A Phenomenally Popular Win
Wednesday - April 28, 2010
About five or six years ago, a friend of mine asked me to recommend a wine she might serve at her son’s wedding. The wedding was to be an elegant, backyard affair, with the kind of budget that required careful monitoring. I recommended a wine that was new to Hawaii, and a fairly new category: Folie A Deux’s Menage A Trois.
She promptly headed down to Tamura’s and ordered it by the caseload. And then ordered more. She still serves it with dinner all these years later, as do most of the people who were at the wedding, their friends, their family members, and thousands of others who’ve come to love the easy and approachable flavor of the wine.
Turns out what we thought was a pretty good value wine has been capturing some serious national attention. This month, a report by Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. shows the Menage a Trois wines (the company is owned by the Trinchero Family, which knows a thing or two about producing wines that appeal to a large audience) is in the No. 1 slot on the “Top 30 Momentum Brands” for 2009.
In Hawaii, Menage a Trois may be the best-selling wine of all time if it continues to stay on its upward trend. At Better Brands, where the wine is housed and distributed, president George Szigeti says he’s never seen anything like it.
“It’s truly a phenomenal brand,” he says. “In my 40 years in the business, I’ve never seen a wine gain this much traction. And everywhere we go we hear people say how much they love it.”
The wines are sold as “red,” “white” or “rose” and are a blend of varietals, packaged to suit an American palate that’s influenced by sweetness and fruit rather than complexity and depth.
Winemaker Rick Oberschulte is understandably more interested in the process of blending the wine than the amazing job the Trinchero Family Estates marketing team has done for the wine, but he does humbly admit that the wine is a runaway success.
“I think that the whimsical packaging obviously helps,” he says. “But the fact is these are very approachable wines, and that makes them attractive to people.”
Another appeal is that the everyday drinking wine is purely Californian, made with grapes sourced from coastal California vineyards, the Lodi Valley and Sierra Foothills.
“We source from a lot of different vineyards,” says Oberschulte, “and although the blend of Cabernet, Zinfandel and Merlot is always the same, we might source different proportions of each varietal from one region or another.”
I was interested in how the blending process is affected by vintage - particularly when dealing with a wine being made in such huge quantities.
“Some years we may be looking for a stronger Cab or a more fruity Merlot depending on the vintage,” says Oberschulte. “Or it might be that we need a stronger, spicier Zinfandel to accomplish what we want in a particular year.”
As we talked about the phenomenal sales in Hawaii, Oberschulte mentioned he’d just returned from a vacation on the Big Island with his wife.
“We were celebrating our 30-year anniversary,” he said. “And I did notice that Menage a Trois was everywhere.”
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