Printable version of a series of features from 

by Jamie Goode

Part 1
introduction: two genres, two cultures

The world of wine as we know it has changed radically over the last couple of decades, and while many of the changes have been for the better, some are giving cause for concern. Jamie Goode introduces a new multipart series tracing the rise of the wine brands, and asks whether this could spell the beginning of the end for interesting, affordable wine. 

two genres
There are two genres of wine. On the one hand we have wine as a commodity: grapes are grown, crushed and made into wine, which is then sold cheaply and consumed uncritically. In this case, the consumer views wine in much the same way as they would treat flour, milk, fruit juice or instant coffee. As long as the quality is adequate and the price is right, they aren’t too worried about the source. This first category accounts for the majority of wine across the globe.

On the other hand we have wine that is purchased and consumed not because of low price, but because of interest. This interest stems from the fact that there exists a diversity of wine types that are each able to express elements of their cultural and geographical origins in the finished product. Crucial here is the importance of the starting material -- the grapes. Unlike lager or whisky, where the agricultural input (wheat or barley) is minimal and the human input is dominant, winemaking is best viewed as a process of sterwardship rather than one of manufacturing.

The diversity of wine is bewildering. Not only are hundreds of different grape varieties in relatively common use, but there are also the complex influences of soil types, climate, viticulture and winemaking practices. There’s also a rich traditional heritage in the more established wine-producing countries, whereby cultural and viticultural influences collude to produce a variety of wine classifications (appellations in France) that have their basis in geography. This diversity is what makes wine so interesting. Divorced from its geographical origins, wine is only marginally more interesting than fruit juice, lager or gin. And you don't get people naming either of these three beverage types as one of their interests or hobbies.

These two genres of wine – I’ll call them here commodity and terroir wines (see my definitions box) – have coexisted quite happily, and there’s no reason that they can’t continue to do so, sitting side-by-side on the shelf. They serve different functions, and are consumed in different situations, and often by different groups of consumers. However, the two cultures to which the title of this series involves are not in fact terroir and commodity wines – instead, I’m looking at the distinctions between ‘branded’ and ‘estate bottled’ wines (again, see the definitions box). It’s unlikely that we’ll get very far in this debate without first understanding that wine is not a unified whole, but consists of these different genres.  

definition of terms used

Appellation The unit of a classification system based on geography. I’m less concerned here with the rules that each appellation may have for viticulture and winemaking than I am with the geographical definition that sets regional boundaries to the appellation. 
Terroir wine Terroir is a useful, but hard-to-define term, coined by the French. It refers to the site-specific differences in wines that are caused by factors such as soil types, drainage, local microclimate and sun exposure. I’m using the term terroir wine as an umbrella term for any wine that has some sort of link to geography – where the grapes were grown and also local cultural influences.
Commodity wine An inexpensive wine purchased in most cases not for its intrinsic qualities but because it serves a purpose, like milk, flour, sugar or instant coffee. 
Branded wine Again, it’s hard to pin down a watertight definition for this. Loosely, I’m referring to a wine that doesn’t come from a strictly defined patch of ground, but is instead marketed by a brand name or ‘make’. Branded wines are typically made from either brought-in grapes, or grapes from several disparate sources which may include many vineyards owned by the same company.
Estate wine A wine that is made from grapes from a fairly narrowly defined patch of ground, such as a single vineyard, or sometimes several neighbouring vineyards. These are usually owned by the producer, but for my purposes here exceptions may exist where a winemaker may have growers from whom he or she buys grapes and them makes single-vineyard (or similarly geographically defined) bottlings. 

two cultures
Having established that wine is not a unified whole, but is split into two genres of terroir and commodity wines, now let’s begin to address the main focus of this series: the rise of the wine brands. I don’t think it is overstating the case to suggest that this is now the key issue facing wine globally. Of course, wine brands have been around for a while – famous examples include Portugal’s Mateus Rosé and Periquita, the infamous Black Tower and Blue Nun from Germany, and even Australia’s upmarket example Penfolds Grange. But it is only in recent years that they have surged forward in a seemingly unstoppable fashion. The result is the emergence of two cultures of wine, superficially similar but of fundamentally different natures, and one of which now threatens the existence of the other. Brands cannot sit happily alongside non-branded wines; instead, they threaten the very soul of wine itself.

