"Don't ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer that you want me to…"

by Katie Pizzuto on December 3, 2008

in marketing,Reviews,Wine,wine importers

Did you ever REALLY want to hate someone but just couldn’t? A time when every logical cell in your brain told you nothing good could possibly come of this, and the gloves were off without hesitation, only to have those fists gently pushed down? I had one of those last night. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t coaxed into LOVE, but at the very least pulled far away from LOATHING.

Most of you know how much I detest what the Food Network has become. Save for a couple of shows that hang on precariously by the strings of their aprons, most of the programming sucks….and I say that in the most professionally profound way I can. One of the few shows that is still in my DVRing radar is Iron Chef America. But when I heard that a product called Iron Chef Wine was being unveiled I nearly choked on my lunch. I was offered the opportunity to go to a wine tasting last night that introduced these wines to the industry, and couldn’t resist the chance to go and then (in my warped little mind) rake these wines over the coals on this blog. Now I find myself in the unique position of not wanting to do that—mind you these wines didn’t blow me away, and I’ve got some issues with it all, but let’s just say that going in expecting the worst was probably a good thing because there was plenty of room for elevation.ironchefwine

Understand, first, that the American Iron Chefs have absolutely NOTHING to do with these wines. They don’t back them in any way, and weren’t there to promote them. These wines were born out of a partnership between an Italian wine importer, Fuji Television (the guys who own the rights to Iron Chef) and the actual winemakers. So even though everyone will associate these wines with the show, they have no tie to it at all other than licensing rights to the name. The labels (which need improvement if they are going to appear as if they merit the $15 price tag) state “Chef Selected” and though that may be true enough, my guess is they’re hoping you ASSUME it’s one of the Iron Chefs, and not some random guy in whites they plucked from a kitchen.

The wines themselves were surprisingly OK, and they’re all estate bottled, which definitely helped. I’m not much of a fan of pinot grigio in general, but it tasted like the ubiquitous sipper that it’s supposed to be. On the other hand, the unoaked chardonnay I kinda dug, which surprised me because we’re talking Italian chardonnay—not a common shelf item. The tropical fruits were able to shine through the wine without the buttered lumber monster getting in the way. The merlot was a little soft and flabby, but had a nice chocolate nose and something most average mass-merlot consumers will be happy with. The Chianti was probably the best of the bunch. Nothing that would soak my shorts, but not flawed in any way, either. Other than not having the bouquet I so much love in a Chianti, it was good, and you have no idea how it pains me to say that because I really wanted to hate these wines if only for what appeared to be a gimmick.

Is it worth the price tag? No way. I can name a shit load of wines at and under the $15 price point that are a WAY better QPR. And the fact that the wine label looks like it was put together on PowerPoint by a design student doesn’t help it speak of quality. However, let me state emphatically that NONE of this will stop the brand from selling like patchouli at a Grateful Dead show. The kindest compliment I could possibly give these wines is that they are far from the worst wines I’ve ever tasted, and I was SOOOOO hoping they would be, because this post would have been much more fun to write!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Coupe 60 December 3, 2008

Good call on the labels…You would think someone associated with the product would have said something…

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2 Katie Pizzuto December 3, 2008

Yeah, you’d think so, but hopefully, Coupe, they’ll follow up on blogs like this and see what consumers like you are saying…and perhaps rethink label design.

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3 erikagwen December 3, 2008

I saw the picture and read the first paragraph and thought “if she mentioned cod roe I am going to vomit…”

Thank you for not doing that.

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4 Katie Pizzuto December 3, 2008

Thank YOU for making me laugh out loud, Erika! No mention of cod roe now or ever….promise!

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5 Tish December 3, 2008

Nice post, Katie. Having been there I concur on the overal OK-ness of the wines, as well as the low QPR. Though, to me, the Chard was a little…soapy? These are not wines for attentive drinkers; they are for people who just can’t get enough IRON CHEF, simple as that. I give them credit for sourcing estate wines, rather then going with pure anonymous bulk juice. And I can’t help but feel that these wines definitely go well with long, sharp metal blades and high-intensity rings of fire.

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6 mydailywine December 3, 2008

Agree about the labels looking cheap.
But the demographic that would buy these wines might not care or notice?

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7 Katie Pizzuto December 3, 2008

@Amy….couldn’t agree more. The target consumer for these guys will most likely not care about the label as long as it’s got the name Iron Chef on it, but as a graphic artist it drives me NUTS when something with such a huge name behind it settles for such mediocrity.

@Tish…I didn’t get soapy at all, and I think that’s mainly due to the fact that it was unoaked, but then again, that’s why individual palates vary so much! Agreed, as well, that these are not for attentive drinkers as much as they are for star-struck folk.

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8 Coupe 60 December 3, 2008

and I guess asking for the chardonnay to be put in a classic Burgundy/Chardonnay shaped bottle might be a bit much to ask for as well

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9 Katie Pizzuto December 3, 2008

@Coupe…uhhh, yeah…definitely. I think these guys are selling to an audience that isn’t aware of the fact that the chard is traditionally in a differently shaped bottle. In fact, I save that for a parlor trick with most people….look at a bottle of red from behind that’s in that shape and say “I’ll bet that’s a pinot noir”…..I’m right 99% of the time and they’re amazed. LOL! 😉

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10 Ron Washam, HMW December 3, 2008

Was it Dorothy Parker who said, “Wines unoaked leave my shorts unsoaked?”

Wow, those certainly get my vote as ghastliest wine labels. Quite an achievement considering they didn’t put a furry animal, like Jessica Alba, on it. I love the idea of a world-class chef preparing a Five Star meal and then placing that crap on the table. That should Wow your guests.

Can’t wait for the “Biggest Losers” Sauvignon Blanc and Meritage!

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11 Thom Calabrese December 4, 2008

Yikes!!! I used to be a wholesaler in the wine business. I’ve seen some pretty wretched stuff both in the bottles and on them. It is a shame that people are drawn to marketing over merit.
I haven’t tasted these wines(not likely to unless my dog Bacchus slips them to me in my sleep) but I have no doubt that they were made in a style that offends the least amount of people and with the Iron Chef connection will sell fine.
More of the good stuff for us!
Ciao

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12 Katie Pizzuto December 4, 2008

@Ron….We’re proud to call Dorothy a Jersey Girl! I’m glad you and others are commenting on the label because the hope is that they’ll read this and rethink it. And I like your expansion idea, how about Flavor of Love’s Flavor of the Month? That could be a wine club!!

@Thom…I would agree with you that they are made in “a style that offends the least”. I think that more than anything else, what bothers me is the price point because in this economy (who am I kidding…in ANY economy) there are so many other better wines for less money. The elevated price seems to be justified merely by its name.

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13 John December 4, 2008

I love Morimoto Merlot and Chen Kenichi Chardonnay!

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14 Linsey December 4, 2008

only thing i can say is that is a seriously ugly label on that ‘iron chef’ wine – talk about cheap low quality looking!

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15 Katie Pizzuto December 5, 2008

From your mouth to their ears, Linsey!

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