Is Yellow Tail a “gateway” wine?

I had the good fortune of appearing on Colin Marshall’s NPR show and podcast, “Marketplace of Ideas” recently. Colin asked great questions and gave me a chance to talk about the issues in my book, Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters, and Critics Influence the Wines We Drink, for my longest interview ever–a whopping 53 minutes! Download it from the show home page or as a podcast from iTunes if you can stand such a dose of Dr. Vino.

One of the questions that he asked me is whether Yellow Tail is a “gateway” wine. In case somehow the ten-million case wine brand from Australia had escaped your attention, they are now following up a billboard and print ad campaign with a $6 million campaign on teevee (find this wine).

With such scale, the brand owners must source from a wide area; indeed, the geographic origin of the wine is simply stated as “South Eastern Australia,” a vast area that encompasses virtually all Australian vineyards. With such a wide reach and an effort at consistency across bottles and vintages, the wine defies what many of us wine geeks look for in wine, which is individuality and the expression of where the grapes are grown.

So will people come to wine through Yellow Tail and then move on to more expressive wines? In the interview I said that it is a “gateway” wine. Having people reach for wine of any sort will hopefully lead them to enjoy the fruits of the vine at first and then lead some more curious to explore wines from other, more specific, places.

What do you think?

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25 Responses to “Is Yellow Tail a “gateway” wine?”

  1. I haven’t listened to the interview, but I can speak from personal experience. In the past four years of wineblogging, I’ve sampled and reviewed nearly 2,000 wines ranging from Arkansas to Romania and prices from $2 to $400. Winemakers send me sample bottles and people around the world solicit my admittedly amateur opinion on wine.

    In the two years before that, I was drinking Yellowtail.

    Why was I drawn to it? It was inexpensive, but the fact that it was imported seemed to lend credibility (as is often the case with beer, for good or bad). Secondly, it was nonthreatening. Even though I’ve studied German and Italian and can carry on conversations in both, the wine labels from each country completely confused me and I was often afraid to purchase them. On the other side of the wine shop, you’ve got basic wines: Merlot, Chardonnay, Shiraz, with kangaroos on the labels.

    While it’s been a while since I’ve personally consumed Yellowtail, I still admire them for teaching me that it’s OK to have wine with a burger or pizza or a deli sandwich. That wine could be casual, fun, and not pretentious.

    It’s hard to tell a wine novice to explore a certain AOC, or try out the various selections of a certain importer. I think the inexpensive, fairly drinkable Aussie wines serve as an excellent gateway beverage for new wine drinkers, and I raise my glass to them.

  2. I’ve never had it for that exact reason. It’s like the McDonalds of wine to me…generic and boring and mass produced.

  3. Not for me. I got “turned onto” wine through traveling and tasting wine in the regions I visited. That’s when I discovered that wine can have different characteristics and be reflective of the regions in which they were produced. I tend to think that people who buy and drink “supermarket wines” like Yellowtail, and other wines of that ilk, are not really interested in wine as such but rather a beverage that is an alcoholic version of a soft drink.

  4. I think Yellow Tail can be a gateway to better wines, just as Kraft cheddar cheese blocks can be a gateway to better cheese. But not everyone will graduate, so to speak. There will always be a larger number of people who prefer the Kraft/Yellow Tail. It’s safe, it’s widely available, it doesn’t require a lot of thought, knowledge, or money.

    But for those adventuresome people who want more, Yellow Tail can be the beginning of a lifelong journey into wine.

  5. Yellow Tail is McWine, i.e., it is predictable from experience to experience. While not great, it is consistent. Whether it is a gateway wine is irrelevant, because it has already got the purchaser drinking wine, which I believe we can all agree, is a good thing. If one moves on to another shiraz, or another chardonnay, more the better.

  6. I think a “gateway” wine is relevant. Anything that can draw new consumers to the category is a relevant product. I’ve been waiting for someone to say this for a long time, but I’m not enough of a wine expert for anyone to believe it when I say it.

