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Wine Enthusiasts

Wine buyers in search of an affordable bottle of zinfandel have it easy at Jungle Jim's International Market. That's because an endcap display holding 25 cases of bottles selling for under $10 is positioned directly at the checkout of the Fairfield, Ohio, retailer's beer and wine department. The display is great for impulse sales, said Dave Schmerr, Jungle Jim's beer and wine director. People who

Wine buyers in search of an affordable bottle of zinfandel have it easy at Jungle Jim's International Market.

That's because an endcap display holding 25 cases of bottles selling for under $10 is positioned directly at the checkout of the Fairfield, Ohio, retailer's beer and wine department.

“The display is great for impulse sales,” said Dave Schmerr, Jungle Jim's beer and wine director. “People who may not have had wine on their shopping list see the display and make a purchase.”

Signed “Our Favorite Wines Under $10,” the display holds about half a dozen unique brands and varietals, such as a zinfandel from Simi in Sonoma, Calif., $9.99; and an Italian soave called “Si,” $8.99.

Along with brands from Italy and California, the rotating assortment includes plenty of representation from other regions, including South America, Australia, Spain and France.

Some of the selections are discounted wines that normally sell at a higher price. For instance, the Simi zinfandel usually sells for $19.99, but was offered to Jungle Jim's for less because the vineyard was moving into a new vintage and wanted to sell off an older one.

“We bought 150 cases of a 2007 vintage on special and passed the savings on to the consumer,” Schmerr said.

Second-tier labels are another way vineyards cater to cost-conscious wine buyers. A vineyard's main label of a Bordeaux may cost $20 bottle, but the secondary label that's, say, made from younger vines, could cost only $10.

Schmerr and other Jungle Jim's wine associates personally taste each wine featured on the endcap to ensure that they are quality wines. Each may cost under $10, but tastes like a $20 bottle, he said.

“We don't just put them out because of the price,” he said. “They have to taste good.”

Despite the stigma once attached to low-cost wines, consumers have learned that quality doesn't always mean a high price tag.

“You don't have to spend an arm and a leg to get a good bottle of wine,” he said.

Schmerr chooses brands carefully to create a truly unique assortment. To do so, he makes sure chardonnay and cabernet have plenty of company in the form of other varietals.

“We also have soave, viognier and others,” he explained.

Likewise, shoppers won't find mass-market wine brands in the display. Rather, Jungle Jim's features bottles from smaller, boutique wineries.

“We don't like to put huge names up there,” he said.

Demand for low-cost wine has grown so much that retailers are letting shoppers taste for themselves what they're all about.

Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., recently had a tasting for some of its $6 wines. The assortment is hand-picked by its wine team for taste, versatility and quality. Among the selections: SilverGum Chardonnay; SilverGum Shiraz; Bodegas Molino Malbec; Bodegas Molino Torrontes; Le Altane Chianti; Le Altane Montepulciano; and Le Altane Pinot Grigio.

“Great Taste. Incredible Value,” is printed on signage.

Wegmans is confident shoppers will make the wines the “house wine” for everyday meals and entertaining, according to promotional materials.

“There's a myth out there that wines have to be expensive to be good,” according to Wegmans. “We've got the wines that will change your mind.”

Retailers are so encouraged by economy wines that they're holding lectures to help explain the value they provide.

D&W Fresh Market, Grand Rapids, Mich., for instance, held an online chat earlier this year about its economy wines. D&W wine specialists Roz Mayberry and Pam Koeze hosted the chat.

They used the event to promote “Bin 35,” a merchandising display that contains 35 wines that sell for under $10.

One chat participant who's an experienced wine drinker said he's been pleased with the wines he's bought in Bin 35.

“I have had the opportunity to drink really pricey wines, and for the everyday value, I find it hard to beat the selection in the Bin 35,” he said.

Koeze agreed, saying that a $7 bottle of Yellow Tail has stood up to a $30 wine in terms of taste.

Included in Bin 35 are Spanish wines that offer a great value.

“Spain is offering some of the best bargains going,” Mayberry said during the chat.

One of Mayberry's favorite Spanish wines is Castano Monatrell.

“The thing that surprises me is that the [Castano] wine is not a well known,” Mayberry said. “The grape is Mourvedre — usually found in Rhone blends. Dry. Medium-bodied. Almost floral.”

Koeze agreed that Spanish brands like Castano are good value. She also recommended a French white called La Fage, also under $10 a bottle.

One chat participant asked Koeze to suggest a low-cost red. In response, she said one of her favorites is Tempranillo from Martin Codax.

Another participant asked why she doesn't see New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the Bin 35 area.

“I really love a sauvignon blanc from Marlborough,” the chat participant said. “Their flavors remind me of grapefruit and green peppers.”

Koeze responded that D&W typically doesn't carry sauvignon blanc in Bin 35 because its price point usually exceeds the $10 limit.

As for other deals, Mayberry suggested the Montpellier brand from South Africa.

“The viognier is pretty decent, and all the other varietals are easy to drink and true to type,” she said.

Along with international wines, there are plenty of low-cost domestic options. Koeze noted that D&W carries several great values from Columbia Crest in Washington state.

Koeze also noted that D&W has great deals on some Smoking Loon (California) merlot, and an “easy-drinking” merlot from Dynamite Vineyards (also in California) for under $10.

During the chat, several participants asked Mayberry and Koeze for food and wine pairing suggestions. One woman wanted to know what would go with a spicy chili.

Mayberry suggested the Firestone Gewurz or the Gewurz from Chateau Ste Michelle might make a decent pairing.

In response to a question about wines from South Africa, Mayberry said she likes the region's Rhone blends. One such wine, called Goats do Roam, is located in Bin 35.

The Top 10 wine brands that sell for under $10.99 are Sutter Home, Barefoot, Yellow Tail, Woodbridge, Beringer, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Robert Mondavi, Gallo, Fetzer and Lindemans, respectively, according to SymphonyIRI Group.

While consumers want to save money on wine, they're not flocking to ultra-cheap offerings. The under $3 segment, which grew significantly a few years ago, is now on the decline in terms of share. Volume share in food stores for the four weeks ending April 18 was 11.7%, a 7.9% drop from the same period the previous year, according to SymphonyIRI.

“People may have been enticed by the price point, tried it and perhaps didn't like it or decided go a notch higher and get a better-quality wine,” said Doug Goodwin, SymphonyIRI's vice president of beer, wine and spirits.

In contrast, the best-performing segment in the under $10 category is wine priced $7.99 to $10.99. Volume share of this segment was 13.4%, a 10.6% growth.

Part of this can be attributed to category switching from beer to wine, said Goodwin.

“Craft beer drinkers who are used to paying $10 for a six-pack are comfortable paying $9 for a bottle of wine,” he said.

At the same time, wine drinkers are seeking to get the most value for their dollars. By spending a bit more for a bottle, they feel they can get the most value in terms of price and quality.

“At the $10 price point, consumers are comfortable not only drinking it themselves, but also serving it to company,” Goodwin said.

Merchandising is also helping to drive dollar sales, according to Goodwin.

“Brand-level data shows a strong and direct correlation between increased merchandising and increased dollar sales,” he said. “This would indicate that wine consumers are not brand-loyal and very value-driven.”