Goodbye Cheap Wine? Hello Premiumization!


This new trend seems counterintuitive (at least to me) given that consumers are drifting away from wine and toward a plethora of other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Beer, cocktails, hard sodas, ciders and more new options have slowly but surely eaten away at overall wine consumption, even as boomers age out and calculate how to drink down their wine cellars before, well, you get the idea.

So wouldn’t that suggest that demand for cheap wine would rise, as it would be more competitive price-wise with the alternatives? But it may be that the opposite is true. A story out of Australia this week noted that Treasury Wine Estates is shutting down a 50-year-old winery and selling vineyard assets because its budget brands such as 19 Crimes, Lindeman’s and Wolf Blass are not selling well enough to keep the doors open.

Blaming changing consumer trends, wine preferences and so-called “environmental factors” a Treasury spokesperson noted that global tastes have tilted toward more expensive, high quality wines and away from cheaper (let’s say supermarket-friendly) brands. 19 Crimes is notable because its sales took off during the pandemic thanks to the endorsement by Snoop Dogg. But trendy is as trendy does and apparently the celebrity glow has faded, and rather quickly.

Wine trends are difficult to predict, and this one is subject to closer scrutiny. On the same day I read the Treasury story another piece (this one out of England) asked if the premiumization trend is all but over.  Quoting statistics from DISCUS (the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.) the story (published in the Drinks Business) notes that inflation in particular has slowed, though not ended, rising sales of higher-priced wines and spirits.

Although I am eager to point readers to really well-made ‘value’ wines, I almost never find them among wines costing $10 and under. During the first six months of this year, for example, I spotlighted 27 Outstanding Value Wines. Only two fell below $10. Here’s the breakdown.

White wines – 1 blend, 1 Chardonnay, 2 Albariños, 2 Pinot Gris, 2 Rieslings

Rosé wines – 4 sparkling, 2 still wines

Red wines – 1 Syrah, 3 Cabernets, 4 blends, 5 Pinot Noirs

The Underwood Bubbles were the only truly inexpensive wines, partly because they come in 12 ounce cans. Most of those listed here cost between $20 and $40. They qualify as values because in comparison with comparably-priced peer group wines they offer exceptional quality.

Why so many Pinot Noirs? Over the past decade I’ve tasted and reviewed far more Pinots (and Oregon wines overall) than Washington wines. The invitation has been extended to all Northwest wineries to contact me for potential features and reviews. I look to find a more equitable balance between Oregon and Washington wines in the coming months.

The weekly Value Wines to date:

6/30 – The Eyrie Vineyards 2021 The Eyrie Pinot Gris 94/100

6/23 – Areté 2019 Brut Rosé 91/100

6/16 – Hyland Estates 2022 Old Vine Single Vineyard Riesling 94/100

6/9 – Underwood 2022 The Bubbles & Underwood 2022 Rosé Bubbles 90/100

6/2 – Cardwell Hill 2022 Estate Rosé from Pinot Noir 91/100

5/26 – Day 2022 Vin de Days Blanc 94/100

5/19 – Abacela 2022 Albariño 92/100

5/12 – Dion 2021 Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir 92/100

5/5 – Trisaetum 2021 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 92/100

4/28 – Lone Birch 2021 Syrah 89/100

4/21 – Palencia/El Viñador 2022 Albariño 90/100

4/14 – Portlandia NV Rosé Sparkling Wine 91/100

4/7 – Ovum 2022 PNK Salt 93/100

3/31 – Abeja 2021 Chardonnay 95/100

3/24 – Hyland Estates 2021 Single Vineyard Petit Estate Pinot Noir 92/100

3/17 – Arenness Cellars 2019 Dionysus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 92/100

3/10 – Aquilini 2020 Chasing Rain Cabernet Sauvignon 92/100

3/3 – Panther Creek 2021 Pinot Gris 91/100

2/24 – Parabellum 2020 Coulée 96/100

2/17 – River’s Edge 2018 Barrel Select Pinot Noir 92/100

2/10 – Tyrus Evan 2021 Red Blend

2/3 – King Estate 2021 Inscription Pinot Noir 90/100

1/28 – Seven Hills 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon  92/100

1/21 – Love & Squalor 2018 Dry Riesling 96/100

1/14 – Peter William 2018 GSM 93/100

1/7 – King Estate 2018 NEXT Red 89/100

My general focus has been and will continue to be on limited production, high value, artisanal wines and wineries. This is on trend with trade and consumer preferences. Most importantly, better wines make for more interesting reading. There isn’t much to say about generic, industrial, mass produced wines other than that they are easy to find and generally consistent in a rather generic style.