In this important series of articles my goal is to explore the impact that the rise of the brands is having on the wine world. On the way, we’ll take a look at what branded wines are like, why branding doesn’t really suit wine and why there has been such a strong commercial pressure for producers to move towards branded wines, away from the more traditional estate model. My hope is that this will be a provocative but well reasoned piece, and that it will persuade readers to join the cause of interesting wine.  

the two cultures of wine: examining their characteristics
branded wines  estate wines
  • production is scaleable

  • typically made from bought-in grapes

  • often ‘international’ in style, lacking a sense of place

  • usually defined by winemaking style

  • made to a style and to fit a price point

  • because production limited only by the supply of suitable purchased grapes, these wines are often widely available

  • heavily marketed

  • lack diversity


  • made from grapes grown in one vineyard, or several neighbouring vineyards

  • vineyards supplying the grapes are usually owned by the company making the wine, or are supplied by growers on long-term contracts

  • limited production, subject to vintage variation

  • typically display regional influences or a ‘sense of place’

  • availability is sometimes a problem, because of the limited production

  • marketing is often minimal

  • hugely diverse


Part 2
Top-ender or bottom-ender?
Different philosophies of wine

There’s an important philosophical distinction that underlies the branding debate, and it surrounds the grapes. Are they just the raw materials for a manufacturing process, or is there something special about them that derives from where and how they are grown? Taking this a little further, is there more to wine than just what is in the bottle?

The Guardian’s wine writer Malcolm Gluck made a telling revelation last year when he was interviewed on Andrew Jefford’s Liquid Companion BBC Radio 4 programme. Drawing a parallel with Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, he divides wine critics into two groups, the top-enders and bottom-enders. ‘If you remember’, says Gluck, ‘the great war was between those who wished to eat their eggs from the narrow side up, and others who cracked their eggs from the round side up.

‘I think it is the same with the wine critics’, he continues. ‘I’m a critic who’s a top-ender – I look as wine as it comes out of the bottle. I’m interested in rating it, seeing how it compares with many other wines and recommending it on that basis. There are other wine critics who are bottom enders, who look at the sediment – who look at the bottom of the bottle and all the romance that goes on; that has accumulated, if you like, in that sediment.

‘And there are wine critics who are less interested in recommending bottles than talking to vineyard owners about the sort of worms that they have in the vineyard, and the sort of grape varieties and all that arcana and mysterious goings on which create the legend of the wine.

‘As far as I am concerned’, he states, ‘legends count for nothing; the real romance of the bottle is the liquid that comes out of it. And that’s it.’

So, top-ender or bottom-ender? In wine appreciation, this is a tremendously important philosophical distinction. If Gluck is right – that wine is to be judged and appreciated solely on the basis of what the liquid in the bottle is like – then all context is irrelevant. We have to discard the very factors that make wine interesting, most importantly the cultural and geographical elements that help make wine such an enriched, diverse subject.

I am going to make an assumption. You, dear reader, are interested in wine. I’m guessing this is the case, because you are motivated enough to be visiting a wine website. So let me ask you this: what do you find interesting about wine? Is it just what is in the bottle? Is it simply that you like the flavour of certain wines? Or is it because there is actually more to wine than just fermented grape juice?

For me, the interest in drinking wine stems not only from the fact that it can taste nice, but also because of the ‘arcana’ of such factors as grape varieties, vintage variations, regions, producers, terroir, ageing curves and winemaking techniques. I’m interested in where the grapes are grown, and even the lives of the people who make it. It’s such a rich subject, and strip away this richness and all you have is an alcoholic drink with little more interest to it than lager, fruit juice or milk. I drink lager, fruit juice and milk, and enjoy them, but I wouldn’t buy a book about them or go on a trip to see where they were made. I’m labouring this point a little, but it’s an important one.

I wouldn’t want to be a top-ender critic, like Gluck. If a wine writer’s job consists solely of recommending bottles on the basis of just what is in the bottle, then there is little interesting for that individual to say. Strip down the complex subject of wine to the level of the perceived interest of the ‘general reader’, and it ends up being so mundane and dull that the general reader ends up wondering why they ever bothered reading about it in the first place.

