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Scorn, cynicism mark 7-Eleven wine debut

41 comments

I’ve been surprised by the public’s flipoff of last week’s news that 7-Eleven is now selling a $4 “value” wine, Yosemite Roads.

The launch was covered on blogs and online publications. I went through a bunch of them to read the comments, and frankly was baffled by the derision and downright anger expressed by people who took the time to write in.

From “Daily Finance,” an AOL site:

-7-Eleven WINE??? I just might vomit into my morning coffee…

-i wouldn’t drink it if it was free.

-A fine bottle of chablis, vintage 45 min ago. bleeah !

From neatorama:

-Are the sales of Thunderbird and Manischewitz falling that low.

-this is an entirely different kind of gross from Thunderbird and Manischewitz.

The Chicago Sun-Times headlined Wash down a Slim Jim with a ‘full-bodied’ 7-Eleven wine

From the Huffington Post’s blog:

-Convenience store wine….mmmmmm.

-Watch out Boonesfarm. You’ve got competition.

-can I get that in a Big Gulp?

-Get out’a here. You made that up.

From the Dallas Observor blog:

-Id prefer Five Buck Chuck from Trader Joes as a drinking/cooking wine than 7-11′s wine flavored malt beverage any day!

-MMM MMM, It’ll get ya drunk!!!!!

-I think that;s useless…nobodys gonna buy it!

-W.T.F is next? Ronald McDonald Wineries – the McPinot – perfectly paired with Big Mac’s secret sauce.

Even the Ridge (winery) blog made this more erudite dig:

-I am speechless. Or, to borrow an exquisite colloquialism I picked up in Ireland, I am rather gob-smacked. I don’t know what to say…I have to go lie down now.

[this is Steve again] How to interpret this reaction? Partly it’s just plain old humor, of course — blog readers having a little fun, and 7-Eleven is an easy target. But there’s something else going on, on a deeper, more disturbing level, and that is the overt patronization of the [perceived] kind of people who frequent (and work at) 7-Eleven.

For contained in many of these comments is a not-so-subtle disdain of blue collar workers, immigrants, people of color and poor folk who (in the conventional wisdom) shop at 7-Eleven. Scan the comments again and the starkness of class-based antagonism comes out:

- the references to getting drunk, as if people who buy wine at a “nice” wine shop do so to daintily sip, while anybody who would buy wine at 7-Eleven has to be a lush.

- the assumption that the wine has to be bad because 7-Eleven shoppers have no taste. Do you think any of the commentors actually tasted the wine before pronouncing it awful? I doubt it.

- the downright anger. Vomit…wouldn’t drink it if it were free…gross. What’s that all about?

Personally, I think it’s great that 7-Eleven is selling wine. We — the wine community — are always wishing that wine were more mainstream in America. Well, 7-Eleven is as mainstream as you can get. For me, the lesson in all this is that wine lovers should avoid the snobbery of viewing inexpensive wine as garbage fit only for the dregs of society. (The food equivalent of this is that “our” kind of people shop at gourmet markets while “those” people shop at convenience stores.) That’s not only wrong, it’s anti-American. 7-Eleven deserves a big pat on the back for bringing Yosemite Roads to the masses.

7-eleven

  1. Carlos Toledo says:

    I remember long time ago when i was in line to grab some food at the food court in a shopping center in Buenos Aires when the person ahead of me, a clearly poorly dressed person, someone not at the time in financial paradise, ordered a 1/4 bottle of a cheap vino argentino. How cool was that, he ordered cheap wine, but didn’t do like me, the suburban smart-ass, all read MBA student who would order some stupid soft drink.

    i’m happy for the happy who live in America for this opportunity. Don’t drink and drive though.

  2. is it disdain aimed at a blue collar target or is it merely suspicion of a large corporate entity? Easy target, granted, but what drives the onslaught of derision?