I leave you this week with notes on two outstanding producers, one from each state. WeatherEye wines, made by Force Majeure’s Todd Alexander, are from the Red Mountain vineyard previously written up in my entry on Liminal wines. (March 31st) These latest releases are highly allocated so jump on them while you can. Sidereus was previously A Blooming Hill Vineyard. The winemaker is Jason Bull. They are very fine values across the portfolio. The Sidereus website also lists several Pinots but those were not submitted so I have not reviewed them.


WeatherEye 2021 Hillfighter Estate White Wine

This is a tight, focused, dense and flavorful 100% Roussanne. It’s yeasty, compact and layered with herbal tea, honeycomb, wet hay, dried pineapple and apricot. Unusual and fascinating, with exceptional length. 58 cases; 15%, $45 (Red Mountain) 92/100

WeatherEye 2021 Estate Roussanne

Yeasty, almost beery flavors underscore an unusual Roussanne from the vineyard atop Red Mountain. The flavors mingle citrus and stone, fruit and rind, with well-balanced acids. Native yeast adds subtle and elegant floral/botanical highlights. 51 cases; 14.5%; $85 (Red Mountain) 91/100

WeatherEye 2021 Estate Marsanne

A burnished gold, this dense and aromatic wine shows some of the oxidative characteristics of an orange wine, along with the wild, feral scents of native yeasts. The expected fresh fruit flavors are muted, while texture, depth and minerality are highlighted. The finish edges close to a bit of lingering heat, along with marzipan and nut oil. 80 cases; 14.8%; $85 (Red Mountain) 91/100

WeatherEye 2021 Estate Clairette

A lightly lemony white grape rarely found in this country. It’s becoming less and less common in southern France, where it is one of a half dozen white grapes allowed in Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc. This pure varietal bottling was whole cluster pressed and fermented in amphora and neutral wood. It’s spicy and rich, palate-coating and flavorful with apple, melon, popcorn and saline notes. 46 cases; 14.8%; $85 (Red Mountain) 92/100

WeatherEye 2021 L’atomique Estate White Wine

The deep coppery gold color is from extended skin contact, and the winery notes that this is not an oxidative style, nor is it an orange wine. The mixed varieties – 40% Viognier, 33% Roussanne, 16% Clairette, 7% Marsanne, 4% Grenache Blanc – were picked together, de-stemmed, and fermented on the skins until almost dry, then barreled down to finish. It’s strikingly aromatic with orange blossom, tangerine and chamomile highlights. The flavors linger and turn astringent through the finish. This is a one-of-a-kind wine from a one-of-a-kind vineyard. 56 cases; 15%; $85 (Red Mountain) 92/100

WeatherEye 2020 Hillfighter Estate Red Wine

This is a spicy blend – 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Grenache, 11% Merlot, 5% Tempranillo, 5% Syrah – with drying, astringent tannins. The core flavors bring tight, concentrated black fruits, espresso, charred wood and burnt tobacco. This is a bold, sturdy wine, well-structured and leaning heavily into the dark side. Much improved on the second day; it smoothed out, opened up and was enjoyed down to the last drop. 250 cases; 15%, $55 (Red Mountain) 93/100

WeatherEye 2020 Estate Grenache 

Made with native yeast, 25% whole cluster, in concrete and open top fermenters, this was finished in large format neutral oak. It’s a splendid Grenache, with massive red and black fruits that vibrate through an electric core. Far more than just a fruit bomb, this wine evolves, expands and radiates through an extended finish. 180 cases; 14.8%; $85 (Red Mountain) 94/100 

WeatherEye 2020 Estate Syrah 

This was fermented in concrete and open top stainless fermenters with native yeast and 10% whole clusters, then finished in 20% new French oak large oak vessels. It’s solidly varietal, with veins of iodine, licorice, black tea, licorice, espresso and… well you get the drift. Black stuff! These are young vines with enormous potential. 230 cases; 15%; $85 (Red Mountain) 93/100

WeatherEye 2020 Estate Mourvèdre 

All varietal WeatherEye wines are 100% the variety named. Native yeast is the standard at WeatherEye, here done with 15% whole cluster fruit. Aged in a moderate (10%) percentage of new oak, this exceptional wine clearly defines this grape (which is most often found in a blend) as a single varietal. Lightly savory, with peppery red fruits, it’s a subtle red despite the medium high abv. The limited new oak exposure brings a hint of sandalwood to the finish. Give it plenty of breathing time and it opens up broadly with lush, palate-coating flavors. 70 cases; 14.6%; $85 (Red Mountain) 93/100