Of course, top-enders see nothing wrong at all with brands. As long as the wine tastes OK, then who cares whether it was manufactured using hi-tech winemaking trickery from grapes trucked in from which ever mega-yielding irrigated vineyards happened to be producing them at the right price that year? But while I join in with the top-enders in celebrating the fact that the brands mean tasty wines are available cheaply for the masses, the reality is that the current dominance of the brands means a loss of diversity for everyone. The rarer, more interesting wines can’t hope to compete in such a competitive multiple-dominated marketplace, and have become an endangered species.

Part 3
Parasites and mimics

Let’s take a slightly different look at brands by using a couple of biological analogies. In one sense, brands are parasites. They live on the back of the traditional wine industry. The romantic, alluring image of wine is largely generated by the traditional and cultural values embodied in the produce of the classical European regions. Estate bottled wines from famous regions have established wine as a drink with associations of class, elegance and sophistication. The wine brands are cashing in on this image that has taken hundreds of years to build, by marketing themselves as ‘lifestyle’ products that offer this tradition and sophistication – the good life. To see that this is the case, you only have to look at the sorts of associations they build with their expensive marketing campaigns. In short, the brands steal the positive image of limited-production estate wines; they themselves lack any interest, but they trade on the reputation and image of the diverse and truly interesting estate wines. This is parasitism.

Just as Disney’s Epcot Center allows visitors to visit a dozen or so nations of the earth in the space of a morning by means of its ersatz creations of various global destinations, branded wines offer an easily accessible route through the complex world of wine. The similarity between theme park simulations of reality and the imitative nature of many branded wines is readily apparent to anyone who has experienced the real thing. 

The second biological analogy is that of mimicry. You are a caterpillar and you want to avoid being eaten. Your neighbours have devised a potent chemical defense system that makes them unpalatable. The problem is, that once a bird has realized these caterpillars are unpalatable, it is too late for that individual, who has already been bitten in half: it’s scant consolation then to be spat out. So it is important to advertise this unpalatability by means of distinct colouration. However, this then presents you with an opportunity: by mimicking this colouration, you’ll dissuade birds from eating you without having to go to the expense of assembling the chemical defences the colouration advertises. However, mimicry only works when there are more genuine articles than mimics in circulation.

How does this analogy apply to brands? Well, they are imitating the genuine thing: estate-bottled wines. Brands are ambitious. They want to command the same prices as estate wines, without being constrained by such inconveniences as limited production and vintage variation. A bit of clever winemaking, smart packaging, smarter marketing and wide availability, and a branded wine will be invading the niche previously occupied by estate wines. The mimicry works because there are still enough of the genuinely interesting estate wines, but as the brands become more prevalent at higher price points, will people begin to realise that they are just being offered a mere imitation of the real thing? It’s a possibility. Their mimicry may fail, and the demise of the more upmarket brands could cause the reputation of the genuine article – estate wines – a lot of damage.

Part 4
The failure of the wine press

This section puts me in a difficult position. I’m very much a beginner in the field of wine journalism, and I’m reluctant to write what could be seen to be an attack on fellow members of the Circle of Wine Writers, many of whom are much better writers than I am and almost all of whom have far more experience than I do. But what I’m about to say needs to be said, and so I apologise in advance to those who feel stung by it. It is not meant personally. Here goes…

The wine press, by and large, have failed to speak out against the soulless uniformity of branded wines. There are exceptions, such as Andrew Jefford and Tim Atkin, but the majority of  journalists and publications have been so overawed by the economic power, prevalence and success of the brands that they have joined in with uncritical applause. They are like the neutrals at a sporting event who wait to see which way the game is going before deciding which team to cheer for. There are very few in the wine press who are prepared to plough their own furrow and go out on a limb alone (forgive the awful mixed metaphors here); the press tend to hunt in packs with an eye on who else is recommending what. We’ve therefore ended up in the dreadful situation where the very people who should have been protecting consumers from the dreadful blandness and uniformity of branded wines have betrayed their readers and been busy promoting these soulless brands with gusto.

Newspaper wine columns seem to be a threatened species at the moment. There are several reasons for this, but perhaps one of the contributing factors is that the newspaper wine hacks have done themselves out of a job. By and large they’ve been supportive of wine brands. In an attempt to appeal to a wide audience their recommendations have been largely restricted to inexpensive, widely available wines: they are targeted deliberately at a ‘general’ audience. But are general readers interested in reading about uninteresting branded wines? If that’s all they are looking for they hardly need to read a wine column. Branded wines fill the supermarket shelves: if you want a taste-alike Chardonnay for around £5 the best advice is probably to see what’s on special at the gondola end of your local supermarket wine display. If all newspaper wine columns are doing is telling you where to buy dull-but-safe wine at discount, it’s akin to a travel writer focusing solely on package holidays at Mediterranean beach resorts. No wonder they’re being axed. 

