AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market  is directly importing five wines priced under $20 this summer. The international varietals include:
• Innovac!ón Torrontés Pinot Grigio, a tart white with hints of peach and apricot made in Argentina from sustainably farmed grapes.
• Allan Scott Millstone Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a New Zealand white with tastes of ripe grapefruit and lemon sherbet, made with organically grown grapes.
• Andes Crossing Malbec, an Argentina red full of jam and spice with hints of ripe, dark cherries.
• Vitiano Cabernet Sauvignon Sangiovese, a medium-bodied Italian wine with ripe plum and black cherry notes and balanced acidity.
• Château Paradis Casseuil Bordeaux, a French red with notes of plum and cassis.
The exclusive wines join Elios Mediterranean White from Greece; Vega Sindoa Viura Chardonnay and Evodia Old Vine Garnacha from Spain; Perrin Nature Côtes du Rhône from France; Presto Moscato Dolce from Italy; and Simi Chardonnay and Cupcake Red Velvet from California on Whole Foods' list of Top Summer Wines.
Themed “New World” meets “Old World,” the wines are meant to appeal to adventurous consumers seeking sensible luxuries.
“Summer may have you daydreaming about an exotic vacation, whether it's lounging on the sun-drenched coast of southern France, hiking Argentina's foothills, bungee jumping in New Zealand or diving into the clear, blue waters of Greece,” said Whole Foods in promotional materials. “Settle into a sultry summer by opening a bottle of wine to enjoy a taste of exotic travel without leaving your own backyard or spending a pretty penny.”
Several of the wines are priced under $11.
Whole Foods delivers value by sourcing a selection of wines direct rather than through a distributor, observed Tom Pirko, president of Santa Ynez, Calif.-based Bevmark, a beverage consulting firm.
The move is part of a larger trend whereby food retailers are shifting their business model to achieve greater command over procurement, marketing and other functions that allow them to steer shoppers toward higher-margin corporate brands in the most cost-effective ways.
“Up to this point retailers have relied upon suppliers and distributors to sort of pull things together for them,” Pirko said. “Now retailers are understanding as the beverage business in particular grows, they want more control over what's going on in their stores.”
The alcoholic beverage space in particular has seen a groundswell of exclusive and store-brand beer introductions in recent months. Supervalu (Buck Range) and 7-Eleven (Game Day) have had success with their own labels of beer, while Kroger plans to launch a private-label, premium beer called Port Republic.
Though the marketing budgets of labels like these pale in comparison to those of the mega brands with which they compete, retailers are finding creative ways to increase familiarity with exclusive products, noted Pirko.
“What they're doing is substituting in a very efficient and economical way, what the major suppliers were doing with their marketing efforts. It allows them to provide the dimensions they want by using new media, which is very inexpensive and open to all,” he said.
Indeed, for virtually no cost Whole Foods will host a Twitter tasting of its summer wines led by its global wine buyers on June 9 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. CST.
“Simply pick up one or more of these wines to join the fun online or check with local stores for Twitter Tasting events, and follow along with @WFMWineGuys and #WFMWine,” said Whole Foods.
Innovac!ón Torrontés Pinot Grigio and Vitiano Cabernet Sauvignon Sangiovese are among the six wines featured as part of the event.
Participants are encouraged to print tasting notes and even have suggested cheese and recipe pairings on-hand for the event.
Shoppers can also enter for a chance to win all featured wines and cheese to host their own virtual wine-tasting party, by correctly answering one of the wine trivia questions tweeted from @WholeFoods. One winner will be chosen daily from June 1-6.