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by Fred McMillin
It Was Quite a Fight
In 1985, 81% of California wines were shipped in jugs.
What had happened? The jugs got into a fight and lost.
Sources: 11/27/9l New York Times & C. Sullivan's Wine Companion)
The Rest of the Story
The victors in the scrap were called "fighting varietals." The name was created in 1983 by marketing consultant Ed Everett for low-priced wines that a) were sealed with a cork instead of a metal screw-on cap, and b) were named after the dominant grape in the wine like much more expensive bottles. For $5 you could take home a prestigious Chardonnay rather than a jug of common Chablis.
Now, Sam Bronfman II, President of the Seagram Classics Wine Co., knows a good market when he sees it. Thus, he created his own fighter, the Tessera brand. To produce it, he didn't need to hire new talent. He already had all the necessary skills at hand, running individual wineries owned by Seagram. So he molded them into a Tessera team, which we described this way in our Feb. 26, 1997 WineDay.
Grape Selection—Gary Gott operated both coastal and inland wineries, so he was put in charge of selecting the grapes.
Phil Franscioni knew how to do large-volume winemaking at Monterey Vineyards, so he was put in charge of fermenting the juice at that location.
Greg Fowler, Mumm Napa Valley winemaker, was put in charge of blending Phil's batches. Was the team successful? The last annual sales figures I saw for Tessara were over 200,000 cases!
Our Fighter of the Day
1997 Tessera 100% Chardonnay
I like Master of Wine Jancis Robinson's name for California jug wine: Plonk!
This page created March 2000