    Yellowtail is a “gateway” wine, not all wine drinkers start at the highest end of price and palette, many begin their journey in college (tongues tired of the beer parties and looking for something new). Yellowtail was the first wine from a branding perspective that let newcomers feel as though they were drinking something upscale but completely within their price range. Once these people grow in age and income, the next logical step is to explore other wines with their new disposable incomes.

  7. Yellowtail is a fair example of a “gateway” (or starter) wine in my opinion, too. One thing about it tho’ is that it is a bold wine, and perhaps not agreeable to many virgin palates.

    My starter wine was White Zinfandel, which opened the door for me to wine but made it obvious that better wines lay ahead if only I would do some exploring and experimentation.

    And that has been an ongoing process…

  8. @Paul, I disagree…most Americans don’t have the ability to readily travel and explore wines in that way, and I would venture to guess that many are intimidated to try something they know nothing about, when in a foreign country. I also disagree that folks drinking “supermarket wines” as you say, have no serious interest in wine, because I have seen first hand that many are, they’re just not sure where to start, and Yellow Tail is both inexpensive and popular. I started out drinking Almaden white zinfandel out of a tapped box in college for lack of both experience and money, and now could not possibly be more passionate about wine!

  9. I would agree with the last poster, and the first as well. You have to start somewhere. With wine, as with food, I started in meat and potatoes Irish household where the drink was American Beer (sadly no Guiness loyalty in those roots). So branching out into food and wine came in small steps at first, and involved stops at the Yellowtail end of the spectrum. It is easy to forget that very few people, relatively speaking, will ever be able to trek the globe picking up culinary style, but at least we live at a time when we can get that style in our home markets (leave the carbon debate for another time of course). So when I see that my friends have yellowtail, I know that one day it may be a nice Barolo or Burgundy that they serve me, and I do my part by introducing others to all the wine I can. And for all of those who never get really into wine, that is all the better too, Because there is enough price pressure in the market. In any case, if what people wanted was alcoholic soft drinks, there are plenty of products on the market that fill that niche better than wine. I think that when people buy wine, even at the supermarket, they do want something a little exotic, a little romantic, and I think that that small step may lead many on a lifelong journey.

  10. I would say yes, its like Wolfblass I know a guy at work who started drinking it thought it was the best, now he can’t stand it because he tasted other wines better wines.

    Wolfblass has different labels so you move up the ladder from Yellow Label, to Gold, to Platnium and its more money maybe one day you spend it on another bottle that cost the same and you realize it taste 100% better

  11. It is indeed a gateway wine . . . just as 2 buck chuck was and continues to be one where available. It does not matter whether you personally like or dislike the wine – the truth is that it ‘snuck up’ out of no where to steal market share from US producers and continues to sell to those just starting to experience wine as well as those that are looking for value wines.

    Will people shift from these wines to ‘more expensive’ ones? Interesting question – my guess would be yes . . . and I think Yellowtail agrees. They now offer ‘reserve’ wines at higher prices to try to capture this move as well . . .


  12. In the 1990s, research showed that $3-6 White Zin and Chardonnay in 750ml were the “gateway” wines, that is the wines that people moving into the wine category drank first. On the other hand, only a small proportion of the 2 Buck Chuck volume came from new-to-wine drinkers. The current “millenial” generation seems to be coming to wine through a more diverse group of portals, ranging from Shiraz to Pinot Grigio to Riesling. But most of the volume increase in other generations has come from existing wine drinkers increasing their wine consumption, rather than new drinkers switching from beer or mixed drinks. It’s a complicated situation now, but I suspect Yellowtail (like 2 buck chuck) is as much a trade-down wine as a gateway wine.