  3. Not having tasted Yosemite Roads, I wouldn’t dare to make a judgment on it, and I generally agree with your attitude concerning wine and the mainstream.

    Let’s hope that what 7-Eleven (and any other outlet to follow it) does is to make a good faith effort to sell decent table wine at a reasonable price. Maybe there is a silver cloud in the turmoil of an oversupply storm.

  4. I had a similar reaction, Steve. I mean, maybe the wine is really bad, I’ve got no idea, but this whole thing got attacked and I was struggling to understand why. On NPR’s “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!” program, they spent a segment poking fun at the announcement (later, a caller who actually worked at 7-11 got through and basically told them he didn’t think it was a big deal either way). Strange.

  5. Good points, Steve. I also heard the NPR piece – they did have some funny lines – but the 7-11 owner who called in said the wines had not even been shipped yet so I don’t think anyone outside corporate HQ has tasted them. Let’s face it – this is no diff than WalMart, Sam’s Club, even Costco offering house wines. It’s bidness – nothing more. They make more money by sourcing the wine themselves. If it’s plonk, it’s plonk. But maybe someone actually knows what they’re doing and will crank out some decent juice, as did Fred Franzia in the early days of Two Buck Chuck.

  6. Winedude,

    I heard that episode on the radio show. The attitude illustrates further the snobbism of wine and how much road there is still to travel before that view of the product is torn down, if ever.

    Let’s hope 7-Eleven can bring the process along, and that Alfonso’s valid point proves unnecessarily negative.

  7. Jim Caudill says:

    7-11 has been selling wine for a long time, and like many retailers, tailors the offerings beyond a core list to demand in a local market. In Texas, I once saw high end sparklers in a 7-11. Much of what they have offered is mainstream, with an emphasis on widely available and inexpensive, but still. If this is another step in broadening the cultural acceptance of wine in America, that’s a rising tide that I’ll welcome as it floats my boat.

  8. Keep in mind that 7-Eleven’s wines are being made by The Wine Group, which produces perfectly respectable wines (Corbett Canyon, Big House, Cardinal Zin, etc.). There’s no reason at this point to think they won’t be sound and good values.

  9. Gee, I was right on board with all the apologies for a few smart-ass commentators who may or may not know their Romanee-Conti from their Railroad Bed Red, until I read this last post by Steve.

    I try not to be a snob, but frankly, I don’t eat at 7-11s, don’t drink Two Buck Chuck and have rarely tasted a $4 wine that rose above the standard of “didn’t give me a bellyache”.

    Lots of what sells as TBC is “sound” if you like cooked tasting Merlot and green-tasting Chardonnay and watery, sour Sauvignon Blanc.. No bellyaches in that lot, and no “flawed” wines.

    I am with Jim Caudill on this one. People who buy wine in 7-11 or buy TBC are allowing the wine culture to continue in this country and maybe even expanding it. We ought not belittle them, and that, of course, Steve, is the most salient point of your message. But, let’s not ask more of $4 wine than it can deliver. “No bellyaches” will be an adequate performance from my perspective. Lord knows there are plenty of $50 wines around the world that will create stress on the intestinal system.

  10. I for one am a fan of any way to be able to get good wine, easily, at a great price. If 7-Eleven can pull this off, kudos to them… I think a lot of people are just doubtful that the wine they carry will be anything that you or I would want to pick up, take home, and enjoy on that special date or fancy dinner.

    I hope they prove me wrong!

    cheers!

  11. Steve, lets face it that with only about 6% of Americans drinking wine on a daily basis we don’t really have a wine culture. This morning I received a note (from a poll I have been doing on how often do you drink wine) that said “A dinner without wine is like a day without sun…So I guess I drink wine almost every day” written by Philippine Joyaux (who work in Bordeaux)…most Americans would substitute beer for the word wine…

    If you do a google search for “Most popular wine” you will find that someone (I forget which company) compiled a list of the ten most popular wines (2007) drank by Americans in restaurants and the list included only one red wine, 3 roses…none sold in retail for more than $10.

