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As much as I’d like friends to quiz me about a great $50 Pinot Noir, most of the inquiries are about supermarket wines.
I’ve written many times in the previous 90 columns about such wines and what I think is most palatable. I’m a fan of Mirrasou, Mondavi Private Selection, Smoking Loon, and a few others. All can be found for $10 or less at most markets.

One of the reasons I’m still writing this column is to share information and hopefully a little wine education. I see a lot of wine-related news every week. Most casual vino consumers aren’t going to be interested in the wine-geeky stuff I consume. But every now and then there is wine news that I think is not only interesting but helpful.

If you are a supermarket wine buyer, wouldn’t you like to know what others are buying and most consumers think are top brands?
A consumer research group, Symphony IRI, annually reports its Top 30 momentum wine brands. The report bases its chart on sales data, volume and dollar sales, volume share in the price range, and other measures.  More than 100 brands met the minimum sales of 100,000 cases to be considered.
In a report on winesandvines.com , the survey showed Cupcake wines repeating as the top such wine in the country. Next came Barefoot, Apothic, Liberty Creek – those previous three all owned by Gallo – then St. Michelle’s 14 Hands and Menage A Trois.
Gallo wines held down the number-eight spot with a familiar name, Fish Eye.  Bogle came in at 11th, Columbia Crest was 14th, J Lohr was 17th, Almos 18th, Mark West 19th, chateau St. Jean 20th, Woodbridge 22nd, Sutter Home 23rd, Yellow Tail 26th, Gnarly Head 27th, and Sterling 30th.
Overall, the survey reported, most of the brands had strong growth by improving quality and marketing. Prices were also down per bottle over 2010. 
If you looked at the entire list of 30 labels, what most folks might find surprising is one company owns seven of those brands. What shouldn’t be surprising is that company is the giant Gallo label.
What does all this mean? Not much if you’ve tried the wines and didn’t like them. But if most of your buying is from the supermarket, these labels are easy to find. Obviously, the brands sell well and many supermarket wine shoppers find them to be good wines.
Higher Priced Wines Re-gaining Market Share
At the other end of the spectrum premium wines are coming back. After the economic downturn of 2008, several Central Indiana retailers said they couldn’t move a bottle of wine that cost more than $20-$25. 
During the first quarter of 2012, wines at $20 or more grew in sales 24 percent over last year.
People still love their Cabernet and the bigger prices are also making a comeback. Cab sold more than any other varietal in the top price categories. When you look at those $20-plus wines, most are Cabs. Pinot Noir continues to rock wine drinkers’ worlds with a 32 percent gain over a year ago for wines above $20.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

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