Mar 16, 2009

A review of Wal-Mart's $2.97 wine: Oak Leaf Cabernet Sauvignon

Is it possible to produce and distribute a quality bottle of wine for under $3? California residents are probably familiar with Trader Joe's "Two Buck Chuck" but those of us further east were out of luck until recently. I spotted several varieties of Oak Leaf vineyards wine at my local Wal-Mart all selling for $2.97: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Zinfandel. These wines sell for $2.00 in CA; supposedly the extra dollar covers added transportation costs. The economics of this wine are indisputable; consider how it compares to some other common beverages:
  • 2 liter Coke: $0.02/oz
  • Ocean Spray cranberry juice: $0.05/oz
  • Oak Leaf wine: $0.12/oz
  • Starbucks drip coffee: $0.17/oz
But is this something you'd want to drink? Or, I daresay, to serve to company? It's rare to find an opportunity for field research in culinary economics, so I picked up two bottles: a non-vintage Oak Leaf Cabernet Sauvignon (12.5% alcohol) for $2.97 and a 2006 Blackstone Cabernet Sauvignon (13.5% alcohol) for $8.97. Which would my guests prefer in a blind tasting?

All three preferred the Blackstone to the Oak Leaf. They commented that it had more fruit flavor, a darker color, and possessed a more substantial mouthfeel. The Oak Leaf's bouquet had a slightly earthy tone that not everyone was fond of. One person gave Oak Leaf a point for its lower alcohol content. Another felt that it was just a little too watered down. However, no one would object if they were served the Oak Leaf; everyone regarded it as a perfectly drinkable wine, especially when served with a meal (that is to say, Oak Leaf would probably not be a great choice for a cocktail party). The Oak Leaf would also be a fine choice for cooking or any kind of mixed wine like Sangria. Ultimately, while this wine delivers some value given its price point, it's not one I would regularly purchase.

11 comments:

ghostlygerbils said...

It's so sexy when you say "mouthfeel." But I'm disappointed you didn't use Target's wine cube as a comparison: http://sites.target.com/site/en/supertarget/page.jsp?title=brands&brand=wineCube

Ted said...

Boxed wine is highly logical:

- Sealed packaging keeps wine from oxidizing once you open it
- Reduced environmental impact
- Quality has improved greatly over the last decade

But alas, wine in a box (at least in the US) still carries a stigma that is hard to overcome. Inasmuch as the ritual of opening a bottle of wine turns a physical good into an experiential product, cracking the seal on a box and flipping a plastic spout just doesn’t compare.

Guy said...

I agree fully about the Cab. Their Shiraz is far and away my favorite of their products.

Philip said...

Oak Leaf is now $1.97 a bottle at my local Wal-Mart...I'd been buying Four Oaks from Rite-Aid ($9.99 for 3 bottles) but redid my math & realized how much I could save over a year...

Thomas said...

I would dare someone to find another wine at this price point that is this smooth. It's not complex or long or anything like that, but the flavor it does have is really nice. It's not something i'd buy frequently but the strawberry cream flavor it has is actually really nice.

John said...

I have tried all of their reds and find them all to be good choices. (I do admit that the cab is my least favorite of the group. But still a real value.)

I have to give props to Wal-Mart for bringing such a great value to market.

briansmac said...

I enjoyed the Cab. It had a good taste to us and our guests thought we paid $7 or $8 for the bottle. I wasn't going to tell them but had to. I'll try the Shiraz next time!

1advancedchica said...

I just recently tried the white zinfandel and it was surprisingly tasty. There is not a lot of depth of flavor, but it has a nice, soft fruity aftertaste. I'd buy it again:)

Tim E said...

I've been drinking Oak Leaf Cabernet pretty much daily with dinner and I think it is pretty decent. For what it is worth some bottles seem to vary somewhat in taste. I usually keep wine in the fridge. I would appreciate it if anyone has knowledge regarding the safety of the ingredients. In other words is this a pure wine or is it lots of chemicals. The Oak Leaf website doesn't provide much information.

Tim E said...

I've been drinking Oak Leaf Cabernet pretty much daily with dinner and I think it is pretty decent. For what it is worth some bottles seem to vary somewhat in taste. I usually keep wine in the fridge. I would appreciate it if anyone has knowledge regarding the safety of the ingredients. In other words is this a pure wine or is it lots of chemicals. The Oak Leaf website doesn't provide much information

Bill Collectors Hate Me !!! said...

A friend from San Diego told me about this wine today. I'm definitely going to try it soon!