    Let the wine snobs digest these facts…we are also ranked 33th in the world in per capita wine consumption…right in front of that wine guzzling country of Uzbekistan…until Americans start developing a true broad based wine culture we have no right to act offended by 7-11 selling $4 wine!

  12. Charlie’s comments, and others, reflect the disdain for “vin ordinaire”–jug wines if you will. Easy for him since he gets all that free high end stuff. But for average Americans, like average Europeans, four bucks for a 750 ml is plenty to pay for a beverage to accompany Tuesday night dinner with the Mrs. and the kids, just like my parents use to drink Paul Masson Chablis. Totally appropriate.

    It’s not so much snobbism as an inability to appreciate simpler wines that are tasting much better today than they did 10 years ago. Think of all those $4 dollar wines, mostly imports, available at Trader Joe’s. Me I enjoy Bronco’s Fox Brook Merlot @ $1.99, a familiar price.

    STATISTICS:
    Appellation: California T.A.: 5.81 g/L
    Alcohol: 12.65% pH: 3.58
    Glucose/Fructose 4.29 g/L Winemaker: Andrea Beltran
    Release Date: October 2008
    WINEMAKER NOTES:
    “Blended to show this variety’s true characteristics you will enjoy with every sip and taste of jammy berries with the touches of vanilla, chocolate, oak and spice.”
    Andrea Beltran, Winemaker
    SUGGESTED FOOD PAIRINGS:
    “Pair this Merlot with cheese, seafood, beef and spicy foods.”
    Andrea Beltran, Winemaker
    AWARDS:
    • 2009 California State Fair Wine Competition – Silver Medal

    The other varieties under this supermarket brand are equally pleasant…enough.

  13. I didn’t take any of the comments as knocking of blue collar consumers, just good natured fun. By the way, I also don’t think the Manischewitz comments were anti-semitic.

    Are we becoming so humorless that we are reading class warfare into blog one liners? If a blue collar person made one of those quips are they self-loathing? Is it insulting to call what they have on the racks junk food? Maybe we should call it “nutritionally challenged” food.

    Maybe the Playboys behind the register should be read with a critical eye and understanding of women’s role in society and how their own self image is at the same time buoyed by their appearance and lowered by their objectification.

    I’m also part of the NPR-listening class(talk about self loathing, but God help me I do like Fresh Air) and I go to 7-11. So do my rich friends and so do my not so rich friends. Not a class thing.

    When people think NPR is insensitive you have to really wonder.

  14. I did laugh out at this headline, “Wash down a Slim Jim with a ‘full-bodied’ 7-Eleven wine.” It’s just a funny food pairing–perhaps Dr. Vino should get on top of that one. I don’t understand why everyone is so surprised by the initial reaction. People react this way because its uncommon sense–WINE in a 7-ELEVEN?! No one had even thought the two could be connected before. And, as usual with the unexpectedness of overlapping two schema, we laugh, we deride, and make merry in the finger-pointing. Nothing shocking. Just one of the rules of human psychology in relation to humor. I wouldn’t read into it as anything more than that. Of course it will be mocked initially, 7-Eleven hasn’t exactly built a customer experience around the imagery we think of environments when it comes to wine. In time, the laughter fades because we come to accept the link.

    One thing is certain, I can guarantee everyone who reacted the way they did are not customers of 7-Eleven. They will not try the wine. Then again, there was nothing about the store they planned to try anyway.

  15. I wonder how many of the negative comments come from people who out of the other side of their mouth can’t wait to share the story of how they first got into wine drinking some jug plonk while in college?

    You can have fun with it all you want, but some of those comments sound like a bunch of elitist garbage.

  16. Unfortunately the great majority of wine consumers seem to consider themselves enlightened in some way or another and the idea of a low brow shop such as 7-11 selling such a product is deeply threatening to our false fashion.