WeatherEye 2020 Estate Tempranillo

A bold style, bursts open with juicy/jammy blackberry and black cherry fruit. It was fermented with native yeast in stainless steel and then aged 22 months in 50% new French oak. As the abv on all WeatherEye wines suggests, they are fully ripe and relatively alcoholic. It’s a consistent style across the entire portfolio. I suspect this Tempranillo will drink better and better over the next five years. 100 cases; 14.7%; $85 (Red Mountain) 92/100

WeatherEye 2020 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 

I don’t know many if any pure Cabernets that were fermented in concrete and closed top stainless fermenters as was the case here. Native yeast is the standard at WeatherEye. This was finished in 60% new French oak over 22 months. The tannins are so astringent that they soak up the flavors.. Even after a full day the tannins did not soften up at all. 180 cases; 15%; $130 (Red Mountain) N/R

Sidereus 2022 Estate Riesling

Aromatic and inviting, this seduces with scents of citrus, pineapple and Meyer lemon. The fruit bursts open fully on the palate, juicy and refreshing. It’s like a bowl of your favorite fruit salad, lively and acidic, clean and tangy. It’s finished dry but with so much fruit that it has more body than bone dry Rieslings. 180 cases; 12.6%; $25 (Laurelwood District) 91/100

Sidereus 2022 Estate Pinot Gris

Estate grapes (from the vineyard formerly named A Blooming Hill) bring vivacious fruit front and center, a delicious mix of satsuma oranges, pears and papaya. This is simply bursting with flavor, clean, fresh and invigorating, with accents of gin-like botanicals trailing the finish. 315 cases; 13.5%; $25 (Laurelwood District) 92/100

Sidereus 2022 Roussanne

This tastes like an extra-rich Pinot Gris, with ripe, round flavors of Bosch pear cut with orange acidity. I tasted it warm to draw out any flaws (there were none) and later revisited it at proper cellar temperature for these notes. Along with the defining pear flavors you’ll find green melon and papaya, a soft palate with good length, and gentle hints of citrus. 90 cases; 13.6%;; $35 (Columbia Valley) 92/100

Sidereus 2021 Estate Chardonnay

This first Chardonnay from Sidereus was fermented in one third new French oak. Predictably the young wine is still integrating some barrel flavors, which put a sharp and toasty edge on the entry. This definitely needs decanting/aeration to smooth it out, soften the palate and bring out the creamy butter and apple pie highlights. 141 cases; 13.4%; $30 (Laurelwood District) 92/100

Sidereus 2022 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir

The current Sidereus lineup of white wines is explosively fruity, and that appealing style continues to inform this splendid rosé. It’s dancing around the edges of off-dry with 1.2% residual sugar, boosting the delicious flavors of strawberry and watermelon with a hint of powdered sugar. Nonetheless when you chill this down it’s dry enough to work with a wide range of foods. Try cold noodle dishes for example. Experiment and enjoy! 210 cases; 13.4%; $25 (Laurelwood District) 90/100

Sidereus 2021 Bull’s Blend

This is a four-grape Bordeaux blend, principally Merlot and Cabernet. Its flavors are up front, with a bit of a quick fade in the back palate. It’s medium-bodied, but not as substantial as most Washington blends at this abv. Strikes me as more of a pleasant quaffer than a wine to cellar. 299 cases; 14.9%; $40 (Columbia Valley) 89/100

Paul Gregutt
Paul Gregutt
Paul Gregutt has been covering the wines and wineries of the Pacific Northwest since the mid-1980s. From 2002 to 2012 he wrote a weekly wine column for the Seattle Times and authored two critically-acclaimed editions of ‘Washington Wines & Wineries – The Essential Guide’ (UC Berkeley Press). He served as the Northwest editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine from 1998 until 2022. Early on he was an original staff member of both the Seattle Weekly and KZAM-FM. He lives with his wife Karen and his rescue dog Cookie in Waitsburg (pop. 1204), a farm community about 20 miles NE of Walla Walla. When not tasting and writing about wine he writes songs, plays guitar and sings in his band the DavePaul5 ( Follow his writing at PaulG on Wine,, and in the Waitsburg Times.


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