Wine advent calendars have been a novelty for the past few years. In theory, they sound like a great idea, however, in practice, they trip and fall at the starting line. This year, I decided to try 2 different calendars from 2 separate retailers, Costco and Safeway. In doing research, they both had websites. The parent company was Flying Blue for both calendars. My friend in the wine industry and I found this curious since neither of us had heard of this entity. It wasn’t until we started tasting them that they went horribly wrong.
Initially, my goal was to drink every drop of every bottle. By the third day, it was clear this plan would be the equivalent of self imposed torture. The wines were atrocious but the tasting notes their unpaid interns put on their websites were almost worst. Either they had Covid, couldn’t taste (lucky them…) and were throwing darts at what to type, or they’ve never tried wine (or grape juice) in their lives. In my daily text notes to my tasting partner, I described the wines in such colorful terms as: drain water, offensive, the finish of plain lays salted potato chips, one of these will be just be actual piss an it’ll be better than what they bottle, assault on the palette, daily gut punch, VERY unhappy hour, sewer water…well I think you get the gist of it. Oh but I will give them credit where credit is due, at least they got the colors correct.
It was about halfway thru the month, we discovered who the parent company was. E.&J. Gallo has created a reputation for producing ‘value’ wines from high yield, low quality California fruit that they attempt to offset with questionable winemaking practices (adding artificial, chemically engineered flavors). You don’t get to be the largest producer of wine in California by using high quality fruit and good vineyard care to make jug wine. When people ask me if paying a bit extra for a bottle of wine makes a difference, this is exactly why it does. Over 50% of E. & J. Gallo’s portfolio is under $9. That cost would need to cover vineyard workers, tending to vines, continuous checks on grape and wine health, evaluation on when the proper time to harvest what blocks or vineyards to maximize flavor, harvest employees, wine barrels or other aging vessels, TIME to age the wine, to name a few. When you pay under $9 for most wines, a few of these corners are being cut with an effort to conceal it later in the process.
Over the course of my blog, my affinity for responsible and ethical wine production, as well as vineyard care, will become blatantly clear. If the vines and soil aren’t cared for properly, there is no amount of chemistry a winemaker can employ that can save the wines they produce.
Advent calendars really do a disservice to the wine industry. They are the first exposure many consumers have to numerous varietals they contain. After trying the trash they contain, consumers get turned off from wine not knowing it’s like equating EZ Cheese to a truffle studded brie.
Next year, we will be buying 12 full sized bottles and drinking half each day. It might not come in a cute package, but the lining of my mouth and enamel of my teeth will thank me!