“Friends don’t let friends drink soul-less wines!” a good friend once told me. It stuck. I instantly started racking my brain, and I wondering what ARE the soul-less wines out there?

Ever fallen in love with a wine, only to find out the only place you can get it is at your local grocery store? Sorry to say it, but your new crush is probably a controlled label, or better known as a “private label” wine. It works in almost exactly the same way as say, Walgreens brands over-the-counter drugs and medical supplies. Same stuff on the inside, yet packaged in a Walgreens box. The price is cheaper (more times than not), but what you get is the same.

But what is the motivation to do this in the wine business? Retailers (and some restaurants/wine bars) want to be able to protect their profit margins by removing the possibility of having to be competitive.

The thought process is this: “If they (you, the consumer) can’t find the wine somewhere else, there goes the competition.” And competition is a big deal. A really big deal. Did you know that in an effort to be the cheapest in the marketplace, many retailers will play “pricing war” and will literally sell popular items for less than they pay? Doesn’t make a lot of business sense, unless the goal is being able to claim the cheapest prices.

So, how is a private label wine created? There are many wineries around the world that do it, but in a nutshell it is a custom designed wine, bottle, and label to meet a desired criteria (taste, price, appeal). The usual suspect is a “sweet-spot” price point on a shelf or wine list, all with the goal of attracting the desired demographic.

The part of the story that hurts the wine business, is that these private labels are priced and pushed to move, so that the smaller, family-owned wines are left sitting on the shelf (and are usually, if not always, better quality in every way).

So, when you have the opportunity, find out who is producing the wines you’re drinking. And remember this, here at Vino & Vinyl, we’re trying our best to find wines that made by hand, with heart, and with a soul.