But let's try to be even handed. This difficulty with newspaper wine columns may simply reflect deficiencies in the genre of communication. If anyone is attempting to communicate wine to a general audience, they have to make what they say accessible to people without specialist knowledge, and if they are going to recommend wines, it helps if those wines are generally available. So it could be that anyone writing a newspaper wine column is forced into a bit of a corner, and what we see is skilled professionals trying to do their best job with a rather difficult set of constraints forced upon them.  

Part 5
Can brands be good?

So are there circumstances where branded wines are a good thing? To answer this question we need to return to one of the points made in the opening article of this series regarding genres of wine.

It’s not useful here to consider wine as a unified whole: instead, we must split it into two genres, which we can label as ‘commodity’ wines and ‘terroir’ wines. Where branded wines can be a good thing is in this first category: arguably, the rise of the brands has improved the quality of inexpensive every day wines dramatically over the last two decades.

Two decades ago, buying cheap wine was a hugely hit or miss process. A random selection of a dozen inexpensive everyday wines from the supermarket shelves would likely yield several bottles that were genuinely unpalatable. This has changed, and the Australians can take much of the credit for this: branded wines from the likes of Lindemans, Penfolds, Rosemount, Orlando (Jacobs Creek) and Hardys were cheap, tasty and reliable. Chile, Argentina and California joined the fray, and South Africa began to compete along with a spattering of brands from traditional European countries. Now it’s difficult to find badly made or unpalatable wines on the supermarket shelves, so in this sense the consumer has genuinely benefited from the rise of the brands, albeit at the cost of diversity. This is where good brand work: they offer the consumer a familiar name that acts as a guarantee of consistency and quality. People know what they are getting; they have confidence in the brand name.

But the brands have set their sights higher than the £3-5 price band where they have enjoyed such success. While most people rarely venture out of this price bracket in their wine purchasing, the branders are determined that if they should choose to splash out – spending, say, £7-15 – then their purchase should be one of the upwardly mobile higher-priced brands. I am less at ease with branded wines in this category than I am with the commodity brands. Each sale of a heavily marketed branded wine at £10 from a supermarket is one less sale of a genuine terroir wine from an independent wine merchant. In many cases, the more interesting, more authentic wine is losing out in this sort of scenario to a product of far less merit, which is a shame.

Of course, it has to be said here that some brilliant high-priced brands exist, just as there are some horrible estate wines. One such super-brand wine is Penfolds Grange, the flagship wine of the entire Australian wine industry. Grange is a true icon, and fully deserves its place among the wine world’s elite. But it is still a branded wine, not tied down to a geographic locale and made to some sort of consistent style and quality each year. Another example: Champagne is a region where branding is paramount: most of the famous wines in Champagne are brands by the definition that I am using here, and not terroir wines. A third example of upmarket brands concerns the rise of ‘label only’ premium wineries, such as Sean Thackrey with his Orion in California. Over recent years Orion has been sourced from several different high quality vineyards, and there are many other such wines like this, selling for high prices but relying on contract fruit, whose source may change. There is certainly room in the market for these sorts of wines. In a sense, this is branding at its most benign: the name of the producer is the ‘brand’ that signals something to the consumer about the quality of the product.

Part 6
The modern retailing environment

Wine, in its traditional guise, doesn’t sit well with the modern retail environment. At its heart, wine is an agricultural product, not a manufactured one. And with wine, small is usually better. To the big retailer, this is a bad thing. The way the modern multi-outlet branded/franchised shop is configured, continuity of supply and economies of scale are hugely important. You don’t get this with wine: vintage variation – at times a frustrating reality, but one which adds an extra level of interest – and typically the limited production of each producer mean that wine is not an easy product to deal with. It usually comes in small parcels, and the production level changes each year.

Modern retailing is big business. There is no longer any room for small players, unless they can find some niche too small to interest the multiples. To survive in the modern retailing environment you need to be big, highly visible, and with lots of outlets. Effective marketing in this modern environment is an expensive business and you can only really make use of it if you are a big player. This automatically rules out almost all estate wines, leaving the floor open to the brands.

