Apothic Red is not some small-batch, hand-crafted boutique wine. It’s a grocery store wine, available almost anyplace that sells alcohol, and it’s one of the best selling red blends in the country.
Produced by the world’s largest family-owned wine company for a decade, Apothic Red is an entry-level wine, pitched to young wine drinkers and converted beer worshipers. Maybe it’s not aged in pricey oak barrels — it’s hard to tell from the tasting notes — and maybe the production process is mechanized — they make a lot of it — but the result is a smooth-tasting wine with lots of plum and dark grape flavors.
Four years ago, E&J Gallo, the company that makes the Apothic line, conducted a significant survey, comparing the wine drinking tendencies and preferences of baby boomers to millennials. The differences were remarkable, and the findings confirmed the direction Gallo was already heading.
The survey told Gallo that millennials are four times more likely than baby boomers to choose a wine if the label has a personality or shows originality. They like a wine with a backstory, real or not. Boomers tend to look at the label for such information as the region of production and tasting notes. Although they have greater wine insecurity, younger drinkers tend to eschew wine snobbery even to the point of preferring blends over varietals. Millennials like the convenience of canned wine and wine in a box. Boomers not so much.
The results of the survey fit well with Gallo’s long-standing strategy. When Ernest and Julio Gallo founded the company, just after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, they didn’t have much money — almost $6,000, of which $5,000 was borrowed from a family member — but they were brilliant marketers, who sold a lot of low-priced wine all over the country. They led the way in television wine advertising — I have a hard time forgetting the Andre California Champagne ads of my childhood — and they were masters at getting their brands to the front of the store.
The Gallo brothers also started in the late 1930s a program of setting aside one acre of protected wildlife land for every acre planted in vineyards, according to the company’s website.
Now E&J Gallo is in the hands of the third generation, family members who have made the company more profitable, but also even more sustainable and friendly to both the environment and employees. Gallo continues to dominate the market, with more than 100 brands in 110 countries. In April, the company reached a deal to gain an even larger share of the market after agreeing to purchase a line of wines from Constellation Brands Inc. for $1.7 billion. The brands include Clos du Bois, Mark West and others. Constellation, another large U.S. spirits corporation, is making a sizable investment in the Canadian marijuana business.
The latest generation of the Gallo family, headed by CEO Joseph E. Gallo, has maintained the company’s strength in savvy marketing and staying ahead of the trends. For example, the line of Apothic wines — which includes the Apothic Rosé that I wrote about last summer — have a story. It starts with the name, drawn from Apotheca, “a mysterious place where wine was blended and stored in 13th century Europe,” the website says. (Apotheca is a Latin word, derived from Greek, that means repository or warehouse.) Apothic Red is pitched as a smoky, fun, “unique” experience, a wine that dull people would never drink.
In addition to Apothic Red’s normal 750 milliliter bottle, customers can purchase the wine in a two-pack of small aluminum bottles, each containing about a glass and a half. The two-pack holds 500 milliliters and sells for a dollar less than the full bottle of five glasses, but the little bottles are considerably more discreet and “will go anywhere you go,” such as, say, to a picnic, a roof-top party or to the beach. I suppose you also could refill the aluminum bottles with whatever you’d like.
Winemaker Debbie Juergenson, who joined Gallo in 1995, is known for her mastery of blending wines. For Apothic Red, she has mixed Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The result is a red wine with intense color and ripe, dark-fruit flavors that are enhanced by aging the wine with different types of oak, giving it hints of vanilla, mocha and toffee, the tasting notes say.
If you are a baby boomer, this might not be the first bottle of wine you bring out for friends, but it could be the second, because it’s tasty and inexpensive.
For millennials, go for it. This wine is made for you.
Suggestions of wines in the $10 range are always appreciated. Warren Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.