Today I decided to try something new for me, one of the fastest growing wine brands in America: Carnivor. Here’s my Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon Review, which brought up a number of interesting theories and questions about changing consumer tastes and how in America we market labels, more so than vineyards, putting us at odds with our old world winemaking counterparts.
Hi, guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures, so I’ll hold this up so you can get a good look. That’s a Carnivor cabernet sauvignon from California, and this is 2015, although in this case, vintage doesn’t really matter. Here’s my Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon Review:
If you’re familiar with what we do here at Uncorked Ventures, this is the antithesis of what we typically do. This is, at least with my wine clubs, what do I want do, I want to show a sense of place, or at least a wine maker and their style, and what they’re trying to accomplish.
Carnivor, it’s interesting, I was at a bulk wine conference a couple weeks back in Napa, and there was a lot of talk about how is the California wine industry growing? Or not growing, in some cases. And in this case, the growing part of the industry, part of these fit … In a lot of places around the world, this would be considered a negociant wine, or even maybe an off-label kind of thing. But these are label first, wine second. The idea for Carnivor is that every vintage, no matter what, it produces a cabernet sauvignon, and they want the wine maker to hit their exact target. These are these private label king of things. You can refer to a lot of different ways, but in essence, what they’re doing is doing a commoditization of wine. Wine as a widget, wine as less so an agricultural product and more so a beverage.
That’s not how we typically think about it at the premium or ultra premium level, but there’s definitely a range of folks in this $10 to $15 range where you’re like, “you want a good beverage, but then what’s the draw?” And the draw often for these folks is the label. So you want something that’s easily marketable, you want something that people are gonna grab off the shelf without any other information about it. But the question then becomes, after they do that once, you get one or two sometimes, but what’s your draw? What makes you different and what is gonna make that wine be memorable enough for someone to look for it the next time?
The Carnivor folks have been pretty direct about what they’re gonna do about it. They have been adding a bit of residual sugar, not adding, but they’re allowing a bit of residual sugar to stay, even in reds. And so you get these semi-sweet on the, at the end of your palette, there’s a small bit of sweetness to it. It’s something that wine makers that make $50 cab or more tend to hate, and they think it’s not well-made. There’s, I think, a lot to be said for trying to round out flavor profiles that can exists in this price point with a little bit of residual sugar. I can understand why they ended up there, because it allows you to allow cabernet to hang in warmer vines for longer, and then not have to deal with an overly tannic thing, because the sweetness will counteract that.
But then also, secondary to that, you have a lot of people who grew up drinking a lot of soda, and they’re trying wine as a beverage for the first time. And what does that mean for flavor profiles that are gonna be more popular over time? And I do think that there’s a good argument to be made that those more popular flavor profiles are going to include more residual sugar than what the wine industry has been accustomed to providing. And so, obviously Carnivor, this isn’t a great fit for my palette. I think it’s important to know what people are drinking in huge droves, and by any stretch of the imagination, Carnivor has been a wildly successful brand. But just know that for most of the Carnivor series of wines, you’re going to have a little bit of residual sugar. I think it’s an interesting juxtaposition compared to what happens at other wines in the same price point, and I think, at some point you don’t argue with success. And while it’s not something that I’m going to pick up and love, people obviously really, really like it.
So once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures, I hope everybody’s having a good start to their week and that you enjoyed this Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon Review.