Consider the lot of a wine producer looking to break into the UK market. With 75% of wine sales in the UK going through supermarkets, you might want to target them first. So you approach the supermarket buyers. If you are from a relatively unfashionable country like Portugal, you’ll probably be talking to a 22 year old junior buyer fresh out of college who has, perhaps, two slots to fill at a £3.99–4.99 price point. They want serious volumes, a fresh, fruity style, and the cheaper the better. If you are from Australia, you may have better luck, but the volumes required will be huge and the price points will be very keen. Even at the higher price points, the continuity of supply and volume issues favour the branders very heavily. If you are selling wine from recognized appellations such as Chablis or St Emilion, then the buyers will be looking for the best Chablis at the entry-level price point for this wine, effectively ruling out the estate wines here also. A supermarket would much rather have a vaguely palatable Chablis at £5.99 – which will fly out of the door – than a really good one at £8.99. That’s life.

If you are producing an estate wine, then these considerations mean you’ll probably be restricted to the specialist wine merchants and high street chains. The commercial pressure towards the creation of more branded wines, even from the classical wine producing countries, is therefore huge. The tragedy is that there is little room left in the market for the genuine article: wines made by small, family-owned producers. Big companies rarely make interesting wine, because they are dealing with large volumes and they have to pitch their style to appeal to the average drinker. They can’t afford to take risks by making wines with ‘edges’. The result? All widely commercially available wines are beginning to taste the same. 

The illusion of choice
Supermarkets and other multiple outlets don’t like dealing with the diversity and complexity of wine, but they are quite attached to the ‘idea’ of diversity. So typically they will stock hundreds of different lines, giving the shopper the impression of a broad portfolio of wines. The problem here is that this diversity is actually an illusory one. The wines are almost always industrially produced, in large quantities, and to a formula. It makes life a little easier for the supermarket critics, because they can effectively do their job just by picking wines more-or-less at random. But while customers now experience far less risk of picking a bad bottle, they also have far less chance of picking a wine that is at all interesting. The buyers are convinced that all the punters want are modern, clean, fruity wines without too much acid or tannin, but will they grow bored with the homogeneity of style? Encouragingly, I’ve had non-wine-geek friends confide in me that they are troubled by the way that wines all seem to taste the same these days.

My hope is that the buyers and the wine drinking public will come to their senses and see that while uniform (high) quality is desirable, a uniformity of style is disastrous. Branded wines, with their manufactured, processed character and lack of connection with the soil can’t be the way forward. Worst of all, their growing dominance of the marketplace threatens the very existence of the genuine article, estate wines.

Part 7
The move from local to global

One of the underlying trends spurring on the growth of brands is a societal change of scale, with a move from the local to the national, and ultimately to the global. This trend has been a gradual one, gathering pace over the last 50 years or so. The driving factor has been the expansion and increasing sophistication of the media, and in particular television.

Over the course of a couple of generations, our perception of the world around us has changed dramatically. In western nations, as recently as 50 years ago people had a primarily local focus. With the increasing prevalence of television, suddenly people’s perception of the outside world became more immediate and vivid. This was aided by factors such as the increasing popularity and accessibility of foreign travel, the establishment of the motorway network, and the changing cultural mix of the population: distance was no longer such an obstacle; foreign was no longer quite so foreign. The advent of colour television, and the introduction of commercial TV were also important steps in shifting the focus from the local to the national – and even further afield. The emergence of satellite/cable television, mobile communications and latterly the Internet have all aided the accessibility of the media, and we have now seen the emergence of truly global television programming. Thus the pace of change has intensified still further.

No more local heroes
Let’s use sport as an example illustrating the effects this shift has had (apologies to non-sporty readers). A generation back, most decent sized towns had their own football league club, and many larger cities had a couple or more. It was only under exceptional circumstances that you didn’t support one of your local sides. The football world was a more equal one back then. Yes, some clubs did consistently better than others – Liverpool started a long run of dominance of the English game in the late 1970s, for example – but things were much more equal. It was possible, for instance, for clubs like Nottingham Forest and Ipswich, to come from nowhere and enjoy a period of great success: the driving force behind these clubs was not a huge pot of cash, but instead exceptional management combined with a good crop of young players coming through. It was also possible for West Ham, a club then playing second-flight football, to win the FA cup. Today this would be hard to envisage.

