PLMA’s International Salute to Excellence Names Best Private Brand Wines

freemans-nz-sauvignon-aWith wine sales worldwide reaching more than $125 billion, supermarkets now account for approximately 25% market share and retailers’ own private label has surged to over 50% in major countries like Germany, France, UK, Spain and Italy. While the U.S market still represents a fraction of that penetration, the question is which retailers are offering consumers the best quality and best value.

The Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) decided to find out and opened its annual Salute to Excellence Awards to a competition of reds, whites, roses and sparkling wines. The results were eye-openers, too, for those who believe that only expensive wines please the palate.

More than 250 wines from retailers in 16 countries were tasted and tested. Discounters Lidl and Aldi, two of the most successful retailers in Europe, won five awards apiece. Traditional supermarkets like Carrefour in France and Tesco in the UK also received recognition in popular wine categories. Among U.S retailers, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Walmart were honored.

v-rioja_mercadona_spain_bv_arteso-crianza-2013-rioja-doc-bodegas-ontanonThe top vote getter for quality was Aldi from the United Kingdom for Freeman’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2015 and for value, the top vote getter was Mercadona from Spain for its Arteso Crianza 2013 Rioja DOC.

The winning U. S wines were TJ’s Grand Reserve Chardonnay Chalk Hill Sonoma County 2014 (best quality in the Chardonnay category); Whole Foods’ Criterian Chianti Classico 2011 (best quality in Chianti category); and Walmart’s Oak Leaf Shiraz (best value in the Shiraz category).

Wines were judged on the basis of traditional criteria such as appearance, taste, smell, and general impression. Points were also awarded for packaging and shelf appeal. Wines were divided into the following categories. Red wines were: Merlot, Côtes du Rhône, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Chianti, Barolo, Rioja, and Shiraz. Whites were Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Grigio, Chablis and Rosé. Sparkling were Champagne and Prosecco.

Judges for the awards were selected from professionals in the wine industry as well as retail industry specialists. Each panel was led by a Wine Master. Panel 1 was led by Cees van Casteren of The Netherlands who has written ten books and more than 500 articles on wine and food. Panel 2 was led by Sarah Abbott of the U.K., who has been active in the wine trade for more than 20 years and serves as a judge in several wine competitions. Michel Polderman, formerly in charge of wine purchasing at Albert Heijn, author and wine competition organizer, supervised the workings of both panels.

Other judges included Jose Luis Murcia Garcia of Spain, Jakub Prybil of Czech Republic, Helmut Knall of Austria, Alma Torretta of Italy, Sigi Hiss of Germany, Beverly Blanning of the U.K., Jean-Pierre Bonvallet of France, Wojciech Bonkowski of Poland, Rene van Heusden of The Netherlands, and Alain Bloeykens of Belgium. American judges included Phil Russo, Edward Salzano, and Laurence Markowitz.

The wine panels were part of PLMA’s annual International Salute to Excellence Awards, in which retailers submit new and innovative private label products for industry recognition. More than 370 food, home and health products from 63 retailers in 23 countries were considered for awards in addition to the wine competition.

PLMA’s Salute to Excellence Awards were established in 2006. The International Awards were started in 2014. Wines selected for the judging were purchased off the shelves of retailers as would be available to typical consumers. Judging took place in Amsterdam on April 6-7.

Commenting on the wine competition, Brian Sharoff, president of PLMA, said: “The role of supermarkets in the marketing of wine is growing more important as shoppers seek good quality and good price. The retailer’s private label has given consumers the confidence that they can select top wines without paying a premium for branding. This year’s Salute to Excellence gives recognition to those retailers who are doing an excellence job with their wines and encourages other retailers to match or exceed those standards.”

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.