Chasing Tail 

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One wine broker friend of mine suggests that you’re only using a tiny portion of your brain if you buy anything other than “sale” wines in Utah stores. That is, wines that are discounted from their “normal” UDABC retail price. Given the markups that the state imposes on wine prices, paying “retail” is a foolish endeavor, according to this wine expert. Of course, buying only sale wines means forgoing most of the really good, high-end stuff, since most of that never goes on sale. When it does, restaurateurs tend to snap it up before the average consumer even realizes it’s on sale.

But then there is the sticky question of what a Utah “sale” wine really is, since most wines you see discounted (you know, those boxes at the end of each aisle in the wine store) aren’t actually “on sale” at all, but were initially marked up to an inflated retail price and then “discounted” to the price the distributor had in mind in the first place. All of this may sound a little confusing. But the question wine consumers should ask themselves is “When is a sale wine not a sale wine?” And the answer is that a bottle of wine that’s been “discounted” to $7.95 from $10.95 is not a bargain or “on sale” if $7.95 is the standard retail price of the wine in the first place. Make sense?

There’s also a lot of crap out there and much of it winds up “on sale.” In the standard state liquor stores much of the wine available is on sale and much of it is garbage. This has to do with, as Tom Waits once sang, “Volume, volume, turn up the volume.” Cheap, inexpensive wine sells—especially where there aren’t any other options.

When it comes to cheap or sale wines it really is a matter of “buyer beware.” You usually really do get what you pay for. Yet for everyday guzzling, carefully selected sales wines priced well under 10 bucks often are just what the doctor ordered. Some of my favorite non-occasion wines sell for $5.95 to $8.95. One example just arrived in Utah last month, from the land down under.

Australia’s Yellow Tail chardonnay hit Utah wine stores a few weeks ago and savvy consumers bought it all up before I could get my hands on a single bottle—some 360 cases of it. I’m told that this is the biggest and fastest wine shipment to ever sell out in Utah, and the low $6.95 price certainly helped the bottles to fly off shelves. By the way, that’s a $6.95 regular, “everyday” price, not a “sale” price.

The nifty eye-catching kangaroo (or is it a wallaby?) on the label certainly helps a wine like Yellow Tail sell. But so does the flavor, and there’s a lot of it for $6.95. Made by the Casella Winery in Yenda, New South Wales, Australia, Yellow Tail chardonnay (Casella also produces Yellow Tail merlot, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon) is made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes, aged in French oak. It’s a fairly sweet-tasting chardonnay, perfect for American palates, which is probably why Yellow Tail wines are taking this country by storm. After only a year in the market, Yellow Tail is already the third-largest selling wine in the United States.

It’s a good wine for people who like Kendall-Jackson chardonnay. Yellow Tail is silky and medium-bodied, with lots of tropical fruit flavors, citrus and some coconut. Sort of a sexy, cheap tart of a wine, with a soft and creamy finish. Try it with roasted chicken or pastas with cream sauce. It’s the tastiest wine I know of that’s not “on sale.”

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