    The sad part is 7-11 selling wine is likely one of the greatest things to happen to the wine industry in a long time. For all of us fighting to free the grapes, the more wine is viewed as a everyday consumer good and not a drug, the closer we will be to make the argument that arcane regulations regarding the sale of wine are no longer valid.

    I say cheers to everyone at 7-11 I hope it becomes as popular as everyone else’s worst enemy that has done great things for the wine business “two buck chuck”

  17. Another challenge is this has been a big marketing campaign for 7-11 and the idea that a passable (I am not saying this wine will be exciting) wine may be sold for $4.00 continues to put downward pricing pressure on many merely passable wines selling for 10-15-20 or more. While you $75.00 plus small production estate winery may not be concerned. Folks making it big at 100,000 plus cases in the $10-15 central coast bulk blends may not like the continued downward pressure on pricing, and quality competition.

  18. Kudos to Steve. This is the reason most Americans think of wine as an elitist drink. In Europe, wine is the drink of the masses, including the working class. The difference is they can get for 2-3 Euros what we pay $10-12 for in the States (side note: In January, while in France, I asked every winemaker what he/she drank from outside their region and not one of them said Bordeaux, citing the fact they couldn’t afford it). Anyway, I indulge myself with nice wine because I enjoy it and have easy access to it, but I pretty regularly eat very blue collar meals. I’d love to eat nothing but free range chickens from Whole Foods, but most meals I typically put very little time, thought, or money into and buy from Kroger (oh no!). Does this mean I have no class when it comes to food? No, I enjoy all types of cuisine, but reserve nice meals for special occasions like most people reserve nice wine for special occasions.

    Also, I love wine AND 7-Eleven. The closest 7-Eleven to Atlanta is where my parents live in Blacksburg, Virginia. I stop off for a Slurpee every time I visit. Speaking of Slurpees, why is there a disdain for sugar when it comes to wine drinkers. I don’t like excess sugar in my wine, but does that somehow make it terrible to drink Coca-Cola?

  19. 1WineDude,
    I was in the crowd at that Wait Wait taping from Pasadena you referred to. The caller was a 7-11 franchisee and he hadn’t been able to see it or taste it yet. It was sheer coincidence he was on the show unless the screener chose him because of his connection to 7-11.

    Let’s see what happens. If Trader Joe’s carried Yosemite View for $3.99, no one would say a word against it.

  20. As the host of “4488: A Ridge Blog,” I would like to point out that my post referenced above did not in any way, shape or form commit any of the purported offenses Mr. Heimoff addresses, namely: 1. Making references to people getting drunk, 2. Making assumptions of poor quality, or 3. Exhibiting downright anger. Nor do I believe my post evidenced any “overt patronization of the [perceived] kind of people who frequent (and work at) 7-Eleven.”

    And finally, I do not believe that in any way, shape, or form did my post evidence “a not-so-subtle disdain of blue collar workers, immigrants, people of color and poor folk who (in the conventional wisdom) shop at 7-Eleven,” or any “class-based antagonism.”

    To the readers of this post, I respectfully and accordingly request that my post be disassociated from the accusations herein.

    Regards,

    Christopher Watkins
    Tasting Room Manager, Ridge Vineyards/Monte Bello
    Host “4488: A Ridge Blog”

  21. Tom, my disdain for vin ordinaire is based on what I like to drink. I grew up on Guild Tavola Red, graduated to Gallo Burgundy, made the leap to Hearty Burgundy about my junior year in college and wound up as a senior thinking I had hit the big-time with $1.69 Beaujolais.

    But, Tom, I am deeply offended and hurt down to the bone by the fact that you do not recognize that I buy my wine, including much of what gets tasted in Connoiosseurs’ Guide.

    Now, I will admit that I will not toss out the BV Pri Res tasted today but will hold onto the dregs for dinner tonight and that BV did send that wine. It was tasted blind and did well.