Football is very different now. Because of the increased flow of money into the game, primarily from global television deals, a winner-takes-all scenario has developed. Youngsters who support their local club and have local heroes are rare. Distressingly (for a Man City fan, at least), across the country youngsters are seen wearing Manchester United football shirts, and most commonly with the name ‘Beckham’ on the back. No more local heroes, just global ones. A recent report suggested that just half of the UK’s professional football clubs are likely to survive over the next few years.

How does this relate to wine? Well, it is the historical local societal focus, aided by a degree of isolation, that enabled the emergence of ‘terroir’ wines. Look at the diversity of regional cuisines and wine styles that developed in the classical wine producing countries. Is this rich heritage merely a historical artefact? It seems at odds with modern living and tastes. Should these regional gastronomies be relegated to the role of entertaining ‘foodie’ tourists? That would be a tragic waste: surely it’s a noble goal to preserve an interesting and diverse cuisine as an integrated facet of daily life.

The societal shift from local to global has been the prime driving force behind the shift to brands. The advertising medium that consistently reaches the majority of the people is television, but TV advertising is expensive. Large scale is therefore and intrinsic property of successful brands: because brand building (and maintenance) is an expensive business, you need to sell a lot of product to cover these costs. What this local–global shift has done is to create a ‘winner takes all’ scenario. The biggest and most visible players in each market take an increasingly large slice of the cake, leaving just the crumbs for the minnows. This phenomenon was recently seen in action in the cinema world, where the impending release of just two blockbuster films, the second Harry Potter film and part 2 of Lord of the Rings, meant that there simply weren’t going to be any screens left for other films to be launched in the UK over this period. These may well be fine films, but this is terrible for diversity, and diversity is what is threatened by the winner-takes-all consequences of the local–global shift.

It’s unsurprising, perhaps, that the drinks business has participated in this societal change. Drinks companies are anxious to create bigger and better brands. It seems almost futile to resist this change, and it could be argued that for commodity wines, branding is no bad thing. But, as we have seen in an earlier section of this feature, the branders have set their sites on not only the cheap commodity end of the wine market, but also the premium end – currently the last refuge of true ‘terroir’ or estate wines. I think this is a move to be resisted. Wine is different to most other drinks in that it is primarily an agricultural – not a manufactured – product. It doesn’t suit brands. Force premium wines into the branded straitjacket and they will inevitably be compromised. 

This brings us back to the theme of this series: the emergence of the Two Cultures in wine. It no longer seems sensible to regard wine as a unified whole, considering terroir or estate wines in the same context as branded commodity wines. [As an aside, I suspect that wine writers and critics who ignore this dichotomy will increasingly find themselves in a bit of a muddle.]

On the one hand we have a move to manufactured, branded commodity wines: consistently made, with clean, fruity flavours and fashioned from a handful of international superstar grape varieties. The link with geography and vintage will grow weaker to the extent that the country of origin may even cease to be an important selling point. These wines will dominate the major retail outlets: supermarkets and high street wine shops. They will be heavily supported by advertising campaigns. Shopping-list-style wine columnists will have a tough job finding anything remotely interesting to say about these wines, but there will be such a commercial push behind them that the critics will manage to say something, I’m sure. 

On the other hand, terroir or estate wines will retreat into a niche. They’re already making a hasty exit from the major retail outlets; expect this exodus to continue. Fine wine will of course survive; the casualties will be many of the inexpensive and mid-priced estate wines from traditional wine producing countries. Whereas there is currently a market for wines from quality minded small family-owned estates, their problem will be that there is simply no retail channel left for them to access non-wine-geek consumers who form the bulk of their market. The UK’s independent wine merchants are mostly doing a good job, but they can only carry so many lines. And while the domestic markets in traditional markets are currently supporting producers of interesting wines, will this be true in five or ten years time? What if the brands take over there too? The two cultures isn't just a UK phenomenon. 

Of course, top-enders see nothing wrong at all with brands. As long as the wine tastes OK, then who cares whether it was manufactured using hi-tech winemaking trickery from grapes trucked in from which ever mega-yielding irrigated vineyards happened to be producing them at the right price that year? But while I join in with the top-enders in celebrating the fact that the brands mean tasty wines are available cheaply for the masses, the reality is that the current dominance of the brands means a loss of diversity for everyone. The rarer, more interesting wines can’t hope to compete in such a competitive multiple-dominated marketplace, and have become an endangered species.

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