Day 26: Three Wishes Pinot Grigio

I never thought to look at Whole Foods.

It must have been a subconscious thing, but for the duration of this Blue Collar Wine series, it simply didn’t occur to me to ask around in the wine section of my local Whole Foods Market.

This is despite the evidence of several posts in this very series that underscore the point that “Blue Collar” doesn’t necessarily mean “inexpensive.” Yet at some level I must have separated the category of “Blue Collar Wine” from the category of “Whole Foods Wine.”

Big mistake.

Yesterday, as I walked from the dairy aisle to the deli section of my local Whole Foods, I passed the wine section where a staff member happened to be stocking the racks. The “Blue Collar bell” went off in my head, and I approached him.

At first he went for what was right in front of him at the time: the Globerati “Wines of the World” brand, which bottles juice from all over the world (Bonarda from Argentina, for example, and Sangiovese from Italy) and sells it for less than $7 a bottle.

He thought for a while and then, as though it was an afterthought, he asked me if I’d seen the Three Wishes wines. I had no idea what they were, I said. He led me quite far away from the wine section, around the corner to a completely different part of the store.

Soon we stood in front of an entire wall of wine, filled floor to ceiling with four bottle selections and entire cases full of those four selections as well: Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Grigio, all under the Three Wishes label, “vinted and bottled” (according to the back label) in California.

The labels or packaging of these wines weren’t anything special, but there was no missing the price: $2.99 for a 750 ml bottle, or $35.88 for a case of twelve, mixing and matching allowed.

Hmm.

It was the cheapest wine, definitely by the 750 ml bottle, that I’d ever seen.

There were some disconnects here, for sure.

First of all, how could I have never noticed this wall of wine before? I must have walked by this display of wine a hundred times, and I never once noticed it (likely because I look for wine in the wine section at Whole Foods, not in between the fish and meat counters). What was it doing there?

Why did the staff only mention the Three Wishes wines as an afterthought? Why is the whole marketing effort for the label, in fact, so muted?

And what’s the rationale for a store that touts its environmental responsibility, in selling bottles versus bag-in-box wines? The wine is packaged in “Eco-Glass,” the signage said, minimally. “Better for the planet.” The staff member who led me to this section couldn’t tell me what that meant.

It isn’t so interesting or even surprising that Whole Foods would take a lesson from Costco and other retailers’ playbooks and bottle their own labels of wine. The interesting thing, for me, was the lack of awareness of these wines and, partially as a result, how little of it seemed to be selling.

People don’t come to Whole Foods for cheap items; they expect to pay a premium for the “responsibly sourced” legwork the company claims it does before any product lands on their shelves. Was a $2.99 bottle of wine that incongruous? Or just… well, unbelievable?

I bought a bottle of the Pinot Grigio and tried it. I immediately thought that I’d need to try it another time but blind, without knowing the brand or the price, because this bottle wasn’t something I’d willingly try again. Unfortunately.

Quick Background Note: The Blue Collar Wine Guide is a 30-day, 30-wine experiment that looks at some of the world’s most popular, consumer-friendly wines. The idea is to take off my wine-writer shoes and stand instead in the shoes of Jane-and-Joe-in-front-of-a-wall-of-wine. Thank you for reading today’s post!