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01.20.2006

Yellow Tail: Myth and Monster

I'm a bit behind on my wine reading, so this story is a little old, published as it was a couple of weeks ago, but I can't let it go without comment. W. Blake Gray does a dig into the history of Yellow Tail wines, which, in case you hadn't noticed, was the most insanely popular, top selling wine In America for the last couple of years. What came as a total shock to me, was the fact that this little brand started off basically as a father and son operation in Australia. I'm as guilty as the next wine lover for using Yellow Tail as an example of industrial wine made by corporate giants, but it appears I'm mistaken. At least about the corporate giants part of the equation -- the winery still maintains operations in the small town in which it was founded, making it the town's largest employer.

The cool thing about this story, is that it demonstrates the complexity of the wine business world in a way that some of the recent wine-related polemics have not. Everyone likes to paint the globalization of wine as a struggle between the big corporate giants or the moneyed elite and the small artisan winemakers of the world. I've said time and time again that it isn't that simple, and the Yellow Tail story proves my point. They're the best selling wine in North America by volume, but that's only because people really like it. How can you call this company that has been outrageously successful because it makes a good product that people want to buy (even without advertising for the first couple of years) a corporate monster? You simply can't.

I may choose not to drink the stuff if I can avoid it, but I have a newfound appreciation for the brand, beyond my grudging amazement at its popularity. Read the full story.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.