  13. I think it would be fair to say that for some people it will indeed be a gateway wine. As their tastes develop and curiousity takes hold they will graduate on to discover other, potentially more expensive, geographically specific wines. But then many people will not, they are quite content to chug their way through bottles of yellowtail as it is fairly inexpensive and ultimately consistent.
    In the UK we have noticed a change in the way aussie wines are now percieved and indeed marketed. As part of their 25 year plan, the first stage of that plan was to get consumers to realise that australia makes wine. This meant flooding the market with generic branded wines, that come from geographically unspecific areas -ie south eastern australia – the equivalent of making a wine from the west coast of america. Now the second stage is to promote wines from more specific regions – ie Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia – still huge territories, but now starting to intoduce the idea of a more specific state that makes wine. The following stage will be taking that level one closer – ie Barossa, Margaret River, Clare Valley etc.

  14. I would say it is absolutely a “starter” wine for many for all the reasons stated above. I believe that the state of the economy currently will keep some newbies temporarily halted in their journey and some people who may have experimented further will probably come back. Perhaps one should look at it as a “safe haven” wine for many. With fewer dollars to risk on trying something new, that may not be enjoyable, people will opt for the safe bet from year to year – the wine they know.

  15. While ,getting people to drink wine is great the fact of the matter is that most never move on. Yellow Tail is more of a bridge burner than a gateway, by this I mean the public will go backwards because of price and over look better wines or wines that donot have millions behine them. As part of the wine trade I see this allthe time, sad but true as it is.

  16. I have had Yellow Tail a couple of times, prior to starting our Wine Trail Traveler website. I enjoyed them for what they were, nice, drinkable and inexpensive.

    However, as I spend a considerable amount of time visiting and writing about tasting rooms in many areas, I have discovered that there are many wines available in people’s “backyards”.

    When visiting Virginia, I stopped at a grocery store and decided to check out their wines. Yellow Tail was on sale for $5 a bottle. It just doesn’t make sense. It is almost impossible to create a good wine in the U.S. for $5. By the time you add the bottle, cork, vineyard establishment and work, winery costs what price do you come up with?
    Not only that, but transportation needs to accounted for. Price is not the only factor but the carbon footprint from overseas would be much higher than wine in your own backyard.

    It’s not that I don’t believe we should buy wine from other countries but I believe that we should discover the wines in our local areas. I’ve been known to purchase Sangiovese from Italy at a local wine store. Or perhaps you may want to purchase Champagne from France, but we have some excellent sparkling wines in this country. Let’s support environmental concerns and our economy by supporting our local wineries.

    Whatever wine you begin drinking, if you enjoy it, it may be a “gateway” to exploring the other types of wines available.


  17. […] – Sorry to make it two wine links, but this one (and the comments) just made me giggle: Is Yellow Tail a “gateway” wine? […]

  18. I agree with you. I was not a wine drinker, I started with Yellowtail and then discovered some better wines in under $10. I love Friday Monkey wine from Australia. So just to give you an exmaple….I tested the ‘wine’ with a generic brand but all I drink now is Friday Monkey which is estate grown.

  19. I am drinking yellowtail right now and I firmly believe that I will branch out to “better” wine…
    that being said i look forward to my wine drinking future!

  20. I have had Yellowtail Chardonnay and would say that it is okay. I’m new to wine and don’t have a lot to compare it to yet. But the pinot noir I’m drinking now is much better than the Yellowtail.

  21. I think that drinkers of Yellow Tail are just not snobs like typical wine drinkers.

  22. Fool !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. The wine snobs are kidding themselves. I have had 200.00 a bottles wine and quite a bit in the 60.00 range. I would have to say a very large percentage were inferior to the Yellow Tail [un-drinkably dry, chemical tasting]. I still buy the recommendations of my local wine merchant occasionally, but mostly because I like to support my local businesses in my small town. It seems like I have a couple of cases of YT around and go out and buy something better for a special occasion to be disappointed. Also, blind taste tests come to the conclusion that you are kidding yourself over and over and over again.

  24. nitwit

  25. Nitwit!!!!!!!!!!!!


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