    But, as a more serious comment, the fact that I and millions do not drink vin ordinaire has nothing to do with my views about it being sold at 7-11. I have already applauded that fact. I just don’t have to drink it to think it is a good idea. I think you may have missed that essential point.

  22. I want to add to Charlie’s reply to Tom Merle about “all that free high end stuff.” Charlie and Connoisseur’s Guide are well known for buying almost all the wines they review. To the best of my knowledge, he is almost alone in that respect among American wine critics, including me.

  23. I think that it is good news that 7-11 is making this move.

    These shoppers will quite possibly try other wines in the store, then try other wines at other stores, restaurants, etc.

    Will it benefit our winery directly? I’m not sure, but I believe that we need more everyday folks who drink wine everyday.

    If they make wine a normal part of their routine, they are more likely to splurge on a special bottle for a special occasion.

    I stopped at a convenience store last night (not a franchised one though) and I was AMAZED at the thought that they put in their selections.

    Enough rambling on my part…

  24. Thanks, Steve, for the kind words. I was trying to respond to Tom tongue-in-cheek, but as I reread it now, I may be the only one who gets the attempted humor in it.

    I appreciate your words, because it does bug me that folks would be so quick to make comments like that when they should know better. Sure, you and I get lots of wine sent our way, but it is all for tasting, not for cellaring, and CGCW does buy a hell of a lot of wine–and certainly all the wine I drink as a consumer. OK, so there was a half bottle of BV PR left today, but try putting that in the cellar.

    Wineries may send samples but they do not send cases and, as you know, and he must know despite his comments, samples get consumed in sampling.

    Charlie

  25. Come now, fellas. You are making a distinction without a difference. Whether the samples are sent or purchased, these cases of $40+ vino must come into the Olken office for Charlie to do his job. Once tasted for the review, as Charlie acknowledges there the “dregs” sit ready for Monday and Tuesday’s dinner. So much fine wine; why would anyone in that situation turn to plonk like us plebians. This is the “essential” point I was commenting on, not the patronizing attitude, which we all share, toward Seven Eleven.

  26. “To the best of my knowledge, he is almost alone in that respect among American wine critics, including me.”

    Steve,

    Why is that?

  27. I agree Steve.

    Alot of people are introduced to wine through white zinfandel and then gradually go on to develop quite sophisticated palates. My wife certainly did.

    So, if we can have gateway wines, why not have gateway wine merchants? I’m all for whatever brings folks into the fold.

  28. Because it would be too expensive to buy all wines that are reviewed.

  29. I am always supportive of any initiative that helps make wine an everyday part of North Americans’ meals. There is alot of wine out there that I wouldn’t purchase or enjoy for myself, and some of it is quite expensive.
    Cheers, Amy

  30. Steve, it looks as if all of us fall into either the “good for business” or ‘bad for the wine reputation” genre. So I guess I should take a jab supporting one or the other. Since I feel that the more academic(which I do not consider as a negative form of elitism) should really not feel threatened by this new spin, I’ll defend the “good for business” and I’m not really sure it’s as much good as it’s just really not bad. A majority of most consumers that are in that earlier stage of developing some sort of palate sense(whether thay are locked in it or just starting up) are not trying to identify varietal character or growing region distinctions. They just want something they can honestly enjoy drinking and call it wine. The ones that move on from that will not be held back by 7-11 nor will the ones that do not(or cannot) find salvation in its absence. There’s plenty of swill out there and it has a purpose. Did you ever hear from George?

  31. I didn’t mean to imply that Charlie receives or purchases cases of a single wine, but that all the wines that CO must review for a given issue of his pub represent a huge number of mixed cases. And, no, I didn’t know that an entire bottle of wine gets consumed in the sampling and reviewing process. I assumed that like the BV there is plenty left over for din-din.

