbal, thin and lacking fruit. I did not like it at all, rosé or not! When I examined the bottle more closely I saw that the word rosé did not appear anywhere on the label. But, a lot of rosé wines have the word “rosé” in tiny print. The fact that I did not see the word rosé at first glance meant nothing to me. It was a wine I had never heard of and it looked like a rosé so I gave it a try. Here’s what it says on the label: 2011 Domaine Des Masques, Essentielle, Syrah–Grenache, Y. Cuilleron, C. Mestdach. So go figure! Is it a rosé or not?
And here is what it says on the back label:
So, shame on me? Or not? I’m a big boy so I will take the hit. But, shame on Costco for buying and selling a wine to consumers that looks and, by all other appearances, is a 2011 rosé at a time that 2011 rosés are coming to market. There are lots of choices. The store where I purchased this bottle had only 2 rosés for sale. With such a limited selection, you would think that a rosé they would offer for sale would bear some resemblance to what most people would expect. Recently, I posted an article “Do wine and toilet paper have anything in common?” It was based on an interview with the head of wine buying at Costco that was done as part of a recent CNBC special “The Costco Craze: Inside the Warehouse Giant.” (To see that article click here ).
My article generated quite a bit of comment and a lot of it negative for my defending Costco and its approach to selling wine. I did not feel that most of the comments reflected my 30 years or so of experience as a Price Club (the predecessor to Costco)/Costco shopper. But, my experience with this wine points up a real flaw in their approach to selling wine. This wine looked like a rosé in all respects except it did not say rosé. So what? If a wine looks like a red wine (it’s red) or a white wine (it’s white) would you expect to open them up and find that they did not look, smell or taste like a red or white wine? Of course not! So why should it be any different for a rosé? And, since Costco sells a limited number of wines to mostly novice wine buyers without any information or help in determining what to buy, why would they even think about something that was so far removed from what most people would expect?
Here are a few possibilities:
- The relatively new head of wine buying at Costco is Annette Alvarez Peters who some people think lacks the knowledge to be in charge of wine purchases for the largest wine retailer in America.
- After the CNBC program, which resulted in the article that I responded to in the above referenced Underground article, many people criticized her approach to buying wine.
- She famously responded in the interview that selling wine was like selling toilet paper which I used as a rhetorical question in the title of my recent article.
- Some said she had a lack of experience and others said that Costco paid little attention to what wine they bought or how they cared for it.
So after initially dismissing the criticisms, I would now have to say that there seems to be some merit to them. After my experience with this 2011 Domaine Des Masques Essentielle Syrah–Grenache it seems pretty clear to me that someone was probably not paying much attention. After all, if a wine like this is sold in a wine shop staffed by wine professionals, they would have tasted it before buying it. They could then buy and recommend it if they liked it and thought it would appeal to their customers. And, they could explain to their customers that even though it looks like a rosé, it does not smell or taste like one. Fair enough. I didn’t like it, but so what? Maybe other people would like it if they knew what it was? But, the point is that a wine like this that is different than what it appears to be needs to be explained to people. A mass merchant like Costco has no business subjecting unknowing customers to such a product. So again, shame on you Costco! And, shame on the wine buyers at Costco who should know better.
In Vino Veritas,