Supermarket Wines vs. Artisanal Wines

Dec 8, 2023by Andrew Lowry

Should you be drinking wine from the supermarket?

supermarket wine aisle


Are you curious about the difference between the wines you find in your local grocery store and those from small-scale, artisanal producers? This week, we're pulling back the curtain on the wine industry to reveal:

  • The stark differences between mass-produced and artisanal wines
  • The science behind creating long-lasting wines without artificial additives
  • Some insider secrets the wine industry doesn't want you to know

Let's dive in and explore the world of wine like never before!

What Sets Grocery Store Wines Apart?

Defining "Supermarket Wine"

The term "supermarket wine" refers to large-production, commoditized wines commonly found in major food and beverage retailers such as:

  • BevMo
  • Vons
  • Walmart
  • Albertsons
  • Kroger
  • Trader Joe's
  • Target
  • Whole Foods (to some extent)
  • Publix

The Spectrum of Supermarket Wines

Not all grocery store wines are created equal. They fall on a spectrum from worst to best, but it's important to note that approximately 85% of them are:

  • Overpriced
  • Loaded with sugar
  • Full of chemicals

The Chemical Conundrum

Here's a shocking fact: wine producers can legally add up to 72 different chemicals to their wines without listing a single one on the bottle. This is just one of the tricks employed by the wine industry to keep consumers in the dark.

Examples on the Spectrum

To illustrate the range of supermarket wines:

  • On one end: Apothic Red (typically considered lower quality)
  • On the other end: Avaline (owned by Cameron Diaz, marketed as a "cleaner" option)

The Big Players in Wine Distribution

The Dominant Four

Four major wholesalers dominate the West Coast wine distribution market (and likely the national market):

  1. RNDC
  2. Young's
  3. E&J Gallo
  4. Southern Glazers

These corporations wield enormous influence in the wine world, controlling over 90% of the wines you're likely familiar with.

How They Operate

These distribution giants:

  • Purchase wine in massive quantities from producers at rock-bottom prices
  • Sell to retailers at a markup
  • Often produce their own wines for even better profit margins

The Rare Exceptions

A small number of wineries within these large portfolios manage to:

  • Maintain ethical winemaking practices despite the pressure to scale
  • Achieve such renown that distributors can't ignore them

One notable example is Ridge Vineyards from the Santa Cruz Mountains, known for producing some of the world's most sought-after wines.

Artisanal Wines: The Craft Alternative

What Makes a Wine Artisanal?

Artisanal wines are typically:

  • Produced on a smaller scale
  • Crafted with more attention to detail
  • Made using traditional or innovative techniques that prioritize quality over quantity

The Benefits of Choosing Artisanal Wines

By opting for artisanal wines, you're likely to experience:

  • More unique flavor profiles
  • Higher quality ingredients
  • Wines that reflect their terroir (the environmental factors that affect a crop's qualities)
  • Support for small, often family-owned businesses

The Science of Long-Lasting Wines

Natural Preservation Techniques

Artisanal winemakers often employ methods to create age-worthy wines without relying on artificial preservatives:

  • Proper grape selection and harvesting at optimal ripeness
  • Careful fermentation and aging processes
  • Appropriate use of sulfites (a natural byproduct of fermentation)
  • Optimal storage conditions

Why These Methods Matter

Understanding these techniques can help you:

  • Appreciate the craftsmanship behind quality wines
  • Make more informed purchasing decisions
  • Potentially save money by investing in wines that improve with age

Wine Industry Secrets Revealed

Marketing Tactics to Watch Out For

Be aware of these common industry practices:

  • Misleading label designs that suggest higher quality
  • Inflated "original" prices to make discounts seem more attractive
  • Limited edition releases that create artificial scarcity

How to Become a Savvier Wine Consumer

To navigate the wine world more confidently:

  • Research wine regions and producers
  • Attend tastings to educate your palate
  • Don't be swayed by flashy marketing or high prices alone
  • Consider joining a wine club that focuses on artisanal producers

Online Shopping for Artisanal Wines 

Ready to explore the world of artisanal wines? Visit Harvest Wine Shop's website! We specialize in small-production, high-quality wines that truly represent their origins.

  • Discover unique wines you won't find in supermarkets
  • Get expert advice from our knowledgeable staff
  • Take advantage of our local wine delivery service in San Diego

Don't settle for mass-produced wines when you can experience the best of artisanal winemaking. Order online for delivery within San Diego. Heighten your wine experience with Harvest Wine Shop!