  32. I don’t believe the negative comments are aimed at 7-11′s clients, they are aimed at 7-11. Unlike Trader Joe’s and Costco, which have established reputations for offering gourmet foods and selling wine with QPR that consumers apparently find appealing, 7-11 is bringing wine to market building on a foundation of Big Gulps and Hot Pockets. Last I looked, the wine section in the 7-11 was a bit dusty and showed absolutely no consideration for the client experience other than being a convenient spot to purchase a familiar label.

    Where is the value-added from the 7-11 house brand? We’re talking about a company whose other store brand foods have demonstrated complete disdain for flavor and consumer health.

    I don’t find it surprising that the wine world scoffs at the notion, and market expectations are such that the product stands little chance for success unless it is utterly unpalatable to wine connoisseurs. In the past 10 years I’ve only rarely encountered a wine for less than $5 where I could finish a single glass. And those wines were generally imports and the result of market dislocations.

    In a world where people accept that you can’t buy $2/lb gourmet coffee or a $0.50 cent gourmet chocolate bar, people continue to think they might find a quality bottle of domestic wine for $5.00. The economics just don’t work.

  33. Trader Vic’s did it with Charles Shaw, I don’t understand all the drama. If anything negative it’s too expensive compared to it’s predecessor.

    Everyone needs to get off their high horse.

    My friends are probably going to be snobs about it and I’m going to have to put some 7-11 wine in their “named posh wine” to teach them a lesson, just like I’ve done with Yellow Tail to them in the past.

    It’s about what’s in the bottle, not the name on the label or where you buy it from.

    All those wine snobs think they know so much when in fact they only know what their friend who they think knows something who really doesn’t about wine told them and it perpetuates ego driven snobbery without a foundation.

    I’ll breathe now

  34. Steve,

    Obviously, Charlie doesn’t find it too expensive for him to buy the wines that he reviews. What is different that prevents other periodicals/critics from doing the same?

  35. Gibson: Who’s George?

  36. Jimmy Smith says:

    I couldn’t agree more. The wine community should be embracing this trend rather than maintaining their nose in the air attitude.

  37. Todd,

    I think you ARE aiming your barbs at Seven-11 customers, since they can readily drink a wine you consider unpalatable. Why aim them at 7-ll which is offering an affordable product in accord with its other merchandise. IMHO, you are putting far too much emphasis on a few offerings like slurpees, when the store offers all sorts of brand items. They are really just mini grocery stores with price ceilings. They know their customers won’t pay $20 for wine; so they find some mass produced vino in the beer price range.

    Steve’s wine tasting group rates $200 Napa Valley wines; I think I’ll ask my group to evaluate a wine grown near the roads to Yosemite.

  38. While I will reserve judgment on the wines until I taste them (come on, the curiosity factor for $4!), but the one point in the press release that did get me to to laugh out loud was that while these would be “limited edition” wines, they would be carried in all *15,000* of the company’s outlets.

    OK, minimum 1 case of each flavor x 15,000 outlets — hmmm, follow the money? Yep, it’s all about the “bidness” –

  39. The only thing 7-11 missed is that the wine should be in plastic bottles.

  40. I am one of those who is unexcited by the prospect of 7-Eleven “getting into the wine business.” I made a vaguely snark tweet to that effect. However, my opinions on this have nothing to do with taking a shot at the customers of 7-Eleven stores. I suspect many of the comments from others do not either.

    The issue is not the customers, it’s the store. Nearly every American has shopped at 7-Eleven at least a few times. Some of us have probably been frequent customers at one time or another. And there’s nothing wrong with that if what one needs is what they offer: convenience, particularly of the grab-and-drive variety.

    7-Eleven doesn’t focus on quality, local items or even, for the most part, value. And, when it comes to beverages, their focus is on massive servings of highly-sugared, processed drinks. And Slurpees. If they bring the same approach to wine, their offerings will not add any unique value to the market for inexpensive wines.

  41. I usually just go to Dunkin Donuts for my coffee. After reading this I think I’ll take your advice and try some new things.

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