Should you be drinking wine from the supermarket?

Dec 8, 2023by Andrew Lowry

This week we are going to teach you the difference between mass-produced, supermarket wine and small-scale, artisanal wine. We are going to teach you the science behind making wine that lasts decades without using any added chemicals. And we are going to teach you a few dirty little secrets that the wine industry has up its sleeve to keep you coming back year after year.

First, what's the difference between supermarket wine and all other wine, or, in our case, artisanal wine? And are there no artisanal wines in the supermarket? 

The term "supermarket wine" applies to large production, commoditized wine, that you will find in the majority of major food and beverage retailers -- think BevMo, Vons, Walmart, Albertsons, Kroger, Trader Joe's, Target, Whole Foods (kinda), Publix, etc. 

Like everything else in life, these wines also fall on a spectrum of best supermarket wines to worst supermarket wines — not all are bad, but 85% of them are overpriced and loaded with sugar and chemicals (a wine producer can legally place 72 diffferent chemicals in their wine at varying levels and they don’t have to list a single one on their bottle! This is trick number #1 of the wine industry.)

To give a quick example of the spectrum of bad to better: think of Apothic Red as one side of the spectrum and maybe a new wine out there called Avaline (owned by Cameron Diaz) as the other side of the spectrum. 

The big 4 distributors on the west coast (and assuming nationally but we don’t know that for sure)

Most wine you see on the shelves in the supermarket are distributed by 4 major wholesalers: RNDC, Young’s, E&J Gallo, and Southern Glazers. There are others, but we’ll stick with these.

These four companies hold massive influence within the wine world. They are huge corporations who own and distribute 90+% of the wine you have seen before.

These companies buy wine at huge quantities from producers for pennies on the dollar, and turn around and sell it to retailers. Or, they make it themselves with the companies they own and make a better margin.

A very small amount of wineries in these portfolios manage to stay true to ethical winemaking practices while also achieving the scale required to make it worth it for these distribution companies to distribute their wines — OR these wineries are now so famous for making out of the world wines that it is worth it to feature them in their portfolio. One example of this is Ridge Vineyards out of the Santa Cruz Mountains which makes some of the best and most sought after wines in the world. 

To be continued…


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